The market for completely wireless headphones around the SEK 2,000 range is quite tough. How does JBL’s new True Wireless snails Live Pro + TWS compete?
JBL has been in the sound industry for quite some time (since 1946 in fact) and many times has been at the forefront when it comes to both headphones and speakers. Recently, perhaps especially in the segment “affordable”. Good sound for sensible money simply.
The headphones I took a look at here go with their SEK 1990 up a little above the very lowest priced variants with similar specifications and functions. So are they something to wear?
We start with the outside
JBL Live Pro + TWS does not make much of a difference in appearance. Something I personally think is a positive feature of headphones. I have tested the black version of the headphones which are also available in beige, pink and white. Both the included charging case and the shells themselves are produced in quality plastic and feel proper and durable. The shells simply click into the charging case with the help of magnets and are then firmly in place. In terms of classification, the headphones IPX4-certified. Which means they fix water and sweat splashes. But strongly dislike being underwater.
Included in the package are, apart from the headphones themselves and the mentioned charging case, five pieces of silicone in different sizes and one USB-A to USB-Ccharging cable. The charging case nicely enough also manages to be charged wirelessly via any Qi charger.
The total battery life amounts to 28 hours where the earphones themselves can handle 7 hours of playing time at a time and the case provides up to 21 hours of extra charging. Use the noise reduction function (ANC) the headphones lose one hour of playing time. Which still feels well approved. Charging the shells in the case takes about 2 hours.
If we look at the fit, I was actually very pleasantly surprised the first time I plugged the two shells in my ears. How they sit is of course very subjective. But for me, they have been virtually impossible to lose. Whether I’m running with them or doing my best to shake my head trying to make them fall out. In short, they sit really well and are also comfortable. Even for longer periods. A good start!
What is wireless sound for SEK 2,000?
If we jump directly to how they actually sound, I would say that they “out of the box” sound okay. But no more. The sound feels a bit flat and lacks that extra “punch”. Here has JBL however, succeeded really well with the associated app My JBL Headphones (available for both iOS and Android). Above all, they have succeeded well equalizerpart of the app.
The three preset sound modes leave quite a lot to be desired. But with the ability to set exactly the sound curve you want, it is still possible to get a really nice sound. The sad thing in this context is that I can imagine that many may not really feel compelled to trot into EQmenu and start fiddling around. As simple and smooth as it may be.
Regardless. With the sound levels adjusted, the headphones sound really good. According to JBL should they produce ”JBL’s signature sound”. Which as far as I know JBL means easy to listen to and with quite a decent bass. Something that can undoubtedly be achieved with the help of equalizer in the app. If you do not have extreme requirements, I would say that JBL Live Pro + TWS should suit most people as the sound is in short both pleasant and easy to listen to, in a positive sense. The base can also be pulled up to almost unpleasant levels.
Noise reduction and voice control
JBL Live Pro + TWS continues to boast of most features and extras. Apart from purely specific ones, such as that they use Bluetooth 5.0 (which is good), is probably the most useful function noise reduction, which exists in three different modes. Everyday Mode, Travel Mode and Active Mode. These all have equally different properties there Everyday is the default variant while Travel focuses on just traveling and elimination of flight / train noise and the like. Active is instead intended for training.
The noise reduction works without major problems and above all does a really good job of eliminating monotonously disturbing ambient noise and “background noise”. Something that in an urban environment makes the function purely life-threatening to use. Which strangely enough can be seen as a good rating. However, removing all surrounding sounds does not reduce noise. Especially not indoors. As with most other noise-canceling headphones, there is also a faint noisy sound when the function is switched on. Something that does not disturb or be heard significantly. But still there and can be perceived at really low volumes.
In contrast to the noise reduction, there is also what is called Ambient Sound Control (environmental control). This setting is in two modes there Ambient Aware lets in more environmental noise to draw attention to the surroundings. A function that works extremely well in an urban environment where the usual noise reduction should be avoided.
TalkThru instead lets through basically all ambient noise and lowers (and limits) the volume to a certain level. This is based on the idea that you should both be able to listen to music and have a conversation at the same time. Something that also works really well. As the recording microphones work at full capacity TalkThrumode, however, a constant background noise is created. Something I personally was not bothered too much by, but which still can not be completely ignored.
Daily use and the app
After living with JBL Live Pro + TWS for some week I have to admit that I actually like them quite a lot. As I said, the sound is easy to listen to and quite nice after a tour of the app equalizer. I have used the headphones with one iPhone (11 Pro). Something that worked well and did not cause any real headaches. The only thing I reacted to is that the snails sometimes take a little too long to be found by the app. Now we talk for maybe 5-6 seconds so there are absolutely no extreme waiting times. But when you want to quickly turn on and off or on a sound mode or setting, it can feel a little awkward to have to wait.
In terms of control, I think JBL done what goes with the rather limited possibilities that exist. Each headphone has one touch surface to which three different functions can be associated (one press, double press and press and hold). Via the app, it is possible to quickly and easily change which functions each headphone should have. However, not completely free, but with the help of four preset modes where one headphone, for example, controls the volume while the other handles play / pause. The other modes refer to the control of the various noise reduction and ambient modes as well as the voice assistant function.
Controls for answering and handling calls are automatically located on both worms and are activated as soon as an incoming call appears. This is also clearly shown in the app.
Call and voice assistant
How are the snails talking then? Really good actually. I have also not received any complaints from people on the other end of the line during conversations, but the sound has been perceived as clear and distinct.
It is a bit sad, however, that the headphones only support Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa for voice control. Here I had that iPhoneusers gladly seen that Siri got to be on a corner. Google Assistant otherwise works as expected and does the same right and wrong as usual.
Furthermore, it is a bit limiting that the headphones can only be connected to one device at a time and need to be completely paired with each connection to another device. Something you basically never commit to doing as it requires the headphones to be reset to factory settings to end up in sync mode. Which in turn requires a needle or other pointed object to press a small button on the charging case. Personally, I would have liked to have seen it possible to switch between at least two units. Especially today when you spend even more time in front of a screen than normal.
Apart from the above, there are a few more things that make that JBL Live Pro + TWS unfortunately are not the perfect headphones. For my part, it first took a few weeks of use before I started making friends touchcontrols. At first, they often happened that I paused or changed the song when, for example, I had to insert or remove one of the shells. After some time of use, this has gotten a lot better, though the touch surfaces are still quite easy to access by mistake.
As the biggest criticism, I find it very difficult to justify the function with the power saving mode. Where the two snails close after a period of inactivity. The function itself is superb and can be set so that the shells, in order to save power, automatically shut off after a certain time. The problem is that the only way to wake them up again is to put them back in the charging case.
So if you leave home without the case and pause the music long enough for the headphones to turn off, you can not use them again until you get home to the charging case. No matter what battery level the snails actually have. A downright stupid solution I do not understand at all. Luckily, the function can be switched off after all. Something I recommend doing. Apart from this is JBL Live Pro + TWS still a pair of really nice headphones that I warmly dare to recommend both for training and everyday music and podcast listening.