Active Noise Canceling (ANC) headphones are designed to cut off external noise. Sometimes the noise you don't really notice until it's gone - like the whistle of an airplane cabin or the hum on the London Underground - and once you've experienced that there's no going back. The fact is, ANC cans are not cheap.
- The best noise-cancelling headphones available now: behind-the-ear, in-ear and in-ear included
JBL, however, has a product that wants to break the boundaries of the usual £300+ headphones with the 650BTNC on-ear headphones that come in at a much more affordable £180 price point. Whether wired or wireless via Bluetooth, easy pairing and Google Assistant built-in ensure these jars don't skimp on features despite the bland price.
Design and comfort
- 2.5mm headphone jack (Note: it's not 3,5mm!)
- Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa Management
- Wireless connectivity via Bluetooth (v4.2)
- Volume, ANC button and BT control
- Weight: 260g
After pulling the 650BTNC out of the box and we are in two minds: there are many logos scattered everywhere in abundance, while the white color of this block comment is not the most discreet. But after wearing it for a week - both at the office and when traveling - we found these in-ear cans to be comfortable enough.
One of the great things about the JBL live system is how easy the connection is. Turning on the headphones software - and before we even switched from a Bluetooth mobile phone - to Google Sync prompted us to connect and did all the pairing for us. If you want Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa Control activated, holding your hand on the earpiece will kick it into motion; if you are not, then it is either easy to disable.
Connection remains good and strong via Bluetooth wireless; We didn't have dropouts connected to a MacBook Air and the various phones we use for work. And if you don't want wireless then include the cable in the box - note 2.5mm for territory headphones, 3,5mm at the other end of the cable for wired connection, which is also handy if the battery runs out and you want to listen passively (without Bluetooth and ANC , certainly).
On the right earcup, direct 650BTNC hold a series of buttons: there is a volume up, play / pause, volume, paired together as three parts; while Bluetooth and ANC controls live as a tête-à-tête with respect to the front side (the last set you hardly need to use often). Having the controls is handy, but we much prefer the introduction of the Rotation Headphone Headset for the Microsoft Surface - an expensive option, but more elegant for that matter.
All in all, the JBL Live 650BTNC system is well-equipped in terms of features, comfortable for extended wear but just doesn't look like anything else. That said, considering the cost is about half that of other formidable noise canceling in-ear headphones on the market, these cans carve out an affordable niche that no one else can compete.
Sound and battery
- 40mm drivers, 20Hz - 20kHz response
- 700mah battery, up to 30 hours per charge
- Micro USB (orange cable included)
Of course, the main thing of headphones is the sound quality. On this front, the JBL's video delivers enough volume and you can hear the bass ability - the chime when turned on finishes with a couple of bass trills - goes well with the promise of low-frequency delivery.
However, after a long time of use, we can understand why the JBL price is a little less. There's no doubt that the sound is great - it can go really loud and is independently amplified, so phone volume and headphone volume are separate - and the blat is often quite remarkable with plenty of mid-range snap and high-frequency mix.
But it's a little tiresome to listen to. There isn't the same definitive clarity that you get from some other headphones like the Bowers & Wilkins Voentorg. The bass is not as warm as some competitors such as the Beoplay H9i speakers. Again, like headphones that cost over £3/400, so it's not a fair comparison, but there is rep. What else is available on the ANC market.
When it comes to noise cancellation, the 650BTNC can do it. These are binary on/off movements, but after using cans on both the London Underground and the flight to Prague, we can confirm the hum and hiss are slowly subsiding. It's not as flexible as, say, the Sony VG-1000XM3, not as essential as the Bose QC35 second. But he does a good enough job.
Battery wise there is a 700 mAh cell on board, said to give 30 hours of life. The rest of our lives were well communicated via phone, which is a nice touch, and we used about 20 percent for four hours, providing about 20 hours of use on a single charge. And that's a lot. Charging from the dead takes two hours with the included (bright orange!) micro USB cable - what we wish for is USB-C to keep up with the latest smartphone connectors.