JBL are masters of audio, and are pretty much a made name in the audio industry. From headphones, to portable Bluetooth speakers, right though to those massive speakers you see on the edge of stages at festivals, JBL are a known entity and seem to be everywhere. Well they’ve just released their new LIVE series headphones, and we’ve been lucky enough to get our hands on one of the JBL LIVE500BT Bluetooth Headphones.
The JBL LIVE500BT is primarily made from plastic although they do feel extremely sturdy thanks to the metal rod that’s threaded all the way through the headband. Plastic is a great option for headphones because it reduces weight while on the head, which is what JBL I believe are going for here. They didn’t feel uncomfortable at all in terms of weight, but thanks to that metal headband, they do feel tight, and after a few hours of use, I had to remove and give my ears a tug to wake them up.
The headband itself is covered in a mesh type material and there is very little padding to protect your crown. The earcups themselves completely surrounded my ears which was great for noise isolation which I can safely say is almost as good as having Active Noise Cancellation technology. The earcups are covered in a leather type material, although almost feel synthetic. They’re very soft though padding is kept again to a minimum. They fold away for storing in a bag, although I couldn’t see in our review unit any kind of carrying case or pouch.
All controls can be found on the right earcup. Here you can find a slide button for power which requires a small flick. Flowing round is a volume up and down buttons with a play/pause button the middle. The last buttons on the right earcup are for activating Bluetooth for when you’re pairing with a new device, and a button that activates the ambient aware technology that’s built into the headphones. This technology enables sound to pass through the cans, enabling you to more accurately hear your surroundings like traffic if you’re walking through town or your friends speaking to you. It will also lower the volume of your music too.
With regards to the audio quality, they performed pretty well. Not amazing, but they will definitely give you a music fix if you’re a bit of an audiophile. Where I felt they did fall down however, is in its bass reproduction. But, I’ll explain as I was left feeling unhappy and happy at the same time. As usual, I ran the headphones through a Spotify test because let’s face it, if you buy a set of these, you’re going to be wearing them while walking to work or at your desk.
Playing a variety of music on my Spotify playlists, nothing was really standing out. At mid volume everything sort of felt a bit empty. Sure the mids and trebles were crisp and vocal lines shone through, especially on Duran Duran’s Ordinary World. Simon Le Bon’s vocal line sounded fantastic, as did the lead acoustic guitar at the start of the track. I could say the same about Dusty Springfield’s Son Of A Preacher. However, when I moved onto music that had a bit more bass, like M.I.A’s Boyz or Dr Dre’s Forgot About Dre, when the bass drum kicked in, it all felt a little lackluster. It’s present, but not punchy. That was until I turned the headphones up. I said before I was listening at mid-volume, but when I was reaching near max, things started livening up. The bass in my music all of a sudden felt hard.
The same went for my rock and metal music. The double-kick drum that usually pounds through the backline of an A Day To Remember track was quiet. Turn up the volume and all of a sudden the bass hits start resonating with the rest of the music. I know it’s strange to get your head around, and it may just be because I’ve been spoiled of late after using headphones like the Bowers & Wilkins PX Wireless or a set of Bose QC35IIs on a daily basis. I’m surprised that a company like JBL aren’t able to compensate for lower volumes. Maybe it’ll be different with their top end LIVE650BT noise-cancelling cans. I won’t know until I get my hands on one.
What I was surprised about however though was the fact that the noise isolation on the JBL LIVE500BT was superb, and that’s coming from someone who walks through 30-40 minutes of London’s busy St Pancras every morning for work. It gets loud through rush hour with all the traffic driving past. These did an excellent job of keeping my music listening uninterrupted.
Of course there is Bluetooth built-in to connect to your phone, but the most interesting thing about the headphones is the fact you can use Google Home Assistant or Amazon Alexa to ask questions or even read from your notifications. All you need to do is pair these headphones with the partner app on your Android or iOS device and select your preferred assistant. I’m a Google man but that’s really down to your personal preference. To activate the assistant, you need to touch the left earcup, and it bursts into life. No physical button on this one. Battery life is also superb, sitting at around 30 hours of music and talking playback. There’s also a quickcharge function too which means that only two hours of charging time will hit that 30 hour playmark mark. Impressive.
The JBL LIVE500BT Bluetooth headphones are a seriously impressive piece of kit, and for a set of headphones that cost under £100 in this day and age – for the build quality, audio quality (at loud volumes) battery life and the fact the headphones come pretty damn close to an active noise cancellation state – you’re getting yourself a bit of a bargain with these. For more information, head over to the JBL website.