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JBL Live Pro 2 review: Great value all-rounders

Matt Reed
1 Dec 2022
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
99
inc VAT

The JBL Live Pro 2 are a successful, if iterative, upgrade to their predecessors and great value true wireless earbuds

Pros 
Powerful, accurate audio
Impressive battery life
Solid ANC performance
Cons 
No high-resolution codec support
Touch controls aren’t fully customisable
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The JBL Live Pro 2 are the follow-up to the American brand’s Live Pro+, which were released last year. Those earbuds impressed us with their all-around quality, and this updated model sees improvements implemented in some key areas.

Adaptive ANC, upgraded water resistance and better battery life are some of the headline changes to what were already very capable true wireless earbuds costing around £100. But despite those welcome improvements, the JBL Live Pro 2 still suffer from a couple of the issues that held back their predecessor.

Comprehensive touch control customisation and high-resolution codec support – both missing on the JBL Live Pro+ – remain absent here, too. Those omissions don’t prevent the Live Pro 2 from earning a glowing recommendation, however.

JBL Live Pro 2 review: What do you get for the money?

The design of the JBL Live Pro 2 is near-identical to the JBL Live Pro+, but there are some subtle differences. JBL has once again employed an Apple AirPods Pro style form factor, with a 2.5cm long stem and an oval-shaped tip, but the buds now possess an IPX5 rating for water resistance rather than IPX4.

The colourways are marginally darker this time around too, with blue, black, pink and silver options listed at £130, though at the time of writing all four were available for around £100.

Three pairs of silicone eartips are included in the box to help you achieve a comfortable fit - this is actually down from the five sizes that came with the previous model but should prove a wide enough selection for most people. While you get fewer tips, the number of in-built microphones has been increased from four to six in an effort to improve call quality by better isolating your voice from external noise.

Bluetooth connectivity has been upgraded from version 5.0 to 5.2, while Bluetooth multipoint is still present and correct, allowing you to connect to two devices simultaneously. Codec support remains unchanged, too, with just SBC and AAC available. The lack of support for high-resolution codecs like LDAC and aptX Adaptive remains a disappointment but isn’t particularly surprising given the Live Pro 2’s price point.

Sizeable improvements to battery life have been made across the board. The earbuds themselves will last you up to 10 hours with ANC off, with this being three hours longer than the Live Pro+ could muster. The charging case provides three full charges of the buds, taking total battery life to around 40 hours if you’re not using noise cancellation. That’s a significant increase on the 28 hours offered by the Live Pro+.

Speed charging has seen a tidy boost, too. You could eke out an hour of audio playback from the Live Pro+ after ten minutes on charge, but charge the Live Pro 2’s case using the included USB-C cable or a wireless charging pad for just 15 minutes and you’ll get up to four hours of extra playtime. Those are impressive figures that very few of the Live Pro 2’s rivals, including the immensely popular Beats Studio Buds, can match.

Open up the JBL app – redesigned since the JBL Live Pro+ were released – and you’ll find five equaliser presets to pick from along with the option to create your own using the ten-band graphic equaliser ranging from 32Hz up to 16kHz. You can customise touch controls here too, as well as select your default active noise cancelling settings and which one is currently active.

Those noise cancelling settings are found in an Ambient Sound Control section that lets you switch freely between noise cancellation, Ambient Aware and TalkThru modes. Adaptive ANC replaces the three noise-cancelling modes (Travel, Everyday and Active) found on the Live Pro+, while the amount of external noise that makes its way in when you have Ambient Aware active can be set at one of seven different levels.

Further options allow you to set up your preferred voice assistant, check your ear tip choice has created the optimal seal, and opt for power-saving modes so that your earbuds turn to standby or off completely when idle. There’s a ‘Video’ mode for better synchronisation between audio and video, while ‘Audio’ mode priortises sound quality. If you’d rather have the most stable connection possible, you can choose to leave both modes off.

Finally, a ‘Find My Buds’ feature allows you to ping the buds and have them emit a high-pitched beep to help you locate them should they be misplaced nearby.

JBL Live Pro 2 review: What do they do well?

The first thing I noticed about the JBL Live Pro 2 was how snug they felt in my ears. They’re supremely secure when worn, even when used while running or during vigorous exercise. The buds also remained perfectly comfortable after extended use, so they get a big thumbs up in that department.

Wear detection is up to scratch with alternative options, too. Take either earbud out and your audio pauses promptly. Place it back in and audio resumes even faster, while not being overly sensitive and pausing upon slight positional adjustments. Touch controls are equally speedy and intuitive to use, with helpful audio cues alerting you to what setting has been activated every time you tap against the stem.

When you begin playing audio, via touch controls or otherwise, you’re likely to be very pleased by what you hear emanating from the Live Pro 2’s 11mm drivers. Listening to the intricate sound design of “Bubbles” by Yosi Horikawa – a jangling tune that uses natural-world samples – is a test of any earbuds’ clarity and soundstage capabilities, and one the Live Pro 2 passed with flying colours. They clearly differentiated overlapping layers, and dynamic fluctuations were well handled. Though the Live Pro 2’s soundstage isn’t enormous, their effective stereo separation adds a convincing sense of space.

Treble detail is equally strong, as showcased by crisp (but not piercing) hi-hats on tracks like Placid Angles’ breaks-filled “Stormy Angels”. Meanwhile, “Highest Building” – an EDM-driven pop ballad by Flume and Oklou – evidenced a highly satisfying bass response that most earbuds in the Live Pro 2’s price bracket can’t match.

The default JBL tuning felt well-balanced despite this potent low-end reproduction and I rarely found the need to reach for the in-app EQ. It did come in handy occasionally, however, and is a welcome inclusion that’s not available to all true wireless earbuds costing this kind of money.

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By replacing different noise cancelling modes with a single adaptive ANC system, JBL has removed the need to access the app to select a specific level of noise cancellation, which is definitely a good thing. The adaptive nature of the noise cancellation results in relatively subtle alterations based on your environment, but wherever I found myself, external sound was attenuated to an impressive degree.

The background noise on London’s Victoria Line was reduced to a light muffle of carriages when listening to music at half volume, and for the money JBL is asking for the Live Pro 2, they do a very good job of dampening external distractions. Ambient Aware mode proved effective too, allowing me to hear Tube announcements clearly, while able to adjust how loudly sound filtered in was played in my ears.

With the JBL Live Pro+, activating noise cancelling altered the prominence of mid-range and treble frequencies slightly, but I’m pleased to say that wasn’t apparent on the Live Pro 2, which delivered consistent audio across its various modes.

I also want to praise how smoothly multipoint switching works on the Live Pro 2. Playing audio on a second paired device immediately pauses audio playing via your primary source, and the switch back is equally rapid. This makes concurrent laptop-smartphone audio engagement much simpler, which is a big benefit to home and hybrid workers.

JBL Live Pro 2 review: What could be improved?

There are small niggles to contend with when using the JBL Live Pro 2, rather than anything severely detrimental to their use or overall appeal.

As with the Live Pro+, you’re somewhat limited in your ability to customise touch controls. You can only assign a control category to the left and right buds and must choose two from ambient sound controls, volume controls and playback and voice assistant controls, meaning you’re always going to miss out on one group. I opted for the ambient sound and volume groups since play and pause controls are covered by the Live Pro 2’s wear detection. Still, it would be useful to pick and choose more freely – especially since this configuration means you can’t easily access your voice assistant.

I’d also like to see the ability to alter Ambient Aware levels made available through touch gestures. Given the rapidly changing nature of external noise, being able to quickly switch between the seven levels of coverage without having to jump into the app would be a nice touch.

Perhaps my biggest bugbear with the Live Pro 2 is their limited codec support. With some similarly priced rivals offering high-resolution streaming via LDAC, LHDC and aptX Adaptive, the Live Pro 2 feel a little behind the eight ball. Their audio quality is impressive regardless, but Hi-res support would help elevate it even further.

Lastly, microphone quality is decidedly average. Despite the addition of extra mics, online video calls and cellular calls were both affected by occasional crackling and muffled audio. Speech was largely intelligible but if you’re after crystal clear calls, the Live Pro 2 aren’t going to cut it.

JBL Live Pro 2 review: Should you buy them?

It's more evolution than revolution for the JBL Live Pro 2 – though that’s no bad thing. Without blowing the competition out of the water, they quietly excel through marginal gains on their predecessor, while retaining a near-identical price and form factor.

Audio quality remains strong and as bassy as ever, noise-cancelling performs admirably and the improvement in battery life sees the Live Pro 2 pull ahead of most of their similarly priced rivals. Some competitors, like the 1MORE EVO, offer the advantage of high-resolution codec support, and restrictive touch control customisation remains a frustration that carries over from the Live Pro+.

But the JBL Live 2 Pro’s comprehensive suite of useful features, engaging, customisable sound and effective ANC more than justify the asking price and make them a great option if you’re after an affordable alternative to Apple’s AirPods Pro.

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