JBL Live 500BT Review
Hardly any other manufacturer is as widespread in the field of mobile fidelity as JBL. The over-ear Bluetooth receiver JBL Live 500BT arouses curiosity about its sound due to its promising name. But, can it convey the live experience that has been conjured up? Our test brings it to light.
- Well balanced sound
- intuitive operation
- App with useful tone control functions
- Long battery life
- Fair price-performance ratio
- Heat build-up on the ears
- High contact pressure
- No high resolution bluetooth codecs
- Cracking plastic case
- Noisy transparency functions
The JBL Bluetooth headphones Live 500BT can hold their own despite the relatively low price and, offer a very good price-performance ratio in terms of both sound and headset functions.
Whether you are looking at in-ears, over-ear headphones, or the legendary boombox – JBL understands mobile fidelity. In addition, it is one of the oldest loudspeaker manufacturers globally, which is still active in the professional studio sector to this day. The new JBL Live 500BT Bluetooth handset has correspondingly high-quality drivers paired with modern voice control. Moreover, it is offered at a pleasantly low price – it makes you prick up your ears in the truest sense of the word. So we sharpened our test ears and listened to how the JBL Live 500BT performs in the test and practice.
The auricles of the closed, circumaural JBL Live 500BT are made of sturdy plastic with artificial leather ear pads and can be rotated and folded. The headband is made of metal and has comfortable fabric-covered padding. The quality of the stylish handset is good but does not come close to significantly more expensive models such as a PX7 from Bowers & Wilkins.
The JBL headphones have only a few but all the more functional controls: In addition to the power switch, there are two buttons for transparency modes and Bluetooth coupling, as well as the usual button trio that controls volume, track selection, and telephone functions on the right auricle. The top of the left auricle is touch-sensitive and activates voice control.
The Live 500BT can also be controlled with an app. A sufficiently long USB charging cable and a mini-jack cable are included in the scope of delivery. We looked in vain for a bag or a transport case.
Mobile playback devices from JBL have a reputation for being more bass-focused, and the Live 500BT is not an exception here – but in this case, that is by no means unpleasant: Toni Braxton’s album “Secrets” was really powerful, but the bass was very tight and drawn. In addition, the slight compression of the listener almost accommodated the groove, so the Live 500BT may not be neutral, but still a very musical performance.
The voice was also beautifully represented, the spatiality was also okay, but we missed the brilliance in the highs inherent in the recording. Esbjörn Svensson’s piano played largely correct tonally like the double bass, although the fundamental range seemed a bit too full.
The snare drum played with a broom could also be heard and felt, but the last glow in the overtones of the hi-hat was missing. The same tendency could be discerned with Paul O’Briens’ “Misty Mountain”: There were no gross errors in the representation, only the fundamental range of the voice was a bit prominent, and the overtones were reduced to the same extent.
The orchestral strings on Lars Danielsson’s “Libera Me” were subjectively reproduced a bit too loud, obviously due to the not entirely convincing spatial depth. As with the Jabra Elite 85h, the sound changed significantly when using the cable: Both the fine dynamics and resolution and the overtone range have been significantly improved. Toni Braxton’s handclaps came a little too prominently from the Live 500BT – but that’s a detailed criticism.
Overall, the JBL headphones offered a very balanced sound image via cable, which did not play as relaxed as the Elite mentioned above 85H but was not only convincing because of the price range. And yes, the attentive reader may have guessed it: like the Danish headphones mentioned above, the Live 500BT does not support high-resolution Bluetooth standards such as Aptx HD or AAC, but only Bluetooth’s own SBC. Here and there, in our opinion, this is audible and no longer up-to-date.
The JBL Live 500BT can be connected to two Bluetooth devices simultaneously but still only supports Bluetooth 4.2 with SBC. Higher-resolution codecs such as AptX and AAC are regrettably left out – as already described above. The so-called “Ambient Aware” mode lets out more outside noise through the very well shielding ear cups. And on the other hand, a transparency function ensures problem-free communication with the headphones on. The two “transparent” modes can be switched comfortably on the handset itself. However, they both rustle audibly – in contrast to normal operation without “transparency.”
The Live 500BT does not have motion sensors that stop the music when you pick up the phone, such as Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). There is an app for this, but its function is limited to switching the transparency and ambiance-aware functions on and off, some basic settings, and a flexible equalizer.
In addition to the preset “Jazz,” “Vocal,” and “Bass” presets, the latter offers the option of creating your own EQ curves. The equalizer is effective, but listening very closely leads to a loss of sound resolution.
The Live 500BT paired immediately and without any problems with our Samsung S8 mobile phone, and the range was also good. Unfortunately, now and then, the app didn’t notice the connected headphones and couldn’t find them, even though they played the music from our source perfectly. Re-pairing resolved the problem reliably. The battery life is very good at up to 33 hours, and the earphone is ready to play for two hours after just 15 minutes of charging.
Operation and practice with the JBL 500B
The Live 500BT from JBL sits very stably on the head so that you can do a continuous run with it. However, the plastic housing cracks with strong movements, which can be annoying with soft music. In addition, this stability is accompanied by slightly higher contact pressure. With prolonged use, the ears also get a little warmer than with some other models.
Operation is simple and intuitive: three buttons on the right auricle control volume, start-stop, and telephone functions. Pressing the volume up and volume down buttons for a longer time jumps back and forth between tracks. That works great.
There are also two more buttons responsible for Bluetooth pairing and the second for transparency and aware ambient functions. Unfortunately, the respective function is not announced in plain language but confirmed with various small piano melodies. If you know, this is not a problem, but a voice message would, of course, have been more intuitive.
The top of the left auricle activates voice control, with Google Assistant and Alexa supported. Telephoning works well, but your voice is not switched through to the headphones. As a result, you can only hear yourself via transmission in your head, which creates an unusually oppressive sound. You can certainly get used to it, but it still bothered us a little.
Test result for the JBL Live 500BT
The Live 500BT from JBL scores with a largely balanced reproduction with an audible bass emphasis. However, this is tight and well-drawn and is therefore not annoying. In addition, the sound image can be easily adapted to personal preferences via the app. Unfortunately, the sound via Bluetooth lacks the richness of detail and overtones.
The headphones can almost catch up with the top-class via cables. Further points of criticism are the somewhat high contact pressure and the plastic housing that cracks slightly when moved. Because of the price range this is to be got over, you can recommend the Live 500BT overall. If you want more headphones, you have to spend noticeably more money.