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JBL Live 770NC Review

JBL Live 770NC Headphones

JBL’s latest mid-range headphones offer the kind of bass that would be fun at the gym. They also take forever to die on you and feel pretty comfortable resting atop your head. If you’re okay with a below-average build and ANC that lacks power, it’s worth considering these.


Really long battery life


Easily navigable controls

Comfortable fit

Mics are good at canceling noise


ANC doesn’t cancel everything

Not the prettiest headphones

Build feels cheap

Meet JBL’s newest ANC headphones, the Live 770NC, which were announced at CES 2024. Priced at $200, these fall in the midrange category. Unfortunately, they don’t act like midrange headphones on various fronts. They look and feel much cheaper, and the ANC underperforms, too. You might still like these if all you care about is bass or if you’re searching for comfortable, no-frills headphones that have a long-lasting battery and great call quality.

JBL Live 770NC Design

The build quality could have been a lot better

I think the Live 770s deserved a better build quality for $200. What you’re currently getting is the absolute bare bones. You get pretty bland, matte plastic earcups. These connect to the headband via a metal extender, my least favorite part of this device. It’s thin and sharp, and it feels cheap. It downgrades the overall look of the headphones, and it’s annoying that you have no choice but to always let it show, as even my relatively small head required pulling it out just a little bit on both sides.

Photo: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo

At least the extender’s tactile. Apparently, people really like that. Just the other day, my friend was raving about his new headphones and specifically pointed out that the tactile clicks on its extender help with his OCD since he likes knowing that it’s pulled out equally on both sides. JBL has gone the extra mile to include little markings on it, too, so you can precisely measure the extension on both sides. I have to tell my friend about this.

I would’ve forgiven JBL for making boring headphones, but skimping on materials is not cool when you’re asking for $200. There are four colorways—Black, White, Blue, and Sandstorm—to give them a bit of personality. But an interesting color won’t be able to distract you from the flimsy body for long enough.

The headband is where they try to slightly remedy the lack of aesthetic on the rest of the headphones. It is coated in good-looking, textured fabric. Not having leather on the headband meant it never pulled at my hair or got greasy when I sweat. It is also sufficiently cushioned; I wore these headphones for hours, ran a million chores with them, and didn’t feel like they hurt my noggin. At 256 grams, they don’t weigh you down, too. Compare this to Apple’s hefty 384-grams AirPods Max for some context.

A photo of the headband on the 770s.

Photo: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo

It’s a shame that the buttons on the 770s are extremely flimsy and loose, considering how navigable and intuitively designed the entire thing is. The buttons aren’t firm enough to stay in their place when used. They constantly move around and create an annoying sound. The entire earcup part seems like an afterthought, but I’ve complained about that enough.

Navigation-wise, I like the controls. There’s a dedicated button for everything, and each button has a different feel, so it doesn’t get confusing. After the usual initial missteps, I barely ran into any. The right earcup handles all the controls, and the left houses just the USB Type-C charging port. You get a toggle switch kinda slider that powers the headphones on/off, a volume rocker with a play/pause button in the middle, and a long, elongated button divided into two with one part handling pairing and the other ANC/Ambient Mode. The same earcup sports a 3.5mm jack too.

All I used out of these controls was the power on/off slider and the ANC button. After the initial setup, pairing was quick and automatic, so I didn’t feel the need to touch the pairing control. You can tap on the exterior of the right earcup to play/pause, so of course, that’s what I always did. The tapping gesture is fast and responsive and useful for quick small talk.

Image for article titled JBL Live 770NC Review: Heavy Bass and a Crazy-Long Battery Life

Photo: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo

When I anticipated the conversation going longer than small talk or when I wanted to pay full attention without the passive noise isolation of the leather earcups blocking parts of the conversation, I’d take the headphones off, and it would pause playback for me. When I’d be done, I’d put them on again, and it’d resume. If only the buttons had a better look and feel, I’d give the controls on this device a solid 10/10.

Not only did the company cheap out on build quality, but also on overall packaging. It is fair to expect a hard-shell, zippered carry case on a $200 pair of headphones—Cleer’s Alpha is a good example—but all you get with the 770s is a pouch. There’s no padding, no pockets. It’s pretty normal for midrange headphones to offer some bells and whistles, so I’m definitely going to deduct a point for this.

A photo of the carry case and 770s.

Photo: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo

JBL Live 770NC Sound

The ANC won’t work at the subway station

If you’re in the market for an insanely powerful ANC that will send you in a vacuum, pass on the 770s. The subway station is my ultimate litmus test for ANC, and I barely passed. While I couldn’t make out the train announcements, I could still hear them. In case you think my expectations were unreasonably high, the Shure Aonic 50 Gen 2 made me miss my train because of how much they completely silenced the announcements.

I also remember being bothered by a conversation occasionally slipping through my headphones at the station. It was a family of three conversing at a normal level, nothing unusually loud or hard to silence.

The ultimate test at the station thoroughly disappointed me. These canceled the noise of the Downtown 6 train on the other side of the platform so poorly that I missed 10 seconds of my podcast. As soon as I rewound, I saw another train approaching on the middle track this time. I quickly raised my volume to 100% (from 80%) to see if it’d help. I didn’t miss my podcast this time but had to stay focused to make out what was being said, which isn’t very ANC of the headphones. It was around a 50/50 ratio of the subway noise and my podcast, and again, I’m not even talking about the track closest to me.

On the very loud streets of Midtown Manhattan, I sometimes had to check to see whether or not ANC was enabled. Whenever the ANC is too good, I hesitate to turn it on outside for safety purposes, but that wasn’t really a concern on these, which is all you need to know. JBL really hyped the four noise-canceling mics and adaptive ANC on the 770s, so I’m sad about them not living up to that hype.

The 40mm drivers come through with heavy bass, so I recommend these if you’re looking for bass-heavy headphones. But don’t expect more than that. The high-end isn’t as impressive, making the sound profile less well-balanced than I’d like. The layering wasn’t super perceptible, either. And the promised spatial sound doesn’t jump at you as you’d expect. These are good workout headphones or for situations when you don’t care about how the music sounds; you want the sound pressure and bass to cut through everything.

JBL Live 770NC Battery and Mic

The battery refuses to die

I didn’t get to thoroughly test out the promised 65-hour battery life without ANC activated and 50 hours with it, but I didn’t have to reach for the charger even after five days of using them for a few hours every day. Even if the claims are slightly inflated, they’re much longer than the most successful headphones at double the price—WH-1000XM5 with a 30-hour battery life and Apple at 20 hours. I thought the Cleer Alpha’s 45-hour battery was impressive, but the 770s beat them by a large margin and cost the same as the Alpha. On top of this, a five-minute charge giving you another four hours is just the cherry on top.

As always, I called my tech-geek friend and asked him to do the usual unpaid labor of reviewing my mic. For some background, I was walking on 2nd Avenue at around 6 pm during peak rush hour, which was very noisy. Also, this was one of those windy days when the weather app tells you to be safe. Despite that, he reported that he couldn’t hear anything behind me and wouldn’t even be able to say that I was outside if he didn’t already know. He did hear the wind pass through a few times, but it was never loud enough to miss our conversation. Considering how windy that day is, I think the 770s would perform perfectly well on a typical day.

Should you buy the JBL Live 770NC?

It depends on what you’re looking for. The 770s do some things extremely well and other things really poorly. They’re very comfortable, good for bass, sport well-thought-out controls that are easy to get used to, offer impressive mics for calling, and have a huge battery life. But none of this is going to matter if you’re an aesthetics-over-performance person since these aren’t flashy at all. In the same way, if all you’re looking for is good ANC, these won’t blow you away.

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