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JBL’s $200 Live 3 earbuds get the Tour Pro 2’s touchscreen charging case

Woman wearing JBL Live Beam 3 in silver.

JBL’s smart, touchscreen-equipped charging case is coming to the company’s latest generation of Live wireless earbuds. JBL says that the $250 Tour Pro 2 — the wireless earbuds that debuted the smart charging case in 2023 — rapidly sold out after they went on sale, proof, perhaps, that there’s an untapped need that the touchscreen case meets.

The Live 3 were announced at CES 2024 alongside JBL’s new Bluetooth speakers, wireless headphones, and party speakers and will sell for $200 when they’re released in summer 2024. Like previous JBL Live wireless earbuds, the Live 3 come in three versions, but JBL has changed the naming convention to match its Tune family of wireless earbuds. The new models are the Live Flex 3, the Live Beam 3, and the Live Buds 3. Each comes in a choice of two colors: black and silver.

The three versions offer a slightly different fit. The Beam is a fully closed stem-based design, the Flex uses a semi-open stem-based shape, and the Buds are a fully closed stemless model. The Beam and Buds models have an IP55 rating for dust and water, while the Flex is IP54, making all three suitable for workouts.

The only other major difference between them is battery life: The Beam has the greatest per-charge stamina with a claimed 12 hours of playtime (plus 36 hours in the case) with ANC off, followed by the Flex, which gets the highest total time (10+40 hours), with the Buds at lowest overall power (10+30).

The smart charging case is the biggest change to the Live series in 2024, with a 1.45-inch touchscreen embedded in the front. You can use it to access almost any feature or setting the earbuds (or the JBL Headphones app) support. When I tried it during my review of the Tour Pro 2, I found it fun and easy to use but not hugely useful — it was no more convenient to use the case’s screen than it was to use the app (or the earbuds’ touch controls).

JBL Live Beam 3 in silver.
JBL Live Beam 3 in silver. JBL

In addition to the smart charging case, the JBL Live 3 models get better battery life, Bluetooth 5.3, and wireless hi-res audio courtesy of Sony’s LDAC Bluetooth codec. A planned future update will also make the earbuds compatible with LE Audio for better energy efficiency and lower latency.

The one feature that intrigues me most is the availability of JBL’s true active noise cancellation (ANC) on the Live Flex 3. Semi-open earbuds like the Flex rarely offer ANC because, without a tight seal provided by silicone tips, it can be very hard for the ANC algorithms to cancel unwanted sounds — they tend to leak into your ear anyway.

In fact, JBL has never offered ANC on any of its previous Flex earbuds, so just how well it performs on the Live Flex 3 is an open question. If ANC is a top priority, I suspect that the Beam and Buds will still be a better choice.

Rounding out their feature set is wireless charging, Bluetooth Multipoint, JBL’s spatial sound option, and six mics (three per earbud) for calls.

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Simon Cohen
Contributing Editor, A/V
Simon Cohen covers a variety of consumer technologies, but has a special interest in audio and video products, like…
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