JBL has just released some of its cleanest and most detailed wireless headphones yet. The Live series delivers a more sophisticated sound signature than we’re used to hearing from JBL. And with both, the Live 400BT and 500BT falling under $150, the price is right too. There are already a few reviews out there about both of these models. So, this overview is for those who already familiar with at least one of these headphones but are hesitant to pull the trigger. Which cans suit your ears and listening style? Let’s find out in this JBL Live 400BT vs JBL Live 500BT Review.
It’s unsurprising that the roomier, over-ear Live 500BT is a more comfortable fit than the on-ear 400BT model. If, when wearing headphones, you’re prone to itchy ears and sweating, you may want to stay clear of the relatively small and firm fitting 400BT. With wider, more cushioned ear pads, the 500BT sits softer on the head and avoids touching the ears altogether (unless you have big ones). That being said, both headphones provide equally effective sound isolation.
Functionality and Controls
The functionality and controls on both headphones are identical. Both use three main buttons to control play/pause, track skipping, volume and call activation. And both headphones offer ambient modes, which let in outside sound. Siri and Alexa are also available on both models once you download the JBL app and choose your assistant.
Butmy favorite thing about the JBL app is that it allows you to control equalizer settings on both of these models.
The Live 500BT provides 30 hours of playtime, which is 6 hours more than the 400BT. But both headphones only take 2 hours to fully charge. And both cans yield two hours of playtime after a 15 minute charge. The live 400BT and 500BT also both employ a mirco-USB connection for charging.Call Quality
Both headphones offer the same level of call clarity. And it’s good.
The Live 500BT has 50mm drivers, while the 400BT sports smaller 40mm drivers. So, theoretically, the 500BT should deliver bigger sound.
Both headphones come with a 3.5mm cable that allows you to listen in passive mode. And as mentioned above, these cans come with a micro-USB to USB charging cable.
Although the Live 400BT is smaller than the 500BT, I didn’t find it any more portable. They both fold up into a similar shape, and the 500BT didn’t feel any more bulky in my backpack.
Both headphones offer multi-point connection, which allows you to pair up to two devices and switch between them. So, if you’re using your headphones to watch a video on your iPad, you can quickly switch back to using them with your phone whenever a call comes in.
Overall Impressions: The warm and punchy Live 400BT vs the clean and spacious Live 500BT.
You can expect more bass punch from the Live 400BT, and it sounds most like the JBL headphones I’m used to hearing. So, for pop and hip-hop, I found the 400BT preferable to the more moderate lows of the Live 500BT. In contrast, the Live 500BT delivers a cleaner and more natural bass profile. Notes are better separated and there’s less bleeding into the higher frequencies. But if you’re a fan of rock, you might go for the warmer and meatier low end of the Live 400BT. Of course, with JBL’s accompanying app, you can change the equalizer settings. So, considering that you can boost the bass on the Live 500BT, it’s probably the more versatile choice.
Both headphones have present mids and share a similar balance in this range. But you may notice more low-mid presence on the Live 400BT. As a result, rock and pop-rock tracks have a warmer, more sweeping feel on the Live 400BT than they do on the lighter sounding Live 500BT. At the same time, both headphones seem equally skilled in the mids in terms of separation and detail. Listening to guitar strums, for example, the Live 500BT didn’t prove to be any cleaner or more transparent than the Live 400BT. So both cans seem equally suitable for folk music and anything involving acoustic instruments in this range.
Both headphones have somewhat peaky highs at times. So, folks with sensitive ears may want to tweak the equalizer a bit in this range. But I found the Live 400BT a little easier on the ears than the Live 500BT. At the same time, if you like your percussion to sound extra crisp in the highs, the Live 500BT delivers the most snap. And in terms of transparency, the Live 500BT offers a more nuanced presentation of strings in this range; overall, it’s the more detailed headphone.
No competition here. Unsurprisingly, the Live 500BT delivers a more spacious soundstage with more accurate imaging, making it a more expansive and holographic listening experience overall.
Those who like extra oomph in their bass will gravitate towards the Live 400BT, while folks who appreciate a clean and detailed sound will prefer the Live 500BT. It also offers the bigger soundstage. But given that the sound signatures on these cans are similar, and considering that they both come with an equalizer and the same functionality, your might want to base your decision primarily on comfort. And in this respect the Live 500BT is the sure winner.
You can pick up either of these JBL cans here: