The market is so saturated with bright little true wireless earbuds right now, all stashed away in evermore-bijou charging cases, it's easy to become a little jaded.
Will the ANC claims made by the manufacturer really be any better? Will that battery life last an entire road-trip, in all honesty? And will I actually be able to shut out the rest of the world on my next commute, sending myself happily back to the pre-social media decade that was the 1990s with a carefully curated playlist? Or is it all just promises promises?
What I'm trying to unpack, dear reader, is the one downside when listening to digital music in varying formats and resolutions all the livelong day: one's ears can occasionally fall foul of a sonic bypass if you're not paying attention; the really good bits might evade you – and that would be a shame.
Let me set the scene: the new JBL Live Pro 2 earbuds arrived in my lap along with two other sets of true wireless in-ears (which shall remain nameless, this is about JBL and JBL alone) and despite the packaging's proclamations about "true adaptive noise cancelling (4-mic) with smart ambient", I put them to one side initially. I checked that they paired, obviously, then filed them under my ever-expanding "maybe later" pile.
But I was wrong to do that – I can hear that now. Because the thing is, these are not your average noise-cancelling earbuds. I've yet to do a full and thorough review, you understand, but after only a few hours of testing them I know that on adaptive noise cancellation alone, the JBL Live Pro 2 TWS will enter our best noise-cancelling earbuds roundup soon…
JBL's talented adaptive noise cancellation is not usually seen at this level – and I applaud it
As part of the Live Pro 2 setup, the JBL Headphones app takes you through a "best fit" test. So far, so good. But this is hardly unusual these days, with propositions from the likes of Sony, Sennheiser, Google and Nura serving up similar tonal trials to essentially check whether you've got the right eartips on.
However, things soon start scaling the sonic food chain with the supplementary "ear canal test", which actually conducts an external "environment noise check", then a "wearing status check" (mine told me to adjust my left earbud, so that's me told) to – and I quote – "customize the ANC effect based on your ear canal".
Following completion of these tests, you're back in the "customize ANC" tab, where your noise-nixing options now include adaptive ANC, to automatically adjust the level of cancellation based on how noisy your surroundings are, plus "leakage compensation" to check your aural leakage status and atone for it in real-time. There's also the aforementioned ear canal compensation, or you can bypass adaptive ANC entirely and select from seven set levels of cancellation.
I try them all – even if I don't yet fully understand every last one or what it's doing. When listening to Falco's Rock Me Amadeus with the maximum fixed ANC level deployed (yes, I fear I may have strayed from the 90s to the 80s) not even the clicking of keys on the keyboards next to me in Future's busy publishing house gets through to my ears. It's astonishingly good, with the low-level hum of the air-conditioning unit now a distant memory.
Switching to the Adaptive ANC tab, with all add-ons engaged, the JBL Live Pro 2's performance still exceeds the levels of noise-cancellation I've heard at this level prior to today. OK, (and remember, a full review of the JBL Live Pro 2 this is not) the sound straight out of the box is a little bass-heavy for my liking, although this can be tweaked in the equalizer tab, but this is JBL's Signature Sound profile – and it has many devotees.
My point is that for eradicating extraneous chit-chat and low-level constant office irritations, I've not heard better for $150 / £130 / AU$250 to date. And you can quote me on that.