JBL’s Live 660NC headphones are affordable, have good ANC, a great battery and can produce a good sound.
Although most of the features here aren’t quite as good as the best headphones on the market, the gap isn’t massive.
The Live 660s are headphones for those who don’t want to spend a small fortune on a set of headphones but who still want a capable headset.
And in that regard, JBL’s Live 660s are very good.
- Fantastic battery
- App EQ
- Good ANC
- Auto-pause is flawless
- Touch controls unresponsive
- Audio a little too bassy
- Poor for taking calls
JBL’s Live 660NC over-ear headphones cost $270.
The JBL 660NC headphones sport a stylish design that’s minimalistic while also looking sleek. There’s nothing that immediately stands out here, but they look good.
The 660s are made of a variety of materials that gives them a robust and sturdy feel. The outside of the earcups are a firm plastic. The inside of the headband is aluminium. The cushioning on the inside of the cups have a nice soft leather covering. And the outside of the headband has a canvas casing. These are quality materials not often seen in headphones at this price, and it’s a great overall design.
The headphones weren’t annoyingly heavy on my head, but they did have a strong clamp force that took some getting used to. The first time I put these headphones on, I felt like they were squashing my head, but this problem was alleviated after a few readjustments.
The earcups fit snugly around my ears, and I found the 660’s comfortable to wear. The tight fit means there’s barely any movement when wearing the headphones and headbanging to Fatboy Slim’s The Rockafeller Skank was immensely enjoyable.
The 660s don’t have an IP rating, limiting my ability to use them while exercising, and it meant I had to be extra cautious about dirt and moisture getting into the headphones. It’s frustrating, but the headphones do come with a carry case for storage, which is a nice addition.
Controlling your music with the 660s is an area where the headphones don’t quite meet the high standards set by the best over-ear headphones. However, it’s still pretty good.
There aren’t touch controls here. Instead, the right earcup houses a multifunction button that can be commanded with either single presses or two-second presses.
Holding the top button for two seconds will skip tracks, pressing it once will raise the volume, the middle button pauses music and answers calls, while the lower button will go to the previous track with a two-second hold and will turn the volume down with a single press.
Below this button, there are buttons to turn on Ambient Aware (transparency mode) and a Bluetooth connectivity function. Everything you need is here.
You can also use your favourite voice assistant, Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant by holding your finger on the left earcup for two seconds. I found this to be a little unresponsive. Often the headphones didn’t recognise the touch command. But when it did work, the voice assistant worked as it should.
My favourite feature was the auto-pause function that pauses music when you take the headphones off. I didn’t have any issues with this. It worked flawlessly and is a premium feature I wasn’t expecting in headphones at this price.
The sound the Live 660s produce is good, if a little bassy. It’s immediately apparent that these headphones favour bass over treble, and in some cases, it can be overbearing.
Listening to hip hop tracks like the Beastie Boys’ Sure Shot sounded muffled as the bass distorted the mix, making it hard to make out the higher frequency sounds.
With that said, less-bassy genres sounded fine. Listening to Keasbey Nights by Catch 22 sounded great. I could easily make out the brass instruments, and the mix sounded full.
I also appreciated the EQ in the JBL app, allowing me to adjust the sound to my personal preference manually. Where some EQs make a minimal difference, the changes I made in the JBL app were easily heard, and it allowed me to get the music sounding just as I wanted it to.
I was impressed by the Live 660’s noise cancellation capabilities. Turning ANC on cancelled out the vast majority of the ambient noise around me.
As I always do, I tested the ANC while playing the drums, and it wasn’t as good as the top-of-the-range headphones. It struggled with distorting the low frequencies of the kick drum, but unless you have a marching band following you on your commute to work or while listening to music, you won’t have any issues with the Live 660s noise cancellation
JBL has also included a transparency mode which they call “Ambient Aware.” This works as it should. Turning it on makes it easier to hear the ambient sounds outside. It’s fine.
There’s also a “TalkThru” mode which you can activate with a double-tap of the Ambient Aware button. This turns the music down significantly so you can have a conversation with someone without taking the headphones off. While it works well, I didn’t really have a use for this feature. The auto-pause functionality when taking the headphones off is flawless, so I just took them off my head instead.
App and Call Quality
The JBL Headphones app is straightforward and easy to use. It allows you to EQ your audio and turn ANC and transparency mode on and off. That’s about it.
There’s a Smart Audio & Video feature that lets you prioritise what you’re using your headphones for. I found watching videos with “video mode” on was a much better experience as it reduces the latency between the video and the audio. However, it was annoying that I had to do this to get the best out of the headphones when watching YouTube or Netflix. I had to remember to go into the app and change it to this mode, then change it back when I was done.
I also found the call quality wasn’t great. Calling my partner was fine when inside. She could easily hear everything I said, but going outside was a completely different story. The microphone is over-sensitive, and it picks up a lot of sounds. The slightest bit of wind made her unable to hear me, and on numerous occasions, I turned the headphones off and used my phone on its own.
The battery in the Live 660 headphones is a beast.
These headphones can support 40 hours of playback with ANC turned on. It’s massive.
To put this into perspective, it’s 10 hours more than the Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones and doubles what the Apple iPods Max can produce.
You can easily use these headphones for a week without needing to charge them. And if you do find yourself running out of battery, you can fast charge the 660s via a USB-C port, and this will give you 4 hours of listening time after only 10 minutes of charging. It’s very impressive.
To charge the battery from empty to full will take 2 hours.
JBLs Live 660NC over-ear headphones are impressive.
While they don’t support all the fancy bells and whistles that the best headphones sport, like touch controls, Hi-Fi audio support and fantastic call quality, for $270, they get all the important features right.
The ANC is more than adequate for everyday use, the battery is brilliant, and while the audio is a little too bassy, generally, it’s pretty good.
If you don’t want to pay close to $500 for the best headphones, you won’t need to because JBL’s Live 660NC give the best a pretty good run for their money at a significantly lower cost.