JBL has formally debuted its new Tour One M2 wireless headphones and Tour Pro 2 wireless earbuds at CES 2023. The new flagship personal audio products get a series of welcome improvements like JBL’s version of spatial audio, support for simultaneous Bluetooth connections, and compatibility with the latest wireless audio standard, Bluetooth LE Audio. They also get better battery life and the Tour Pro 2 feature an innovative charging case with a built-in touchscreen.
Technically speaking, JBL debuted these new products in 2022, but at the time, the company was only willing to discuss them in the context of the European Union and Asia markets. CES 2023 marks the official planned availability for the Tour One M2 and Tour Pro 2 in North America: spring 2023, with pricing set at $300 for the One M2, and $250 for the Pro 2.
When we reviewed the first-gen JBL Tour One, we were impressed by their many positive attributes like battery life, sound quality, and especially good call quality. But two things kept them from earning even higher marks: they lacked side-tone for calling so you can hear your own voice clearly, and they lacked any advanced Bluetooth codecs like LDAC or aptX HD/Adaptive — surprising for a set of flagship headphones.
The Tour One M2 look almost identical to the first-gen, but they appear to address at least one of these critiques: they now offer JBL’s VoiceAware side-tone tech, so calls should be even better on these new cans. But despite the post-launch addition of Bluetooth LE Audio (and the new LC3 codec) via a firmware update, there’s no mention of higher-quality codec support. Still, JBL has added some other nice extras. The M2 get JBL’s new Spatial Sound feature, Bluetooth Multipoint, improved battery life when using active noise cancellation (ANC), better ANC performance, and an impressive quick charge option: five hours of playtime for 10 minutes of charging.
The Tour Pro 2, on the other hand, have undergone a significant transformation from their predecessors, the JBL Tour Pro+. The earbuds are now based on a stem design, and then there’s the charging case, which is truly unique. JBL has added a tiny touchscreen to the front that gives you direct access to several functions including playback and call control, ANC mode, and notifications. The display also shows the time (synced to your phone) and battery levels for the case and each earbud.
Is it easier/faster to use the case in this way, instead of using the JBL app or your phone’s controls? It’s seven times faster says JBL, according to What HiFi. Other changes include support for Bluetooth 5.3 with LE Audio, JBL spatial sound, Bluetooth Multipoint, and improved battery life (now eight hours with ANC on versus six on the Tour Pro+).
Curiously, JBL also claims that the Tour Pro 2 are now hi-res audio certified, but a look at the specs seems to cast some doubt on this. Their frequency response is pegged at 20Hz – 20kHz, even though hi-res devices are required to go as high as 40kHz. Then there’s the question of codecs. At launch, the earbuds will only support SBC, AAC, neither of which are considered hi-res capable. This will change at some point after launch, as JBL says the earbuds will be firmware upgradeable to support LE Audio (along with LC3 and LC3+ codecs). LC3+ has been granted wireless hi-res audio certification from the Japan Audio Society, but there’s a catch: unless your phone also supports LE Audio and LC3+, you won’t get hi-res audio performance.