JBL is on a tear right now. Already this summer, SPY reviewed (and loved) the brand’s JBL Flip 6 Bluetooth Speaker, which we called a “nearly perfect” party speaker. We also raved about the JBL Live Pro 2 earbuds in June, and now we’re back with the JBL Live Free 2 earbuds, which debuted alongside the JBL Live Pro 2 earbuds at CES 2022. JBL provided SPY with a review unit, now that we’ve had a chance to test them out, we wanted to share our findings.
You probably know JBL best for its popular Bluetooth speakers. When we think of JBL, that’s certainly what comes to mind. However, the company is making major inroads with its truly excellent wireless earbuds.
JBL Live Free 2 Earbuds
JBL Live Free 2 Offer Easy Pairing
Much like the setup for JBL’s Live Pro 2 earbuds, the setup here for the Free 2 is pretty fast. Upon opening the packaging, I removed the earbuds from the separate compartment where they were housed and put them into the case. I went over to my iPhone’s Bluetooth settings and then opened the lid of the Free 2’s case; the Bluetooth pairing started right away. I assume the process for an Andriod device is just as quick, especially since they use Google Fast Pair.
If there’s one thing we don’t love it’s that the “JBL” logo is visible on the outer surface of the buds.
JBL Live Free 2 Review: Design
The Free 2 earbuds aren’t unlike other bean-like earbuds you’ve likely seen in the past (i.e. many of Samsung’s offerings). The blub nature makes them easy to pluck out of the case and out of your ears. The case is square in its design and about as tall as two iPhone 13s stacked on top of one another. It won’t take up a huge amount of space in your pocket, but you’ll know where it is when you need it. There are three different included sets of ear tips should you need to adjust the fit for any reason. But overall, these are pretty straightforward looking in their overall design execution.
JBL Live Free 2: The Best Features
For a $130 pair of earbuds, JBL is packing the Free 2 full of value, as they’ve got features that even a lot of higher-end earbuds don’t have. Those standout features include multipoint Bluetooth connection, truly wireless charging (thanks to Qi technology) and active noise cancellation. To put this in perspective, Sony’s WF-1000XM4 ANC earbuds don’t even have multipoint — and they’re over $200. Those are three big features to slot into any set of modern-day earbuds, let alone a pair under $150. Additionally, the Live Free 2 include IPX5 water resistance, so should you get caught in the rain, you’ll be okay for a little bit.
In terms of overall performance, I’m impressed with the Free 2. The ANC isn’t as strong as the WF-1000XM4 or even the JBL Live Pro 2, but it’s still really good. The majority of noise on my DC Metro commute melted away during my testing, while the included ambient sound and walkthrough modes (toggled by tapping on the left earbud) allowed me to listen when I needed to. Working out with them was particularly nice; you never want to worry about your earbuds when you’re trying for a new PR. The IPX5 waterproofing will certainly help if your workouts are particularly sweaty.
The sound on the Free 2 is really good for this value, too. I didn’t tweak the EQ settings (which can be found in the accompanying JBL application), but even out of the box I was impressed with how balanced everything sounded. There are better-sounding earbuds on the market, but they’re not as price-friendly as the Free 2. The house-inspired style of Drake’s new album sounded alive and kinetic. The drums on Soccer Mommy’s “shotgun” rattled and hummed. Even slower songs like The Rolling Stones’ “Moonlight Mile” played well. The earbuds are more than suited to the task of playing all of your favorite music.
Battery-wise, there’s plenty to get excited about too. There are about seven hours of playback time off of a single charge (which should just about get you through a work day without issue). An additional 28 hours is stored in a fully charged case, with Qi-charging giving you a few hours back off a 10-minute charge or so.
The Verdict: An Excellent Pair of Mid-Range Earbuds
JBL’s Free 2 earbuds feel like they’re too good to be true — but they really do live up to their promise and potential. They don’t have premium sound or ANC but, at this price point, they don’t need to. There are plenty of other features to make these a more-than-compelling purchase.
Should You Buy the JBL Free 2 Earbuds?
Yes. If you’re looking for an upgrade over a cheaper set of earbuds or just want a workout-friendly (but still quality) set of earbuds, you’ll find a lot to love with the Free 2. At the $150 and under price point, you won’t find many better earbuds with this same feature set and battery life.
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