FutureFive New Zealand logo
Consumer technology news from the future
Story image

Hands-on review: JBL Club 950NC

By Nick Forrester
Fri 24 Jul 2020
FYI, this story is more than a year old

When it comes to noise-cancelling headphones, it’s becoming a more crowded market every year, meaning there are more features to look for and brands are jostling for product differentiation to clinch that ‘top-of-the-line’ title.

And if there’s one thing to say about the JBL Club 950NC headphones, it’s that they don’t want for features.

There’s adaptive noise cancelling, of course, but there’s also a Smart Ambient mode, a bass boost button, virtual assistant integration, extensive custom EQ capability, and more. Features abound, but do they stack up?

Feel and comfort

After opening up that box and unzipping the sleek black case, my first impression of the Club 950NC headphones was ‘bulky’.

Upon closer inspection, this initial instinct turned out to be mostly true – the headphones were quite heavy, and when I put them on, there was an unmistakable heftiness to them. 

Unlike my own personal headphones, which I can sometimes forget that I’m wearing, the Club 950NC felt heavier and more cumbersome, despite adjusting and extending the arms (disclaimer, I have a reasonably large head). The middle of the headband also made its presence felt more than what’s ideal.

And despite my decidedly average-sized ears, the cups also felt slightly claustrophobic, enveloping rather than surrounding my ears. 

Ordinarily, I wear headphones for a decent portion of my day, so long-term comfort is a necessity, and despite being relatively minor, the above flaws did add up when using them for multiple consecutive hours.

Build and features

At first glance, the number of buttons on the device can seem slightly intimidating, and I definitely didn’t feel confident enough to give them a go without first studying the quick manual.

There’s a power button, Bluetooth pairing button, virtual assistant button, a Smart Ambient button, volume/phone call control buttons, and a bass booster button. I don’t think I properly mastered them all by the end of my review. 

Powering on and Bluetooth pairing were easy enough, and the JBL Headphones app provided a good visual indicator of devices connected and how the Smart Ambient mode worked.

By holding the Smart Ambient button, adaptive noise control is toggled, while a short press toggles between Ambient Aware and Talk Thru modes.

Both latter modes are handy when the need arises to give a portion of your attention to the outside world without sacrificing all noise-cancelling qualities – Talk Thru is designed to let you talk with people around you, while Ambient Aware is for when you want to be at least somewhat aware of your greater surroundings.

They combine to form a reasonably good quality adaptive noise cancelling product, but I found when I was walking beside busy streets, I heard more noisy cars zooming past than other premium headphones. The noise-cancelling was solid, but not the best.

The battery was good – I have no reason to use the 2.5mm to 3.5mm headphone jack, so I kept my headphones on full noise cancelling, Bluetooth paired mode and got a solid 20-22 hours out of it. Quick charging was also handy, giving me two hours of playtime from a 15-minute charge. 

One of the best features, though, was the highly customisable custom EQ capability on the JBL Headphones app, which provides presets sorted by genre and allows for customised favourites which can be easily switched on or off.


Another feature I enjoyed was the bass booster. I found it handy to toggle when I was watching a good action blockbuster, or wanted that extra kick on Spotify.

While it was fun playing with the different preset EQs on the JBL Headphones app, sound-wise I preferred to keep it on normal – the standard sound mode felt well rounded out and suitable to most of my needs.

The sound quality, in general, was really good – my first impression was ‘clean’. I tried different genres, switching from old school hip-hop to upbeat contemporary pop, film score instrumentals to bass-heavy EDM. All held up on the standard sound mode.

When turning up the volume, the sound didn’t compromise, and many headphones I’ve tried turn tinny when pushed to their volume limits. The JBL Club 950NC held its own, not holding back on quality as waves of sound washed over.

My one criticism of the headphones was that there was slight sound leakage – when sitting next to someone just over a metre away, they informed me they could hear my music (at about three-quarter volume) reasonably clearly. Maybe not the best for the timid and paranoid public transport-goer.


In all, the JBL Club 950NC headphones are a solid bet if you’re looking for mid-range headphones. They offer a good deal of popular features for its price tag of NZ$430, with the app capabilities, Smart Ambient mode and customisable EQ all performing well. 

Sound quality held up for its price point, however its weight and build made it seem cumbersome and clunky, and its noise-cancelling capability left a fair bit to be desired.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Could New Zealanders initiate a cyber attack from within?
The threat landscape is significantly increasing worldwide, and the opportunities it presents are a growing concern in Aotearoa.
Story image
The path to bolstering supply chain security in New Zealand
A significant amount of today's business and leisure activity relies on IT supply chains. From complex international freight trades to local small business distribution channels, any supply chain that involves IT infrastructure serves as a crucial tool in our daily lives. 
Story image
Digital Transformation
SAP partners with New Zealand Rugby for digital transformation
The multi-year partnership will see SAP advance NZR with its organisational operations, team performance, fan experience and sustainability goals.
Story image
Microsoft NZ and TupuToa to boost diversity in cybersecurity sector
Microsoft NZ has teamed up with TupuToa to co-develop a cyber security employment programme specifically aimed at creating more diversity in Aotearoa's cybersecurity sector.
Story image
Hands-on review: WD_Black SN770 NVMe SSD Game Drive
Western Digital expands its WD_Black range of NVMe solid-state drives with the WD_Black SN770 Game Drive.
Story image
WhatsApp and QR codes the next scam threat - report
KnowBe4 has warned it expects to see an increase in QR Codes and the WhatsApp chat platform being used for phishing and other scams. 
Story image
i-PRO releases smallest AI-based surveillance camera on the market
The new i-PRO mini network camera is now available, with a pocket-sized form factor and full AI analytics functionality.
Story image
D-Link launches new G415 Smart Router as part of EAGLE PRO AI range
D-Link A/NZ has announced the launch of its new G415 AX1500 4G Smart Router as part of the new EAGLE PRO AI Series.
Story image
TUANZ to address rural connectivity at 2022 symposium
TUANZ is hosting the Rural Connectivity Symposium for the first time in person since 2019, providing a forum to discuss the state of rural connectivity.
Story image
Microsoft backing Māori and Pacific wāhine in tech industry
A new initiative focused on getting Māori and Pacific wāhine into the tech industry and backed by Microsoft, NZTech and the government is calling for tech companies to get involved.
Story image
Hands-on review: 32GB PNY XLR8 Gaming MAKO 6000MHz DDR5 memory kit
PNY’s XLR8 Gaming MAKO DDR5 memory modules are designed to get the most out of systems based on Intel’s 12th generation Alder Lake CPUs.
Story image
Hands-on review: HyperX Pulsefire Haste wireless mouse and HyperX Pulsefire XL Mat
With its lightweight Pulsefire Haste wireless mouse and RGB lit Pulsefire XL Mat, HyperX sets out to up your game and add a little colour to your desktop.
Story image
Wireless Nation
Wireless Nation, N4L provide 4G network to remote NZ schools
Wireless Nation and Network for Learning (N4L) have rolled out the Rural Connectivity Group’s (RCG) new 4G network to better connect three Chatham Islands schools.
Story image
Hands-on review: Technics EAH-A800 Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones
Designed in Osaka, Japan, these headphones just exude quality. They aren’t heavy, but they feel well built and solid.
Story image
Logitech releases new mouse with ergonomic and sustainable focus
Logitech has announced the Logitech Signature M650 Mouse and the Signature M650 for Business Wireless Mouse, both with new ergonomic features and capabilities.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Google to enter the smartwatch market with the Google Pixel Watch
Google has provided a first look at its new Google Pixel Watch, which is set to make an entry into the competitive smartwatch market.
Story image
Hands-on review: STM laptop bags
The advent of hybrid working has meant we need laptop bags. We got our hands on two of the most popular laptop bags from STM.
Story image
Tyson Beckford partners with Element Case on new AppleWatch band
Celebrity Tyson Beckford has collaborated with STM Brands' Element Case brand to create a rugged new accessory.
Story image
Dynabook refreshes Portégé X30L series with the Portégé X30L-K
The new model contains hybrid-architecture Intel 12th Gen Core P-Series 28W processor options, Wi-Fi 6E, along with Intel Iris Xe graphics.
Story image
Hands-on-review: GoPro Hero 10
I have a long history with GoPro; I still remember getting my first camera when I was 16, using it to film Parkour and the day I lost it down a dingey crag. 
Story image
Hands-on review: Norton Anti Track 19 software
We get hands on with Norton's new privacy tool that was introduced in March 2022.
Story image
IDC finds 3.9% decline in worldwide tablet shipments
Preliminary data from IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Personal Computing Device Tracker has found tablet shipments reached 38.4 million units during Q1 2022, a year-over-year decline of 3.9%.
Story image
New digital traffic light system to tackle construction defects
Smarter Defects Management launches its PaaS digital system and says it will revolutionise managing defects in the construction industry.
Story image
Chorus and Nokia launches first trial of 25G PON broadband
Chorus and Nokia have announced the successful demonstration of 25 gigabit per second fibre (Gbps) broadband technology at the Chorus Fibre Lab in Auckland. 
Story image
Mastercard users can now use rewards points in gaming
Mastercard has launched Mastercard Gamer Xchange (MGX), allowing APAC consumers to convert their rewards points into gaming currency.
Story image
WolfVision announces new range of visualisers
WolfVision has announced a new range of visualisers to help meet multiple industry demands for remote learning and educational solutions.
Story image
Sony to bring new 1000X series WH-1000XM5 headphones to the market
Sony has announced the newest edition of its award-winning wireless headphones, with the 1000X series WH-1000XM5 noise-cancelling model.
Story image
Hands-on review: The A500 Mini Retro Gaming Console
Retro Games, the UK outfit responsible for a range of retro gaming devices from joystick to full-sized Vic-20s and C64 emulators, have launched their A500 Mini Retro Gaming Console.
Story image
Hands-on review: MSI MPG Z690 Carbon WIFI motherboard
It’s all change with Intel’s 12th generation CPUs. We have a new chipset in the 600-series, a new socket with the LGA 1700, and new DDR5 memory.
Story image
PNY launches XLR8 Gaming EPIX memory products in A/NZ
PNY has launched its XLR8 Gaming EPIC-X RGB™ DDR4 Silver 3200MHz and 3600MHz memory products in Australia and New Zealand.
Story image
Hands-on-review: Creative Outlier Air V3
Creative is back with the third version of its affordable Outlier Air wireless earbuds range - aptly named the ‘V3’. And this time, they come boasting ambient mode and active noise reduction.
Story image
First Table
First Table set to revive restaurant commerce in NZ with platform launch
A new restaurant booking platform has launched in New Zealand, giving Kiwi diners the opportunity to save and book at a variety of restaurants around the country.
Story image
Microsoft unveils adaptive accessories for disability access
Microsoft is introducing an expansive Inclusive Tech Lab to give people with disabilities greater access to technology through new software features and adaptive accessories.
Story image
Hands-on review: Corsair 32GB Vengeance 5200MHz DDR5 DRAM kit
Corsair’s Vengeance 5200MHz DDR5 DRAM offers PC users an entry-level upgrade to the new memory standard allowing them to get a little bit more out of their new Alder Lake CPUs.
Story image
Jabra reveals its latest portable headset Engage 55
Jabra has launched the Engage 55, the newest product in Jabra's Engage series designed for ultimate call security and quality.
Story image
The AI Forum helps NZ pave the way with AI sustainability practices
Non-profit organisation The AI Forum is helping Kiwis learn about addressing climate change issues through the use of AI technology.
Story image
Digital Signage
MAXHUB's Digital Signage range to bolster boardroom productivity
The new MAXHUB Digital Signage technology is purpose-built to make every kind of team meeting more effective.
Story image
Digital Marketing
Getty Images delves into the world of NFTs with Candy Digital
Getty Images and Candy Digital, the next-generation digital collectible company, have announced a new multi-year partnership agreement.
Story image
TikTok launches community-inspired effect capability
TikTok has announced the launch of its Effect House feature to allow its users to create and share Community Effects.
Story image
Hands-on review: Steelseries Aerox 9 Wireless and Aerox 5 gaming mice
Steelseries offered two interesting mice for review, the Aerox 9 Wireless, aimed at MMO/MOBA players, and the Aerox 5, a wired mouse for multi-genre use.
Story image
Sony launches LinkBuds S - the latest model in the series
Sony says the LinkBuds S will give users a unique sound experience through sensor and spatial sound technology, even in AR games.
Story image
i-Pro announces newest solutions as rebranded enterprise
i-PRO APAC Oceania has introduced its newest high-resolution mid-range cameras, with combined edge AI analytics and resolutions of up to 4K.
Story image
Dynabook launches new Tecra A40-K and A50-K models
Dynabook has announced two new additions to its Tecra range, with both said to help promote flexible working solutions while also reducing the strain on IT managers.
Story image
Hands-on review: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition
In almost every respect it works like a book, apart from the fact that it weighs next to nothing, fits in my hand perfectly, and is soothing on my eyes.