JBL Cracks A Work/Play Video Call Bud
When it comes to headphones and, in particular, buds, the Harman-owned JBL is a powerhouse brand - and their new Live Pro Plus is a cross between a deep, in-ear bud and an Apple AirPod.
With built-in wireless charging, adaptive noise cancelling, and smart ambient capabilities, these $249 buds are designed for both those making video calls while working from home, and people who are out and about shopping or exercising.
There is the added benefit of being sweat-proof, too. The buds areIPX4 water resistant, coated in the same protection used on the AirPods Pro. They deliver up to 28 hours of battery life, and look neat and smart.
When you go to connect your new JBL buds, you log into the JBL app which immediately helps you to set up the buds correctly, via a very clever active GIF demonstration.
You are then given the choice of activating either Google Assistant or
Alexa. I chose Alexa and after prompting me which bud I wanted to connect Alexa to, I was easily able to set them up to work via voice activation.
The JBL Live Pro Plus has a lot going for it, with audio output as good as most affordable premium buds that I have listened to of late. It's a less-expensive AirPods Pro alternative, and when I tested the two together, the JBL sounded no different, and was more comfortable in my ear.
Personally, I struggle when wearing buds for any extended period of time, but these not only fitted comfortably, they did not feel heavy and JBL's three-mic array delivered excellent speech recognition, picking up every word when I activated the voice recognition. They were also clear when doing a video call and when taking a call with ambient noise around me.
Finished in a matte surface, JBL has downscaled the stem size compared to their previous products, and this is a big
plus - especially if you hate droopy buds, similar to the Apple offering. They also appear to be durable enough to survive being dropped on a hard pavement or concrete floor.
The charging case is small and identical to the new Samsung Galaxy buds case.
One thing that I picked up on was the immediate accuracy and responsiveness of the touch sensors: they delivered whether it was a single tap and hold or a triple tap, and to make life easier, JBL has programmed a full suite of controls that users can assign to each bud in the JBL Headphones app.
There are three ANC modes, each one serving a specific purpose. Every day is the default and blocks out “the noise of daily life'; Travel minimises noise on trains and airlines (when you actually can fly). There is also an active feature that optimizes both ANC and sound for the best results - and I suspect this will be the most commonly used.
Noise cancelling worked well, and I found them useful when walking in noisy environments like North Sydney.
JBL are well known for their audio performance and the Live Pro Plus is no different, especially if you like lots of bass, which the company's products are well known for. While Sony may put ‘Bass' on their packaging, it's JBL that builds in an excellent bass offering - heard across both their buds and over ear headphones.
The default EQ on these buds is superior to what most competitors in the same price class offer. Music is clear, as I found out pumping up the sound on a Led Zeppelin track and then on some bassheavy Motown; you get crisp mids and highs, on certain tracks and thumping bass on others.
Other notable features include toggle controls for the digital assistant and on-ear detection, a sleep mode, a Find My Buds function, and battery level indicators for each bud and the charging case.
When it comes to controls, four settings are available: playback, volume, voice assistant, and Ambient Sound Control, all of which can be activated through tap & hold, or single, double, and triple-tap gestures.
Another plus is that inside the box, unlike a lot of other manufacturers, are printed instruction books including overall quick setup guides and instructions to set up Google Assistant or Alexa.
Bundled with the purchase price is a charging case, five ear-bud sizes, a USB-C charging cable, and a quick-start guide.