JBL SoundGear Review – Yes, you WEAR this speaker!

It may look like a funky fad, but with directional audio, stereo separation, and phenomenal personal isolation, JBL proves this neckband speaker is a worthy opponent to tradition.

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[table id=11 hide_columns=”all” show_columns=”a,b,c,d,e”/] Specs from manufacturer. If incorrect, please contact us.

Hey, what’s up, everyone!  I’ve tested wireless headphones, earphones, and of course Bluetooth speakers on the channel…  Today’s new piece of tech surely looks unique, and I’ll be honest, I was skeptical as heck when I first saw this.  JBL is classifying this as a wearable Bluetooth speaker.  There are audio drivers blasting from your neck and up to your ears.  We’ll see how these go.  As always being transparent, JBL did send us this review unit to test, our assessment was not be altered in any way.  The JBL SoundGear retails for $199. The BTA model goes for a bit more at $249, although they look identical, the BTA simply has an extra wireless transmitter that plugs into your TV or audio device, giving you the ability to watch your tv or movies wirelessly.  Not everyone has Bluetooth in their TV’s these days.  As always, I’ll place my affiliate links up above, click on those links and they’ll give you the most updated prices in real time. You never know when these things might go on sale. 

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Starting off with the physical features, on top, there is a soft speaker fabric protecting the speakers themselves.  Quickly rotating to the bottom, it’s a rubberized texture feeling premium and it’s also there to prevent the SoundGear from sliding around on your clothing.  The SoundGear does remain stable while wearing.  During the past month of testing this, none of the materials caused any skin irritation or discomfort.  The weight on the SoundGear comes in at 350grams, surely less than a pound making this feel very comfortable around the neck.  Also, the SoundGear is ergonomic, following the curvature of my neck, shoulders and resting gently on my clavicle bone on the front.  The areas of critique, the fabric does collect a bit of fine hair or… (and I know this sounds nasty) but dead-skin cells over time.  If you’re fancy like me and have a lint roller, that helps out a lot, or using some tape does lift off the unsightly stuff with ease.  Also, I personally didn’t have any trouble, but if you have a large neck, the opening is quite small, and despite the SoundGear being able to slightly expand, some may find it ever-so-slightly rubbing against their neck while putting it on.  

Finishing up the physical features, the left side has pause, play, with volumes up and down.  Google Assistant and Siri is also available with a double tap with the middle button.  Holding down either volume will skip and go back on songs.  Flipping to the right side, there’s power on and off, Bluetooth pairing, and an LED indicator which doesn’t do much.  It blinks red when it’s in low power, and unfortunately, there’s no voice prompts on battery levels.  More on my battery test later.  

As I was looking for competitors to compare and reference, I do notice the Bose Soundwear does cost more, but it offers water resistance in case you get caught in the rain, you sweat on it, or your kid may spill something.  Keep that in mind, if you want water resistance or not.  JBL doesn’t offer it here.  

If you’re planning on using this for hands-free calling, there are two microphones built into the Soundgear, one on each end of the collar, so no matter which way you’re turning, your voice will still be audible. I tested out the calling feature and had decent results – my voice was very clear, with no real raspiness. The speaker did pick up a fair amount of background noise, rustling, typing at the keyboard, but it never overwhelmed my voice.

The SoundGear is able to simultaneously pair with two devices, allowing you to quickly switch between different sources without taking the neckband off.  And for those of you that plan to move around a lot with the speaker, the SoundGear has Bluetooth 4.0.  In our tests, I was able to reach about 84 linear feet before the signal cut out, and I reached about 35 feet with several walls in between my phone and me wearing the device.  

As for movies and gaming, the $200 SoundGear that I’m reviewing didn’t mention in the Spec Sheet if it had AptX Low Latency like the $250 model SoundGear BTA.  Low Latency simply helps sync the video with audio and having both of them play at the same time.  Some Bluetooth devices having syncing issues.  The BTA model comes with an extra transmitter that plugs into a TV or any device that doesn’t have Bluetooth built in so you can listen to your media wirelessly.  With that being said, I did test the SoundGear with my LG TV with just Bluetooth, again, I don’t have the BTA model…  Netflix and Youtube, audio was synced perfectly.  Testing with my Dell XPS laptop, same, no syncing issues as well.  

Speaking of battery life before I jump into the audio test, JBL claims up to 6 hours which I was hoping for a bit more.  I ran the speaker here in the office several times from full to dead and on average I’m reaching five hours and 45 minutes, playing at about 50 percent volume.   Charging takes about two hours to get back to 100 percent.  

So alright folks.  Be sure to use your headphones and earphones to listen to this audio experience.  I am using professional Binaural microphones to give you 3D audio sound.  Please be sure to Like and Subscribe if you haven’t already, and be sure to show your support by commenting down below.  Send me those fire emojis.  Alright folks, here we go.  

Alright, there you have it, folks.  First off, this thing does get loud.  60 perfect volume is very comfortable and loud enough, but one reason why I’m both excited and surprised, the SoundGear at 60% and higher volumes blocks out audio.  It’s crazy because I don’t have anything over my ears, no passive noise isolation, my ears are exposed…  but when someone nearby tries to speak to me, at times I don’t realize that they’re even there.  It’s not a bad thing, I personally prefer to be more immersed in my music or movies anyways.   Second, although I could have this blasting at say 70% volume, those around can hear what I’m listening to – it’s pretty obvious – but again, this is one of the unique experiences, it’s not blaring in the open.  A lot of the audio although loud to you is very much tolerable for those nearby.  It’s as though I have this dome of sound or if I’m wearing an invisible helmet.  It’s pretty cool and something I’ve never experienced before.  

As for actual sound quality, the low frequencies, bass was definitely present but I felt it was slightly lacking in the lower reaches of the range. The deepest notes are flattened a bit and upper-bass levels were more present.  Actual instruments like bass guitar still sounded good but more bass-boosted lows in modern hip-hop did struggle a bit here. Because of this, there was some bass droning on bass heavy tracks.   

Moving onto the mid-range frequencies where you’ll hear most details in instruments and vocals, the Soundgear had its best performance. Vocals were forward, and the speaker had a lot of immediacy and excitement, not overly aggressive, but certainly bright.  Because bass was pushed up towards the mid-range, I thought there may be some spillover affecting the sound here, but that wasn’t the case. Even more delicate acoustic or piano songs balanced well among the spectrum.  Fidelity-wise, these won’t replace a nice dedicated pair of headphones, but these do surely sound much better than any Bluetooth speaker in regards to quality and detail in my tests.

Finally, at the top end, the Soundgear aired on the side of precision. While less forward than the mid and bass, treble was mostly accurate and gave a nice balance to the overall experience. At the top reaches of the high end, there was some harshness but it was only a problem at the higher volumes, and never crossed into ear-tinging or ear-ringing.  If you’re not listening to say 80% volume and higher, which is very loud, you should be absolutely fine.  

One of the best parts of the audio experience was the audio separation. Because of the placement of the four speakers, two slightly forward of your ears, and two more speakers just ever so slightly behind your ears, you achieve this surround sound experience.  Music has much more depth and soundstage, but with movies and video games, man, you can distinctly here directional audio. Gaming and movies are where the JBL SoundGear shines. So in the end, I’d say my honest reaction was being surprised. I wasn’t sure if this style of wearable tech was just a fad or not, but through all my testing I really enjoyed this experience. That’s it for this review, you guys take care and I’ll see you on the next one.