Active Noise Cancelling headphones or earbuds are already common, but prices are still high. The JBL brand is against this trend, creating new Bluetooth wireless headphones, recognizable design, and discreet software with ANC for less than $150. Let’s see the JBL Live Free NC+ review below.
Design and practicality
The earbuds are made of matte plastic. They come in different colors, and our JBL Live Free NC+ review version is of White color. Since the Noise Canceling headphones has got IPX7 waterproofing, rain or sweat will not disable them. You can also take a shower, but not under hot water – this can damage the device.
The design of the earbuds is quite large, but they sit comfortably in the ears, thanks to the sleek shape and angled sound guides. They are also equipped with removable silicone clips. The set includes additional bows and three pairs of attachments of various sizes.
There are touch panels for controls on the outside as well as charging contacts, and proximity sensor are inside. Thanks to this sensor, the JBL Live Free NC+ recognizes when they are taken out of the ears, and pauses the music.
The charging case got an unusual indicator of four LED strips. Thanks to them, it is clear how many hours the battery will last. In addition, the case is equipped with a USB-C connector and a reset button to reset the connection. The dimensions of the case allow you to carry it in a jeans pocket. The only difficulty: the cases are smooth, so removing them is not particularly convenient.
How to connect and configure
Since the new Bluetooth wireless headphones support the Google Fast Pair function, pairing with an Android smartphone is quick and easy. When you open the case, a “Google Assistant” window appears on the screen with information about the device. A remote search option is available: you can locate each earbud by a voice prompt. If you need to use the JBL Live Free NC+ purely as a headset, it’s easy to connect one earbud according to the classics, saving the other’s charge.
Good Bluetooth headphones provide a stable connection in the house or apartment, despite the internal partitions. However, do not walk more than 10 meters from the Bluetooth source – interference occurs, the connection begins to be interrupted. On the road and with traffic there are no problems.
The left and right channels are connected in parallel, so there will be no desynchronization between them. There are also separate modes for games and video with minimum latency. They are available in JBL Connect App.
In proprietary software, you can adjust the sound using the equalizer, as well as change the control scheme by setting the necessary functions for the left and right touch panels.
Finally, Google Assistant integration allows you to give voice commands directly from your headphones. It works even in noisy environments as the microphones are sensitive and pick up sounds well. The interlocutors in the conversation on the headset also do not complain about the quality of the broadcast.
A 6.8mm dynamic radiator is installed inside each earbud. The engineers worked hard on the acoustic chamber, due to which they achieved an impressive result. In addition, compact speakers have advantages: their membrane is lighter and responds faster to signal changes.
The bass is really powerful but textured at the same time. It is especially noticeable on parts of the bass guitar, where the chords don’t merge into a vaguely low-frequency rumble. Vocals are relegated to the background a bit so that there is no strain during long listening sessions. Voices are transmitted recognizably, with no significant accent heard in any area. The extreme vocals don’t sound bad either: you notice how the chest and head tones merge in a split.
The treble is surprisingly decent too. Typically, Bluetooth wireless headphones fail in this range, and immediately cymbals sound smooth and clean. Of course, you shouldn’t expect much detail, but it’s better than suffering from gross distortion.
The volume margin is sufficient for street or noisy rooms. In the metro, active noise cancellation is useful – it compensates for low-frequency hum with the same signal in antiphase. You may turn down the volume, and as a result, your hearing may suffer. The amount of suppression is set in the JBL Connect app.
There are also transparent modes: “Ambient Aware” and “TalkThru”. The first, broadcasting ambient sounds over music, is suitable for training and cycling. The second preset additionally lowers the volume of the tracks to make it comfortable to talk with earbuds.
A 50 mAh battery is installed inside each bud, the battery capacity of the case is 300 mAh. The manufacturer promises up to 6 hours of music playback with noise canceling, and without it – up to 7 hours. The case is enough for two more recharges.
In practice, the Active Noise Cancelling headphones withstood three days of active use with music, talking on a headset, and watching YouTube at 50% volume. From time to time they turned on noise reduction and transparency mode, but most of the time the device worked in standard mode.
The JBL Live Free NC+ is charged via USB-C or wireless Qi standard. The latter option is useful if your smartphone supports reversible wireless charging. Full replenishment of the batteries over the wire takes just over 1.5 hours.
JBL LIVE Free NC+ Specifications
- Type: in-ear, truly wireless
- Functions: headset, playback control, Google Assistant call, ANC, Ambient Aware, TalkThru
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.1
- Codecs: SBC, AAC
- Battery: up to 7 hours (up to 21 hours when recharging from the case)
- Port: USB Type-C
- Water resistance: IPX7
- Weight: 7 grams (each earbud)
- Case weight: 54.7 grams
The JBL Live Free NC+ can be considered as one of the best Bluetooth wireless headphones in its price range. They combine practical design, water protection, ambient noise control modes, good sound, and additional features like wireless charging and Google Assistant support. Even given the fierce competition in the wireless market, the innovation deserves attention.
You might alternatively want to consider the new LG Tone Free FN7 for its better feature set, but the sound is a bit more detailed and calculated on the JBL Live Free NC+. It’s among the best pairs of earphones you can buy for under $159 on the Amazon.com and Bhphotovideo.com or £139.99 on Amazon.co.uk websites. However, if you can spend just a bit more then that will open up some impressive options to you, such as the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro.