JBL Live 300TWS Earbuds
JBL isn’t trying to upend the audio world with their JBL Live 300TWS earbuds, but they are trying to deliver a competent set of earbuds that will meet many needs. And in this they succeed.
The $149.95 JBL Live 300TWS earbuds deliver good sound in a package that is just a bit bigger than the competition. They come loaded with ambient and talk-thru features, along with good battery life that will serve many use cases (except plane or bus travel), but without standing out in any one of them.
What we like
These JBL headphones deliver solid sound through their 5.6mm driver. They have become my go-to headset on my iPad Pro for video conferencing, music, and podcasts on a day-to-day basis. I love the stereo calls and the fast charging during downtime. They leverage Bluetooth 5.0 for improved connections and streaming quality. The buds supports AAC and SBC codecs. They are also “sweatproof” which keeps them working under sliglty damp conditions.
Google Assist and Alexa can be configured as the single tap default digital assistant.
JBL offers a free configuration app for many of its headphones, the Live 300s included. The app provides firmware updates, digital assistant selection, an equalizer with limited presets, one-button invocation of TalkThru or Ambient Aware, battery status, and a Find My Buds locator. Auto-off and play/pause automation also reside in the app. Don’t forget to turn on the gesture controls. Some reviewers note a failure of the Live 300s to respond to gestures. If they aren’t on in the app, they don’t work on the buds.
The Play/Pause automation works well in situations where you need to remove the earbuds, but don’t want to miss dialog or an explanation in a video—or your favorite lyrics. Recommended.
No wireless charging, but the case does support USB-C charging that gets to full strength in about 2 hours. The plastic case includes receptacles for each earbud, along with charging prongs and a reset button. The earbuds fit snuggly, and the oversized case offers plenty of protection for them when they aren’t in an ear.
I find music rich and natural, leaning into bass as JBL tends to do. I tested the 300TWSs with Queens Bohemian Rhapsody, Guns N’ Roses Welcome to the Jungle, and Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain and enjoyed every minute. I found the Bohemian Rhapsody a little tiny, and the same with Welcome to the Jungle. The Chain’s opening beats and acoustic guitar picking into the whispered chrous still grabbed me—-the chain remains unbroken. I also took a quick listen to the opening of All Along The Warchtower. The classic Hendrix solo cut through the Live 300s limitations and lit up my ears.
The Live 300TWSs likely won’t become a travel earbud choice, as they don’t offer active noise canceling. The silicon tips work for basic isolation, but they won’t damp out an airplane engine.
The jBL Live300 TWS aspire to the youth market based on their advertising, but in many ways, these are your Dad’s wireless earbuds.
The JBL Live 300s also ship in blue, purple, and white.
What could be improved
Compared to many other headphones, the JBL Live 300s feel bulky and heavy, which is why I focus on them for office use. After reviewing many headphones, I’m not comfortable wearing these outdoors, especially for movement-intensive tasks.
Although JBL claims that the headphones can only connect to one digital assistant at a time, that isn’t entirely true. While tapping the left ear control once does invoke an app selected Alexa or Google Assistant call, a single tap and hold on the right earbud brings in Siri for Apple iPhone users, and Bixby for Samsung owners. Alexa or Google Assistants must be running for the button to work. So this is a little confusing. I would rather be able to assign the left button to Siri and eliminate the need for a tap and hold.
Overall, the controls don’t feel as intuitive as they do on other earbuds (but better than some). If the JBL Live 300s become their owner’s default headset, then the quirky controls can be easily mastered. If you have more than one pair from different brands, reorientation will take a second—and often requires a peek at the manual.
Given that these earbuds include ambient sound and TalkThru, they should probably be more activity-oriented in design. That would mean smaller with a firmer fit. I don’t find the auxiliary wings useful or comforting as a way to keep the 300s seated.
At around $150, wireless charging is becoming more common, and perhaps a future version will include it. For now, the case would benefit more from a flat bottom than wireless charging. Not a flat surface to be found. And that means the stability of the case on any surface comes into question. I would not want to leave this case on a table on a ship at sea. I would probably never see it again.
Stereo phone calls are good, but would benefit from a dual master radio configuration to improve synchronization.
While the sound quality was pretty good, I felt unable to boost the volume to where I wanted to take it. I also found the three EQ settings limiting. Yes, you can create your own, but I would rather JBL sound engineers offered up at least country, instrumental, and rock profiles to complement, vocal, jazz and bass.
JBL Live 300TWS: The Bottom Line
Given that I have assigned the I’ve JBL Live 300TWSs to my iPad Pro, I tend to live with them more than I do some of the others that I use when shopping, or working in the yard (like the excellent Jabra Elite t85s). Unlike emergent brands, JBL offers a name that means continued investment in software to improve the experience, along with good customer services. At recent discount prices of around $100, these earbuds will likely find a larger market.
JBL provided the JBL Live 300TWS for review. Images courtesy of JBL.
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