Price (RRP): $249.95
The JBL Live 650BTNC Bluetooth noise cancelling over-the-ear headphones have built-in Google Assistant or Alexa support. At $249.95 it offer features found in more expensive headphones.
The JBL Live 650BTNC is not its most expensive noise-cancelling model – the JBL Everest Elite 750GA over-the-ear at $399.95 and the JBL Everest Elite 150NC in-ear buds at $299 are.
Interestingly I had access to all three during the review period and for the money the JBL Live 650BTNC is superb only missing ‘adaptive’ noise cancelling – basically it is on or off. But you gain a huge 20/30hours (ANC on/off) and a faster 2 hour charge time.
First, a word about ANC – automatic or adaptive noise cancelling
ANC use external mics to hear the outside world and generate the inverse sound to block it out. This requires sound isolation – external noise cannot leak through the headphone to the eardrum. Hence over-the-ear is most popular although the JBL Everest in-ear work very well via a tight ear canal fit.
Adaptive NC adds the ability to let some or all of that external noise through – important if you need to be aware of your surrounds.
Before we get into the review, let me tell you about my favourite ANC headphones.
For my train commute (2 hours) I use my three-year-old Sennheiser PXC-550 ($499.95 – still a current model), and they have the wonderful ability to play via USB cable and charge at the same time as well as 20/30 hours battery ANC on/off.
I also use the Sony WH-1000XM3 (GadgetGuy review here $549.95) as our reference headphones as these support aptX/HD, LDAC hi-res DACs and have altitude sensitive ANC that cannot is terrific on planes. Unfortunately, it lacks the USB charge/DAC of the Sennheiser which means I cannot use them while charging. Still at 30/38 hours ANC on/off and the hi-res music it is hard to find better.
My wife uses the Bose QC35 II (GadgetGuy review here $499.95) which are smaller and lighter. While Bose practically invented ANC, the Sennheiser and Sony are ahead – at least to my ears. Let’s just say Bose is trendy and command a premium price.
My penniless son and his wife use the new Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 (GadgetGuy review here $239.99). For my money, this punches well above its weight, and the gap between it, the Bose and the JBL is paper thin.
So we have lots of expertise in reviewing NC headphones and what to look for.
Review: JBL Live 650BTNC
What is it?
An entry-level, noise cancelling, over the ear, headphone with voice assistant support.
How does it sound?
Oversize 40mm drivers provide 16Hz-20kHz sound. You can pay $150 more for the Everest 750GA to get more sub-bass from 10Hz, but I cannot hear the difference. In fact, the human hearing range is 20Hz-20kHz, and most cannot hear the lower or upper registers anyway.
The typical JBL sound signature is warm and sweet (bass/mids boosted, treble recessed) – perfect for movies and music. JBL reaches this nirvana on most of its sound bars, speakers and top end headphones.
Using BT with NC on these are more mid-centric (bass recessed, mids boosted, treble recessed) which is perfect for clear voice and hands-free phone or voice assistant use. When NC is off, it boosts the treble to make it more of a bright vocal signature.