With the recent purchase of audio adept, JBL by Harman Kardon, we are now getting some hands-on jam sessions with products born form this formidable union. First up on the audio chopping block are the JBL Tempo On-Ear headphones. Here we have a consumer level set of cans with ambitious aspirations and a performance signature that could make the bigger boys take notice.
The JBL Tempo On-Ear headphones look is non-descript and a bit overly simplistic. They come in a single shade offering. The cans are all black with a burnt orange JBL logo on either earphone. The headphones also feature a fold-flat ear cup design for simple storage. This makes travel via the included JBL carrying pouch, quite easy.
The Tempo On-Ear headphones work with any music playback device supporting a standard 3.5mm connector. They are lightweight and fit comfortably. The padding for the headband is small but cushy. When I first donned the Tempo set, they seemed a bit too tight. But they quickly loosened to fit the overwhelming girth of my head. These are on-ear cans, so they may bite into your ears a bit depending on the fit. For me this was a nonissue, as the cushions proved adequate for more than an hour before I felt the need to adjust them.
When in use, I noticed an irritating vibration that rattled the headies a bit when the volume was kicked up to max. The solution? Don’t crank the bass. The sound becomes a bit distorted as well, when the sound is on full tilt. This adds a degree of discomfort over extended use.
Further examining the raw audio quality, I found the bass to be generally impressive. Indeed it kicks! Drum bass and snare sounds are highly notable. Yet overall, bass carries less definition where sound is not as rich as higher end solutions like the V-Moda Crossfade LP2 or the Able Planet PS400. Mid range levels are suitable for the price point and thus unsurprisingly lack “awe”. Clarity comes in spades. Vocals are discernibly crystal. But the push for clarity and lackluster mid range performance renders the sound a bit hollow and tinny.
Not is all lost. The JBL Tempo On-Ear headies are actually strong performers for the sub-$80 market. Setting fashion trends they are not! Unseating some of the more higher end juggernauts we’ve seen of late, they will not! Moreover they’re clearly expecting your equalizer settings to pick up the slack and compensate for the tinny mid range sounds. But JBL aims for the clouds with an ambitious pair of cans in the Tempo On-ear. Sound is clear, bass is suitable and the overall audio across multiple genres and instruments is very good. These are a low-cost solution for concise on-the-go music sessions. You’re not answering calls or mixing DJ-level music production. But you can enjoy a workout, soaking up sun on the beach or commuting on public transportation. Not bad JBL. You’ve done Harman proud.
Bottom Line: I like the Tempo On-Ear headphones from JBL. They are simple, albeit overly so. But the audio quality is formidable for a sub-$80 set of cans. If you’re looking for a low-cost portable placeholder, look no further.
- Power for the price
- Clear pleasant audio quality
- Handy carrying case
- Tinny mid range sounds lack richness
- Distortion at max volumes
You can buy the JBL Tempo On-Ear Headphones at Amazon for $59.97.
Shawn loves gadgets, literature, history and games. For 10yrs+ he's straddled both the comic book & video game industries, as a writer, editor, marketing officer & producer. Shawn got his start in tech & games as an editor & Hardware Director for GameRevolution.com. More notable accomplishments include Executive Producer on mobile games Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved & The Shroud.