If I’ve learned anything from trying out several true wireless earphones, it’s that the design philosophy is still a baby. Every time I try on a pair, I get introduced to a plethora of options for personalization. A big part of your listening experience gets enhanced by simple interface gestures and companion apps. The listener becomes a more active participant in customizing what kind of experience they’re looking for and what they want out of their sound. The JBL Live 300 TWS is an earbud that joins the fray of true wireless, coming along with their interpretation of a companion app. Let’s take a look and see what makes the Live 300 stand out among the growing market of true wireless earbuds.
What You Get
Accessories for the Live 300 keep a limited scale; all of the bare necessities for a true wireless earbud are there, along with a few extras. The first item you’ll probably find is the charging case for the earbuds, a rounded, rectangular shell that should fit firmly in your pocket. The charging case takes a USB-C cable that comes included with the Live 300. Also included are three sizes of ear tips(s/m/l), and four sizes of wingfin enhancers(ss/s/m/l). The wingfins are a welcome part, as though the LIve 300 don’t advertise as workout earbuds, JBL has made it possible to use them as such.
Look and Feel
Like most true wireless earbuds, the Live 300 are reasonably small and lightweight. The goal of having true wireless is to feel like there’s nothing in your ear at all. For the most part, the Live 300 accomplishes this notion, especially when you attach the wingfins, as the pieces fit so securely that you can move your head generally without even feeling the housing. It feels a bit weird twisting the pieces so the nozzle can fit in your ear canal, but it’s a fleeting feeling. It’s not the most comfortable earbud in the world, but it is pretty versatile.
Design and Functionality
If you’re looking for a technically sophisticated driver design, the Live 300 probably won’t deliver. Most true wireless plan never wows in the components department. But it should be mentioned that the Live 300 has 5.8mm drivers housed with the earphone. One of the most significant parts of having a true wireless earbud is its hands-free interface. Like other wireless earbuds on the market, the Live 300 uses an assortment of gestures.
In my experience, few earbuds have gotten these functions perfectly responsive a hundred percent of the time, and the Live 300 is no different. You can cycle through play/pause by merely tapping the right earbud once, which is the most responsive control featured. Tapping it twice skips to the next track, and tapping it three times plays the previous track. These controls are also relatively sensitive, and I had little issue getting them to work. What I did find a problem with is the volume control. You’re supposed to tap the middle, then slide your finger left or right to adjust volume, but this function was finicky, and it seemed more reasonable just to use my phone for volume. However, this isn’t the most frustrating function featured on the Live 300. The left earbud has a few options, and one of them is the talk through option, where you can drown out your sounds and listen to what’s going on next to you. You can access this feature by touching the middle and sliding your finger left, like the volume control on the right. I had a hard time getting this option to work most of the time, only getting it to work a couple of times.
Thankfully, the Live 300 uses Bluetooth 5.0, giving these earbuds high bandwidth and a more excellent range. JBL settles with using AAC as their CODEC instead of the superior aptX.which is slightly bothering.
The Live 300 uses a lithium-ion battery type 55mA. At full charge, you’ll get a total of 6 hours out of the Live 300, which is a little underwhelming. The charging case lasts a total of 14 hours, giving an average of 20 hours of potential battery life. Ten minutes of charge equals one hour of battery life, which can be useful if you’re in a hurry.
JBL has given the Live 300 TWS an impedance of 16 Ohms and a sensitivity of 1kHz at 1mV. To acquire a nominal amplitude, I had to crank the Live 300 to a pretty high level. Thankfully the earbuds are somewhat self-isolating, and you can still reach a comfortable level of gain without feeling like you’re harming your ears.
With true wireless earbuds, I don’t exactly expect an expansive, lush soundstage, but the Live 300 does the best job that it can with its limited space. It’s overall quite a linear response, but keeps some spatial imaging intact, as subtle pans and stereo placement has a certain extent of feeling. You never get the feeling that any of the sounds are around you, but JBL isn’t making that type of earbud. It’s a secure intimate sound with minimal distraction. Spacing is limited, but instrumentations can still be somewhat easily placed in the spectrum.
JBL headphones have a lot in common with each other. They all have this “fun” low end, that isn’t exactly clean, but give a lot of tracks a sense of force and impact. The Live 300 is no different and is honestly a welcome sound signature for a pair of true wireless earbuds. There’s noticeable sub-bass fell that interacts with a lot of the thicker low-end bands. Hip-hop beats sound deep and rumbly, while heavy rock anthems have explosive breakdowns. It’s a powerful, punchy timbre that picks you off of your feet so that I can see this as a fitting workout earbud. If it’s too much for you, you can adjust the bass to your liking by using JBL’s companion app, where you can filter out some of those frequencies using EQ. However, I’m not a fan of how this parametric EQ is integrated into the app itself, as it’s rather frustrating to use.
Not fully v-shaped, but not as expressive as the lows, despite some lively lower mids. There is some needed separation in this range, but most of the mids are a mess and have a hard time sticking out. Individual elements can still be enjoyable, such as a distorted electric guitar that employs a crunchy timbre giving punk tracks a slight edge. Sloppiness makes sense, as the messiness of this range is what gives punk its staple aesthetic, and the Live 300 benefits from that.
The highs seem to be the most composed range out of the other bands. Some amplitudes can be bright or a little too harsh, but most of the time, it presents itself with a clear sense of transparency. Not at all crisp or high in definition, but fill a necessary space within the sound spectrum and does its job well.
If you’re already a fan of how JBLs products sound, and are looking for an affordable pair of truly wireless earbuds, then this purchase is a no brainer. There are some functionality issues, but I think once you get the hang of the gestures, the experience will improve. For $149.95, the JBL Live 300 TWS has a lot to offer to the JBL fan.
Pros and Cons
Pros: Lightweight, secure, thick bass, Bluetooth 5.0
Cons: CODEC, finicky interface, average battery life
JBL Live 300 TWS is available from Audio 46
Update: If you’re looking for the best true wireless earbuds on a budget, check out our review of the new Strauss and Wagner SW-TW401 earbuds!
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