JBL Live 660NC Review

JBL puts all of its efforts toward functionality and sound quality, instead of marketing ploys. The company takes the same approach to the newly released JBL Live 660NC noise-cancelling headphones, a long waited for an upgrade. Active noise cancelling performance keeps up with best-in-class alternatives from Sony and Jabra. But for a reasonable price under Rs.13,999.

Sure, this isn’t the slickest set of headphones and doesn’t have cool software tricks, but that’s the charm of the Live 660NC: simplicity and performance come first. We spent a week with the now-discontinued Live 660NC to see if it’s worth picking up at a discount.

Things we like

  • Sound quality
  • Good noise cancelling for price
  • Bluetooth multipoint
  • Portable, comfortable design
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Massive Battery

Things we don’t like

  • Lacks audio codec
  • Missing IP ratings
  • Easy to accidentally power the headset on/off
  • None
  • None

Who should get the headphone?

Commuters and air travelers will appreciate the JBL Live 660NC’s compact nature and superior active noise cancellation (ANC) performance. Remote workers should reconsider this high-value headset for its ANC performance that blocks out noisy neighbors. Battery life can get you through multiple workdays before needing a recharge.

Box Content

JBL Live 660NC
  • Live 660NC
  • Type-C Charging Cable
  • Audio cable
  • Carrying Pouch
  • Quick Start Guide/Safety Sheet
  • Warranty/Warning

JBL Live 660NC Review: Design

The JBL Live 660NC is easy to use, and places performance and functionality above design. All-plastic ear cups don’t appear premium, nor do the tenuous yokes, but they all serve a purpose: to minimize the headset’s weight. Which is imperative for day-long listening. If you’re concerned about durability, just reach for the included case. It’s not quite a hardshell design, but the reinforced exterior will protect your headphones from minor bumps in a bag.

The headband strikes a good balance of thin and comfortable. Making the JBL Live 660NC super comfy and also a great pair of headphones to wear with glasses. Though, I experience some discomfort at the crown of my head after two hours of wear. A metal reinforcement protects the headband from snapping. Fabric leather covers the headband and is the same material use to wrap the memory foam ear pads. Which are comfortable but heat up in warm conditions. You may remove the ear pads for easy cleaning and replacement, though the circular shape means you have to buy a replacement from JBL, rather than picking a cheaper third-party option.

 JBL Live 660NC Review: Touch controls

The controls are simple and all the juice is available in the right earbuds. To pair the Bluetooth headset, press and hold the power button, until a voice prompts you that it’s ready to connect.

Here’s a cheat sheet for gesture controls during media playback:

The JBL Live 660NC offers a good amount of wireless touch control. The right earbuds include volume adjustment, switching ANC on / off, and turning it on / off. You can press and hold 2 seconds for the volume up button to move to the next track on your playlist. Or, you can press the lower volume button for 2 seconds to return to the previous track. If you press the middle button, it will let you answer or end the call and play or pause the audio.

However, you can also hold down the middle button for 2 seconds to activate your voice assistant or reject the call. When you press its power button twice, you can enter the pairing mode for your other device. The right earbuds also include a button for Ambient aware and TalkThru. To activate it just tap one time for ambient aware and 2 times for TalkThru.

The buttons on the Live 660NC wireless headphones are nice, clickable, and responsive. There is also a bell when the headphones are on and when they link to a device. In addition, you will hear a bell indicating when you have reached the maximum volume.

JBL Live 660NC Review: JBL Headphones App

JBL Headphone app enhances your music experience. It will control everything such as ANC, Ambient Aware, Battery, firmware update, EQ settings, and many more.

Following features, you can control with the JBL Headphones app.

  • Voice assistant setup: This allows you to select Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa as your voice assistant.
  • EQ Settings: The App provides predefined EQ presets and also allows you to create or customize EQ settings to your heir personal preferences.
  • Exclusive to CLUB series headphones, JBL teamed up with some of the world’s best DJs to capture the sound of their personal recording studios, so you can hear your favorite songs as they do. Simply tap the STAGE+ button in your JBL Headphones app to choose from the DJ presets.
  • Application Settings: App settings include Voice Assistant, Smart Audio Modes, Touch gesture setting, Product Help, Tips, FAQ, etc, subject to different models.
  • Tips: The product tutorial will be found under Product help.
  • FAQ: This allows you to find a quick answer when using our JBL APP.
  • Headphone battery indicator: Displays the headphone battery level so you can quickly see how much playtime is left.
  • Touch gestures customization allows you to change your button configuration based on your preference (available only on specific models)
  • Smart audio mode: improve your audio that is adjusted to what you are doing (available only on specific models)
  • Multi Noise Cancelling mode: By selecting different noise-canceling levels to enjoy the best sound on each occasion (available only on specific models)

JBL Live 660NC Review: Sound quality

JBL Live 660NC

Each ear cup protects an angle, 40mm dynamic driver, which is quite large and powerful. Low and midrange frequencies are well reproduced, something we don’t often see from such reasonably priced headphones. This means kick drums, vocals, and salient instruments like guitars are all reproduced with good output.

Listeners accustomed to headsets from Beats or Jabra may find the bass response underwhelming. And that makes sense: we’re conditioned to perceive egregious low-end amplification as normal. However, the truth is those consumer brands unnaturally amplify bass notes in the name of a workout-friendly sound signature or more engaging sound.

Lows, mids, and highs

The song “Socha hai” from Rock on movie sounds excellent through the JBL Live 660NC. Because vocals come through clearly even when percussive elements ring out. The song opens with individual bass guitar plucks, before Farhan Akhtar’s vocals enter alongside a percussive beat. Plucks from the bass guitar remain present throughout the song and remain audible. Even as cymbal hits accent the occasional kick drum.

Song vocalizes a series of “Ohs” overlaid atop the latter third of the song. These utterances are hard to hear through headsets that amplify bass notes. But are clear with the Live 660NC without exaggeration. If you temporarily want to alter the response, just open the JBL Headphone app and choose from any presets.

JBL Live 660NC Review: Noise cancellation

The JBL Live 660NC is one of the best noise cancelling headphones under Rs. 13,999. Low-frequency sounds sound half as loud with ANC on the highest setting. Sure, I can hear construction as my apartment doors get install, but the ANC hushes the handyman’s drill so I can concentrate on typing this review.

Upper-midrange frequencies are attenuated by the headset’s passive isolation, and will quiet noises by roughly one-eighth as loud as they’d sound without anything covering your ears. The better your headset isolates, the less work an ANC unit needs to do.

To achieve optimal noise cancelling reflected in the graph above, you must achieve a proper fit with the headphones. This means the ear cups need to fully encircle your ears without any gaps behind the ears where the lobes meet the jawbone. Passive isolation is the foundation of any great noise cancelling headset, and JBL understands this—hence the spacious, ergonomically shaped ear cups.

The Ambient Aware technology allows you to safely walk busy streets by increasing ambient sounds, while with TalkThru music is lowered and speech is amplified so you can easily chat while keeping your headphones on.

Is the headphone is good for phone calls?

The JBL Live 660NC microphone system is pretty decent. And allow a perfect stereo calls. The microphone with noise cancelling technology to reduce background noise while transmitting clear audio. With VoiceAware you can control the amount of mic input routed back into your earbuds and choose how much to hear of your own voice.

I recorded the first half of the demo below with a tower fan off, and when I powered it on halfway through the recording; there’s almost no difference. You can hear me clicking buttons to turn the fan on—unsurprising, given that ANC tends to work best on droning noises and not quick, sharp bursts.

JBL Live 660NC Review: Connectivity

Bluetooth 5.0 is available with the JBL Live 660NC, and the greatest benefits of this firmware are efficient power consumption and greater transmission speeds. Bluetooth 5.0 boasts speeds of 2Mbps, double that of Bluetooth 4.2. Connection strength is reliable, and the JBL Live 660NC retains Bluetooth multipoint support. You may connect to two devices simultaneously; the headset will recall up to eight connections for easy re-connecting.

The only connection issues I experience occur when the headphones are connected to my Microsoft Surface Book and Samsung Galaxy S10e simultaneously: when listening to music from my laptop, an incoming notification from my phone sends playback into a brief tizzy before stabilizing. This doesn’t happen with every notification, though.

JBL Live 660NC Review: Battery

JBL Live 660NC

The JBL Live 660NC battery is rate to last massive 50 hours on a single charge. But you will get 40 hours of battery life with ANC on while streaming over Bluetooth. We subjected the headset to a constant 75dB(SPL) output with noise cancelling on the highest setting, and recorded 39 hours, 10 minutes of playtime. If you listen with the ANC on in wired mode, you get over 50 hours of playtime. It takes two hours to recharge the headset from 0-100% via microUSB. It supports fast charging: 10 minutes yields extra 4 hours of playtime.

Conclusion

Yes, you should get the JBL Live 660NC because it’s a great value and remains one of JBL’s best headphones even though its discontinuation makes it hard to find. Many of us are stuck at home, and constantly subject to noisy neighbours and roommates, and these headphones make it easy to block it all out. The low-frequency noise cancelling performance is impressive, and the sound quality makes any genre of music sound good—or at least how it was intend to sound.

The headset has its drawbacks too: the most glaring oversight is the microUSB input. However, it’s a small price to pay for one of the best headsets under Rs.13,999. Listeners who prefer a more highfalutin look should turn their attention to the handsome Sennheiser MOMENTUM Wireless 4 or the more modern Bose QuietComfort 45 and Sony WH-1000XM5.

What should you get instead of the Live 660NC?

The Sennheiser HD 450BT has a lot going for it: it’s compact, portable, sounds great, and costs less than the JBL Live 660NC. Sure, you don’t get the same noise cancelling performance, but that’s to be expected with a more affordable product. If you have smaller ears, you may find the Sennheiser HD 450BT more comfortable than the Live 660NC, though most of the population will prefer the fit of the Live 660NC.

You might want to get the Bose QuietComfort 35 II since this headset has better ANC than the Live 660NC and fast charging. You can’t create a custom EQ for the Bose QC 35 II in the Bose Connect app, for that you’ll need to get the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 instead. We like the Bose QC 35 II for its travel-friendly design and features, and because it often drops to $200 USD throughout the year.