JBL's new wireless earbuds are crammed with next-gen features, including a screen on the case

JBL Live Beam 3 earbuds and charging case, showing its screen, on an orange background
(Image credit: JBL)

JBL has announced a new range of earbuds at CES 2024, called JBL Live 3. They come in three different designs, but they've all got one really big new feature in common: JBL's touchscreen Smart Charging Case, which is designed to make it much easier and faster to access your audio playback and your earbuds' various features. Think of it as like having a smartwatch screen right on the case.

We first saw the case in the JBL Tour Pro 2 and liked it a lot: in our JBL Tour Pro 2 review we said that the case was "a thing of beauty. It is delightful. It is fun." While the novelty wore off after a few days and we stopped fiddling with it, there was no doubt that it did exactly what it set out to do by making features easier to access. If you're the kind of listener who's often tweaking settings to get the best possible sound then the case may well be a game-changer.

There are three options in the JBL Live 3 range: Buds, Beam and Flex. Like their current incarnations, the Buds 3 look most like standard earbuds, while the Beam 3 are like Apple's AirPods Pro with a stick design and an in-ear fit, while the Flex 3 are like regular AirPods with a stick design but no silicone tip that goes right in the ear canal. All three have JBL's True Adaptive Noise Cancelling, Bluetooth 5.3 with LE Audio, JBL Spatial Sound and LDAC Hi-Res Audio for compatible phones, multi-point connectivity, wireless charging, and six external mics to power the noise cancellation and help with calls.

JBL Live 3 range, showing the three different fit types

JBL Live Beam 3 on the left, the Live Buds 3 in the center, and Live Flex 3 on the right. (Image credit: JBL)

There are some differences between them outside of the design, though. The Buds and Beam are certified IP55 for water resistance but the Flex are IP54; the Buds and Beam have 10mm dynamic drivers compared to 12mm for the Flex; and there are different levels of battery life: up to 40 on the Buds, 48 on the Beam and 50 on the Flex (all including both buds and case).

As with the JBL Tour Pro 2, one of the selling points here is the ear canal test. That's designed to make your earbuds truly personal by analyzing your ears and adjusting the sound profile accordingly for a more accurate result, in theory. JBL's noise cancelling offers a good range of options including Ambient Aware, which ensures you don't get so lost in music you get run over by a bus.

The JBL Live 3 Earbuds will be available in summer 2024 from JBL.com and the usual retailers. The price will be $199.95 (approx. £156 / AU$296).

We like the approach here of offering the same feature in different fit types, so you can choose whatever suits you best without being annoyed that you're missing out on features that others get. At this price, though, JBL is in competition with some of the best wireless earbuds around – you can now get the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II for around that price, for example. We'll see how they hold up as soon as we can get our hands on them.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.