JBL Live 770NC on a book
Jada Jones/ZDNET

ZDNET’s key takeaways

  • The JBL Live 770NC headphones are a great mid-range option for anyone needing a reliable pair of daily-use headphones for $199.95
  • An array of software features make these headphones future-proof.
  • Despite the long list of features, none of them are game-changing.

During CES 2024, consumer audio giant JBL announced a fresh lineup of headphones, speakers, and earbuds in the mid-range, with plenty of options for people who want all the up-to-date audio features without spending more than $250.

Conveniently, I was looking for a pair of mid-range over-ear headphones to keep in my work bag as a second pair when I don’t want my favorite headphones, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra, to leave the house. So, when JBL sent me the feature-packed Live 770NC headphones, I was eager to see if these could be my new affordable favorite.

Also: The best music headphones: Expert tested and reviewed

The Live 770NC headphones boast new and improved features from their predecessor, the JBL Live 660NC, such as spatial audio and longer battery life. Additionally, they come with a laundry list of premium features for a mid-range price, so I was curious whether these headphones would feel like they were worth more than their $200 price tag.

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On my first listen, I didn’t catch anything overwhelmingly unique about the Live 770NC’s sound. Out of the box, the sound is neutral and well-balanced, but it was lacking the bassy punch I was expecting. Luckily, the multiband parametric equalizer in the companion app lets you tweak the sound to your liking.

There are plenty of preset EQ modes, and I suggest you play around with these first to find your preferred sound. Making manual adjustments to the multiband equalizer can be confusing if you aren’t sure what to listen for.

Also: Why I run with these Bose earbuds instead of bone-conduction headphones

When I first listened to Drake’s Feel No Ways, it lacked the thump and groove I usually hear in the song’s skipping bassline. Instead, it sounded hollow, like it was missing something. I toggled on the adaptive ANC to test it out, and finally heard the 40mm dynamic drivers in the ear cups. Immediately, my music was brought back to life, giving the song a more profound, fuller heartbeat and accentuated bassline.

So here’s a noteworthy observation: the Live 770NC’s sound quality changes drastically depending on whether the headphones are in transparency or noise-canceling mode. It’s not uncommon for noise-canceling tech to affect sound quality, but it’s not ideal and is minimal in higher-quality ANC cans.

On the topic of noise-canceling, the Live 770NC have decent noise-blocking capabilities. In my local coffee shop, the headphones struggled with louder chatter but helped decrease the shop’s music playing from overhead speakers. The ANC lost the battle with the sounds of blenders and hissing espresso machines, but I was forgiving of sharp, sudden noises like these. However, in my home office, my neighbor’s lawnmower skipped past the ANC, which was disappointing.

I could tell when the headphones adapted the noise-canceling levels to my surroundings, so the noise-canceling was working well enough, but I wouldn’t say it was blowing me away. Adaptive ANC uses mics on the inside and outside of the ear cups to hear your environment’s noise levels and adjusts the ANC accordingly.

If you experience what feels like airplane ear (the urge to pop your ears when you experience a change in air or water pressure) when you wear noise-canceling headphones, adaptive ANC decreases the likelihood of encountering it. Headphones with more substantial, constant deploying of active noise-canceling, like the Sony XM5 over-ears or the Bose QC Ultra, can cause perceived airplane ear.

JBL Live 770NC on a book
Jada Jones/ZDNET

These headphones are absolutely stacked with software features, and the array of settings makes them highly customizable to tailor to your preferences. You can conduct hearing tests to personalize your listening experience, toggle between audio modes, set a volume limit, and more. The Live 770NC also feature JBL Spatial Sound, the company’s take on spatial audio.

The JBL Spatial Sound feature was a flop for me, as it lacked that spacious and multidimensional quality I was looking for. One thing to note is that the spatial audio technology in these headphones sounded almost identical in the premium flagship over-ear headphones, the JBL Tour One M2.

Also: I tested Sennheiser’s new mid-range headphones and they’re so close to perfect

The Live 770NC have Bluetooth multipoint, which was reliable and valuable when I switched audio outputs between my laptop and iPhone. The headphones sport a primarily plastic build, which makes them lightweight and comfortable for hours, while the fabric-covered headband adds a premium design feature.

You can get up to 65 hours of playtime, which made the battery reliable enough to leave the headphones in my bag knowing that they wouldn’t be low on battery the next time I wore them. 

ZDNET’s buying advice

If you want a pair of headphones that have every software feature you need (and some you don’t even know you need), the JBL Live 770NC will not disappoint. These headphones are very comfortable and have a marathon battery, so they can stick with you all week without fail.

Also: HyperX Cloud Alpha Wireless review: Solid, no-nonsense audio for gaming, music, and more

However, if you’re looking for a pair of over-ear headphones with superior noise-canceling technology, these might not be the best fit. Environmental noises will be dulled, but you’ll still be aware of what’s going on around you, which can be a good thing depending on your needs.

If you’re on a budget but want stronger ANC, consider the Monoprice BT-600ANC or the Sony WH-CH720N. If you want a more immersive or robust musical experience for a similar price, try the Sennheiser Accentum or the Edifier WH950NB.

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