JBL Live Pro 2: two-minute review
JBL is famous for its mid-range audio products that sometimes give competing options at double the price a run for their money. And the good news is that the JBL Live Pro 2 buds are no exception.
The JBL Live Pro 2 are the likeable brand’s latest true wireless earbuds and successors to the JBL Live Pro+ buds. There are some noticeable upgrades here, including adaptive noise cancelling, multi-device pairing and more customization options now within the app.
These earbuds are great all-rounders and can certainly lay claim to a spot in our best true wireless earbuds guide – and we’ll be adding them to it shortly. Thanks to 11mm dynamic drivers, the sound here is powerful, clear and bassy. But you can also tweak how these buds sound with an EQ in the app and a bunch of presets. The accompanying app is generally a treat to use, with a nice layout and plenty of customization options. It’s surprising how many companies get this wrong, but thankfully JBL does not.
The buds look good too, with a minimal design and stems that have a mirrored finish and a capacitive panel for gesture control. We found them very comfortable, with a choice of small, medium and large silicone tips that create a seal for the ANC to really shine. This keeps the buds firmly in place and makes them a solid option for all-day wear and even working out.
Who aren’t these for? Those with a higher budget might want to go for a pair that offers improved sonic performance alongside the noise cancellation, but you’d need to pay a lot more for noticeable improvements. We also weren’t as impressed with call quality at times, and there were a couple of cases of connection loss.
But to be honest, we’d have to really nitpick to find much fault here because there’s a lot to love about these earbuds. Ultimately, JBL’s Live Pro 2 prove you don’t need to spend a small fortune for great sound and excellent ANC these days. Well done, JBL.
JBL Live Pro 2: price and release date
- Released in June 2022
- Cost £129.99 / $149.95 / AU$199.95
The JBL Live Pro 2 launched in June 2022 and cost £129.99 / $149.95 / AU$199.95. We tested the dark blue buds – although they look closer to black in certain lights – but there’s also silver, rose (pink) and black to choose from.
At the time of writing, the black earbuds are a whole lot cheaper in the UK and the US at £99.99/$99.95 – great news if you can’t justify spending more than £100/$100 on a new pair.
This price is great for a pair of true wireless earbuds with good noise cancellation. However, it is a competitive space in the £100/$100-ish mid-range price bracket, as you can see from our best budget earbuds guide. There are the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus, Beats Studio Buds and Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0 to choose from; all similarly-priced rivals and all among our highest rated mid-range options.
At this price, the JBL Live Pro 2 are also significantly cheaper than some of the best true wireless earbuds you can buy today, such as the Sony WF-1000XM4 Wireless Earbuds, which are double the price at £250 / $279.99 / AU$449.95. Then again, these are considered high-end buds and only for those with a much bigger budget anyway.
JBL Live Pro 2: design
- Very comfortable
- IPX5 rating makes them good for fitness
- Shine finish on the stem is a nice touch, but not for everyone
That’s not to say they don’t look distinctive though. JBL brings its own, more angular take on the design. The body of the buds is made from matte plastic and there’s a high shine finish on the externally-facing side of the stem. We like this shiny touch and think it adds a high-end feel to the buds, but it won’t appeal to everyone.
These buds have an IPX5 rating, which means they’re water resistant and will handle some sweat, but they’re not fully waterproof and you shouldn’t throw them in the bath and expect it to end well. This level of waterproofing is still very good compared to some buds that don’t have a water resistance rating at all (and even the AirPods Pro 2 only boast a ‘splash-proof’ IPX4, remember) but it’s not as impressive as rivals like the Jabra Elite 7 Active with IP57 rated water resistance.
You’ll find a choice of S, M and L eartips in the box and we were happy with the smallest size. They were incredibly comfortable to wear – in part due to the fact that they weigh only 4.8g each – and stayed put for hours.
To get the fit just right, there’s a feature in the app called ‘Check My Best Fit’. This plays a short clip of music to ensure you’ve got a good seal in each ear to get the most from ANC. Other buds have a similar fit testing feature, but the one on offer here had us up-and-running straight away.
Although the JBL Live Pro 2 aren’t marketed for fitness specifically, given that they’re secure and have an IPX5 rating, we decided to test them in a few different scenarios. They stayed in place during a yoga class and a light, 30 minute jog. They might not be ideal for intense workouts (the seal they create in your ear canal could be affected if you sweat a lot) but fared well during our testing.
The JBL Live Pro 2 charging case is small enough to fit in a pocket and weighs 48.4g. It has a rounded, pillbox-style design with a clamshell lid which, again, is pretty standard for true wireless earbuds these days. Magnets hold the buds in place as they’re charging, and little LEDs at the front give you a rough indication of how much battery you’ve got left.
- Design and features score: 4/5
JBL Live Pro 2: features
- Good 40 hour total battery life
- Fantastic app
- Multi-point pairing
There’s 10 hours of battery life in the buds and an additional 30 in the Live Pro 2’s case, giving you 40 hours in total. This might not be the very best battery life we’ve seen so far from true wireless earbuds, but it’s certainly up there at this level.
For comparison, the higher-end Sony XM4s have 8 hours in each bud, but only 16 in the case; the Bose QuietComfort have only 6 hours in the buds and 12 hours in the case and the latest Apple AirPods Pro 2 offer 6 hours in the buds and a further 30 hours in the case.
But some mid-range stars do offer similar specs to the JBL Live Pro 2, like the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1 Plus with 9 hours in the buds and 41 hours in the case and the outstanding battery of the Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0, which boasts 10 hours from the buds and a further 70 from the powerful case.
One of the most user-friendly features of the JBL Live Pro 2 is the accompanying app. It’s surprising how many audio tech brands create good buds, then let them down with an app that’s unable showcase them at their best. There’s none of that here.
Pairing with your phone is incredibly simple. Bluetooth synced up in seconds and the app was connected less than a minute later. Within the app, you see the buds at the top with levels showing you the exact battery levels. There’s then a section dedicated to ANC, another with the Equalizer, a Gesture section to learn them and change them and a VoiceAware slider, controlling how much of your voice you hear in calls.
Other settings live here too, like a fit test, find my buds feature, power saving mode and voice assistant and voice prompts settings. It’s great to have so many features packed in here and they’re displayed in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming.
On the buds themselves, there’s a capacitive touch panel in the stem and this is how you control them with gestures. For example, you can switch noise cancelling on and off with a tap on the left stem and tap and hold to trigger Siri. All of these are customizable – at least to a point. You can’t decide which gestures do what, but you can select which gets priority on each bud.
As always, these gestures took a little getting used to and although they were mostly responsive, there were times when we noticed a slight delay – albeit only for a few seconds. This wasn’t a big deal when controlling music, but we did miss a call when the buds wouldn’t answer right away.
- Features score: 4/5
JBL Live Pro 2: sound quality
- Very impressive noise cancellation
- Lots of customization options
- Not the best sound performance on the market
Noise cancellation is the true star of the show here. In fact, we’d say there are some of the best noise cancelling earbuds around, especially for under £150/$150. To get a significantly better ANC experience, you’d have to be paying the big bucks – and by that we mean well over £200/$200.
Noise cancelling was capable in a range of environments. On a tube journey with loud passengers and loud shrieks of the train, noises were deadened. Not completely, but very noticeably. In an office environment with some voices and ambient noises there was almost an eerie silence. If you work in an office, commute regularly or just like the deep immersion and peaceful silence of great ANC, these buds are a fantastic choice.
The good news is there are some ANC settings you can tweak here. So, you can turn ANC on in the app, but then you can also customize it. You can toggle Adaptive ANC on and off, which means the ANC level adjusts based on what your surrounding noise level is. Walking from a busy tube station into a quieter street, we found this worked remarkably well. You’ll also find Leakage Compensation, Ear Canal Compensation and an Ear Canal Test here too, which all add to the wonderful noise cancelling experience.
Ambient Aware is another setting, which essentially switches ANC off, still providing a clear sound but you can hear most sounds around you. There’s also TalkThru, specially designed for if you need to have a conversation with the buds still in your ears, this is like Ambient Aware but bumps the volume of sound back down – again, ideal for office workers.
The sound quality on offer from these buds is impressive for the price. There’s a good balance across the whole range and a fairly broad soundstage right out of the box too – especially when the volume is pumped up high. They handle bass remarkably well and vocals are, for the most part, clear. There was some richness of detail here, but not on par with the best-in-class buds, like the Apple AirPods Pro 2.
Within the Equalizer, there are presets you can toggle through, including Jazz, Vocal and Bass, and you can see how the curve changes as you select each. We couldn’t tell the difference between some of these, but Bass was our favourite; playing Where is My Mind by Pixies and moving from Vocal to Bass gave us a delightful punch of power.
For most people the presets should give you enough control. But you can also customize your own settings here across 10 bands that range from 32Hz to 16kHz by simply dragging and dropping points and saving the results to create your own preset. There’s room for loads of these, we played around with six and didn’t hit a limit.
As much as we loved the sound on offer here, we think audiophiles might want more – specifically, more clarity and detail, plus a broader soundstage and a richer sound. But most people will be happy with these buds, especially when you can tweak the sound and define your own presets.
Call quality was good but not great. The microphone didn’t separate our voice from the ambient sound around us as much as we’d have liked. We were still heard fairly well, but you’ll find clearer calls from the best buds out there, particularly the Sony XM4s. There were also a couple of connectivity issues with calls dropping in and out, but not frequently.
- Sound quality score: 4/5
JBL Live Pro 2: value
- Excellent ANC for mid-range money
- You’ll struggle to find a better all-rounder at this price
- You’d have to pay double for a noticeable improvement
The JBL Live Pro 2 true wireless earbuds punch above their weight in almost every way. Noise cancellation is particularly good and it’s adaptive, too, which makes it perfect for busy, noisy environments and commuting. Sound is good, EQ customization is great and although call quality could be better, most people won’t notice it unless they make a lot of them regularly.
There are plenty of rival buds in this price range that offer some key features, such as a marginally better battery life and a more minimalist design. But to get better buds with noise cancellation that’s a considerable improvement on these JBLs, you’d have to pay almost double the price.
- Value score: 5/5
JBL Live Pro 2: should you buy them?
|Design||They’re comfortable and water-resistant, although the mirror finish may not be to all tastes||4/5|
|Features||A very good companion app and solid battery life||4/5|
|Sound quality||ANC is king here, but the sound quality is no slouch either||4/5|
|Value||You can do better sonically – but not for anything less than double the money||5/5|
Buy them if…
Don’t buy them if…
If our JBL Live Pro 2 review has you considering other true wireless earbuds, then take a look at these three alternatives.
- First reviewed: November 2022
- How we test: explore TechRadar’s review guarantee