Despite not dominating Apple and Sony headlines, JBL is no stranger to the world of wireless headphones and has a number of options on its website with a wide range of prices.
Over-ear Bluetooth designs have been somewhat hit and miss as we’ve tested them over the years, but the brand has been tasting five-star success lately with a few pairs of wireless earbuds, a trend we hope the JBL Live Pro continues. 2 TWS. On paper, they’re both affordable and packed with features, but should class leaders be concerned about their sound quality?
In the grand scheme of wireless earbud pricing, the JBLs sit just above the entry level. At £130 / $150 / AU$200 they’re slightly cheaper than the likes of the Apple AirPods 3 which come in at around £169 / $179 / AU$279 and a lot cheaper than some of our favorite premium wireless earbuds like the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II for £280 / $299 / AU$429. Their closest rivals actually come from the same stable. We’ve tested and awarded the JBL Reflect Flow Pro five stars at £160/$180, but they’re now available at a similar price point, making for an interesting comparison.
These earbuds look good enough for the money without setting the world on fire. Some rivals offer more rounded housings with touchpads, but JBL has gone the tried-and-true route by adding stems to the Live Pro 2 TWS.
However, the fact that they are glossy and have an almost mirrored finish (available in silver, blue, pink and black) elevates them above the duller looking buds you can find at this level. The top portion of each stem, near the 11mm driver, is touch sensitive and can be assigned to control playback, volume or cycle through different sound modes.
JBL Live Pro 2 TWS technical specifications
Codec support SBC, AAC
Battery life 10 hours (BT + ANC), 40 hours (including charging case)
Finishes Silver, pink, blue, black
Weight 4.8g (each)
The JBLs come with three different sizes of silicone tip; small, medium and large. Each tip has a few small recesses carved into it that allow them to be routed to the oval tubes that protrude from the earphone’s main body. They’re easy to swap out, but we’d still like to see manufacturers actually offer more size options at this level. Three doesn’t seem quite enough and just gives owners less options to get the fit just right. In testing, we found the JBLs quite comfortable, but they didn’t feel as solid and immobile as we’d like.
The earbuds fit into a charging case and are held in place magnetically. The case is small and compact which helps with portability and you can charge it via USB-C or wirelessly if you have a compatible charging pad.
Thanks to their IPX5 rating, the JBLs are water-resistant and designed to withstand a low-pressure jet of water from any angle.
A row of diagonal lights on the front of the case indicate the remaining battery level. And the numbers claimed by JBL are good for a pair of wireless, noise-canceling wireless earbuds. JBL claims around eight hours of playback with Bluetooth and ANC turned on and ten hours with it turned off.
Add the rechargeable case to the equation and total battery life goes up to 30 hours with ANC and 40 hours without. The AirPods 3, on the other hand, only offer six hours of playback and have no ANC, while the Sony WF-1000XM4 also comes in at around eight hours with Bluetooth and ANC activated.
JBL has given the Live Pro 2 TWS several features to help with fit, noise, cancellation and sound quality. Many can be accessed via touch controls on the earbuds or the dashboard that greets you in the companion JBL Headphones app.
The app is the place you go when you first set up the headphones (or when you lose them thanks to the Find My Buds feature), as it not only includes a fit test to make sure you get a perfect seal but also an ear canal test to optimize the ANC for each individual.
With the Live Pro 2 you can turn on adaptive noise cancellation and the headphones do all the heavy lifting automatically. They take your environment into account and adjust the strength of the ANC accordingly. And it works well – external rumble is kept to a minimum and you’re not really aware that it’s making changes in the background.
One of the features that really helps with ease of use, Multipoint Bluetooth, is also included, which is good to see at this level. It gives you the added flexibility of connecting two source devices at the same time, say a smartphone and a laptop, and switching as needed without having to physically pair each time you want to switch.
They also automatically pause when you remove an earbud and resume when you put it back in, although we found them to be a bit oversensitive in testing. They would sometimes start playing again when they were out of our ears, which could be due to us catching the touch controls as they’re at the top of the stems and where you hold them the most.
JBL uses six microphones to help with call quality, and when tested in relatively quiet environments, voices come through with a decent amount of detail and clarity.
The dashboard of the app looks great and gives you access to all the functionality of the headphones with just a few taps. You have basic options like switching between ANC, Ambient Aware or TalkThru, but you can also access more advanced features like the built-in equalizer if you want to tweak the audio. You can also switch between Smart Audio or Smart Video modes that optimize sound quality or improve lip sync depending on how you use them.
It’s a shame you can’t be more precise when it comes to customizing the controls within the app, though. For example, we prefer the volume, playback and sound mode switching controls all mapped to the touch controls, as on some rivals, but the JBLs don’t allow you to have this particular combination. This means you have to interact with your smartphone to complete any of the tasks, which feels like an unnecessary speed bump. There’s also no aptX HD or LDAC support for anyone looking for higher quality audio, although at this level we don’t think it’s the end of the world.
If you’re looking for solid and robust sound, the JBL Live Pro 2 TWS delivers that and more. They’re not shy about coming forward, especially in the lower frequencies where there’s plenty of power on tap.
Play Billie Eilish’s Bad guy and the JBLs don their big 12s and work their way through the song’s hefty bassline. Okay, they’re not exactly subtle with it, but there’s a good level of detail in those bass notes, and, to be fair, in the rest of the frequency range. There is also a fair amount of extension. Eilish’s vocals sound clear and insightful and hold their own in the presence of those hefty low-frequency hits. If you find the bass a little over the top for your taste, we found that digging into the equalizer and adjusting it can produce good results.
Compared to a rival like the JBL Reflect Flow Pro, they sound clearer and more insightful – in fact, they’re a clear step forward in most departments. Play Kid Laroi’s Stay, which is a bouncy, lively, poppy tune, and the JBLs combine it with an enthusiastic performance. The dynamics are good and the vocals are expressive enough at this level, as is their sense of timing and ability to follow rhythms. We wouldn’t say no to a little more of all of the above with their successors, but what they offer is more than adequate at this level.
The JBL Live Pro 2 TWS occupies an interesting place in the wireless earbud market. They’re a step up from cheap sub-£100/$100 wireless earbuds, giving you access to better sound quality without having to make the jump to more premium options from the likes of Bose, Sony and Sennheiser. They are entertaining to listen to, easy to use and contain many useful features. We think they are well worth listening to.
- Sound 5
- Functions 5
- Comfort 4
Read our review of the JBL Reflect Flow Pro
Also consider the Apple AirPods3
Read our Sony WF-C500 judgement
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