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A picture of the JBL Live 650BTNC noise cancelling headphones in blue on a table.

JBL Live 650BTNC review

These cans are no longer available, and it's time to look elsewhere for your bass fix.
By
September 23, 2022
7.4
JBL Live 650BTNC
The bottom line
The JBL Live 650BTNC is a great everyday headphone. If you’re wondering what the $200 can get you with regards to noise cancelling headphones, these should be at the top of your list. The plush ear pads are comfortable and the ability to rotate the ear cups to rest flat against your chest or up toward the headband makes it easy to stow these away during travel.

JBL Live 650BTNC

The JBL Live 650BTNC is a great everyday headphone. If you’re wondering what the $200 can get you with regards to noise cancelling headphones, these should be at the top of your list. The plush ear pads are comfortable and the ability to rotate the ear cups to rest flat against your chest or up toward the headband makes it easy to stow these away during travel.
Release date

March 28, 2019

Price

Original: $199.95

Dimensions

120cm (cable)

Weight

260g

Model Number

650BTNC

Waterproof

No

What we like
Effective noise cancelling for price
Comfortable fit
Google Assistant/Alexa integration
Quick charging
Connect to two devices simultaneously
What we don't like
Poor mic quality
Difficult to differentiate onboard controls
Bass masks vocals
7.4
SoundGuys Rating
7.6
User Rating
Rating Metric
Our Rating
User Rating
Sound Quality
7.7
7.5
8.0
Bass
7.7
7.6
8.0
Midrange
7.8
7.6
8.0
Highs
7.6
7.7
8.0
Isolation / Attenuation
4.4
7.0
7.0
Durability / Build Quality
6.9
7.9
8.0
Value
7.6
8.0
8.0
Design
7.3
8.0
8.0
Connectivity
7.5
7.0
7.0
Portability
7.4
7.7
8.0
Battery Life
8.9
7.9
8.0
Feature
7.2
7.0
7.0
Comfort
7.9
8.0
8.0

JBL has a firm grasp on the wireless speaker market as its Flip and Charge lines are some of the most recognizable on the market. Lest we forget, however, that the company also knows how to produce reasonably priced headphone to appeal to the masses. The JBL Live 650BTNC features excellent noise cancelling for the price. These comfortable smart headphones may very well be your next audio companion, as they’re among the best JBL headphones out there.

We spent a week with the Live 650BTNC to find out if it’s worth your money. Given the headset’s discontinuation and limited availability, we now recommend you buy something else.

Editor’s note: this review was updated on September 23, 2022 to include more alternative recommendations and address the headset’s discontinuation.

JBL Live 650BTNC: The headphones spotlighted with a Nintendo Switch controller in the foreground.
Despite its shortcomings, the JBL Live 650BTNC is an excellent option for listeners who want ANC without paying a premium.

This is a great option for listeners looking for an economical alternative to Beats. The headphones boast a bass-heavy sound and fashionable exterior. The Live 650BTNC isn’t just for budget Beats fans, though; the noise cancelling capabilities make the headphones a great choice for anyone who uses public transit to get to and from work or considers themselves a frequent flyer.

How is the JBL Live 650BTNC built?

JBL Live 650BTNC: Image of the ear cup rotated 90 degrees.
The deep ear pads prevent the driver grills from rubbing against the outer ear.

Plastic ear cups keep weight down but durable components are used where it matters: the metal-reinforced headband is solid and made comfortable by way of the lightly cushioned cloth covering. This mixed material construction allows the JBL Live 650BTNC to remain relatively affordable while also appearing rather fashionable.

Housed within each ear cup is a 40mm dynamic driver. The synthetic memory foam ear pads are deep enough to prevent rubbing against the outer ear, unlike the comparably priced Sony WH-CH10N ANC cans. What’s more, the padding makes listening comfortable for hours at a time and is moderately comfortable with glasses.

JBL Live 650BTNC: A close-up of the in-line mic and remote on the cable.
The in-line mic on the detachable 3.5mm cable is marginally better than the on-board one.

The curved touch panel on the left ear cup serves as the action button for commanding Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. Tapping the panel once prompts Google Assistant to read out notifications. Pressing and holding the JBL lets you reply to a message, make a command, set a reminder, etc.

The JBL 650BTNC integrates Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa and serve as a great option for anyone wanting a fair priced Beats alternative.

All other controls reside on the lateral edge of the right ear cup. Unfortunately, the playback and volume controls are nearly impossible to find on the first try. Coincidentally, I came across a similar issue with last year’s JBL E55BT headset. Further down the Live 650BTNC is the conjoined noise cancelling/Bluetooth pairing button, neither of which functions I needed.

How good is the JBL Live 650BTNC’s battery life?

JBL Live 650BTNC: Close-up of the microUSB input.
With quick charging, 15 minutes attached to the MicroUSB cable affords two hours of playback.

As indicated by our objective testing, battery life is quite good. When subjected to a constant 75dB(SPL) output, the headphones provided 18 hours, 30 minutes of playback with noise cancelling on. While this is 90 minutes hours shy of JBL’s listed 20 hours of performance, it’s still plenty good.

When the battery does fully deplete, charging isn’t a major deal, as the headphones support quick charging: 15 minutes connected to the included microUSB cable affords two hours of playback. Sure, it’s a minor disappointment that the company went with microUSB instead of USB-C, but the dated connector contributes to keeping the price below $200.

How does the JBL 650BTNC connect?

JBL Live 650BTNC: Image of the controls on the right ear cup.
Playback controls are small and hardly differentiated from one another.

The headphones only support the SBC Bluetooth codec which isn’t ideal, but fine for most listeners. If you’re really itching to get the best audio quality from the headphones, use the included 3.5mm cable. After all, wired listening still laps any wireless codec in terms of fidelity.

One of the more functional features is multipoint connectivity. This allows you to connect simultaneously to two devices and alternate between them. To do so, pause media on the primary device and play it on the secondary one.

How well does the JBL Live 650BTNC cancel noise?

Isolation is just ok, but when noise cancelling is activated, the outside world fades into the background. While ANC performance is sure to be outshined by the likes of Bose and Sony, at least their top-tier models, it’s excellent for the price. In fact, noise cancelling outperforms Sony’s comparably priced noise cancelling headphones when it comes to filtering out low-frequency noises.

How good is the JBL Live 650BTNC’s sound quality?

JBL Live 650BTNC frequency response chart.
This bass-heavy pair of headphones is great for the average consumer.

The JBL Live 650BTNC is a pair of consumer headphones, and the emphasized bass response reinforces this. While it’s not overwhelming to the point of being annoying to listen to, there’s no way these cans will be mistaken for a set of studio headphones.

For every 10dB difference in frequency response, a noise sounds twice as loud. That means a 40Hz tone will sound twice as loud as a 250Hz tone. When listening to music, female vocals and males with higher registers are difficult to hear over low-frequency instruments.

Lows, mids, and highs

JBL Live 650BTNC: Close-up of the ANC logo on the headband.
Active noise cancelling is turned on by default.

In Spencer Sutherland’s comedic ballad Sweater, the song opens with an exaggerated bassline which is made to sound even more heavy-handed by the JBL Live 650BTNC drivers. This is a great example of how the low-end masks vocals since Sutherland’s falsetto vocals are difficult to hear when the bass line kicks in.

To hear this, skip ahead to the hook at 0:09. Here he sings, “That’s my sweater.” This line isn’t underscored by anything until the final syllable of “sweater” when the bass drops back in. The reintroduction to the beat makes it all but impossible to hear Sutherland annunciate the “T” in “sweater.” What’s more, the clapping throughout the song sounds off because the harmonics are nearly completely masked by the bass.

The JBL Live 650BTNC do not produce very clear audio because of how emphasized the bass frequencies are.

Although clarity isn’t the JBL 650BTNC headphones’ strong suit, the powerful bass makes for a fun sound. This is something most consumer headphones have adopted and is great for listeners who prefer some oomph in their music.

How is the JBL Live 650BTNC’s microphone quality?

JBL Live 650BTNC frequency response chart for the microphone voice band.
The onboard microphone reproduces an inaccurate representation of the human voice. Lower voices sound particularly strange.

The integrated headset microphone is disappointing, but considering that even the best wireless headsets have similar issues, it’s tough to get too mad. I’m compelled to opt for my Samsung Galaxy S10e over the JBL Live 650BTNC every time a call comes in. Moreover, the microphone cannot effectively attenuate environmental noise, making it a pain for the person on the other end of the call. While it’s not an uncommon issue, it’s still worthy of note.

The sloping frequency response of the microphone’s voice band indicates that it’s unable to clearly relay a majority of human voices. The lack of emphasis from 90-130Hz might not affect your voice as much as it does mine, but for those of us with deeper voices can sound a little off.

Should you buy the JBL Live 650BTNC?

JBL Live 650BTNC: The headphones next to a Samsung Galaxy S10e.
The headphones may fold flat or upward to become more compact for transport.

Now that the JBL Live 650BTNC is discontinued, you’re better off purchasing one of the more modern noise cancelling headphones available. Originally, the 650BTNC retailed for $200 USD, and if that fits your current budget, you have plenty of great headphones to choose from like the Sony WH-XB910N. Like JBL’s headphones, the XB910N boosts bass quite a bit. Bass heads will get a kick out of these skull rattlers. You may even want to look at our best lists that cover brands like Sony, Bose, and Beats, if you want noise cancelling.

A render of the JBL Live 650BTNC product image against white background.
JBL Live 650BTNC
All prices listed in USD unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and vary by region. Unfortunately, we cannot list Amazon prices on the site, as they vary greatly by currency.

Frequently asked questions about the JBL Live 650BTNC

Typically for mixing video audio you want something with a neutral frequency response to edit accurately. The JBL Live 650BTNC is not very neutral. Try something from our Best studio headphones list.

Gaming platforms like Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch consoles don’t support Bluetooth audio. However, you can use the JBL Live 650BTNC over a 3.5mm connection with any of them.

No, the JBL Live 650BTNC support up to Bluetooth 4.2.