JBL Live400BT Wireless On-Ear Headphones REVIEW
JBL’s wireless cans leave most of the trendier brands in the shade for cleverness, comfort and excellent sound, enthuses PAT PILCHER.
JBL has been crafting excellent loudspeakers forever (well, almost). And they’ve been active in the ear gear market for some time. But more recently they’ve stepped up their headphone/earbud game and launched a slew of new cans. I got my sweaty paws on Live 400BT Wireless cans for this JBL Live400BT headphones review. Here are my first impressions.
Looks-wise, the cans appear unremarkable. JBL has chosen to avoid the glitzy garishness of Beats, and instead go for an understated look that doesn’t scream “MUG ME!” as you walk down the street soaking in some sonic goodness from your ear gear. The 400’s are available in black, blue, green, white and red finishes.
“JBL instead goes for an understated look that doesn’t scream “MUG ME!” as you walk down the street”
Accessing volume, play/pause, answering/disconnecting calls requires hitting buttons on the underside of the earcups. While hitting the wrong button was initially annoying, I eventually got used to the layout.
The 400’s might not have active noise cancellation. But they do come with a bevvy of nifty features. Top of the list is what JBL call Ambient Aware and TalkThru. Hitting the Ambient Aware button activates the built-in mics and pipes what they hear to the earcups so you can listen to what’s happening around you.
In theory, it’s an excellent idea for when you’re crossing roads. And also in other situations where you want situational awareness. In practice, I found I’d usually crossed the road by the time I’d found the right button on the underside of the right ear cup.
TalkThru mode is a little more practical: it drops audio levels, allowing you to talk to colleagues/friends/family/pets without removing the headphones. This proves to be a lot handier than I’d anticipated. Even if it requires some button fumbling. But at least I wasn’t crossing a road.
JBL also supply the rather excellent JBL Headphone app as a free IOS/Android download. It gives access to an equaliser, TalkThru plus Ambient Aware modes. Equaliser pre-sets can be crafted and saved/deleted. If that wasn’t enough, the they’ll also play nice with the Google Assistant or Alexa.
While Siri is not supported, Alexa should work with IOS. Access to my phone’s smart assistant proved incredibly handy, as I could simply invoke the Google Assistant while out and about and say “call jo blog” to make a call. Which meant much less groping about to wrestle the phone out of my pocket.
The 400’s are a snug fit. On my head during this JBL Live400BT headphones review, they really feel like they’re not planning to go anywhere – which must be a good thing for joggers and other sporty types. Thankfully, I also didn’t feel like my head was clamped in a vice. This is in part to good design. One that includes memory foam earcup pads and a padded headband.
“Where a lot of over-ear cans are bassy but muddy or shrill and lacking substance, JBL has got the balance right”
Soundwise, the 400’s didn’t disappoint. And there’s plenty of bass, thanks to the generous 40mm drivers. While it won’t loosen teeth fillings, there’s enough bottom end to add plenty of warmth to the overall sound. Bass may be plentiful, but it doesn’t dominate or smother mids and highs.
High bitrate lossless tracks sounded crisp and warm. And as you’d expect from JBL ear gear, punchy. Where a lot of over-ear cans are bassy but muddy, or shrill and lacking substance, JBL has got the balance right.
Last (but by no means least) is battery life, and it’s where JBL wins big brownie points. From a single charge, JBL says that it’s possible to wring an impressive 24 hours of battery life out of the 400’s. In practice, this seems about right. It worked fine wearing the cans during this JBL Live400BT headphones review, as I went about my usual chores for two straight days and a few hours in the evening. I got through a third morning of use, before they finally demand quality time with a USB charger.
Summary: JBL Live400BT headphones review
There’s a lot to like with JBL’s Live400BT cans. They’re comfy to wear. And there‘s plenty of bells and whistles on offer too. Most importantly, they don’t cost a bomb. Yet the audio they deliver is excellent. And they seem to run forever. If it weren’t for the cluttered controls on the underside of the earcups, they’d have scored a perfect 10.