Whether you’re into fast-paced 3D action, mind-bending strategy games or a simulated flight across the Atlantic, sound is a key element in the experience. And an element that is best enjoyed via a headset. Partly because those around you might not share your enthusiasm and partly because a good headset can give you a realism that a full-grown home cinema system would struggle to match.
It has to be fun
When it comes to regular hi-fi headphones, true-to-life sound is the ultimate aim. But gaming is a completely different world. For gamers, it’s all about entertainment – and winning! There’s a good reason gamers couldn’t care less whether grenade explosions sound utterly authentic – as long as they can be felt.
How we tested
Of course, we tested the headset in its natural environment, that is, with games, not least 3D shooters, where any surround effects are exploited to the maximum. In addition, we also tested music and movies – again with surround. We also looked at the built-in microphone and noise cancellation.
In recent years, the Harman Group rebranded JBL speakers to become a recognized producer of headphones. Now they’ve also turned their attention to gaming headsets. And what a debut! JBL Quantum One is the top model in their range of gaming headsets so the number of features is comprehensive.
JBL has clearly been studying the gaming market for a long time. Design-wise, Quantum One harks back several years into the past and there’s little that’s discreet or adult about them. On the other hand, there’s plenty of sparkle. Especially when the lighting effects ignite. There are no fewer than three separate light zones on each earcup, each of which can be illuminated independently.
JBL Quantum One is a wired headset and in the middle of the extremely stiff cable there’s a control box with a knob to adjust the balance between game audio and chat.
Unusually, JBL has chosen to cover the memory foam ear cushions with real instead of artificial leather. Bad news for animal lovers but good news for comfort.
Like the Audeze Mobius, JBL Quantum One can conjure up the illusion of listening to speakers. Thanks to a position sensor in the headset (and a considerable amount of processing voodoo) the sound remains located at the screen even when you turn your head.
To precisely tune the sound, a calibration microphone is also included that has to be placed in your ear canal to get your individual audio settings.
Noise cancellation triumphant
Quantum One has an extra ace up its sleeve in the form of ANC (automatic noise cancellation). This is the first time I’ve experienced ANC on a gaming headset but it makes a lot of sense to be able to escape ambient noise when you’re concentrated on winning a battle.
All the technological extras would be moot if the audio quality was poor but, thankfully, the JBL Quantum One sounds absolutely excellent. There’s a punch to the bass, purity in the midtone and a resolution in the treble that’s at least as good as the best in the same price range.
Apart from the cable, which is as stiff as undercooked pasta, the only minus is the operating software. Admittedly, it is quite comprehensive and the features, including surround sound decoding, are excellent. However, in spite of spending over an hour troubleshooting, I never did manage to install it on my primary test PC. Fortunately, it installed successfully on my backup machine, but my experience suggests others could encounter the same problem.
JBL Quantum One gives you everything you’d expect from a gaming headset — and then some more in the form of ANC. The sound is top notch, the 3D surround sound actually works, there’s a plethora of features and settings and there are three RGB light zones to show off. That all this can be achieved for the price is downright impressive. The only thing that doesn’t work is the obstinately stiff USB cable and that can be tamed with copious quantities of duct tape.