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JBL Live 650BTNC review – SoundGuys

JBL has a firm grasp on the wireless speaker market as its Flip and Charge lines are some of the most recognizable on the market. Lest we forget, however, that the company also knows how to produce reasonably priced headphone to appeal to the masses. The JBL Live 650BTNC features excellent noise canceling for the price. These comfortable smart headphones may very well be your next audio companion, as they’re among the best JBL headphones out there.

We spent a week with the Live 650BTNC to find out if it’s worth your money. Given the headset’s discontinuation and limited availability, we now recommend you buy something else.

Editor’s note: this review was updated on September 23, 2022 to include more alternative recommendations and address the headset’s discontinuation.

How is the JBL Live 650BTNC built?

The deep ear pads prevent the driver grills from rubbing against the outer ear.

Plastic ear cups keep weight down but durable components are used where it matters: the metal-reinforced headband is solid and made comfortable by way of the lightly cushioned cloth covering. This mixed material construction allows the JBL Live 650BTNC to remain relatively affordable while also appearing rather fashionable.

Housed within each ear cup is a 40mm dynamic driver. The synthetic memory foam ear pads are deep enough to prevent rubbing against the outer ear, unlike the comparably priced Sony WH-Ch20N ANC cans. What’s more, the padding makes listening comfortable for hours at a time and is moderately comfortable with glasses.

The in-line mic on the detachable 3.5mm cable is marginally better than the on-board one.

The curved touch panel on the left ear cup serves as the action button for commanding Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Tapping the panel once prompts Google Assistant to read out notifications. Pressing and holding the JBL lets you reply to a message, make a command, set a reminder, etc.

The JBL 650BTNC integrates Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa and serve as a great option for anyone wanting a fair priced Beats alternative.

All other controls reside on the lateral edge of the right ear cup. Unfortunately, the playback and volume controls are nearly impossible to find on the first try. Coincidentally, I came across a similar issue with last year’s JBL E55BT headset. Further down the Live 650BTNC is the conjoined noise canceling/Bluetooth pairing button, neither of which functions I needed.

How good is the JBL Live 650BTNC’s battery life?

With quick charging, 15 minutes attached to the MicroUSB cable affords two hours of playback.

As indicated by our objective testing, battery life is quite good. When subjected to a constant 75dB(SPL) output, the headphones provided 18 hours, 30 minutes of playback with noise canceling on. While this is 90 minutes hours shy of JBL’s listed 20 hours of performance, it’s still plenty good.

When the battery does fully deplete, charging isn’t a major deal, as the headphones support quick charging: 15 minutes connected to the included microUSB cable affords two hours of playback. Sure, it’s a minor disappointment that the company went with microUSB instead of USB-C, but the dated connector contributes to keeping the price below $200.

How does the JBL 650BTNC connect?

Playback controls are small and hardly differentiated from one another.

The headphones only support the SBC Bluetooth codec which isn’t ideal, but fine for most listeners. If you’re really itching to get the best audio quality from the headphones, use the included 3.5mm cable. After all, wired listening still laps any wireless codec in terms of fidelity.

One of the more functional features is multipoint connectivity. This allows you to connect simultaneously to two devices and alternate between them. To do so, pause media on the primary device and play it on the secondary one.

How well does the JBL Live 650BTNC cancel noise?

Isolation is just ok, but when noise canceling is activated, the outside world fades into the background. While ANC performance is sure to be outshined by the likes of Bose and Sony, at least their top-tier models, it’s excellent for the price. In fact, noise canceling outperforms Sony’s comparably priced noise canceling headphones when it comes to filtering out low-frequency noises.

How good is the JBL Live 650BTNC’s sound quality?

This bass-heavy pair of headphones is great for the average consumer.

The JBL Live 650BTNC is a pair of consumer headphones, and the emphasized bass response reinforces this. While it’s not overwhelming to the point of being annoying to listen to, there’s no way these cans will be mistaken for a set of studio headphones.

For every 10dB difference in frequency response, a noise sounds twice as loud. That means a 40Hz tone will sound twice as loud as a 250Hz tone. When listening to music, female vocals and males with higher registers are difficult to hear over low-frequency instruments.

Lows, mids, and highs

Active noise canceling is turned on by default.

In Spencer Sutherland’s comedic ballad Sweater, the song opens with an exaggerated bassline which is made to sound even more heavy-handed by the JBL Live 650BTNC drivers. This is a great example of how the low-end masks vocals since Sutherland’s falsetto vocals are difficult to hear when the bass line kicks in.

To hear this, skip ahead to the hook at 0:09. Here he sings, “That’s my sweater.” This line isn’t underscored by anything until the final syllable of “sweater” when the bass drops back in. The reintroduction to the beat makes it all but impossible to hear Sutherland annunciate the “T” in “sweater.” What’s more, the clapping throughout the song sounds off because the harmonics are nearly completely masked by the bass.

The JBL Live 650BTNC do not produce very clear audio because of how emphasized the bass frequencies are.

Although clarity isn’t the JBL 650BTNC headphones’ strong suit, the powerful bass makes for a fun sound. This is something most consumer headphones have adopted and is great for listeners who prefer some oomph in their music.

How is the JBL Live 650BTNC’s microphone quality?

The onboard microphone reproduces an inaccurate representation of the human voice. Lower voices sound particularly strange.

The integrated headset microphone is disappointing, but considering that even the best wireless headsets have similar issues, it’s tough to get too mad. I’m compelled to opt for my Samsung Galaxy S10e over the JBL Live 650BTNC every time a call comes in. Moreover, the microphone cannot effectively attenuate environmental noise, making it a pain for the person on the other end of the call. While it’s not an uncommon issue, it’s still worthy of note.

The sloping frequency response of the microphone’s voice band indicates that it’s unable to clearly relay a majority of human voices. The lack of emphasis from 90-130Hz might not affect your voice as much as it does mine, but for those of us with deeper voices can sound a little off.

Should you buy the JBL Live 650BTNC?

The headphones may fold flat or upward to become more compact for transport.

Now that the JBL Live 650BTNC is discontinued, you’re better off purchasing one of the more modern noise canceling headphones available. Originally, the 650BTNC retailed for $200 USD, and if that fits your current budget, you have plenty of great headphones to choose from like the Sony WH-XB910N. Like JBL’s headphones, the XB910N boosts bass quite a bit. Bass heads will get a kick out of these skull rattlers. You may even want to look at our best lists that cover brands like Sony, Bose, and Beats, if you want noise canceling.

JBL Live 650BTNC

All prices listed in USD unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and vary by region. Unfortunately, we cannot list Amazon prices on the site, as they vary greatly by currency.

See price at Amazon

See price at Verizon

Frequently asked questions about the JBL Live 650BTNC

Typically for mixing video audio you want something with a neutral frequency response to edit accurately. The JBL Live 650BTNC is not very neutral. Try something from our Best studio headphones list.

Gaming platforms like Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch consoles don’t support Bluetooth audio. However, you can use the JBL Live 650BTNC over a 3.5mm connection with any of them.

No, the JBL Live 650BTNC support up to Bluetooth 4. 2.

JBL Live 650BTNC review: Top-notch headphone audio that costs less than Bose and Sony

JBL has made some pretty decent noise-canceling headphones over the years, including its line-topping Everest Elite 750NC, which I reviewed back in 2017. The only problem with that model was it cost around the same price ($300) as competing models from Bose and Sony that were simply better.

For 2019, JBL is trying something different. Its new flagship noise-canceling Live series headphone, the Live 650BTNC, carries a list price of $200. And it’s not only every bit as good as the Everest Elite 750NC, but it’s even better from a sound standpoint.

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What you get in the box.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This model is very much the spiritual successor to the E65BTNC, which also started out at $200 but can now be had for $130 online. It may look a little plasticy, but it feels solid (read: not cheap). Weighing in at 9.28 ounces or 263 grams according to our scale, it has metal hinges that seem like they’ll hold up well over time. Available in a few color options, including black, dark blue and white, the 650BTNC folds flat to fit in an included canvas carrying pouch.

Read more: The best noise-canceling headphones you can buy now

While not quite as comfortable to wear as Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II or the Sony WH-1000XM3, it is a comfortable headphone, with thick memory foam ear pads and a well-padded headband. Although this is an over-ear model and should fit around most ears without a problem, the openings on the ear pads aren’t huge so the pads might rest on top of extra-large ears instead of fitting over them.

The headphone uses Bluetooth 4.2, supports connections to multiple devices — referred to as “multi-point” connectivity. This connection can be tweaked using the My JBL Headphone app for iOS or Android. It works with your phone’s voice assistant (Siri, Google Now, Bixby) but in the app you can elect whether to enable Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. There’s a little set up involved for both, but they ended up working just fine in my tests.

Once enabled, you tap and hold on the center of the left earcup — it’s touch sensitive — and issue a voice command. Once you release your finger, Google Assistant or Alexa responds to your command through your smartphone.

In the app, there’s an equalizer to adjust bass and treble settings with preset EQs “Jazz,” “Vocal” and “Bass.” If you don’t like any of those, you can create your own custom setting. I mostly just left the EQ at the default setting: “Off”.

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EQ settings in the companion app.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Live 650BTNC sounds similar to the Sony WH-1000XM3, the current CNET Editors’ Choice in the noise-canceling headphone category. It’s got a strong, well-defined bass, good clarity for a noise-canceling headphone and relatively open sound for a closed-back headphone. A cable is included for wired listening and you can turn off the noise-canceling function in the app or by pressing a button on the right ear cup.

There was enough bass to keep me happy at the default setting, but I prefer a more balanced sound. Bass lovers who opt for the “Bass” EQ will lose a little definition, but it does help bring added energy to hip-hop and EDM (electronic dance music) tracks. The Rihanna and Calvin Harris track “This is What You Came For” benefits from the bass boost, for example. But it makes the bass line in the Police’s “Tea in the Sahara” sound too boomy.

I had editor Ty Pendelbury give them a try right after he’d come off reviewing the identically priced Audio Technica M50X Wireless. He liked those headphones, which feature more neutral studio-monitor sound, but thought they lacked a little pizazz, especially in the bass department. This JBL had that, he said. It’s definitely a more exciting headphone than the Audio Technica.

Like all these Bluetooth headphones, you can make calls with the 650BTNC, and while I didn’t think it was ideal for talking on the phone, it performed pretty well. There’s no sidetone feature that allows you to hear your own voice in the headphone (that keeps you from talking too loudly during conversations). And there’s no ambient aware mode that lets slightly amplified sound from your immediate environment into the headphones, either.

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The power and volume buttons.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you’re looking for top-notch noise cancelation, this probably isn’t the headphone for you. While the 650BTNC did a reasonably good job muffling street noise in New York City and my co-workers’ voices in our open office, it didn’t muffle sound as well as the Sony or the Bose.

I wouldn’t wear these headphones around outside on a hot day — they will steam up your ears — but they are good for an open office setting and pack up into a fairly compact package for travel. I actually prefer the canvas pouch to the Everest Elite 750NC’s slightly bulkier hard case.

You can find over-ear headphones with more battery life, but at least the 650BTNC’s rated 20 hours of battery life for music listening (with noise-canceling on) is up from the E65BTNC’s 15 hours. There’s a quick-charge feature that gives your 2 hours worth of juice from a 15-minute charge. Alas, the headphone charges via Micro USB not USB-C. That’s not a huge deal, but some new over-ear Bluetooth noise-canceling headphones are moving to USB-C charging.

In the final analysis, the Live 650BTNC’s biggest strengths are its sound, sturdy built quality and more affordable price compared to other premium noise-canceling headphones. While its noise canceling and comfort level aren’t quite on par with the Bose and Sony, its sound measures up well and it’s worth considering if you don’t want to spend $300 or more on a noise-canceling headphone. Also, if the price history of the earlier E65BTNC is any indication, we may see some discounts on this one before the end of the year that make it even more enticing.  

JBL Live 650BTNC Headphones Reviews and Review

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JBL Live 650BTNC

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    The JBL Live 650BTNC Wireless Bluetooth Headphones with Microphone have a sensitivity of 100dB and an impedance of 32 ohms, this ratio allows you to achieve high-quality sound and volume. Frequency response range: 16 – 20000 Hz.


    The earpieces are 40 mm in diameter. The type of fastening of these headphones is a headband, with a folding design. This model has LED indication.

    Headphones support Bluetooth 4.2, as well as A2DP, AVRCP, Hands free, Headset profiles.


    The JBL Live 650BTNC headphones have the possibility of a classic wired connection, for this a cable with a mini jack 3.5 mm connector is used. Cable length included – 1.2 m.

    Power supply

    Built-in 700 mAh Li-Ion battery provides up to 30 hours of battery life. Charging time is 2 hours.

    Charging can also be done from the case, its battery has a capacity of 300 mAh.


    The JBL Live 650BTNC has features for making and answering a phone call.

    The Multipoint function allows you to connect your headphones to multiple audio sources.

    Vladimir Gusev

    Author in electronics sections. Specializes in computers and portable electronics, smartphones.

    e-mail for questions: [email protected]

    Main characteristics

    Device type: wireless headphones

    Design: full size

    Technology: dynamic

    Active noise cancellation (ANC): yes 900 03

    Minimum repeatable frequency: 20 Hz

    Maximum repeatable frequency: 20000 Hz

    Impedance: 32 ohms

    Sensitivity: 100 dB

    Sensitivity: dB/mW

    Weight: 260 g

    Features: Talk through

    Membrane diameter: 40 mm

    Features: microphone, foldable design, detachable cable

    Plug connector: mini jack 3.5 mm

    Cable length: 1.2 m

    Wireless connection type: Bluetooth

    Bluetooth version: 4.2

    Battery capacity: 700 mAh

    Operating time: 30 hours

    Charging time: 2 hours

    Additional information: operating time: with ANC – 20 hours; without ANC – 30 hours; Battery type: own Li-Ion; Case included: yes; LED indicator: yes; Answer/end conversation: yes; Support for work profiles: AVRCP, HFP (Hands-free), A2DP, Headset


    Discussion of functionality, characteristics and features. Your questions and answers will help complete the review.

    “LikeChef.ru”. Copying materials from the site is prohibited. | For all questions e-mail: [email protected]

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    Vladimir Zayets

    Independent expert and lover of the right sound.

    It so happened that I never reviewed JBL products and only heard mixed reviews about them, but as soon as I had the opportunity to review the pre-top model Live 650BTNC with active noise reduction, I immediately agreed and it was not in vain.


    Although the headphones are almost top-end, the equipment is the most common and simple:

    • – orange charging cable (probably a JBL fetish, since almost all of its devices come with this color cable)
    • – audio cable in case the battery in the headphones
    • is dead

    • – transport case

    Considering the price, I can’t find fault with the kit, because the emphasis in this model was placed on the most important thing, namely the sound.


    To be honest, I liked the JBL Live 650BTNC by everyone, even the design, and this parameter for me is at the level of sound. Tell me, who needs headphones that have a terrible appearance? That’s right, no one, so JBL decided not to abandon the idea and created one of the cutest models in this price range. Form factor – full-size closed-type headphones. Leatherette was chosen as the material for the ear pads, as for me it is not a very good choice, since this material does not pass air well and in the hot season it will be bitter to the ears. But the headband is covered with a mesh fabric, which I liked. It is soft and pleasant, there is cushioning between the frame and the head. Now, if the manufacturer added the same ear pads to the kit, it would be wonderful. JBL Live 650BTNC sit comfortably on the head, do not press and do not fall off with strong head turns, the only thing is that after a whole day in the headphones, you still feel that they weigh 260 grams.

    The headphones also feature swiveling earcups and a foldable design that allows them to be worn around the neck or in a bag.

    Didn’t say about the color and what colors are in general. There are only three of them:

    • -Black with bronze inserts (such as I visited)
    • – Blue with gray accents
    • – White with silver accents

    All colors look good, only white seems very easily soiled.


    Headphones have a hybrid control system. The sensor on the bowl is responsible for only one action – calling a voice assistant, in my case Google Assistant. But for the usual actions, JBL decided to leave the classic keys. To adjust the volume and navigate through the tracks, the +/- keys are used, between which there is a multifunctional key for start / pause, answer / hang up a call. Next to them is the power slider and bluetooth connection keys, along with the inclusion of the coveted ANC mode.

    The controls are intuitive, it took me a couple of hours to do everything blindly.

    Sound and Active Noise Cancellation

    In the beginning, I said that I had never heard JBL products. So, if you believe the reviews, then everything that JBL does is for “basheads”, which I am not. Yes, I love that there was a bass, but it was not the only one, so that the sound was pleasant at maximum volume, there was no “porridge” in motley genres. With these thoughts, I put on the JBL Live 650BTNC, believe me, I fell in love with them. The bottom is pleasant with good volume and warmth, not boomy. The middle is clear with medium resolution, but for musicality it is enough with the head and most importantly, the tops are not very strangled, there is a small lack of them, but it is not always noticeable and forgivable. The headphones “digested” everything that I included on them from hip-hop to jazz and I liked the sound.

    The ANC system also works very well for the price. It’s clear that the Bose and Sony mastodons do this much better, but look at their price and the price of these JBLs. Headphones cope well with the noise of the subway (sometimes, something slips somewhere) and if they got rid of it, then the noise of the office or the street is too tough for them. The only thing is that when “noise reduction” is turned on, the bass starts to be more aggressively expressed.

    Live 650BTNC can also be used as a headset, they transmit voice quite well, the only thing is that this function is not available with a wired connection.


    Each manufacturer of wireless headphones likes to wind up the operating time by an hour or so, but in practice everything is different. But the JBL Live 650BTNC really work at maximum volume with active noise cancellation, the claimed 20 hours, although I didn’t manage to drop them to zero.


    JBL Live 650BTNC – this model turned out great for me. There are flaws in the operation of the microphone with a wired connection. The ear cushions will soar in the heat, but you must agree that everything else is at an excellent level. If you are looking for budget headphones with ANC, then JBL Live 650BTNC will be your best choice.

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    Minus 9000 3

    Microphone does not work with wired connection

    Ear pads float in hot weather

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