This week, I got to spend some quality time with the newest from JBL, the JBL LIVE 500BT. This portable headphone is comfortable and has a good look, but is it worth the money? And how does it sound? Let’s take a closer look with this JBL LIVE 500BT Review.
JBL LIVE 500BT Review
In the Box
-JBL LIVE 500BT headphones
-Audio cable with 3.5 mm connector
-micro USB charging cable
The headband of the JBL LIVE 500BT is made of plastic with a lightweight metal extender. It is coated in cloth and has a thin layer of padding on its underside. With mild flexibility it hugs the ears lightly to keep it secure on the head, while maintain a good level of comfort. Additionally, the headband is foldable, for ultimate portability. At the base of the hinge, the earcups attach via a pivot point on its plastic yolk. Here, the eacups can turn inward 90 degrees.
With a simple design, the earcups of the JBL LIVE 500BT have an aesthetically pleasing, minimal look. They have a manageable size which looks good on the head, while still covering the ears fully. Additionally, they are made of plastic, and thus feel lightweight on the head. Lastly, at the base right earcup, there are controls for controlling playback, as well as a microphone for talking on the phone.
Following the oval shape of the earcups, the earpads of the JBL LIVE 500BT are comfortable. They are made of soft foam, and have a comfortable amount of thickness to them. The foam is coated in pleather, which might make the cans too hot for some folks. That said, they’re quite sound isolating and fit around my ears comfortable, touching the edges of my ears slightly.
The JBL LIVE 500BT connects wirelessly to listening devices via Bluetooth 4.2. It connected to my phone extremely easily, and had a range of about 30 feet. Additionally, the LIVE 500BT has an impressive battery life of 30 hours, and charges completely in 2 hours. In other words, 15 minutes of charging yields 2 hours of playback.
In addition to its wireless capabilities, the JBL LIVE 500BT has an ambient mode and a Talk Thru mode. These modes duck the music and amplify the outside world so one doesn’t have to take the headphones off when interacting with others. The button for the controls is easy to find on the earcup and works easily.
Secondly, the headphones work with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. By tapping the earcup, you can use voice assistant to control playback, text, and more!
Lastly,one can control the sound of the headphones further by using the JBL Headphones App. In the app, one can control the TalkThru and Ambient Aware features, as well as an EQ. Additionally, one can see the battery life of the headphones and can toggle Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa on and off.
For this sound review, I’ve turned off the EQ on the JBL Headphones app. That said, the EQ in the app is really well done! It is a multi-band semi-parametric EQ. And in addition to having so much control over what frequencies one boosts or cuts, it also level matches. For example, if one makes a giant boost, the headphones don’t get louder in level.
The low frequencies of the JBL LIVE 500BT headphones have a little bit of emphasis around the fundamental of many kick drums. As a result, while the lows aren’t super loud in the mix, low frequency rich information sits forward a little bit. I like this boost. It feels under control and provides nice depth to the mix as a whole. However, it doesn’t overwhelm the low-mids, and as a result, maintains clarity and separation from the low-mid rich instruments like bass guitars, synths, pianos, and low strings.
For example, when I was listening to the song Lazarus by David Bowie, the kick drum felt punchy and clear with a little bit of emphasis down below. It had nice separation from the bass guitar, which gave them both an added feeling of grooviness.
The middle frequencies of the JBL LIVE 500BT have a nice sense of presence with emphasis in the high-mids. Additionally, it has a light cut at the top region of the middle mids. As a result, vocals sit forward in the mix. Midrange rich instruments feel a little bit smaller than usual, but have a nice sense of separation from the low-mids and vocals.
For example, when I was listening to the song Thanks for Nothing by Middle Brother, the body of the acoustic guitar felt a little bit lighter than usual. However, its attack took a step forward in the mix. Additionally, the vocal felt a bit louder in the mix than it usual does. The bass guitar felt nicely balanced, and had good separation from the acoustic guitars and background vocals.
The high frequencies of the JBL LIVE 500BT have a cut at the top part of the lower treble, with a boost in the upper treble. Additionally, the there is a little bit of emphasis near the base of the upper octave. As a result, vocals lack a little bit of articulation but maintain a good sense of texture and breath. Additionally, high frequency rich instruments are a little bit less chunky that they might be otherwise.
For example, when I was listening to the song I F by Lafemmebear the lead vocal felt nicely full and airy. Its sense of texture with the distortion effect came through in a beautiful, forward way. Likewise, the bright background vocals felt breathy and pretty. Additionally, the brighter synths and scratchy record noise felt textural and forward.
The soundstage of the JBL LIVE500BT doesn’t feel particularly expensive, but does have a nice sense of contrast in all three dimensions. However, the shape of the soundstage is skewed slightly do to the shape of the frequency response. For instance, the high-mid boost brings instruments with high-mid information closer in space. However, their intimacy contrasts well from midrange instruments which sit much further back in space. Additionally, neither the highs nor lows are overly extended, however, in the vertical domain, they maintain separation from one another. Lastly, the width feels strongly tied to the middle because of the solid low-mid response and phantom center, but contrasts well from wide-panned instruments.
For example, when I was listening to the song Miles Runs the Voodoo Down by Miles Davis, the high-mid boost brights the high hat attack, the trumpet, and the sax closer in space than usual. They contrasted wonderfully from the further off organ and guitars. The panned out drums, guitars, and horns contrasted well with the centered trumpet. Lastly, the cymbals, snare, and breath of the trumpet felt higher and separated from the lowness of the bass. In between those extremes, the keys and guitars filled in the space. Nothing was super extended, but the soundstage maintained separation and differentiation across the dimensional space.
Overall, the JBL LIVE 500BT is a great option for for those that need a versatile and portable Bluetooth headphone. It has a minimal, attractive look and a customizable sound which works for a wide range of genres!
The JBL LIVE 500BT is available for the best price here: