The brand new Quantum 400 from JBL is a good stereo headset, with its bass and deep midrange; games sound wonderfully powerful and intense! And its microphone quality is also convincing, particularly as many headset manufacturers are likely to be a bit weak in this respect. But unfortunately, the Quantum 400 is not without weaknesses, and these only become apparent in USB operation: the software remains too CPU-hungry for us and for gaming newcomers it is initially quite confusing. In addition, the built-in virtual surround sound was not convincing, but the alternative called DTS Headphone:X was all much more impressive.
Precision, competitive advantage, realistic soundscapes – when it comes to modern gaming headsets these are terms that you read over and over again. Now JBL, a brand which has been an integral part of the audio sector for decades, but which has not been associated with gaming, has joined the fray!
First impressions …
… JBL has created a thoroughly stylish and distinctive headset looks like it makes use of their over-ear range. For gamers, however, there is a little extra: the Quantum 400 features colourful accents from top to the end of the cable and when it is connected to the computer, the company logo is illuminated in many colours.
But first things first: straight out of the box you have a choice between USB and a 3.5 mm jack. If a console is your preferred system, you play via audio cable, but in that case, the light-up logo will be turned off.
The volume wheel on the left earpiece is practical, as that is where all the other functions and connections are located. As always, console players have to be content with the manufacturer’s presets as sound intervention is not possible. Fortunately, JBL has found a good sound here in the factory, and it works very well for gaming! The Quantum 400 headset is particularly strong in the bass and low mids – a good choice for gaming. But why should JBL be compared to itself, when the Quantum series was developed explicitly for gamers? There is nothing left to be desired in the sound that booms through the 50 mm dynamic drivers with stereo mode on the console – music and effects sound powerful and speech is easy to understand.
The Quantum 400 are very comfortable to wear thanks to their lightweight headband and tight-fitting but non-pressing memory foam ear pads. This means that it’s possible to have even longer sessions in front of the screen without any problems.
As always, more can be done on a PC. All you need is the included USB cable and the free QuantumENGINE software. The logo shimmers with excitement! But this gives way to a need for short-term concentration because when first opened, the software is a bit confusing. The design looks like a futuristic interface, with glitch animations and other gimmicks and this is very distracting at first.
But let’s look at the 10-band equalizer: besides some profiles set by the manufacturer, here you can, of course, create and save your own settings. Not possible with music? Yes, it is! At any rate, if you’re using your computer, it only takes a few adjustments for you to be able to enjoy music with the Quantum 400.
Secondly and not unimportantly: lighting. If you’ve already clicked on “Off” you can skip this section. But if you like lights, you also have a few profiles that can be used as a default and you can play around with them, set your own colour changes and choose from three effects where the colour either pulses, flickers in a distracting way or simply remains constant. You can also adjust the tempo. It takes a little getting used to as it doesn’t work particularly intuitively.
Thirdly, we examined the sound of the (virtual) room, and as the Quantum 400 is a stereo headphone, it offers two different modes in which to activate its virtual surround sound. On the one hand, there is the built-in JBL QuantumSURROUND. Although the user’s head diameter and body height can be adjusted here, the effect on the sound is so slight that no audible difference can be detected when playing 7.1 sounds.
What you do hear, however, when QuantumSURROUND is activated: instead of Stereo Left/Right, sound is suddenly played back from all directions and an acoustic space opens up. But apparently this room is made of tin, because rain (with activated QuantumSURROUND) sounds like high-frequency noise, speech sounds as if an effect had been put on it and background noise (especially in the high-frequency range) seems unnatural. This is especially true if you then switch back to stereo mode. Does this offer any advantage when playing games? That we cannot conclusively answer.
It’s good that there is the so-called “dts-mode” as an alternative. This function – also called “DTS Headphone:X v2.0” – is qualitatively much closer to stereo sound, more natural and brings with it the advantages of surround sound. So if it is important to be able to hear your opponent or teammates’ positions clearly, the dts mode is the best choice. If not, games can also be enjoyed in stereo mode – which, sonically, was for us the best of the three modes.
With the microphone, you can adjust the level and volume in the software. There is also the Sidetone, which allows you to hear yourself speaking. JBL does without noise-cancelling or filters here, which is not a bad thing, because with this microphone the sound comes through the other end of the line well. Noise is hardly noticeable, treble is lacking a little, but in general, the sound can be described as very pleasant. If the microphone is raised and muted, this is indicated by a small red LED. This is done by means of a button on the left earpiece or using the software, and can also be done by folding the microphone down, but only in USB mode. The Discord-certified game/chat balance control adjusts the volume between game and chat directly on the headphones, which is very practical. Again, this only works on a PC, not on a console.
Of course, software and headset updates can also be done in the QuantumENGINE software.
A few final words about the software: on our test laptop the QuantumENGINE used almost 10% of the CPU power. Now, this is not a gaming laptop, but it is at least equipped with a 10th generation i7 processor. Maybe it’s because of the animations as a grid model of the headphones is constantly spinning away and an animation always starts when changing between the settings. But at just under a tenth of the CPU power, this software sometimes allows itself as much power as the games we tried out for this test.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20.000 Hz
- Impedance32 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)@1 kHz/1 mW: 98 dB
- Weight without cable270 g
- Cable length120 cm
What's in the box
- 3.5 mm audio cable
- USB C to A cable (3m)
- Windscreen foam for the boom microphone
- Microphone frequency range: 100 Hz - 10 kHz
- Compatibility: PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Mac, Mobile, VR