Sometimes, it’s better to overwhelm consumers with multiple options to ensure they choose one of them. That may be JBL’s strategy this year, as it’s revealed three new pairs of true wireless earphones ahead of the first all-digital CES 2021.
This major new category in audio tech is dominated by the likes of Apple (AirPods) and Samsung (Buds). And while many have attempted to dethrone them, many have also failed. Some notable true wireless earbud-makers are Jabra, Xiaomi, Vivo, Sony and… JBL. The audio brand owned by Harman is bolstering its bud lineup this year. Here’s what to expect:
It’s introducing the stylish Live Pro Plus that are equipped with active noise cancelling and an Airpod-like stem below. On to the more rough and rugged option, it’s launching the Live Free NC Plus — a stem-free model with active noise cancelling. It also fielding the JBL Tour Pro Plus, which feature some intriguing sound optimisation tech.
JBL Live Pro+
First up, we’ve got the JBL Live Pro+ buds. These offer ANC (not that one…) and JBL’s Smart Ambient tech, built to make them feel more comfortable in-ear.
The JBL Live Pro+ earbuds are rated IPX4 for water resistance — this is fine for small splashes of sweat. Don’t unknowingly dive into an Olympic swimming pool while wearing ‘em. They also include Dual Connect, enabling you to connect with two devices simultaneously, as well as smart assistant integration.
These should last around seven hours (without ANC) and 6 hours with ANC activated. The charging case holds an additional 21 hours of battery charge, giving you a combined 28 hours of playback between the ‘buds and case.
You can quickly charge ‘em up using Qi wireless charging (or the cabled option). JBL promises you’ll get around an hour’s playback from a 10-minute charge. These will launch in March 2021 for $180 (R2,800 or so) and will come in black, white, pink and beige.
JBL Live Free NC+
Then we’ve got the JBL Live Free NC+. These are being positioned as the more ‘rugged’ sibling in the new lineup, aimed at power-users and outdoorsy peeps. These are equipped with a range of useful features like ANC, Smart Ambient tech, Dual Connect and Fast Sync, support for Qi wireless charging and all the smart assistant integration you could want.
In addition to the above, it’s got an IPX7 rating, which makes them more robust than their Pro+ siblings. These will be able to withstand complete immersion in up to one meter of water for a short period, plus they’ll keep out all kinds of dust and dirt.
These are rated to hold the same amount of charge as the Pro+ buds, but the charging case only holds an additional 14 hours of playback. In total, you’ll have 21 hours of playback. These also launch in March with an RRP of $150 (R2,300, but that may change by launch), and will be available in black, blue, white, and rose.
JBL Tour Pro+
The most expensive pair in the lineup, JBL’s Tour Pro+ is the company’s premium inner-ear warmers. These also feature ANC, but this time you’ve also got JBL’s Adaptive Ambient Aware, which adjusts audio to allow some ambient noise through the noise-cancelling tech. In addition, you’ve got something called TalkThru, which adjusts your music volume automatically according to your call volume and voice.
How does it differ from its buddies up top? Well, JBL’s included something called Pro Sound — apparently, it’s a feature built to enhance all audio experiences. This is helped along by the 6.8mm dynamic drivers in these bad boys. So we’re expecting brilliant audio quality here.
What else makes them worth… ahem… $200 (over R3k, at today’s exchange rates)? According to JBL, you’ll get a whopping 30 hours of total playback from these. That’s… impressive for earbuds. The buds themselves deliver six hours of playback with ANC enabled, rising to eight hours with just Bluetooth enabled. The case holds another 22 hours of charge.
Once you’ve depleted all 30 hours, simply give it a boost with the Speed Charge function that’ll allow for one hour of playback on a 10-minute charge. These will only launch in May 2021.
As always, we don’t know when these will make their way to South Africa and what local retailers will charge. But also as always, we’ll let you know once local availability is confirmed.