We tested the JBL OR300 and OR100, the first on-ear and in-ear headphones designed for the Oculus Rift.
With the rapid growth of the popularity of Virtual Reality and HMD’s becoming available for a larger audience, more and more companies are looking how to step in on this trend. At our offices we spend between 8 and 10 hours a day working on VR and working actually in VR. For example, our editors and SFX guys work with the “Mettle VR plugin” which allows them to work in a Virtual environment. This makes testing and viewing their work in VR easier and faster not having to render and export before being able to view the work.
The more we work on VR videos, games, tools and apps the more it becomes clear how important sound/music/sfx are to create a truly immersive experience. Until now we always used 3rd party headphones to test the sounds we integrated within our content. The original Oculus Rift headphones are quiet simple and more important, are not able to fully focus on the VR sounds as environmental noises are very present. With the OR300 and OR100 JBL is trying to specifically focus on comfort and user experience with higher quality sound and better fitting headphones.
The JBL OR300 is the on-ear version of the headphones. They feel a bit heavier and more solid compared to the Rift headphones and are slightly bigger. The foam cushioning with pillow effect makes it fit better around your ears which generates a much better external noise isolation. The sound quality definitely is better compared to the Rift headphones which might be because of the fact the OR300 is equipped with JBL Pure Bass.
For the in-ear version I had high expectations because of the fact that it might even immerse you more into the VR experience. The JBL OR100 is super light weight and fits very comfortable in your ears with the removable ear tips. Although these headphones are in-ear, the amount of external noise was more noticeable compared to the on-ear version. The package of the OR100 says it comes with JBL Pure Bass just like the OR300 but it seems less noticeable.
Both versions are nicely designed and easily connect to the Rift headset. The sets respectively cost €149,- (OR300) and €79,- (OR100). From my perspective both sets have their own advantages depending on the usage. For our developers working in VR, and still want to be able to communicate, the OR100 works best because you are less isolated from the “outside”. When working in VR on SFX, the OR300 has an advantage due to a better sound quality and more immersive experience. From a consumer perspective, using the Oculus Rift probably mainly for gaming purposes, the OR300 definitely is the best choice. We tested both versions of the JBL headphones with Robo Recall. The OR300 gave the best and most immersive experience. With the volume loud but not to loud the sound stayed pretty solid and sharp without any distortion.
I think it’s a good thing companies like JBL focus on improving the VR experience and step in on this field with the knowledge the market is not a huge market yet. It shows that brands keep on innovating and it also pushes other brands to not ignore this field and keep on creating great products. What I would really like to see in the future is a quick and easy way to connect wireless headphones to HMD’s like the Rift and the VIVE. It always remains a struggle with the wires and the OR100 and OR300 already help a lot decreasing wires within your VR experience.
The JBL OR300 and OR100 are being launched Tuesday March 14th through the online JBL store.