One of a series: “Let’s figure it out together”
“I need help with my new Bluetooth headset. The sound is garbled.”
“Sure, let’s figure it out together.”
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.
- 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. 😕
- 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. 👍
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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. 🤷
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. 🥂