The JBL Live Pro 2 TWS True Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones ($149.95, but often available for around $100) boast a powerful, sculpted sound signature that emphasizes lows and highs, as well as better-than-average active noise cancellation (ANC) for their price segment. The JBL Headphones app also adds value, unlocking 10-band customizable EQ, adjustments for ANC and Ambient modes, and Alexa and Google Assistant hands-free integration (on Android devices). If you want a more accurate audio experience, you should check out other options, like the Editors’ Choice winner Anker Soundcore Space A40 ($99.99). This model offers a more natural sound signature, similarly effective noise cancellation and more customizable controls.
Average build and battery life
The stem-style Live Pro 2 TWS earphones are available in metal, as well as black, pink or blue. Three pairs of silicone ear tips (S, M, L) come with the headphones to help ensure a good fit.
(credit: Tim Gideon)
Inside, 11mm dynamic drivers provide a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz. The pair relies on Bluetooth 5.2 and additionally supports Bluetooth AAC and SBC codecs, but not AptX.
The capacitive touchpad on the outside of each earpiece is easy to use, although we did notice a slight lag between taps and actions. A single tap on the left earcup switches between ANC and Ambient modes, while a double tap activates TalkThru mode. On the right earbud, a single tap controls playback, a double tap skips a track forward, and a triple tap takes you to the previous track. Double-tapping any handset accepts incoming calls and ends ongoing calls. A long press on either one toggles the microphone mute function during calls and also brings up your device’s voice assistant. You can customize the controls to some extent in the app, but you can’t simply assign any function to any gesture (more below).
The IPX5 water-resistance rating is slightly better than average for true wireless earbuds with ANC, but it’s still unremarkable compared to the IP57-rated, noise-canceling Jabra Elite 7 Active ($179.99). Regardless, JBL headphones can withstand splashes and low-pressure jets from any direction. However, you cannot submerge them or wash them under the tap. The rating does not apply to the case, so please dry the headphones completely before placing them in the dock.
The medium-sized case has a clamshell-style lid that’s relatively easy to open thanks to its grippy outer structure. A status LED on the edge of the lid shows remaining battery life, while a USB-C port is on the back for the included USB-A-to-USB-C charging cable. The case also supports wireless charging using the Qi standard.
JBL estimates that the Live Pro 2 TWS headphones can last around 10 hours on battery, but that estimate drops to eight and six hours with True Adaptive ANC and regular ANC turned on, respectively. The company claims that the case will last for another 30 hours or so on a charge. (Again, your results depend on using ANC.) It takes about two hours to fully charge the case.
Experience with the JBL Headphones App
The JBL Headphones app (available for Android and iOS) is constantly improving and offers much more than basic settings and firmware updates. On the app’s main screen, it shows the remaining battery life for each earbud except the case. You can turn off the headphones from the main screen, which is useful if you don’t have access to the case and want to save power.
The ANC section is located below that; here you can enable ANC, Ambient Aware (which includes a volume fader), and Talk Thru (for conversations), as well as turn off ANC completely. You can either select the default Adaptive ANC option or manually adjust the levels using the fader.
Another option, called Leak Compensation (on by default), adjusts the ANC if you have a less-than-ideal seal in your ears and some sound is leaking. To avoid this problem, we recommend trying the ear canal compensation function, which scans the ear canal (but only in noisy environments). If you can’t hear any difference after activating any of the features, the default ANC setting is right for your ears. But ANC can become more effective against midrange with these options, so it’s worth a try.
The EQ section, which you can turn on or off, offers adjustable presets and the ability to create new presets from scratch with an impressive 10 bands ranging from 32Hz to 16kHz. Additionally, Smart Audio & Video automatically reduces transmission latency (from around 280ms in audio mode to around 120ms) for a better video streaming experience.
In the app, you can decide what single and double taps do for each earbud – to a certain extent. You can choose from a number of presets, such as ANC and surround sound controls, volume or track navigation. Each preset assigns a preconfigured set of controls to single and double presses.
The app also includes autoplay and pause settings as well as VoiceAware mode. (A fader lets you adjust how much voice you hear on calls.) More basic options like voice assistant settings, voice prompts, Check My Best Fit, Find My Buds (uses high tones, not GPS), and a power-saving mode round out the features.
On devices with Android 6 (and higher), you can activate Alexa or Google Assistant hands-free. We got Alexa and Google Assistant working immediately on our Samsung Galaxy S21 test device, although the former requires you to download the Alexa app as well.
More than once during testing, the app failed to connect to the Live Pro 2 TWS headphones, even though I had music playing in my ears at the time. The app also crashed several times. In all these cases, the application quickly restored itself, but these errors are still annoying.
The Live Pro 2 TWS headphones offer quality noise cancellation for the price. Between the two modes, the default Adaptive setting is more powerful, so that’s the one we used for testing. The pair has significantly dampened the strong low-frequency rumble (like you hear in an airplane), but a thin band of higher frequencies still comes through. The headphones struggled a bit more with a recording of a busy restaurant with clinking dishes and boisterous conversation; they reduced the bass and mids, but the treble sounded slightly boosted. We noticed some additional masking hiss in the signal, although the hiss isn’t annoying or too loud. We’re impressed with the ANC quality here, though it’s nowhere near as effective as high-end models like the Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279.99) or the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds ($279.95).
Meanwhile, Ambient and Talk Thru modes are useful. The first one gives you a fader to adjust the volume of the surrounding microphones. Talk Thru mode doesn’t offer the same flexibility, but the default volume level still sounds natural for conversations and voices are clear.
Strongly shaped sound with strong details
We mostly tested the headphones with all EQ options turned off. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, such as The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the pair provide powerful low-end depth. At medium volume, the rumble is intense, and at maximum volume, the bass does not distort.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with much less deep bass in the mix, better reveals the sound signature to the ears. The drums don’t sound unnaturally thunderous, although they definitely have some extra heft and weight to them. The high mids and highs are also quite sculpted, so Callahan’s baritone vocals have some treble to match their low-mid richness. Acoustic strums and higher register percussive hits also feel a bit bright. This isn’t a sound signature for purists, but you can dial back (or boost) the shaping with the EQ app to your preference. Bass lovers in particular should enjoy the default sound profile.
(credit: Tim Gideon)
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick loop gets enough high-mids for its attack to retain punch, but it’s the vinyl crackles and hisses that get a bit more from the higher frequencies. strengthening. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat have serious depth, as does the sustain of the drum loops. The vocals are clear on this track, but we did pick up a decent amount of hiss.
Orchestral pieces, like the opening scene from John Adams The Gospel According to the Second Mary, sounds clear and crisp. Meanwhile, a serious level of bass depth anchors the mix. The lower-register instrumentation will never overpower the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals, but carving out the pair works better for pop genres than classical or jazz.
The six mic array works well. We had no problem understanding every word of the test recording on our iPhone, although some Bluetooth artifacts are audible. The microphones do a good job of canceling out your voice, meaning calls over a strong cellular signal should sound clear overall.
Big on bass, big on value
The powerful and bass sound of the JBL Live Pro 2 TWS headphones justifies their price, especially if you can get them at a discount. The addition of a very useful app and adjustable ANC only sweetens the deal. Of course, noise cancellation isn’t at the level of top-end options from Sony or Bose, but it’s good enough to remove distracting noise in casual settings. Our main complaint is with the on-ear controls; we wished they were a bit more responsive and that the app allowed us to make more detailed changes.
This JBL model faces a lot of competition in the $100 range, where it’s often priced, especially from Anker’s Soundcore Space A40, which offers similar ANC, a more accurate sound signature, and better customization options. If you’re looking to save a little money or are interested in headphones for running (or other high-intensity activities), the Jabra Elite 3 ($79.99) are an excellent alternative, despite the lack of ANC.
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