JBL is king of the hill when it comes to speakers, but it has a slew of true wireless offerings too. Today, we’re looking at the JBL LIVE 300 TWS a pair of pedestrian true wireless buds with smart features like Google Assistant and various listening modes to keep you safe. The LIVE 300 TWS is billed as the headset for everyone, so let’s put that notion to the test.
Editor’s note: this review was updated on July 20, 2020, to answer a question in the FAQ regarding Google Assistant setup.
Who should get the JBL LIVE 300 TWS?
- Commuters will appreciate how well the earbuds passively block out external noise when the proper ear tips are used.
- Athletes should get these for they secure tightly to the ear via a concha wing tip and are IPX5-rated to resist water.
- General consumers will enjoy all the JBL LIVE 300 TWS has to offer, especially if they’re big fans of virtual assistant access. The headset can read unopened notifications, set timers, and more via Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa.
What’s it like to use the JBL LIVE 300 TWS?
Using JBL’s true wireless earbuds is fine, but the experience is nothing of note. The plastic charging case pops open but its hinge mechanism doesn’t feel nearly as sturdy or sound nearly as satisfying as the Google Pixel Buds (2020). The inside of the case houses two cutouts for the earbuds, which require precision to properly re-place, a manual pairing button, and a small LED battery indicator. Externally, an LED ring light encompasses the USB-C input and slowly blinks white when the earbuds are charging.
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The plastic earbuds don’t feel premium, but they’re made of a nicer plastic than what we’ve seen on the Anker SoundCore Life P2 and JLab JBuds Air Icon. Each earbud is marked with the JBL logo, which also functions as a touch panel for tap and gesture controls. While the controls are comprehensive and customizable, the touch panels aren’t the best at accurately registering commands. On multiple occasions, I tried swiping to increase the volume and was met with nothing. A feature that worked incredibly well was automatic ear detection for auto-play/pause functionality.
JBL instructs users on how to properly insert the earbuds so they stay in place, and so the given user can properly operate controls—the JBL logo should be parallel to the ground. However, the included wing tips were either too small or too large for my ears, and I was unable to fully benefit from them. You’re bound to have better luck than I—in which case you may want to use these buds for exercise as they’ve earned an IPX5 rating, denoting water-resistance.
Should you download the JBL Headphones app?
The JBL headphones app is useful, but its stability isn’t great: the app crashed on me at least three times—one of which was immediately after uninstalling and reinstalling said app. That said, the app is still worth downloading because it allows you to update the earbuds firmware, customize the controls, and more. It’s also particularly useful for listeners who like to create custom EQs.
The JBL Headphones app is actually quite useful; it just isn't stable.
You can also perform other functions like locating your earbuds, switching on Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes, and reading instructions on how to operate the headset. It’s actually quite a good app when it works for more than two minutes at a time.
What can you do with Google Assistant integration?
Many of JBL’s wireless headphones feature Google Assistant integration; this enables users to tap and hold the left earbud to talk with Google Assistant when using the JBL LIVE 300 TWS. Unfortunately, direct voice access isn’t supported yet, but that’s a rare feature among wireless headsets unless you wanna jump up to the Google Pixel Buds (2020). Aside from making basic weather-related inquiries, you may also have your notifications read aloud, and reply directly to a message with just your voice. If you’re having none of it, feel free to disable virtual assistant functionality in the JBL Headphones app.
Do the earbuds stay connected?
For the most part, yes, the earbuds stayed connected to my phone during testing; Bluetooth 5.0 firmware couldn’t prevent connection stutters that occurred both inside and outside, though. This was with firmware version 3.3.0, so perhaps JBL will improve this with upcoming updates. You can listen in mono mode, but only with the right bud as that’s the default primary receiver. Unfortunately, there’s no word on whether or not JBL will support primary earbud switching as the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 3200 does.
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The earbuds support AAC and SBC, the former of which is good for high-quality streaming on iOS devices. However, AAC’s performance is variable on Android and isn’t necessarily consistent depending on the smartphone used. Bluetooth multipoint isn’t supported, so when I wanted to switch from my Samsung Galaxy S10e to my laptop, I did so manually.
How do you pair the JBL LIVE 300 TWS?
If there’s one thing JBL is good at it’s providing easy to digest instructions on how to operate its headsets. The first time you open the case, the earbuds automatically enter pairing mode. From there, just enable Bluetooth on your smartphone and select “JBL LIVE 300 TWS” from the pairing menu. To enter pairing mode while wearing the earbuds, double-tap the right earbud and hold the second tap for five seconds. Rebooting the headset is easy, too: insert both buds into the charging case and hold the case’s button down for five seconds.
How long does the battery last?
We subject each headset to a constant 75dB(SPL) output, and under these conditions the JBL LIVE 300 TWS earbuds lasted 5 hours, 14 minutes. While this falls short of JBL’s listed six-hour playtime, the fact of the matter is that most of us don’t listen to music for five hours straight. Fast charging is supported for the earbuds: 10 minutes in the case provides an hour of listening. When the buds aren’t in use, they’re going to be in the case which always charges the earbuds unless it’s drained. Said case takes two hours to fully charge and provides an additional 2.3 charge cycles, totaling nearly 17.5 hours of portable battery life.
How do the JBL LIVE 300 TWS sound?
The earbuds sound pretty good, and have a more subdued bass emphasis than I expected: bass notes are 1.5-2 times louder than midrange notes, which is normal for consumer-grade headsets. Similar to the JLab GO Air, the LIVE 300 TWS is tuned to vaguely follow ISO226:2003. In other words, the buds attempt to reproduce every note at the same perceived loudness; this is different from emitting sound waves at the same pressure. The problem with this tuning is that it assumes the audio engineers didn’t previously apply corrections to the recordings. Theoretically, this means that properly amplified bass notes are rendered too loud, and this kind of frequency response can and does result in auditory masking.
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Isolation is average for your typical pair of in-ears: low frequencies are barely blocked out by the silicone ear tips even when a good fit is achieved. Once music starts playing, you’re unlikely to hear things like background chit-chat and bird chirping, but if you plan on commuting via plane, train, or bus, you may want to invest in some noise cancelling true wireless earbuds or noise cancelling headphones.
Lows, mids, and highs
The song Fizz by the Hacky Turtles begins with a individual note picking of the E and C#m chords on an electric guitar as Mark Kanitz sings the opening line, “I’m quick, this I know.” Kanitz’ voice is reproduced clearly as he has a fairly low register with some rasp to his vocals. As the song picks up and Kanitz is joined by a kick drum and hi-hats toward the end of the verse. Kanitz remains fairly clear, but the hi-hats are difficult to perceive amid the electric guitars and percussive elements.
Auditory masking becomes most apparent during the chorus, which is typical for headsets with an emphasized bass response as this is usually when drums, horns, and other instruments with low fundamental frequencies are played loudest. Skip ahead to 1:30; here, Kanitz loudly sings, “She had a rough day!” As he sings day, the -ay sound becomes hard to perceive because drum hits and quick guitar strumming is relayed much louder. With my Shure AONIC 50 headphones, this kind of auditory masking doesn’t really occur as the AONIC 50 hardly emphasizes bass notes.
The JBL LIVE 300 TWS have a safe sound signature that's bound to please a large swathe of listeners.
This kind of frequency response isn’t inherently bad, but it isn’t accurate either. Most listeners will enjoy this as the slight bass emphasis adds some punch to music playback. However, if you have a wide variety of genres in your library, you may want to take the time to equalize the bass response so it’s less exaggerated.
Can I use the JBL LIVE 300 TWS for phone calls?
Yes, the JBL LIVE 300 TWS is a fine headset for phone calls as it supports stereo call audio. While many people enjoy this feature, I found it distracting: the left earbud was just milliseconds behind the right earbud when relaying call audio, making it sound like an echo was coming through. Perhaps if the headset designated both earbuds as their own respective receivers, I’d enjoy this feature more. However, I typically used mono mode (right earbud only) when about to make a call.
JBL LIVE 300 TWS microphone demo:
Microphone quality isn’t the greatest but the amplification from 350Hz-1kHz helps with speech clarity, while the de-emphasis below 200Hz reduces the proximity effect. Background noise is slightly rejected, think distant car and foot traffic; though, when I was outside and a large gust of wind swooped in, my friend on the other end of the call heard it. You can certainly use the headset for conference calls, but to sound the most professional, you may want to consider something with an external microphone.
How does the JBL LIVE 300 TWS compare to other true wireless headsets?
JBL LIVE 300 TWS vs JBL REFLECT FLOW
The JBL REFLECT FLOW is more than just an outdated version of the JBL LIVE 300 TWS: the former is IPX7-rated, so it may be submerged to depths of one meter for up to an hour at a time. A blocky charging case provides an additional 2 charge cycles to the earphones for approximately 30 hours of playtime before topping the case up. Listeners who want better standalone battery life may want to pick up the REFLECT FLOW, if able to overlook the dated design and microUSB input. Otherwise, just get the LIVE 300 TWS because it’s more future proof thanks to the USB-C charging input and Google Assistant integration.
JBL LIVE 300 TWS vs Apple AirPods
This is like comparing apples to cats: the Apple AirPods take a philosophically different approach to true wireless technology compared to JBL. Apple favors a minimalistic design with an open-ear design for its AirPods (2019), which allows users to remain ever aware of their surroundings. While this kind of fit isn’t ideal for exercise and accurate audio reproduction, it is good for safety. Of course, JBL counters this safety point by supporting Ambient Aware and TalkThru listening, but these softwares still sound unpleasant no matter which company is using it.
Apple AirPods (2019) microphone demo:
iPhone, iPad, and MacOS users should get the AirPods because they play exceptionally well with Apple products thanks to the H1 chip and AAC support. Users may access Siri with just their voices, and quickly switch between iOS and MacOS devices. There are a host of other features. Listeners who rely on Google Assistant, and want the option to remain insulated from their surroundings should grab the cheaper JBL LIVE 300 TWS.
Should you buy the JBL LIVE 300 TWS?
Yes, the JBL LIVE 300 TWS earphones are worth buying, but they’re not groundbreaking. Using these buds is an unremarkable experience: a JBL headset has yet to excite me, but it’s not as bad as you may think. In a world where companies are trying their best to stand out with gimmicks and weird designs, I’ve learned that a company doesn’t need to rock the boat in order to be successful. After all, the companies that garner the most success are often the ones that follow the lead of smaller companies unable to roll out novel,useful features effectively. To anyone who wants a headset that works well and costs much less than brands like Apple, Sony, and Google, the LIVE 300 TWS is worth pocketing.
Frequently Asked Questions
In order to use the Google Assistant with your earbuds, you'll first have to setup the assistant on your device.. On Android, hold the home button and follow the on-screen setup instructions. For iOS users, download the Google Assistant app and follow the in-app setup instructions. Afterwards, go into the JBL Connect app, connect to your earbuds, and make sure that the Voice Assistant feature is enabled.