JBL Live Pro 2 Review
Flagship earphones without the flagship price
A very good all-round performance with a few weak links that stop the JBL from getting full marks. Nonetheless, for excellent noise cancellation at a more affordable price and enjoyable sound quality, the Live Pro 2 demands your attention.
- Genuinely impressive ANC for the money
- Good snug fit
- Long battery life
- Weighty and smooth audio
- Weak call quality
- Choppy connection at times
- UKRRP: £129.99
- USARRP: $149.95
- EuropeRRP: €149.99
- CanadaRRP: CA$199.98
- AustraliaRRP: AU$199.95
- Multi-point BluetoothCan connect to two devices simultaneously
- Voice assistanceHands-free assistance from Google and Amazon
- Noise cancellationAdaptive ANC and transparency modes
There may not be a brand on this earth that puts out as many audio products as JBL. Have a glimpse of its current true wireless offering and you’ll find there are thirteen (13!) wireless earbuds to choose from.
At the top of the pile are the Live Pro 2 TWS and unlike other wireless earbuds with flagship status it doesn’t come with a flagship price. The Live Pro 2 could be yours for £129.99.
But that price places them in a sea of competition, against the likes of the Beats Studio Buds and the Lypertek Z5 ANC..
- Good comfort/seal
- IPX5 resistance against sweat/water
- Accessible controls
It’d be boring to say that the Live Pro 2 looked like most other true wireless that sport a stem, and yet that’s exactly what they look like. The metallic back of the stem adds a touch of style at a price where function is usually favoured over style, but the JBL is a good combination of both. The appearance can attract some fingerprints and smudges though.
Available in four colours (blue, rose, black, silver), the buds are very comfortable to wear over long periods of time. No cramps, no aches, no oiliness – nothing, the buds slip into the ear and its job done. Three sizes of ear-tips are provided if the headphones don’t fit the first time of asking.
Water resistance is IPX5, which is more robust at dealing with sweat and rain than most noise cancelling earphones. Bear in mind that the rating does not equate to waterproofing (which is IPX7).
The Live Pro 2 opts for touch controls, and they’re implemented well (which is not always the case). The ‘gestures’ (as JBL terms them) are responsive and relatively simple to keep track of; the right earbud is for playback: a tap for play/pause, double tap to skip ahead, triple tap to skip to the previous track and a hold to activate voice assistance.
The left bud covers noise cancellation with a tap that cycles through the modes (you can choose which in the JBL Headphones app). A double tap activates the TalkThru mode that amplifies voices, and a hold achieves the same effect as it does on the left (voice assistance).
The charging case is like the buds themselves in that it doesn’t draw much attention to itself (at least in the black variant). It’s small and pocketable with a USB-C charging outlet on the rear and an LED on the front for judging battery life. Don’t ask what percentage each bar represents, especially as 100% doesn’t easily divide into seven bars of light.
- Super noise cancellation
- Long battery life
- Lots of features to sample in the app
The JBL is well stocked for features in its app, to the point where you’d think this was a more expensive true wireless with all the options offered. Starting with battery and the Live Pro 2 is better than a number of premium options with its 10 hours per bud and 30 in the case for 40 hours in total.
And with real world use those figures do seem achievable. Used for two hours at 50-60% volume and the Live Pro 2 dropped to 80%. A quick calculation suggests that 10 hours before it needs another charge is not an unreasonable claim to make. There’s fast charging but no wireless charging, while filling up the tank from zero takes two hours.
There’s built-in voice assistance for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistance, and both wake words are supported for hands-free voice control (Google is fairly prompt at answering queries). Having both adds convenience for those who don’t always want to be reaching for the controls. You can also customize the controls, swapping in volume control for something else if that’s what you so desire.
The app also features an equalizer with five presets and the opportunity to create custom EQs. I’m not entirely sure how many custom EQ settings you can make in total, but I reached seven, so it doesn’t appear to have a set limit.
What else is there? There’s a toggle for auto play/pause: you can check the strength of the earbuds fit, a ‘Find My Buds’ feature (which plays a high-pitched bleeping to locate them) and Smart Audio & Video feature that optimizes audio quality or improves lip-synching for video.
When it comes to ANC the JBL are, in my opinion, the best noise cancellers I’ve heard at this price. Certainly, they’re better than the Beats Studio Buds and an improvement over my previous favourite, the Lypertek Z5 ANC.
Using them while walking through Westminster tube station and background noise was reduced to little more than rustle. When the tube came roaring onto the platform, it was noticeably less loud and less of a shock than I’ve experienced wearing other true wireless.
Swapping between it and the Lypertek on a train and around Soho, I found the JBL was slightly better at numbing people’s conversations, and when performing crowd control in busy areas, the JBL’s performance was even more suppressive. This is a very capable noise cancelling performance.
And it’s a performance you can adapt to your own tastes. The noise cancelling can be personalized via a test in the app, while Ambient Aware filters general environmental sounds through (how much can be altered in the app), while the TalkThru mode trains the microphones on voices so the wearer can carry on a conversation without taking the earphones off. Both modes offer good, consistent clarity and increased awareness.
Less impressive was the signal connection to my smartphone. The JBL can get choppy in places such as Victoria and Waterloo train stations, which is expected, but less so when it would drop out in areas where there weren’t many people around.
And the call quality is not the strongest either. In fact, I’d describe it as quite weak. It’s good in quiet areas but porous in busy areas such as Borough market. It became very hard for the person on the end of the line to make out what I was saying, and they complained about being able to hear everything, even the police sirens blaring in the distance.
- Weighty bass
- Slightly dulled treble response
- Smooth midrange quality
I found the Live Pro 2 sounded similar to the Reflect Pro model – balanced but not the most exciting delivery if that’s what you’re after.
While it may sound odd, I like this middle ground the JBL occupy. The bass is weighty, the midrange is reproduced with clarity and the treble is clear and distinct. It’s an enjoyable sound and like the Melomania 1+, the balance makes them an easy listen across a range of music genres.
At default volume the soundstage isn’t the biggest, which seems to characterize many wireless buds I’ve reviewed in 2022, so I won’t hold that against the JBL. Pushing the volume up broadens the soundstage as well as giving the bass even more impetus and richness.
There’s a nice weight and texture to the bassline in Easy Life’s Skeletons and a smooth quality to the midrange that helps with vocals. You might argue for more sharpness and detail, but I enjoy that smoothness as it’s not at the expense of character. I can hear the softer intones of Phoebe Bridgers in Garden Song or clearly make out Chris Cornell’s distinctive vocal tones in Black Hole Sun – there’s a consistency about the Live Pro 2 I’ve come to enjoy from song to song.
That smoothness doesn’t present the cymbal crashes with perhaps the crispness they warrant in The Bad Plus’ Avail or BY.ALEXANDER’s Trumpets, but there’s enough detail to lap up, while Takuya Kuroda’s version of Everybody Loves The Sunshine has a nice kick to the percussive elements that makes for an expressive performance. In terms of how dynamic they sound, I’d say the JBL could have more impact. Overall, it’s a performance that’s broad in scope but likeable and consistent in its delivery.
Should you buy it?
For the terrific ANC: I don’t remember testing a pair of true wireless around this price that have ANC as good as this model. In that department they are one of the best around.
If you use buds for calls: The call quality of these buds was not very good in busy areas, so if you are using them for calls its best to seek a quiet place.
I very much enjoyed what JBL has produced with the Live Pro 2, and they’ve surprised me in a few ways. The noise cancellation is excellent, as good as wireless earbuds close to the £200 mark.
The audio is smooth performer with a slight emphasis on bass, the design offers good comfort, and the app is stacked with the features I’d expect from a more expensive true wireless. For the price the JBL pack in a terrific amount of value.
How we test
We test all the headphones we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry-standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Find out more about how we test in our ethics policy.
Tested across two months
Tested with real world use
Compared against similarly priced rivals
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No, the Live Pro 2 aren’t waterproof. Their IPX5 rating makes them water resistant.
The JBL Live Pro 2 have Bluetooth multipoint support and can be used with two devices simultaneously.
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