JBL Live 660NC REVIEW
PAT PILCHER likes Bluetooth headphones, and he especially likes them when they have long-lasting battery power and sound good too!
The new cans are over-ear Bluetooth, have active noise-cancelling and come with a bevvy of nifty features. These include Ambient mode, wearer detection, and either Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa.
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Looks-wise, the 660NCs sport a simple design like other over-ear cans in their Live line-up. As you’d expect, their large plastic ear cups come with prominent JBL branding stamped into them. Their headband is covered in a mesh fabric.
They’re also pretty comfy, feeling lightweight yet snug on my noggin. Comfort levels get helped along thanks to well-padded ear cups and a padded headband. They don’t exert a lot of clamping force on one’s head but manage to feel like they’ll stay put for casual listening. Engaging in some moderate exertion saw them barely moving as I ripped open a bag of potato chips and scarfed a pint.
As JBL kit, it isn’t a huge surprise that they’re well built. They might be constructed out of plastic and have faux leather padding, but the headband has an alloy band in it for added toughness. They are not IP rated, so using these when they might get damp isn’t advised.
A key selling point with the 660NCs cans is their claimed 40 hours of battery life (with noise-cancelling enabled). JBL’s blurb says you can get a whopping 50 hours with noise cancelling disabled. In use, these beauties seem to refuse to die. Over three-and-a-half days, I managed to wring out an impressive 44 hours of use. Another winning feature is their charging – 10-minutes of charging got me another four hours of use. Not too shabby at all!
Having solved the battery conundrum for potential buyers, JBL turned their focus to Bluetooth. Where pairing headphones had previously been a hit and miss affair (with more emphasis on the miss than the hit), the 660NCs come with multi-point connection capabilities. This means you can pair them with two separate devices and swap between them seamlessly. They also support Google Fast Pairing, which made pairing them with my Android phone so easy that I did it twice as I initially thought I’d done something wrong (I hadn’t). All told, getting set up proved to be a pain-free undertaking.
Their sound leans towards being bass-heavy. This meant they delivered a punch to drum-heavy audio tracks and were the perfect partner for watching action movies (Terminator literally rocked my cranium). There’s plenty of emphasis on low to mid-bass. A slight dip in the higher end of their bass output helped bass sound tight and controlled. Their mid-range felt accurate and balanced. This meant vocals and lead guitars sounded clear, up-front and detailed. Clear mids coupled with reasonable treble accuracy saw their audio doing a fine job across various music genres. Holst’s Planet Suite offered up plenty of percussive oomph, detailed brass and woodwind. Pink Floyd’s Final Cut was perfectly listenable (excepting Roger Waters’ whiney, nasal vocals). Their imaging performance also helps make their audio is engaging. Accurate placement of instruments felt like I had an orchestra around my head as I walked down the street. Speaking of walking down the road – the 660NCs’ noise isolation performance was not too bad at all. While it cut down bass-heavy noise like buses rumbling past, I noticed that ANC fared better with high and mid-range sounds. Firing up some music saw this issue vanish.
Taking the 660NCs walkies in Wellington’s CBD not only provides a solid test of their ANC chops, but also of their connectivity. The CBD is awash with RF noise and that can be challenging for maintaining a Bluetooth connection. That said, there was not a single connection drop out, which is pretty impressive.
The JBL Headphones app (Android/iOS) not only comes with a parametric EQ and plentiful pre-sets, but there’s a tonne of other good stuff too. Much of the app’s functionality is predictable in that you can switch between Ambient or ANC modes. There’s also Ambient Aware, ANC off, and talk-through, all of which improves situational awareness. The wear detect/auto-pause can also be enabled/disabled, and battery levels are displayed too. Another nifty feature for long-haul travellers and gamers is audio modes. These can improve audio latency. It comes in three settings (Video Mode, Audio Mode, and Normal). Video mode improves latency for better audio syncing. This makes watching movies far less annoying than with many other Bluetooth ear gear brands. It works well with mobile gaming too.
So, the verdict? There’s a lot to like. Starting with their attractive price, they’re also comfy and have impressive battery life. Add this ANC and multiple audio modes and you have a solid commuter and travel option. We like!