JBL Live Pro 2 true wireless earbuds review: Unearthing a TWS gem
Note: This review was first published on 6 March 2023.
Sussing out a gem
You’ve probably read the results of the Best True Wireless Earbuds category of our 2023 Tech Awards by now. And you’re probably wondering how on earth JBL beat out favourites like the second-gen Apple AirPods Pro and Bose QuietComfort EarBuds II in the process. I’m here to tell you how.
The TL;DRversion:Every bit as good as anythingfrom Apple, Bose, and Sony, but at a considerably lower price. The value it offers is tremendous.
Design & Features
Physically, the JBL Live Pro 2 has a lot in common with the AirPods Pro. The earbuds have the same stem design and look very similar, and their charging cases are almost the same size. Naturally, some will complain that the Live Pro 2 is a copy. It may very well be, but the upshot of all this is that it fits well and the charging case is small enough to slide into pockets easily.
Despite the charging case's diminutive size, the Live Pro 2’s total battery life is a claimed 40 hours. And speaking of battery, it has a handy battery level indicator in front that lights up whenever you open or close the lid. The case charges over USB-C and it supports wireless charging.
The buds themselves are compact and, as I said, have a stem design that resembles the AirPods Pro. Fit is a personal thing but I found them to fit my ears incredibly snugly. I couldn’t shake them off no matter how hard I shook my head or how fast I ran.
Like the AirPods Pro, the Live Pro 2 has touch controls on the sides of the buds. The touch controls work well and are somewhat customisable using the JBL Headphones app. I say somewhat because the customisation options are limited.
By default, the left earbud is used to cycle through the various listening modes (ANC on, ambient mode, etc.) and the right earbud controls playback. However, there’s no volume control. This means if you want volume control, you’ll have to swap out the controls of one of the earbuds. So if use your right earbud for volume control, for instance, you’ll lose the ability to control playback like play, pause, and skip tracks.
This is a massive shame because volume control is so essential and also because this isn’t a problem that plagues the AirPods Pro and QuietComfort Earbuds II. Both Apple’s and Boses’ touch controls have volume control integrated by default.
As befits any flagship-class true wireless earbuds, the Live Pro 2 supports multipoint connection and comes with an accompanying app which you can use to customise it. The app is clear and easy to use. Apart from customising the touch controls, the app also lets you tweak the level of active noise cancellation and the sound signature via the equaliser feature. And since the fit is crucial for any earbuds, there’s also a handy “Check My Best Fit” function that checks how well they fit your ears.
How is the ANC and how do they sound?
The Live Pro 2’s ANC function is very good. With the ANC function activated, I couldn’t hear the fan that was blowing at me nor the simulated sounds of a plane playing through my speakers at all. I think Apple, Bose, and Sony are a little better but these JBLs come very, very close. It’s easily one of the best that I’ve heard in a true wireless earbud.
The ambient sound mode sounds quite natural too. Although Apple’s implementation is still hands down the best, its rivals are clearly catching up. Some frequencies still sound artificially amplified (sibilant noises, in particular) but the overall presentation sounds lifelike enough. Mic performance is good too and I had no problems using it for calls and meetings.
Sound quality is good, which shouldn’t be a surprise given JBL’s heritage in audio. Though the overall sound signature can be described as balanced, the Live Pro 2’s bass response was a highlight. Maybe it’s because of its larger-than-average 11mm drivers, the bass is strong, clean, and goes low. There’s a palpable sense of sub-bass, something that’s missing from many other earbuds. The mids are well-judged and not recessed, so vocals sound intimate and clear. The treble is tastefully elevated to add clarity to the sound, but if I nitpick, I can hear some unevenness. The Live Pro 2 even projects a decent soundstage. There’s no stuck-in-the-head feeling and that is quite uncommon to hear in a mainstream audio product.
In terms of sound quality, I rank the Live Pro 2 ahead of Apple, Bose, and even Sony. Among this bunch, the JBLs are the most balanced sounding and have the punchiest and most engaging sound. And when you couple this to its solid ANC, it’s easy to see why this is one of the best performing true wireless earbuds.
Battery life, as I said earlier, is rated at 10 hours per charge and 40 hours total with the charging case. JBL, unfortunately, quotes its battery life figures when listening without ANCso it's reasonable to expect them to be shorterif you do turn on ANC, which I figure most people will. What matters is that in my time with it, I found that I can easily go for an entire work week before I needed to charge the case and it could easily last an entire workday with on-and-off listening and a quick charge here and there.
A TWS gem
JBL isn’t a brand that’s mentioned often enough in discussions of true wireless earbuds and that should change. The Live Pro 2 offers just about everything one could want from a high-end set of true wireless earbuds. The ANC function is super effective, it sounds great,it has a powerful app that lets you custom certain aspects of it, the battery life is class-leading, and the charging case is small enough to fit into pockets. In terms of sound quality and features, it's right up there with the AirPods Pro, QuietComfort EarBuds II, and WF-1000XM4.
But what makes it stand out from the pack is how attractively priced it is. At S$265, the Live Pro 2 is one of the most affordable flagship-class true wireless earbuds in the market. It’s nearly a hundred dollars cheaper than the likes of Apple, Bose, and Sony. I hesitate to call it cheap but you cannot deny that in the context of flagship-class true wireless earbuds itoffers remarkable value for money.
Hopefully by now you can see why the JBL Live Pro 2 is deserving of the best true wireless earbuds award in our 2023 Tech Awards.
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