JBL has been a big name in the speaker market for some time.
The US based company has been designing audio equipment for over 70 years.
I myself have purchased many a JBL speaker and have been a very satisfied customer.
JBL is no stranger to the wireless noise canceling headphones market, having previously made headphones such as the Everest Elite 750NC.
I think they have learned their lesson and opted this time around to compete in the middle price category instead of the premium headphone category.
All this whilst maintaining the same signature sound of the Everest 750 NC and in some instances eclipsing the performance of those headphones.
This time around though I decided to have a look at the JBL Live 650 BTNC noise canceling headphones.
JBL have always positioned themselves as a more affordable option in the audio equipment market, unlike the premium priced the Bose.
This is where they decided to position themselves in the wireless noise canceling headphones segment with the release of the JBL Live 650 BTNC.
At time of writing the JBL 650 BTNC were retailing for $200.
So, I think that this review is for those who are looking for a pair of noise canceling headphones without having to shell out an extra $150 for a set of Sony or Bose headphones.
If you can afford top shell out the extra cash then I would suggest that you perhaps look at my review of the Sony WH-1000XM3 and the Bose Quietcomfort 35 II, as these are the best noise canceling headphones in the market at the moment.
So I when I purchased these headphones, I was looking for something decent that I could recommend, but I was actually quite impressed with the value for money proposition that I got with these cans.
All the buttons are on the outside of the right ear cup.
The buttons include the power on and off, volume up and down, the audio cable slot, Bluetooth pairing and active noise cancellation.
The play/ pause, skip track forward and backwards buttons are also located on the right ear cup.
On the left ear cup you will notice the charging port where you can use the USB cable to charge your headphones, either from your computer or a power socket.
Also, on the left ear cup located next to the USB charging port is a small LED battery sensor, which indicates the status of your battery life.
To play music you simply tap the pause play button. To fast-forward you hold down the skip forward button for 2 seconds.
To rewind hold down the skip backwards button for 2 seconds.
To switch the headphones on you simply push up the on/off button and the blue LED light will indicate that the headphones are on.
When the battery needs charging you will hear a little jingle coming from the inside of the ear cup.
The small LED light on the left ear cup will also begin to blink red as soon as the battery becomes low.
To fully charge the headphones should take approximately 2 hours.
When you initially insert the charger you will notice that the LED light will be on.
The headphones are fully charged as soon as the LED light turns off.
Just a word of caution, JBL cords can be sensitive, so when you remove them from the USB slot make sure that you do so carefully.
When your battery is flat you can plug in the audio cable and continue listening to your favorite tunes and make/receive calls.
The battery life is quite competitive, especially given the price of these headphones.
The JBL Live 650 BTNC are able to provide up to 20 hours of battery life with the noise cancellation on and up to 30 hours with noise cancellation off.
Consider that the Bose Quietcomfort 35 II headphones gives 20 hours with noise cancellation and 30 hours without and the cost almost twice as much.
With the JBL Live 650 BTNC you can get up to 2 hours of additional battery life with a single quick charge. This is exactly the same rate as the Bose QC 35 II, which provides 2.5 hours on a 15-minute charge.
Consider additionally that the Microsoft Surface headphones provide only 1 hour of quick charge battery time and the Bowers and Wilkins do not even have a quick charge feature.
The bass is surprisingly rich and well-defined.
The mids are very clear and crisp, although on occasion depending on the song, not all the instruments were as clear as I would have liked. But overall they were not that bad.
I think at this price point they had to decide what to spend most of their efforts on.
My sense is that they optimized the headphones for songs with heavy bass.
I know this because I was able to really enjoy hip hop tracks, as well as EDM tracks. For those who listen to house music these are a dream.
Certainly these are not for the audiophile however, as they are not overall balanced across frequencies.
The ear cups swivel on the joints, and the memory foam ear pads are finished with synthetic leather.
The ear pads have sufficient padding and are very comfortable when you place them on your ears.
The ear cups are nicely stitched together so you can rest assured that the ear pads will not tear.
I Found the headphones to be quite comfortable.
However, when you look at the shape of the ear cups, they remind me of the beats’ studio wireless 3, in that they are round and may not be well suited for people with larger ears.
Design and build Quality
On the right ear cup you will notice that the word “ANC” is embossed in silver, and just above the left ear cup, the word “live” is embossed in silver. The headband has JBL inscribed at the top.
You will notice that the headband is covered in a fabric like material.
This material does sit well across the head and is very comfortable.
It would have been a little better if they had included some padding at the top of the headband though for additional comfort.
But overall this is not a deal breaker.
The slider is made of plastic.
The ability to extend and contract the slider is easy.
Given that the slider is made of plastic the clamping force on the headphones can be a little loose in my opinion.
The JBL Live 650 BTNC comes in at a nice and easy weight of 249 grams (9.14 oz).
The headphones come in black, dark blue and white as the main colors.
There are however two options available when it comes to the silver ring around the ear cups of the headphones.
The JBL live 650 BTNC come can either come with a silver ring around the ear cups or bronze.
What’s in the box
When you first open the box you will find, your headphones, an orange micro USB compatible cable and a fabric audio cable.
This is a 3.93ft (1.2m) cable, and includes a 3.5mm Jack
The audio cable includes a microphone and remote control in the middle, which can be used for answering calls and controlling your music.
The headphones come with a fabric pouch for travel purposes.
I am a little let down that they did not include a hard shell case as the headphones can quickly become damaged in the pouch.
Audio and connectivity
Hands free calling
You can manage your calls with the buttons on the right ear cup.
The headphones come with google assist and Amazon Alexa built in.
I tested out google assistant on these cans and it worked like a dream.
Google assistant played my requested tracks and even called suggested friends and family on request.
I activated google assistant by tapping the ear cup.
To set up the google assistant using a mobile device first connect your headphones to your mobile device, press and hold the home button to open google assistant and follow the onscreen instructions.
For your ios device you will have to open or download the google assistant app and follow the instructions.
Remember that you will have to check if google assistant is available in your country or in your language.
To access the amazon Alexa voice assistant, connect your headphones to your mobile device.
Then you will have to download the JBL app and follow the app instructions.
40mm drivers pump out a rich array of sounds.
The headphones support Bluetooth 4.2. I suppose this is fine given that the headphones come with micro – USB slot.
To activate Bluetooth ensure that you
First turn on your headphones. When the headphones are searching for a Bluetooth connection, the LED indicator located within the on/off switch will blink in a green turquoise type of color.
When the headphones have paired, the blue LED light will stop flashing and remain static.
Pair to multiple devices
The JBL 650 BTNC comes with multi point technology.
Multi point technology allows you to connect to 2 devices at a time.
With multi point technology you can switch from watching a video on your tablet to answering a call on your mobile phone.
Using the my JBL headphones app, you can effortlessly personalize your listening experience by making adjustments to the app.
When you switch the headphones on, the active noise cancellation is on as a factory default.
In wireless listening mode, long press the ANC button to switch it off and on.
In wired mode, power on the headphone to switch it on.
Power off the headphone to switch it off.
You can also could use the ANC button to switch it on and off.
It would be unfair for me to compare the noise cancellation ability of these cans to the Sony WH-1000XM3 or the Bose Quietcomfort 35 II headphones.
The noise canceling ability of these cans is just not the same.
The places I found the nose cancellation to be most useful is in a noisy office with chattering colleagues.
On my morning commute, they did well to keep the bus engine noise at bay, but as soon as I got onto the street I could still here chatter and car horns.
If you are looking for traveling cans, and have the extra money, I would probably go for Sony or Bose, or even the Bowers and Wilkins.
But for $200, they certainly do a decent job, and I would consider buying them.
Again compromises were made in order to be cost effective.
The headphones had no ambient mode, for allowing certain sounds to come in depending on the scenario.
But I suppose the noise cancellation feature will do the Job.
Reasons to buy
- Tap the ear cup to activate google assistant or Amazon Alexa
- Hands free calling
- Comfort Fit Fabric headband
- JBL signature audio
- Multi point technology allows you to connect to 2 devices at a time
- 20 Hours of battery life with ANC on and 30 hours with ANC off
- 2 hours on 10 minute quick charge
- Remote control on ear cups
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