Here at MajorHiFi we get a lot of questions about the best True Wireless earphones. So we’re constantly demoing the latest and greatest models on the market. But when it comes to True Wireless on a budget, there exists a plethora of options to choose from for under $100. Today I’m stacking up two venerable models in this price bracket – the JBL Tune 120 TWS ($99) and the Strauss & Wagner SW-TW401. So which one offers the best sound quality for your budget-minded needs?
JBL Tune 120 TWS vs Strauss & Wagner SW-TW401 Comparison Review
Both of these True Wireless earphones come with a fairly small charging case. Each earphone also comes with multiple sizes of eartips, as well as a charging cable.
Battery life comes in at the same four hours for both earphones, and each offers an additional 12 hours of battery life through the case. Portability-wise, the Strauss & Wagner case is about half the size of the JBL, so it’s a little more pocket-friendly. One other very important thing to keep in mind here: the JBL uses the older micro-USB standard, while the Strauss and Wagner uses the newer USB-C connection.
With Bluetooth 5.0 on both devices, connectivity remains decent with either model. Call quality is another tie; both earphones deliver fairly clean and clear phone calls. And both are compatible with Siri and other voice assistants.
Both earphones also have touch controls for handling playback and volume, as well as taking or rejecting calls. However, the Strauss and Wagner TW401 uses a sensor as opposed to the JBL’s touch-button control. During general use, the TW401 does feel more comfortable.
Fit wise, the JBL Tune 120 TWS comes across as a little bulkier and thus may not be as easy to accommodate if you have smaller ears. The Strauss and Wagner TW401, on the other hand, features a smaller fit that sits almost flush with the ear. During my listening sessions, both models fit fine, but I did prefer the slimmer, less bulky fit on the Strauss and Wagner.
JBL Tune 120 TWS vs Strauss & Wagner SW-TW401 Comparison Review – Sound Quality
The first thing I notice about both earphones when I listen to them side by side is a difference in overall volume. To be fair, both seem loud enough to me, but at the same volume setting, the Strauss and Wagner SW-TW401 definitely sounds louder.
Marketed as a “Pure Bass” the JBL actually feels the exact opposite – especially when jumping back and forth between this model and the TW401. While there’s a little bass in the JBL sound, and some detail too, the low end in general feels less pronounced. Truthfully, the lows on the Tune 120 TWS feel flat.
In contrast, there’s more of a base response on the Strauss and Wagner. And though it’s thumping and energetic when it should be, it never seems to overpowered. In terms of overall detail, the SW-TW401 basically matches the Tune 120 TWS. Essentially, the biggest difference between the two in this part of the frequency range is the bass response.
Between the JBL Tune 120 TWS and the Strauss and Wagner SW-TW401, neither earphone offers truly clinical mids. For most casual listeners, either earphone delivers a decent sound here.
In terms of accuracy, the Strauss and Wagner 401 sounds just a shade more accurate. There’s also the impression of a less compressed sound on the Strauss and Wagner.
The 120 TWS feels more compressed, but also oddly distorted in the high mids, rendering some male vocals and instrumentation a bit odd.
Here we see a greater divergence between the two earphones.
The JBL Tune 120 TWS sounds brighter and peakier in the highs, but this works better with female vocals. Instrumentation also sounds just a little bit more emphasized in this part of the frequency range as well. Overall, the JBL’s high end isn’t bad and it works well with pop and some classical music.
In comparison, the Strauss & Wagner SW-TW401 appears more rolled off. As a result, everything sounds smoother and not as peaky. While this may play out better for rock and electronica, as well as other genre, it may also feel slightly less engaging when playing pop music. Like the mids, the highs on the Strauss and Wagner are probably closer to accurate.
When it comes to soundstage, the JBL feels more narrow. However, this earphone still exhibits a deeper dynamic range thanks to the high end. As a result, it can seem like there’s more sound quality to the sound.
On the flip side, the Strauss and Wagner sound feels more spacious, with instruments seeming to occupy more finite spaces. The lack of overlap between instruments leads to a cleaner, more distinct sound for most instruments and vocal sources.
JBL Tune 120 TWS vs Strauss & Wagner SW-TW401 Comparison Review – Conclusion
With it’s better sound quality in the lows and mids, the Strauss and Wagner SW-TW401 clearly edges out the JBL Tune 120 TWS in some key areas. As to which earphone has the better high end, this may come down to personal preference. The Tune 120 TWS has a brighter high end that might sound slightly more pleasant for pop or electronic music. However, the rolled off highs on the Strauss and Wagner offer a similar amount of detail, but appear just a little bit smoother, too. The more relaxed high end on the SW-TW401 would actually work better with most other genres, too, including rock, hip hop, classical, and jazz.
When taking fit into account, the Strauss and Wagner definitely pulls ahead, offering a slimmer, less conspicuous profile. And if price is a concern, the Strauss & Wagner SW-TW401, at $59, costs almost half as much as the $99 JBL Tune 120 TWS.
Our take? If you’re on a budget and need a pair of True Wireless earphones, skip the overpriced JBL and snag a pair of the Strauss and Wagner SW-TW401s.
Secure the Strauss and Wagner SW-TW401 for the best price here:
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