Audio speakers have evolved over the past several decades. You would think that manufacturers would be content on perfecting what we have now. But lo and behold, JBL and Bose, as well as other manufacturers, have released new wearable Bluetooth speakers that are quite different from what we are accustomed to.
Rather than having the traditional headphone design, JBL Soundgear and Bose Soundwear Companion appear more like a high-tech collar similar to portable wireless speakers that have become so popular, except instead of carrying them around, you wear them around your neck.
This brand-new design allows you to listen to your favorite music while giving you complete awareness of your surroundings.
While these gadgets to look a little awkward at first glance, this brand-new stereo (‘neck phones?) does a pretty good job at satiating your cravings for music.
While many people have portable speakers or popular home audio speakers like Sonos, these fill the gap between a home speaker and headphones.
While there are several bestselling wearable speakers on the market (click to see our full reviews including other options from other brands including Sony, LG, and Zulu).
JBL and Bose are the first two high profile manufacturers to enter this new market, and several of our readers have asked (after reading the article in the link above) which one is the better pick to buy.
So, we thought it was only fitting to pit both their products against each other to help our readers narrow it down to their final choice.
In the end, we will analyze which one has the edge in terms of overall quality.
JBL Soundgear or Bose Soundwear Companion?
Round 1: Design
The JBL Soundgear is lightweight and weighs at around just 12 oz. It is also constructed from durable plastic which, as you would expect, only slightly bends. This can be somewhat of an issue as you will be wearing this on your neck. It does utilize a rubberized bottom to help give some level of comfort. The rigid design of the Soundgear also gives it the edge on durability at the expense of comfort.
On the other hand, the Bose Soundwear has a sleeker appearance and has more flex to it than the JBL Soundgear. It is easy to wear and remove. The flexibility also allows it to adapt to your movement and won’t feel too constricting. Bose also sells a removable cloth cover an extra accessory that should help prevent the silicone finish from sticking to your skin or hair due to sweat. It also helps protect the unit, keeping moisture out and is a cool way to personalize your speaker with your favorite color.
The level of comfort the Bose Soundwear offers in comparison to the JBL Soundgear is exceptional.
Round 2: Audio Sound Quality
Keep in mind that sound quality will not be able to compare to those with high-end stereos and headphones, however, both provide good clear clarity. You should also remember that this is a wearable Bluetooth speaker. If there are other people around you, they will hear the sound just as loud as you do.
The JBL Soundgear can deliver solid audio but it does tend to experience distortions when the volume is set above 50%.
At 100% full volume, the Soundgear is almost unwearable as the sound gets so loud it feels like it could damage my eardrums from prolonged exposure.
I highly recommend you stay within 80% max volume in regards to get the ideal sound. The JBL Soundgear also has trouble producing rich deep bass. However, higher frequencies are delivered with clarity and solid separation.
The Bose Soundwear does a good job of producing well-balanced audio but it does have some difficulty when it comes to producing deep bass.
The overall sound quality of the Bose is excellent but should be wary of Bose’s waveguide marketing though.
The Bose model does not direct audio directly to your ears as is alluded to the marketing campaign. People around you will still hear what you are listening to just as clear as you do. Overall, both the JBL Soundgear and Bose Soundwear Companion both deliver good sound but when it comes to audio quality Bose comes out ahead.
Round 3: Incoming and Outgoing Call Performance
Both the JBL Soundgear and Bose Soundwear delivers near the identical audio quality that it is virtually impossible to give either one the edge on this category. A decent performance from both but will not satisfy audiophiles.
Both the JBL and Bose models can be used to answer calls. Which one offers better performance though? The JBL Soundgear features a dual-mic system that is ideal for answering calls. The Soundgear can deliver better audio clarity for parties on both ends of the line.
The Bose Soundwear features a single mic system that is located on the left side of the Bluetooth speaker. It can still manage to offer comparable audio quality during calls but the Soundwear edges it out slightly thanks to its dual-mic system. The Bose Soundwear does offer a vibration feature that alerts you to incoming calls discreetly.
Round 4: Controls and Operation
Barely beating the JBL Soundgear, the Bose Soundwear managed to achieve the clutch win thanks to its dual-mic system technology. The difference in quality is barely noticeable though, especially to casual consumers
Both JBL and Bose have pretty much identical layouts for their buttons. The JBL Soundgear and Bose Soundwear feature a total of 5 buttons. The only difference is positioning.
The JBL Soundgear places the play, multifunction, and volume buttons on the left side with Bluetooth and power buttons on the right. The Bose Soundwear, on the other hand, puts the volume, multifunction, and play buttons on the right and the Bluetooth and power buttons over at the right side.
Buttons on both brands feel well-made and do not feel cheap at all. Each is easy to operate. Choosing between the two will boil down to whether you are left-handed or right-handed. For right-handed individuals (which is most of the people), the Bose Soundwear will feel more comfortable to use, and vice versa.
Bose Soundwear gets the nod here. Depending on whether you are left or right-handed will be the basis to determine which one is better.
Round 5: Battery Life
As these are both wireless gadgets, battery life is one of the more important features to look for. How does each stack up?
The JBL Soundgear can operate for up to 6 hours on a single full charge. Charging time for the Soundgear clocks in at 2 hours.
The Bose Soundwear Companion can play continuously for up to 12 hours max. It also only takes 3 hours to fully charge.
Round 6: Additional Features
This round was barely competitive. At twice the battery life and relatively short charging time, the Bose Soundwear was the definite winner in this category.
JBL Soundgear comes in two versions: With BTA transmitter and without BTA transmitter. What this means is that you can use JBL Soundgear with your television.
The Bose Soundwear does not have any additional features of the like.
JBL speaker just roared in to once again even the score. The addition of a BTA transmitter helps expand the uses of the JBL Soundgear.
Round 6: Price
The JBL Soundgear is the more affordable choice as it normally retails for between $199 to $250, depending on which version you will choose.
The Bose Soundwear, on the other hand, has an MSRP price tag of $300 with cloth accessory covers costing $30 each.
JBL takes the round with a cheaper price tag. However, I must point out that Bose does feature higher quality construction and material, hence the higher price.
If you are still on the fence, you may want to check out these short unboxing videos of each model to get a more hands-on look at the design and buttons along with everything that comes in the box.
Conclusion: And The Winner Is…
The definite winner might differ from person to person, but the Bose Soundwear Companion manages to eke out the win here for its overall premium construction.
If you skimmed through this article you might think that JBL Soundgear wins handily. However, upon closer inspection, you will notice that the fight is pretty close with neither giving an inch to the other.
The JBL Soundgear does have the extra feature of having a separate model with optional BTA transmitter (see this model on Amazon) but the Bose Soundwear Companion has a better-quality design, a slightly better control layout (as I am right-handed), and a significantly better battery life and charging time.
Again, if you’re still not sure if these are the right ones for you, see our full article on wearable neck speakers.