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19may jbllive650bt hero
Research report
30 May 2019

JBL Live 650BT headphones review

Hadyn Green trials JBL's new wireless noise-cancelling headphones.

JBL's Live 650BT headphones ($200) have some of the best noise-cancelling I’ve ever experienced.

This is partly because they had such a tight seal around my ears that, even without active noise-cancelling, they cut out a lot of sound.

I tried them out by listening to music and podcasts while doing my household chores. They cut out nearly all of the vacuum cleaner noise and pretty much everything else.

A tight fit is not normally what you want in a pair of headphones. It often means they’ll become uncomfortable. However, the JBL’s squishy earpieces meant they stayed comfy while I moved about the house. Despite this, I wouldn’t recommend them for exercise, because the tight fit means there’s not a lot of airflow.

The sound through them was as good as I expected for headphones of this type. However, if you’re listening through your phone, I recommend using the JBL app to adjust the equaliser to raise the sound quality.

You can also use the app to connect to a virtual assistant – either Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa. In theory, once connected you can use the assistant to control your music, set reminders and timers, read your calendar and so on. JBL claims the headphones will work just like a smart speaker.

In reality, Alexa barely worked. Connecting to my Amazon account via the app took half-a-dozen attempts. Once linked, Alexa still couldn’t do basic tasks that I can do on my smart speaker at home, such as setting timers or doing web searches. Most notably, I wasn’t able to control my music.

While I could set reminders, listen to my daily news round-up and get my calendar appointments; these few applications weren’t enough for me to consider the headphones useful for this task. According to the JBL app, Google Assistant isn’t available in New Zealand, although I have used it on my phone previously.

While these are good headphones with impressive noise-cancelling, its extra bells and whistles didn’t pan out.

These headphones were loaned to the writer by JBL

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