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JBL TUNE 120 vs AirPods 2 (2021): Can JBL’s Wireless Earbuds Compete Against Apple’s?

Tech behemoth Apple disrupted the headphones world with the release of the AirPods (1st Gen) truly wireless earbuds back in 2016. Four years later, the AirPods (2nd Gen) now grace the shelves, boasting a more powerful processor and wireless charging compatibility. The JBL TUNE 120 TWS was also released the same year, except they cost half the price of the AirPods 2. While the no-frills JBL TUNE 120s don’t have the premium features of the AirPods 2, their audio quality continues to surprise many. We unpack their specs and features to determine whether the JBL TUNE 120s are a worthy alternative to the AirPods 2s. 

JBL TUNE 120TWS vs Apple AirPods 2 Wireless Earbuds Comparison Chart

ModelJBL TUNE 120 TWSApple AirPods (2nd Gen)
 JBL TUNE TWS Wireless EarbudsApple AirPods 2 (2nd Gen - Wired Charging Case)
PriceCheck Price

at Walmart.com

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FitIn-EarIn-Ear
Weight73g / 2.58 oz40 g / 1.41 oz
Ear Tip Sizes3Universal
Built-in ControlsYes, Multi-function ButtonYes, Touch-Capacitive Controls

NFC Pairing

NoYes
BluetoothVersion 4.2Version 5.0
Battery LifeUp to 4 hoursUp to 5 hours
Charging CaseAdds up to 12 hoursAdds up to 24 hours
Wireless ChargingNoAvailable
Voice-Activated SiriNoYes
Auto-PauseNoYes
ColorsBlack, White, Blue, Yellow, Pink, GreenWhite
Year of Release2019

1st Gen: 2016

2nd Gen: 2019

Design and Build

The JBL TUNE 120s are bulkier than the AirPods 2, but they offer better fit and seal

design and build quality jbl tune 120 vs apple airpods (1)
Unlike the JBL TUNE 120s (left) that have custom-size ear tips, the AirPods 2 (right) have a universal fit

When the AirPods were unveiled, their true wireless earbuds design was the first of its kind. Their long stems that drape from the ears are not the most discreet, but for many, they have become a status symbol. However, a common complaint on the AirPods 2 is the lack of customization of ear tips. While they offer a decent fit for many, the AirPods’ design tends to let in more external noise than they should.  

On the other hand, the JBL TUNE 120s come with three custom-fit ear gels that allow the TUNE 120s to fit comfortably and snugly in the ears. Their better seal design also works great for passive noise-cancellation. Thus, even though they don’t feature active noise cancellation, they can block out external sounds decently. For users with an active lifestyle, the JBL TUNE 120s are the better choice between the two as they stay more securely in the ears than the AirPods. However, neither wireless earbuds are waterproof, so using them for extreme sweat sessions may cause damage. 

In terms of portability, the AirPods 2 trumps the JBL TUNE 120s, which have a bulky charging case. In fact, the TUNE 120s’ case is roughly double the size of the sleek AirPods 2. If you want a pair of earbuds that can easily fit in your pockets, the AirPods are the way to go. 

Audio Quality

The JBL TUNE 120s deliver punchier bass and overall impressive audio quality for their price 

jbl tune 120 TWS true wireless earbuds
JBL’s Pure Bass featured in the TUNE 120s TWS  doesn’t disappoint

Don’t be fooled by the JBL TUNE 120s’ low price tag, as their audio quality is impressive and its bass is kick-ass. It helps that their earbuds’ tight and secure fit can seal in sound better than the AirPods 2. For their price, the TUNE 120s deliver lively, vibrant bass without compromising the quality of the vocals. Its highs leave something to be desired, but for its price, it’s an acceptable trade-off. 

Having said that, the JBL TUNE 120’s bass-heavy sound profile may only appeal to you if you often listen to pop, hip-hop, or EDM. In contrast, the AirPods 2 deliver a more neutral sound profile that’s best for general listening. It doesn’t have the thump that you’ll enjoy from the TUNE 120s, but the AirPods offer decent audio with acceptable clarity and details. 

Where the AirPods 2 tower over the TUNE 120s is in voice calls. Apple’s powerful H1 chip and microphones packaged in the AirPods 2 make these wireless earbuds great for audio calls and watching videos. Their excellent audio latency lets you watch videos using the AirPods 2 without any audio delay. On the other hand, some users of the JBL TUNE 120s have complained about a noticeable lag when watching videos. If you use your earbuds heavily outside of listening to music, their audio latency performance is something to consider. 

Set-Up and Controls

The JBL TUNE 120 and AirPods 2 are equipped with Bluetooth version 4.2 and 5.0, respectively

apple airpods 2 (2nd gen)
Equipped with NFC connectivity, the AirPods 2s make pairing a quick and easy process

As the JBL TUNE 120 TWS cost a fraction of the price of the AirPods 2, it is only expected that they don’t come equipped with all the bells and whistles you’ll get from the premium AirPods 2. The TUNE 120s use Bluetooth 4.2 while the AirPods feature a more updated Bluetooth 5.0 and NFC connectivity to boot. While the pairing process is smooth and straightforward for both wireless earbuds, setting up the AirPods 2 with any device is simply faster, even more so if you’re pairing them with another Apple device, 

Both the JBL TUNE 120 and the AirPods 2 can be controlled through the earbuds and can be paired with voice assistants such as Siri and Google Assistant. However, activating your iOS device through “Hey, Siri” only works on the AirPods 2. To activate Siri or Google Assistant on the TUNE 120s, you’ll need to press the multi-function button housed on the earbuds.

Meanwhile, the AirPods 2 don’t have a physical on-ear button, but the earbuds are touch-capacitive. This means you can control them through gently tapping the earbud or pressing the stem. Equipped with optical sensors and motion accelerometers, the AirPods 2 can detect whenever you take an earbud out of your ear. They will then automatically pause the music or podcast you’re listening to so you won’t miss the rest of the track. 

Battery Life and Additional Features

The AirPods 2 offer better battery life and more charging features

battery life and additional features
Both the JBL TUNE 120 and the AirPods 2 have a battery indicator on the front of their case

Another department where JBL’s cost-cutting is apparent is in the battery life of the TUNE 120s. They can last up to 4 hours and their hefty charging case only adds 12 hours more. For its price, however, the TUNE 120s’ battery life is still acceptable. It only pales when you compare its runtime to the AirPods’ almost 29 hours of usage.

The earbuds of the AirPods themselves offer up to 5 hours of music playback while their compact charging case packs up to 24 hours more. Popping the AirPods 2 back in their case for 15 minutes will give you an additional 3 hours of usage. To check their remaining battery, you can either ask Siri or simply hold the charging case open while it’s close to your device. As for the JBL TUNE 120s, the LED lights on the front will indicate how much battery is left in the charging case. 

Verdict

The JBL TUNE 120 TWSs are a worthy alternative to the AirPods 2 if you don’t mind missing out on the latter’s additional functionalities

It is undeniable that Apple remains one of the best in terms of pairing its premium features with intuitive user-experience. The same goes for the AirPods 2 that offer an array of smart features on top of their decent audio quality. However, for its steep price tag, it’s only fair to expect better audio quality from the AirPods 2, not to mention their universal fit that leaves some users disappointed. 

On the other hand, the JBL TUNE 120 TWS may not have as many extra features, but you’ll be pleased with their rich bass and clean mids. Sure, they’re not what audiophiles may pick, but for earbuds at such an attractive price point, the TUNE 120s are among the best in their class. On top of that, the TUNE 120s come with custom ear tips sizes to ensure better fit and seal, no matter what your ear size. 

FAQs

📌 Which is better, the JBL Tune 120s or the AirPods 2?

Overall, the AirPods 2 are better in terms of features and user-experience. With that said, the JBL Tune 120s are a great budget-friendly alternative.

📌 Are the JBL Tune 120s good?

They’re not the best pair of earbuds out there, but they are among the best options for their price.

📌 Are the JBL Tune 120s active noise-canceling earbuds?

No, they’re not noise-canceling, but their snug fit offers excellent passive noise cancellation.

📌 Are the AirPods 2 noise-canceling earbuds?

No, the AirPods 2 are not noise-canceling earbuds, but the AirPods Pro are.

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Rhodaline Escala-Phelps

Managing Editor and Team Leader at Compare Before Buying. Writer and researcher passionate about people, product comparisons, culture, and current events.