All products featured are independently chosen by us. However, SoundGuys may receive a commission on orders placed through its retail links. See our ethics statement.
JBL Live 660NC
July 28, 2021
95 x 60 x 55mm
Look, JBL puts out a lot of products. The company could be the most prolific manufacturer in the audio space, covering a wide spread in terms of quality and price. The JBL Live 660NC lands smack-dab in the middle of the price spectrum, offering active noise canceling, software features, and built-in virtual assistant support. All good things, to be sure, but not exactly the most groundbreaking stuff.
Does it execute well enough to justify the cost?
Editor’s note: this article was updated on August 31, 2023, in order to update the chart data, and to better explain a few points.
The JBL Live 660NC is a decent pick for anyone who needs an everyday pair of wireless headphones. This could be a contender if you want something that folds for commuting and travel.
What’s it like to use JBL Live 660NC?
The JBL Live 660NC is a fairly standard pair of wireless headphones. This monochromatic device is made of mostly plastic, with a metal strip running through the headband for added stability. Visually, this is pretty nondescript, but that’s not necessarily bad — not everyone wants their headphones to be a fashion statement.
The Live 660NC is a reasonably comfortable pair of headphones. The cushioned headband is covered in fabric, and the ear pads are thick and covered in a soft leatherette. The headphone hinges can rotate and fold to make the headset more compact — there’s also an included carrying pouch, which makes for a travel-friendly device — and the ear cups have a little extra tilt range. Basically, most people should find this pretty comfortable. I’m happy wearing them for more than two hours during my workday.
However, the JBL 660NC has very narrow ear cups for a pair of over-ear headphones. You may want to steer clear if you’ve got a history of problems with that kind of thing. I wouldn’t expect any better experience for people with glasses either.
Using the headphones is easy. There’s an array of on-ear controls and an app for fine-tuning and additional features. All the buttons feel pretty well spaced out, so it’s easy to find them when you’ve got the headphones on. Nestled between the controls is also a 3.5mm jack socket, so if you need a zero latency wired audio connection, you’ll have that available, too.
How do you control JBL Live 660NC?
The JBL Live 660NC features button controls along the edge of the right headphone, and the side panel of the left headphone is tap-sensitive. Most buttons do one thing, but it’s still got a handful of options.
Multifunction button (tap)
Multifunction button (double tap)
Multifunction button (triple tap)
Bluetooth button (hold)
ANC button (tap)
Toggle ANC/Ambient Aware/off
ANC button (double tap)
Side panel (tap and hold)
Should you use the JBL Headphones app for the JBL Live 660NC?
You should probably install the JBL Headphones app (iOS/Android) if you choose to buy the Live 660NC, if only for getting firmware updates. However, the app is pretty useful in its own right, too. It gives you access to ANC controls, EQ presets (and the ability to make your own), voice assistant settings, and more — all organized on one page. There’s even a toggle for switching between the default audio and video modes to reduce audio-visual lag (latency). It’s easy to use and it works reliably.
How does the JBL Live 660NC connect?
The JBL Live 660NC connects to your device of choice like most Bluetooth headphones. The headphones use Bluetooth 5.0, with support for the default SBC codec, as well as AAC. This is pretty much bog standard — there’s no high quality codec option like aptX, but for most uses SBC and AAC will do just fine. There’s no Google fast pair and no H2 chip for deeper Apple integration. The headphones also support Bluetooth multipoint, which is nice if you’re paired to something and feel an urge to change a setting in the JBL Headphones app (Or if you just want to change audio sources fast).
Pairing the JBL Live 660NC is very straightforward — it works like any other average Bluetooth device. Here’s what to do:
- Turn on the headphones. It should start pairing mode a few seconds after the guitar sound plays.
- Open your device’s Bluetooth menu and find the headphones.
- Pair with the headphones.
How long does the JBL Live 660NC battery last?
JBL claims that the Jabra Live 660NC can last up to 50 hours on a single charge, or 40 hours with ANC enabled. Our standard battery test lasted 47 hours and 8 minutes with ANC on, confirming this to be accurate. This means that under normal listening conditions, it should take between one and two weeks of commutes to exhaust a single full charge.
Yes! You can charge the Live 660NC for 10 minutes to get 4 hours of playback time. Charging back up to full will take around 2 hours, though.
How well does the JBL Live 660NC cancel noise?
Loading chart ...
The JBL Live 660NC offers decent active noise canceling (ANC). It cancels out up to 30dB of noise at around 300Hz, which is nothing to sneeze at. The headphones’ passive isolation is also pretty good, but not exceptional.
This initially released a few years ago, when the big heavy hitters in the audio market were products like the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 or the Sony WH-1000XM4 — compared to those, it can’t quite keep up, but still performs admirably. Compared to current kings like the Sony WH-1000XM5 or Apple AirPods Max, the JBL Live 660NC really struggles, but that’s not to say it’s got bad ANC. It should ably quiet the rumble of a bus on your morning commute without any issues.
How does the JBL Live 660NC sound?
Loading chart ...
The JBL Live 660NC sounds close to our in-house target curve in most places, but there’s some extra sub-bass and high-end emphasis. The headphones overemphasize sound under 100Hz by more than 5db in spots, and there’s also a big spike around 6-7kHz. A frequency response like this means that most music should sound fine coming out of the JBL Live 660NC, but very low rumbling and whirring as you might hear in EDM could be pretty disruptive.
Listening to a rock song like Starlifter: Fearless Pt. II by Crown Lands, the instrumental in the first few minutes sounds pretty nice coming thing through the JBL Live 660NC. However, once the vocals start, the rumble of the bass guitar starts to get a little distracting. It never crosses into unpleasant territory, but even toggling between a few of the different EQ presets in the JBL Headphones app will illustrate the difference in clarity (depending on the kind of music you listen to).
Can you use the JBL Live 660NC for phone calls?
The JBL Live 660NC microphone has a pretty typical-looking frequency response for an embedded microphone in a pair of Bluetooth headphones. However, the microphone doesn’t have much of the typical muffling that these kinds of devices struggle with. What you do get though is some fairly obvious speech-processing artifacts. With deeper voices like that of SoundGuys’ own AJ Wykes (he’s the British voice in the samples), digital compression is very audible. With higher voices, there’s also a slight crackle in the background.
Basically, this is good for a quick phone call, but probably not much else.
JBL Live 660NC microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
JBL Live 660NC microphone demo (Office conditions):
JBL Live 660NC microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Should you buy the JBL Live 660NC?
If you’re on the hunt for a good pair of noise canceling headphones, the JBL Live 660NC could be just the thing. The microphone isn’t very good, and the narrow ear cups may turn listeners with larger ears away, but otherwise, this is a pretty reliable noise canceling headset. For under $200 USD, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more capable option.
Sometimes, a lack of gimmicks or bells and whistles can be nice, especially given how well the Live 660NC handles the basics. Not everything needs to try reinventing the wheel, after all.
What should you get instead of the JBL Live 660NC?
If you want better noise canceling, you’ll need to aim for a higher price point, but the results may well be worth it. Options like the Sony WH-1000XM5 or the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless feature some of the best ANC on the market, along with great sound, battery life, and designs better suited to people with large ears than the JBL Live 660NC. However, they represent a pretty dramatic price increase — if you want to go all the way in the other direction, check out the Monoprice BT-600 ANC.
Frequently asked questions
The Live 660NC has a 3.5mm jack socket on its right headphone, and it comes with 3.5mm cord, so it’s definitely a headphone jack-friendly product.
Unfortunately, the JBL Live 660NC’s USB-C charging port doesn’t work for audio.