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Troubleshooting BlueTooth Headsets on Windows

One of a series: “Let’s figure it out together”

Guest post by Anindo Ghosh

“I need help with my new Bluetooth headset. The sound is garbled.”

“Sure, let’s figure it out together.”

Troubleshooting Bluetooth Headsets : Poster

It started out simply enough: A friend needed a good Bluetooth headset for Windows 10, to cope with a noisy domestic environment during her WFH video calls. The recommended options were all sold out, so she ordered the JBL Tune 600 BTNC. It apparently ticked all the boxes: Bluetooth, noise cancellation, quite expensive so presumably good quality – what could go wrong? A lot, as it turns out.

Troubleshooting BlueTooth headsets

The headset had worked perfectly when paired to a phone to test it. Pairing with the Windows 10 laptop was easy, and the headset worked fine for one brief test call via Microsoft Teams, I was told. Then, on the first live video call using the headset, the other side’s speech was totally garbled. The routine steps of restarting the computer, unpairing and pairing the headset, and glaring angrily at every bit of electronics in the room, had yielded no improvement, so there we were.

Diagnostics

  1. When playing music from Windows to the device, is the sound clear or garbled?
    • It was perfectly fine 👍
    • The garbled audio in the earpieces only occurs when the microphone is also in use. 😕
  2. Is Windows 10 recognizing the headset as a communications device?
    • Windows Settings / Sound / Related Settings / Sound Control Panel
    • Look for the device in question
    • Check whether it is set as the default communications device
    • It was. 👍
      Default Communications Device in Windows Sound Control Panel
  3. Is this an incompatibility with the conferencing software?
    • Set up a Google Meet call, then a Zoom call, check if the problem persists there
    • Same problem on all the platforms.
  4. The modern equivalent of CTL-ALT-DEL: Let’s try and factory reset the headset.
    • A web search told us how to do that for this headset:
    • Keep “Volume Up” and “Volume Down” buttons pressed simultaneously for about five seconds, wait for the “power down” sound in the earpiece.
    • After pairing the headset with Windows 10 again, did the problem go away?
    • No, the sound in the earpiece remained garbled on meetings
  5. When all else fails, read the manual (and the manufacturer’s product page)
    • Is there a setting required for the headset to work on calls? No
    • Does it work correctly after toggling noise reduction? Nope
    • Are there any Windows drivers to be installed? Nothing.
  6. It’s just a Bluetooth headset, right? How can any manufacturer get this wrong?
    • Time to check if anyone else has reported such an issue on Reddit and various discussion forums
    • … and there it was! There were hundreds of posts all over the net, about this exact problem.
    • Long story short, this headset does not work with Windows in headset mode, only as headphones. Enable the microphone, and the earpieces garble the incoming sound

JBL’s response to customers was reported to be “We never said it works with Windows 10 for voice calls” – though that is anecdotal from several Reddit threads and other forums, not an official statement

The problem is not limited to the JBL Tune 600 BTNC model: At least one other model, the JBL Tune 500 BTNC, has been reported to have the same problem.

It’s a JBL problem, and JBL hasn’t addressed it for half a year or more. 🤷‍

Resolution

On the Microsoft Teams user feedback forum, a thread from December 2019, “JBL Headset not compatible with MS Teams” had a couple of suggested solutions.

In the Windows Sound Settings, there would be a Stereo device as well as a Hands-Free device listed for the same headset. This is normal for Bluetooth headsets: I get the two device listings for my Sony Bluetooth headset as well. Disable the “stereo” device, and the mic and headphones should work simultaneously on a call. If that fails, disable the “Hands-free” device instead, and try again.

We did. It didn’t work. JBL isn’t likely to fix the issue. Microsoft certainly isn’t, as hundreds of other Bluetooth headsets work perfectly fine for this purpose. JBL’s loss.

Headset returned to seller, and a Plantronics headset ordered instead. The new headset works perfectly, everyone’s happy. 🥂

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7 Responses

  1. Anindo, I was experiencing the same thing, running from there to there look for answer – then last week I tried again, just in case, some update for some Windows driver, since JBL affirms not have any problem with their products … and worked fine !!!! But had no updates … I started using my surface as I do every morning … just putted some music to ear with my JBL BT 500 … and there was the most precisely and wonderful headphone performance … then I curved my mouse to start working – I do have a Microsoft ARC bluetooth mouse … then that creep, crashed sound returns … what ? I turn off my mouse and – voila: phone back to work like a charm … conclusion: something is messing around with audio channel in the Bluetooth driver when the bluetooth interface have to treat mouse and sound … hope I’m not the only one – can you try there ? Regards !!!

  2. Hi Segio,

    By that token, a similar problem should be experienced when using other Bluetooth headsets as well. I use a different Bluetooth headset on all my WFH calls, and both my keyboard and mouse are Bluetooth – never had a problem. Also, the issue isn’t about listening to music, but about two way voice communications over a Bluetooth headset.

    Regards

  3. Hi Anindo
    this is definitely not (only) JBL issue. Same problem appears for other bluetooth headsets as well – for example Sony WH headsets, but also BT conf call speakers – I tried one Creative speaker and also JABRA(!)
    So I believe the problem stands with Microsoft not supporting newer BT headset protocols in Win 10.
    You are lucky you found working headset, I was not so lucky yet (4 out of 4 BT headsets did not work 🙁
    best regards

  4. I am facing exactly same issue with JBL 750 BTNC. It’s pathetic as such an expensive headset not compatible with windows while using microphone. The sound when connected to Teams gets garbled every 5 min and I had to disconnect and reconnect multiple times during the call. Switched to other headphone a couple weeks back after facing the issue for more than a month!! Long way to go JBL 🙁

  5. This is the most usefull info i´ve seen on JBL headphones. Just one doubt: you mentioned it worked fine paired on a phone. You tried calls, right? Or just music?

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