JBL has just released a line-up of over-ear wireless headphones from their Live series. It may not be the sound signature you’re used to hearing from JBL. But in many respects, it could be the brand’s best wireless headphone under $200 to date. Let’s find out what goodies these cans deliver in this JBL Live 650BTNC Over-Ear Headphones Review.
JBL Live 650BTNC Over-Ear Headphones Review
IN the BOX
These babies feel cozy. The chubby, leathery ear pads sat snugly around my ears, doing a good job at isolating sound, while remaining comfortable to wear for long listening sessions. I also appreciated the padded material lining covering the entire surface area of the headband, which may be important for folks with thinning hair.
The Live 560BTNC sports 40mm drivers, which are surprisingly smaller than the Live 500BT’s 50mm drivers. But according to my spouse, size doesn’t matter.
You’ll get about 30 hours of use from these cans with the active noise-cancellation function off. With ANC on, the Live 650BTNC will last up to 20 hours. And it only takes 15 minutes of charging to yield 2 hours of battery life.
Functionality and Controls
JBL employs 3 buttons on the left ear cup to control the main functions, like play/pause, track skipping, volume and call activation. You’ll also find an on/off button for noise-cancelling, as well as a button for switching between devices. This multi-point connection capability isn’t available on all headphones at this price point. And it’s a nice feature to have if you own two phones or if you listen on your tablet in addition to your phone.
The Live 650BTNC is also designed to be used with the accompanying JBL app. This app allows you to control equalizer settings and choose between voice assistants – Alexa or Google Assistant. And once you have your assistant app installed, you can activate it by tapping the touchpad on the earcup. This feature is useful for hands-free calling, grocery shopping, online searches and all the dirty stuff you do with Alexa in the privacy of your home.
The active noise-cancelling is decent, though not as effective as pricier noise-cancelling models, like the Sony WH-1000 or anything from Bose. Still, it cancels more ambient sound than Sennheiser’s HD 4.50BT, which sells foe only 20 bucks less.
Call clarity is excellent via Bluetooth connection, and the Live 650BTNC does a good job of isolating your voice and reducing ambient sound. If you happen to run out of power, the included cable also comes with a mic.
The Live 650BTNC only supports Bluetooth 4.2, which isn’t the latest Bluetooth technology. But even with the older Bluetooth version, I didn’t experience any drops in transmission.
Though the Live 650BTNC has a satisfying chunkiness about it, this headphone does fold and swivel flat. It also comes with a soft carrying case when your cans are ready for a nap.
The Live 650BTNC comes with Micro-USB to USB charging cable. And as mentioned above, a 3.5mm cable with a mic is included in the package so that you can use the headphones in passive mode when your headphones are switched off.
Overall Impressions: Light, clean, detailed, versatile.
Unlike JBL’s usual bassy sound signature, the lows on the Live 650BTNC are more neutral. That being said, with the noise-cancelling on, the bass felt a lot more substantial than it did on the cheaper, Live 500BT. Still, those who like a lot of extra punch in their pop and hip-hop may want to tweak the accompanying equalizer. The good news is that the bass is super clean and detailed. And acoustic instruments in this range have a very realistic tone. It’s almost as if I was listening to the music LIVE.
The Live 650BTNC displays present and well-balanced mids, which give big rock and pop-rock songs an expansive feel. At the same time, it’s not a heavy-bodied sound. And these cans produce more of a delicate and well delineated profile, making them ideal for acoustic guitars, strings and brass. Vocals have a natural feel too. In fact, considering that JBL is usually focuses on headphones for modern genres, I’m quite surprised how well-separated and detailed these cans are for the price point. It’s a very clean and realistic sound.
The high frequencies lean bright. And some folks may need to adjust the equalizer settings to make this range easier on the ears. But lovers of pop will appreciate the snappy percussion in this range. And listening to my girl, Rihanna, her vocals were super breathy and airy. Transparency is also good in the highs, giving plenty of substance and resolve to violins in this range as well.
Although the soundstage didn’t strike me as particularly spacious, the imaging had a lot of dimension for headphone at this price point. Instrument placement felt precise along every axis, and even subtle gradations in placement were audible.
I dig these cans. Usually this sound signature would be a tad vegan for me. But after adjusting the equalizer, you should find the balance you’re looking for. Combine this versatility with a clean and detailed presentation, and you’ve got a skilled sound profile. And considering the sturdy build, good looks and decent noise cancellation, the Live 650BT proves to be a good bang for your buck.
You can find these headphones for the best price here: