JBL Live 220BT

Neck band in-ear headphones with Bluetooth and app control

With the attractively priced Live 220BT, JBL promises a pleasing Bluetooth neckband headphone with the latest features. Available in three colours, the in-ear system works with Bluetooth 4.2 and an elastic neck strap. The design is appealingly slim and the finish is typically good, just as you’d expect from JBL.

The equipment is remarkable as, apart from the obligatory functions for listening to music and telephoning, there are two ways to achieve awareness of your surroundings using Talk-Thru and Ambient-Aware.

Technical specifications

  • Ear couplingIn-ear
  • Typeclosed
  • Transducer principledynamic
  • Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20.000 Hz
  • Impedance31 ohms
  • Sound pressure level (SPL)96 dB
  • Weight with cable31 g

What's in the box

  • 3 eartips (silicone)
  • USB charging cable

Special features

  • available in black, white and blue
  • BT codecs: SBC
  • BT version: 4.2
  • BT profiles: A2DP v1.3, AVRCP v1.5, HFP v1.6

Practice

Thanks to the light weight (31 grams) and the three silicone tips that are included, you get a comfortable and secure fit, even during longer listening sessions. The passive noise attenuation is of medium strength. When not in use, the buds can be magnetically joined to wear around your neck. In everyday use, the neck strap sits comfortably on the nape. In sports use, on the other hand, the construction’s thickened ends create a certain unbalance. The headphones are not particularly sweat-resistant.

When fully charged, the headphones realistically provide a ten-hour battery life. It takes two hours to charge but is ready to play for one hour after 15 minutes charging, thanks to the quick charge function.

The controls are located on the left and right sides of the neckband. On the outside right, the device is safely switched on and off. The touch-sensitive button can also be used for pairing (with up to two devices), starting and stopping music, and handling calls. With a longer keystroke, you can summon the voice assistant in your Smartphone. A multi-coloured status LED is also included.

The upper and lower buttons are slightly raised for volume control, facilitating title jumps when the button is pressed for a longer time.

At the side, next to the USB charging port, there is another button for switching on the Talk-Thru and Ambient-Aware modes one after the other. The first feature disables music playback and feeds ambient noise into the headphones for conversation without taking the headphones off. Ambient-Aware takes the middle ground – music playback is activated, but at a reduced level, and ambient noises are mixed in so you are less closed off and don’t miss announcements on the train.

Finally, there is another button on the inside front left of the neckband, with which the voice assistants Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa can be called. This, of course, requires you to already have the corresponding setup in place.

In this way, the Live 220BT can be operated conveniently. The free iOS/Android app “JBL My Headphones App” is also available. Here, you can call up functions such as automatic switch-off of the headphones, communication modes, firmware updates and a powerful, customisable equalizer, which allows you to freely set the number of bands, the operating frequencies and their hub via buttons and save them as a preset. Exemplary!

Sound

The dynamic 8mm drivers deliver a very appealing sound, even if the manufacturer keeps a low profile on the codec specifications. The Live 220BT is fun, sounds powerful and doesn’t disturb the person sitting next to you, despite the good level reserves on a smartphone. These headphones can handle pop, rock and urban genres with impressive performance. Even quiet compositions with a focus on the voice, jazz and even classical music can be heard well, although I wouldn’t classify the Live 220BT as completely neutral. In bass, the test device is full-bodied and powerful, but quite accentuated and dynamic. And even a low bass can be sensed.

In the mids, it sounds clean and rather thin. This benefits speech intelligibility and electronic genres. It doesn’t sound explicitly warm, though, but of course you can counteract this at any time with an equalizer.

The high frequency range is clean, provides many details and avoids harshness. Percussion instruments, general overtones and stereo imaging benefit from this. In fact, panning is pronounced.

All these statements should of course be considered with reference to the price class. The Live 220BT addresses the needs of the mobile user and delivers a really appealing performance. However, it does not achieve the gloss, the detailed resolution and especially the fine dynamics of much more expensive products. Dynamic in-ear solutions are conceptually limited when it comes to special reproduction. Finally, I rate the speech quality of the hands-free kit as good.

Ulf Kaiser
4 weeks ago by Ulf Kaiser
  • Rating: 4
  • Sound
  • Handling
  • Price/Quality
  • Function

With the Live 220BT, JBL delivers a truly appealing sound. It is recommended as a convenient solution for daily mobile use. These headphones are a really attractive offer at this price. In the next generation, I would still like to see Bluetooth 5 and, above all, higher quality codecs.

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