Looking for a pair of portable, noise cancelling headphones? If so, perhaps you’ve heard of the subject of today’s review the JBL LIVE 650BTNC! These are the newest from JBL, and have a classy, minimal look! But how do they sound, and are they the right noise for you? Let’s take a closer look with this JBL LIVE 650BTNC Review.
JBL LIVE 650BTNC Review
In the Box
-JBL LIVE 650BTNC headphones
-Micro USB charging cable
-Aux cable with 3.5 mm connector
The headband of the JBL LIVE 650BTNC is made of plastic and coated in cloth. It has metal extenders and feels sturdy in the hand. The earcups can fold inward via hinges at the base of the headband, making these noise-cancelling headphones super portable! Additionally, the earcups can turn inward 90 degrees and lay flatly.
Additionally, on the underside of the headband a thin layer of padding. The headphones have a comfortable, yet secure clamping force, which contributes to their sense of sound isolation.
The earcups of the JBL LIVE 650BTNC have a simple, classy look. But my favorite thing about them, is that they are big enough to fit over the ear, while also being compact and good looking. They sport a clean, matte black finish, with a glossy black JBL logo.
Additionally, at the base of the right ear cup are playback controls, as well as a port for the aux cable for listening with a wire. There is also a button here to turn noise cancellation on and off. Meanwhile, the base of the left earcup houses the micro USB port for charging.
The earpads of the JBL LIVE 650BTNC are made of soft, elastic foam. It is thick enough to keep the ear from touching the earcup, and has a good amount of space in the middle for various ear shapes and sizes. Additionally, it is coated in pleather, which might make some folks’ ears feel hot. But I found them comfortable, and easy going on the ears.
The JBL LIVE 650BTNC connected to my phone seamlessly. They connect wirelessly via Bluetooth 4.2. As a result, they maintain connection for about 30 feet (10 m). The headphones, while listening wirelessly and with noise cancellation on, have a battery life of about 20 hours (30 hours if listening without noise cancellation on). Additionally, they charge fully in about 2 hours. In other words, 15 minutes of charging yields about 2 hours of playback time.
Noise Cancellation and Other Features
The JBL LIVE 650BTNC has a handful of other features worth noting! First of all, these headphones have active noise cancellation! When I put the headphones on my head for the first time, I noticed the cancellation right away! It isn’t aggressively strong, but has a medium level of cancellation, greatly reducing middle midrange hums and fan noise. It isn’t great at reducing voices, but did a great job with low, static rumbles.
Secondly, the JBL Headphone app can connect and control various parameters of the headphones, including noise cancellation on/off and EQ.
Next, the JBL LIVE 650BTNC has multi-point connection. As a result, it can switch between devices easily. And, it can connect to Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, taking voice commands.
Lastly, the headphones have a microphone for taking phone calls. And, if the headphones run out of battery, you can simply plug in the aux cable which also has a microphone.
The low frequencies of the JBL LIVE 650BTNC have emphasis in two places: the sub region and right around what sounds like 100 Hz. As a result, kick drums come through with a nice sense of deepness, but have a chesty, pillowy quality to them. Their solid foundation and energy works particularly for pop, hip-hop, and electronic music (or any genre that utilizes low frequencies for emotional impact.
For example, when I was listening to the song Djadja by Aya Nakamura, the kick felt punchy with a solid sense of emphasis. It felt louder in the mix than usual. Additionally, it had good separation from the bass synth. As a result, the headphones provided a nice sense of groove to the song.
The middle frequencies of the JBL LIVE 650BTNC have a nice thick low-mid response.. As a result, the thickness of bass guitars, big synths, strings and pianos provide sturdiness and power. Meanwhile, the headphones have a cut at the base of the high-mids and a boost in the middle part of the high-mids. This creates a nice sense of separation between vocals and midrangey instruments, but also makes the middle part of the midrange sit a bit lighter in the mix than usual.
For example, when I was listening to the song Roosevelt Room by Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, the bass guitar had a nice sense of bigness, and I could hear its movements energetically. The electric guitar felt a little smaller than usual, but leaned toward the high-mids. As a result, the distortion of it felt crispy and louder than the body of it. Likewise, the vocal sat above the guitar level-wise. Due to the cut at the base of the high-mids, it’s timbre leaned closer to the face and throat than the chest. And the same effect came across in the sound of the snare drum, which sounded snappy, but less resonant than usual.
The high frequencies of the JBL LIVE 650BTNC have emphasis in the lower treble and upper octave. Additionally, it has a cut in the upper treble. As a result, the headphones have a great sense of articulation and breath, but lacks a little bit of texture.
For example, when I was listening to the song I’ll show you by Justin Bieber, his voice came through in a breathy, airy way. Also, it had a great sense of articulation. Similarly, the high-hat and filtered cymbals had a sense of specificity and emphasis. It worked well with the bright, wide synths, which came through with a feeling of wispiness. As a result, it wasn’t super realistic sounding, but came through with the intended emotional impact nonetheless.
The soundstage of the JBL LIVE 650BTNC is a little bit crowded widthwise when noise cancellation is active. When I turned noise cancellation of, it widens out a bit. As an aside, I also noticed here that the low-mids feel much lighter when noise cancellation is inactive. However, the sense of height remains similar when NC turned on or off. Because of the low frequency sub boost and the upper octave boost, the headphones have nice differentiation in the sense of height. Lastly, the sense of depth isn’t particularly strong either way the headphones are configured. However, there is a sense of separation from front to back when mixes emphasize depth with filters, reverbs, and room mics. That said, because of the high-mid boost, many instruments sit closer than usual.
For example, when I was listening to the song Slow Burn by Kacey Musgraves, the high-hat, cymbals, mandolin, acoustic, and vocal had nice separation in the height from the solid bass guitar and kick drum below the head. The width of the acoustic, mandolin, and wide reverbs sounded narrower than usual, but regained a little bit of spaciousness when I removed the noise cancellation. Lastly, the intimacy of Kacey’s vocal contrasted nicely from the far-off synths, banjo, and reverbs. This depth is emphasized in the mix, and it comes through, although doesn’t have a particular sense of extension.
Overall, the JBL LIVE 650BTNC is a great option for those who want a good looking, portable set of noise cancelling headphones! They won’t be for those looking for aggressively strong cancellation. However, these are great for most folks’ purposes! Additionally, they sound best with pop, hip-hop, and electronic music!
The JBL 650BTNC are available for the best price here: