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JBL Live Beam 3 review: More than just small screen appeal

Our Rating :
£179.99 from
Price when reviewed : £180
inc VAT

While a touchscreen charging case is their unique selling point, there’s lots more to like about the JBL Live Beam 3


  • Great feature set and customisation options
  • Attractive touchscreen case
  • Engaging sound quality


  • Unconvincing spatial sound modes
  • Ineffective audio personalisation
  • Slightly restrictive touch controls

Announced at CES in January, the JBL Live Beam 3 are true wireless earbuds with an attention-grabbing feature. While most wireless in-ear headphones require you to delve into an app to play around with their settings, the Live Beam 3 allow you to do it via a touchscreen display built into their charging case. 

They’re not the first pair of JBL headphones to incorporate such a display; the JBL Tour Pro 2 debuted the technology in January 2023. However, they’re available at a more affordable price point and address a couple of the major gripes I had with their stablemates.  

Noise cancellation and audio performance have both been improved, but not at the expense of features and customisation options; the Live Beam 3 are very well-equipped on those fronts. As a result, it no longer feels like you’re making sacrifices to secure yourself the smartest charging case on the market. 

I’m still not completely convinced that a case with a touchscreen display is a must-have, but the Live Beam 3 have more than enough about them to take on similarly priced competitors and avoid being viewed as a one-trick pony.

JBL Live Beam 3 review: What do you get for the money? 

The Live Beam 3 are available in black, blue and purple (with a silver option coming soon) and will set you back £180. That’s £70 cheaper than the Tour Pro 2 cost at launch, although you can now pick them up for around £200.

The buds are unremarkable in design and appearance, with a combination of short stems and silicone eartips doing little to differentiate them from countless AirPods Pro clones. The same cannot be said for the case, which measures 61 x 51 x 30mm (WDH) and has a headline-grabbing 1.45in touchscreen built into it.

An IP55 rating for dust and water resistance means the buds are well-protected against the elements and four different-sized pairs of eartips are included in the box to help you achieve a secure fit. Also included is a short USB-A to USB-C cable for charging the case if you’re not using wireless charging.

Battery life of the earbuds is stated at up to 12 hours without noise cancellation and 10 hours with it engaged, while the case provides a further three charges, taking total audio playback to a highly impressive 48 hours.

The Live Beam 3 operate over Bluetooth 5.3 and support the SBC, AAC and LDAC codecs, with Bluetooth LE support set to be added in a future update. Multipoint pairing with two devices is also present and correct, enabling swift switching between your smartphone, laptop or tablet.

Features-wise, you’re spoiled rotten. The JBL Headphones app is crammed full of functionality and ways to tweak your experience, many of which can be accessed directly from the case’s touchscreen. Some of these features are more successfully implemented than others, however. 

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JBL Live Beam 3 review: What did we like about them?

I liked lots of things about the Live Beam 3. Their smart charging case is the obvious place to start and immediately makes them stand out from the crowd. The touchscreen has three brightness settings and can display shortcuts for volume and playback controls, spatial sound and ambient sound mode toggles and more.

There’s even a “Flashlight” option that illuminates the screen with a white light. Which shortcuts are displayed is up to you – you can select from a list in the companion app – this does omit some of the Live Beam 3’s more niche functionality, though.

Navigation of the screen is very easy; once unlocked, you simply swipe left or right to find the option you’re after. As was the case when I reviewed the Tour Pro 2, I didn’t find myself using the on-screen options as frequently as I thought I would, but when I did, they worked consistently.

My favourite aspect of the case is a purely aesthetic one: the ability to display a photo as your lock screen wallpaper. My review sample came with the Expert Reviews logo pre-programmed but you’re free to choose from any of the photos on your paired device or take a picture specifically for the purpose. This gives the case a personal feel you can’t get elsewhere.

I was also impressed by the Live Beam 3’s active noise cancellation. It’s a way off the class-leading Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds but more than good enough for most situations.

At the strongest of its seven levels, it attenuated loud low-frequency sounds effectively, although I was still able to hear people talking around me in muffled tones when there was a lull in what I was listening to. Being able to manually adjust the level of attenuation provides a welcome amount of flexibility, but you’re better off engaging the Adaptive ANC option. This applies an appropriate level of noise cancellation as the demands of your environment change and I found it worked well. The trade-off is that it uses slightly more battery but that’s a sacrifice worth making in my book.

When I reviewed the JBL Tour Pro 2, I found their sound too bright and lacking body but I’m pleased to report that the Live Beam 3 are better balanced and proved a more enjoyable listen. The throbbing bassline on Ian van Dahl’s trance classic, Castles In The Sky, had plenty of punch, smaller details like cymbals crashing were clear and the female vocal had a commendable level of clarity.

Overall, the buds delivered music with energy, enthusiasm and impact and I appreciated the broad and convincing stereo soundstage they created. The option to create your own EQ from scratch using the ten-band graphic equaliser “My EQ” is one I liked and provided an easy way of meaningfully tweaking the Live Beam 3’s sound.

Speaking of tweaks, the Live Beam 3 offer all manner of personalisation options. Wear detection can be toggled on or off, “Smart Talk” can be engaged to automatically lower the volume of audio when you start speaking and you can adjust the left/right balance of the buds from within the JBL Headphones app.

Other options include a maximum volume limiter, “VoiceAware”, which lets you control how loudly you hear your voice on calls, and Private Call Mode, which enables you to use one of the earbuds as a handheld mic to keep phone conversations more discreet. Some of these more niche settings will likely be left untouched by many but I’m happy to see them available for those who want to tailor every aspect of their earbuds experience.

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JBL Live Beam 3 review: What could be improved?

A couple of the Live Beam 3’s features don’t quite hit the mark, however. Personi-Fi, a technology designed to optimise audio based on how well you hear specific frequencies, made a negligible difference to my experience. If you’re after audio personalisation, Denon’s PerL Pro are a far better option, albeit more expensive.

The three Spatial Sound modes (Movie, Music and Game) are also underwhelming. They’re not as convincing or engaging as the Immersive Audio mode found on the Bose QC Ultra Earbuds, nor do they possess the head-tracking capabilities of the AirPods Pro. That said, the Live Beam 3’s ability to virtually spatialise stereo content isn’t terrible and is still a relatively rare inclusion on earbuds at this price.

My other main grumble relates to the touch controls. They worked well during testing but aren’t as customisable as I’d like, which is surprising given how much flexibility JBL provides elsewhere. The commands fall into three groups – Ambient Sound Control, Volume Control and Playback Control – but with only two earbuds to assign them to, you’re forced to omit one of the groups. I like touch controls that cover every base so I found this restriction pretty frustrating. The touchscreen enabled me to quickly access the volume controls I chose to omit, but I’d have preferred it if every key command was available simultaneously via the earbuds.

Finally, I have some reservations about a couple of JBL’s EQ presets. Extreme Bass is too extreme and sounds woolly while the Vocal setting loses too much detail outside of the mid-range for use with anything other than podcasts. These options can be avoided entirely, however, so aren’t particularly damaging to the Live Beam 3’s cause.

JBL Live Beam 3 review: Should you buy them?

While I didn’t get a huge amount of practical value from the Live Beam 3’s touchscreen display, it’s an inclusion that looks cool, will prove useful for some and one that no longer feels like a gimmick masking weaknesses elsewhere.

Sound quality and noise cancellation are very good for the money and you’ll be hard-pushed to find similarly priced earbuds with as extensive a range of features and customisation options.

The Spatial Sound modes and Personi-Fi audio personalisation are a bit of a letdown, but despite that, the JBL Live Beam 3 are strong all-rounders that stand out in a highly competitive mid-range market.

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