JBL is one of the market leaders when it comes to high quality build at affordable prices. So, rarely am I disappointed with the reliability of their products. The brand usually produces a really fun sound signature too, packed with bassy goodness and a full-bodied feel. So, what can we expect from one of JBL’s latest releases, the Live 500BT? The usual? Or something new? Let’s find out in this JBL Live 500BT Review.
JBL Live 500BT Review
IN the BOX
No problems here. You can expect super pudgy ear pads that feel snug, yet comfortable on the head. In fact, I have to say that these well-padded cans would make perfect earmuffs for the winter. And although there’s not much cushioning on the headband, my bald friends will appreciate the material lining around the entire surface of the headband. It won’t grate against your skin, but it also won’t slip off after heavy sweating. The sound isolation on these cans isn’t bad either.
Functionality and Controls
JBL has decided to put all the possible bells and whistles on this model, minus active noise cancellation. Besides the usual 3 buttons on the side of the ear cup, which control play/pause, skipping and call activation, you can expect a few added features with the help of the JBL app and a couple of extra buttons. Once installed on your phone, you can control equalizer settings and activate ambient modes, which amplify outside sound so you don’t have to lip read. A talk through mode (much like ambient mode) can also be activated by pressing the dedicated button on the ear cup.
Finally, the JBL app allows you to choose between voice assistants, namely, Alexa and Google Assistant. (If you’re using Alexa, you’ll also have to download the Alexa App to take advantage of this feature). JBL has also installed a touch sensor on the ear cup to initiate this function.
Another neat capability that isn’t available on all wireless headphones is multiple device pairing. JBL allows you to connect 2 devices simultaneously. And you can switch between devices by holding down one of the buttons on the ear cup.
You’ll get 30 hours of usage from these babies, which is on the higher end of standard for a pair of wireless cans in this price range. It only takes 2 hours to fully juice up the Live 500 BT, while 15 minutes of charging will yield 2 hours of playtime.
Call clarity is excellent in active mode (when the headphones are turned on and Bluetooth is enabled). But if you run out of battery, you can also use the mic on the included cable.
As mentioned above, the Live 500BT comes with a sturdy and well-insulated 3.5mm cable that allows you to use the headphones in passive mode. In addition, you’ll get a pretty long charging cable with a USB to micro-USB termination.
Although the Live 500BT does not come with a carrying case, it does swivel flat and fold up into a bundle, making it easy to shove in your backpack (carefully).
Overall Impressions: Clean, natural and bright.
Starting with the low-end, you can already tell that the Live 500BT doesn’t share JBL’s usual sound signature. The bass on this model is much less pronounced than it tends to be on JBL cans. So, if you’re used to a lot of warmth and ample punch from the brand, be prepared for something different. (Play around with the equalizer to get more oomph). These headphones aren’t for bass-heads. On the flip side, this is one of the cleanest sounding models I’ve tested from the JBL wireless line-up. And you’ll hear no muddiness or bleeding into the higher frequencies. Dare I say that JBL’s natural and detailed bass is ideal for classical and jazz music? What?
Clear and present mids here. But although the low mids are given sufficient attention, the upper mids are slightly emphasized, and vocals sit a little forward in the mix. At the same time, listening to big rock and pop-rock choruses, you’ll still get an all-encompassing feel, even if vocals become a touch harsh on certain tracks. But what JBL does so well in this case is the well-separated, clean layering of instruments. So, the Live 500BT work great for intricate acoustic instruments. The level of detail is also impressive at this price point, bringing out nuances in strings and brass that I’m not used to hearing from JBL.
Here’s another surprise. These cans are on the brighter side. No rounded highs or dullness. This bird can chirp. Listening to pop, you’ll hear plenty of crispiness and sparkle from percussion instruments. And violins in this range, though not as transparent as they are in the mids, convey a good level of detail and resolve for wireless cans at this price. But while this sound profile will be perfect for some, more sensitive ears may find the highest registers a little too sharp. Still, this glittery profile is sure to please listeners who appreciate a snappy sound.
Don’t expect a vast soundstage from the Live 500BT. It feels a little compact at times. That being said, the imaging might be more precise than I’ve ever heard from a Bluetooth JBL headphone. Perhaps it only feels this way because these cans produce such a clean sound. But overall, it felt pretty multidimensional with gradations in instrument placement well defined.
Although the sound signature is not a typical one for JBL, the Live 500BT comes with an equalizer. So, who cares? You can pump up your bass or moderate your highs while also enjoying the clean separation and overall clarity of this sound profile. Hardcore bass-heads might be disappointed even with the bass frequencies boosted. But for those who listen to all kinds of genres and appreciate a realistic presentation of instruments, the Live 500BT is a solid choice. And considering the great call quality and extensive functionality, the Live 500BT may be hard to beat for the price.
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