American Post-Grunge band Puddle of Mudd’s single ‘Drift And Die’ from their breakaway 2001 album ‘Come Clean’ sees the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Wesley Scantlin reflecting on some troublesome aspects of a fictional guy’s life (which could very well be himself) in a plangent voice. The vocals lead to the part where he contemplates out loud “Ignorance spreads lies. How much will money buy?” Well, Come Clean was the album that catapulted Puddle of Mudd into mainstream music consciousness and earned them loads of moolah.
So, to repeat Scantlin’s question: how much will money buy? Simply put, it depends on how much you have and more importantly how much you are willing to spend. There is no end to the amount of cash that can be funnelled into activities, luxuries and ventures of your choice. Nevertheless, when it comes to buying an audio product like a headphone, we always look for a deal that is not too pricey and yet serves the purpose well, which is a satisfying sound output. It seems like established audio brand JBL understands the tribulations customers feel when they are cash-strapped and still want a quality headphones. Keeping in line with this, the company recently introduced the Live 500 BT headphones in India. They are a part of JBL’s Live series of headphones and earphones that includes the pricier Live 650BT which comes with active noise cancellation.
The JBL Live 500BT are over-the-head around-the-ear headphones and come at an MRP of Rs 9,999. They are currently selling on JBL India website at Rs 7,899 and at the same price on Amazon India website too. The headphones have been launched in five colour options: Black, Blue, Green, White and Red. We reviewed the Blue variant of the JBL Live 500 BT headphones and here are our thoughts on the product.
JBL Live 500 BT headphones review: Design
First things first, these are not some over-the-head around-the-ear headphones that flaunt some kind of superior design to aid any aspect of hearing or any of the fancy additions. The design is a flat-fold classic one and efforts have been made to instill some premiumness into it and it shows.
Starting with the headband which is a curved handle that keeps the two earcups together, it is made up of plastic with some extra layer of glossy plastic on the outer side and an inner layer of foamy material. The curved handle is covered almost entirely with a rough- textured cloth with the logo of JBL in bluish-grey rubber towards the centre.
The two earcups are marked as left and right on their inside surface that faces the ears when you put the headphones on. The earcups come with cushiony pads and are very comfortable on the ears; they cover the entire ears and do not press on them even after you have worn the headphones for some time. They also don’t slip from the ears. The earcups fit quite well and do a decent job in reducing outside noise and disturbances to some extent.
On the top of the left earcup, along the side, there is a microUSB port for charging the headphones. When put on charge, a small red light near the port stays on.
On the top of the right earcup, along the side are present the power on/off button, ‘+’ and ‘-’ buttons to increase and decrease the volume respectively. In the middle of the two volume buttons is a button for pausing the track. Next there is a socket for AUX cable, in case you want to use the headphones as a wired one. After that, the curving row of buttons ends with the Bluetooth button and a single button for Ambient Aware/Talk Through. The JBL logo is present on the outside of both the earcups.
These headphones are Bluetooth ones and can also be used with an AUX cable which comes packed inside the box.
The headphones can be stretched by about 2 cm to fit them properly on larger heads.
JBL Live 500 BT headphones review: Performance
The headphones take about an hour and a half for a complete charge and give a battery backup of about a day on average with short, intermittent usage of about 2-3 hours. The 3.7V and 700mAh battery is a Lithium-ion polymer one. The headphones, however, won’t play while charging.
We began straightaway with ‘Take A Look Around’, the Nu Metal track by Limp Bizkit. We used an Apple Music lossless file to play the track and as far as first impressions go, the headset impressed us by reproducing the Alternative Rock/Nu Metal track with clarity, differentiating the guitar notes well, a balanced bass and almost zero distortion at high volumes. We had the same experience when playing Iron Maiden’s ‘The Trooper’.
Next tracks that we played were Trivium’s ‘Until The World Goes Cold’ and ‘The Sin And the Sentence’ with Apple Music. Matt Heafy’s controlled vocal rage sounds with as much impact as the accompanying tapestry of drums and guitars. The vocals hit home and the bass, mids and treble felt balanced. After testing the headphones with some more high-bit rate metal music files, we decided to test it with low bit-rate ones, which aren’t the choice of the audiophiles but still used by a vast majority.
With YouTube heavy metal playlists, the sound comes out to be a lot flaky and the mids seem to disappear. You’d better stick with high bit-rate music files if you listen to metal music. The mids, with 320kbps and above bit rate files, fill in the empty aural section that was felt while listening to YouTube files and hence, make the sound output richer and more agreeable to listen to.
Next we switched to Grunge. Listening to Grunge with low bit-rate files like the ones below 320kbps was not pleasing either but with high bit-rate files, the genre is more agreeable to listen to. We chiefly tested the tracks of Nirvana and Pearl Jam.
The headphones had passed the test of Metal and Grunge music and we expected them to play Rock music well too, which they did. Some of the tracks that we played on the headset were Puddle of Mudd’s Drift And Die, Pushing Me Away by Linkin Park and Madness by Muse.
Pop and Electronic music also sound mostly well on the headphones, both with YouTube and high bit-rate files. The bass reproduction is optimum according to us, but some users may think that it should have been more. For those users, they may try increasing the bass levels through the Headphones app by JBL.
Also with YouTube, the sound on the smartphone had to ramped up beyond 70 percent for a clear listen in case of instrumental and country music tracks. With high bit-rate files, the music reproduction is lovely, with powerful vocal output and clear-sounding instruments.
With audio streaming services like Apple Music and Amazon Music, the headphones gave a very satisfactory listening experience with almost every music genre, including Grunge.
While listening at full volume (yes, we did try that), the music, especially pop and bass-heavy tracks pinch the ears a bit but don’t distort, even with YouTube playlists and could still be enjoyed for half-an-hour or so without a break. We didn’t get a ringing sensation in the ears or a headache after having used them at 80+ volume level. It depends on several factors like how long you listen to the music on that high volume, how long have you been using headphones etc.
With high-bitrate files (320kbps and above), you won’t feel the need to increase the device volume beyond 60 percent. The device volume and the headphone volume both function as the same.
The Bluetooth connectivity range of the headphones stretches to about 10m and it did not break off in the middle of a short walk in the office space. There were no problems encountered connectivity-wise.
AmbientAware and TalkThru are the two settings that you can access through the buttons on the headphones and the app both. The Ambient Aware button increases the ambient sound and lets you hear what’s happening around you while the music is playing. The TalkThru mode decreases the music volume drastically and thus, helps you to talk with without removing the headsets. Active Noise Cancellation has not been given with this pair. The headphones are optimised for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
The JBL Live 500 BT is an all-rounder when it comes to playing different musical genres. It is hard to find a flaw with the product, design and sound output-wise both. We would, though, recommend to use these headphones with high bit-rate music files only. It is difficult to find durable headphones such as these below Rs 10k with a sturdy and appealing design that sound well with almost every genre. So, go for it if you want a classy-looking and sounding headphone below Rs 10,000.