JBL Live Beam 3 wireless earbuds review: top tech on a more wallet-friendly budget

The JBL Live Beam 3 earbuds integrate one of my favourite features on the market – and for less than £200!

The JBL Live 3 wireless earbuds
(Image credit: Sam Cross)
T3 Verdict

If you want to own a futuristic pair of earbuds without breaking the bank, look no further. I still maintain that the case screen is a magnificent idea which can totally transform the user experience, and the overall package here is really enticing.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Case screen is brilliantly useful

  • +

    Neat design

  • +

    App is concise

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Sound is just fine

  • -

    ANC falls a little short

  • -

    Gestures lag behind competitors

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When you think of the market for the best wireless earbuds, it's fair to say most releases are evolutionary rather than revolutionary. While certain features can come and go, the bulk of what we look for in our audio technology has remained the same for a while.

JBL think differently. Not afraid to push against the grain, the brand unveiled their Smart Charging Case on the JBL Tour Pro 2 – complete with a touchscreen panel on the front. Far from being a gimmick, this actually proved to be incredibly useful, earning those buds a five star review.

Now, that technology is trickling down to others in their range. Here today, I have the JBL Live Beam 3 series earbuds, which were first unveiled at CES 2024. Are they any good? Well, let's go and find out.

JBL Live Beam 3 review: Price and Availability

While they were announced at CES back in January, these buds didn't hit the market here in the UK until May. Priced at £179.99, they offer pretty good value in the current market.

The JBL Live 3 wireless earbuds

(Image credit: Sam Cross)

JBL Live Beam 3 review: Features

Obviously the main selling point here is that Smart Charging Case. When I reviewed the Tour Pro 2's back in June 2023, I was really taken with the concept. It stopped me from having to reach for my phone just to do silly things like change the volume, skip to the next song, or check the charge level of my earbuds.

Here, the experience is broadly similar. In fact, it's pretty much identical. The screen feels a little more responsive here, with less ghosting or lagged movements. But all of the same good things from those earbuds apply here.

Beyond that, though, you're getting a nifty pair of earbuds. A 10mm dynamic driver offers crisp and clear sound, with adaptive noise cancelling on board, too. 

You'll also find six mics across the two buds for excellent call quality and noise pickup credentials. Plus, with an IP55 water and dust resistance rating, you can be certain that they're built to withstand the rigors of life alongside you.

You'll find up to 48 hours of total playtime with the buds and the case. And, with a 10 minute charge returning four hours of listening time, you won't need to spend half your life tethered to a socket.

The JBL Live 3 wireless earbuds

(Image credit: Sam Cross)

JBL Live Beam 3 review: Design

JBL are very innovative when it comes to their earbud technology. We see that here, with a touchscreen on the front of the case.

I'm not sure the same can be said for their design language. It's notably muted, with little personality on show. That's not always a bad thing though, and I certainly can't fault them for it.

Ultimately, both the case – with it's stocky yet curvy profile – and the buds themselves are uninspiring, but pleasant enough to use and look at.

The JBL Live 3 wireless earbuds

(Image credit: Sam Cross)

JBL Live Beam 3 review: Performance

All in all, these are a decent pair of earbuds. The sound quality is good – not great, but certainly not offensive. I think the JBL Spatial Sound is still a little wayward at times, with an unnatural, tinny edge to your audio.

Still, the overall character is nicely balanced, and you shouldn't find yourself needing to tweak too much out of the box. Of course, if you want to, that option is there. 

The JBL Headphones app is really well put together, with a lot of options available should you wish to dive in. The EQ is powerful there, and allows you to really sculpt the audio quality.

Let's now turn our attention to the ANC on offer. That's pretty good, by and large, with a healthy dose of sonic cancellation, even with quiet audio. 

What I haven't enjoyed here is a strange droning in the low end which appears to sneak through. Far from being just annoying, it's caused a jump scare on more than one occasion where I thought I was about to step into traffic or was being followed. It's unusual, and I'm hoping it can be patched with a software update in the future.

The buds themselves are really comfortable. In the ear, you'd hardly notice them, and I've gone for hours without fatigue. I'm certain you could get through a full day without feeling them, such is the lightweight nature of the design.

You get touch control on each bud, which is adjustable in the app. Those are single point controls, though – you won't be able to use swiping motions to change the volume, for example. Still, I suppose with the case screen offering that functionality, it's not a huge loss.

The JBL Live 3 wireless earbuds

(Image credit: Sam Cross)

JBL Live Beam 3 review: Verdict

There's no questioning that these are a good pair of earbuds. The overall sound character is nice, with an ANC that works for 99% of the sonic spectrum.

You'll get bags of adjustability in the app, too. That makes these perfect for those looking to customise their experience to best suit their listening style.

I'm also a massive fan of the screen on the case. You'll certainly need to be, too, as it's clear that a good portion of the overall cost can be attributed here. But it really is handy – I think it's one of those don't-knock-it-til-you-try-it features.

Ultimately, at £179.99 these aren't inexpensive. These buds sit just below the ultra-premium segment, but ahead of a lot of other buds on the market. Whether you opt for these or not is likely to ride on just how often you'll use that case screen.

JBL Live Beam 3 review: Also Consider

The wireless earbud market is full of great options, so which pair you opt for is a hard choice. Personally, I really enjoyed the Nothing Ear unit which came across my desk recently. A gentle upgrade over its predecessor, the Ear is a stylish bud with good overall performance.

If you've got a little more to spend, try the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds. Those are undoubtedly the best on the market right now, and can be had for only a shade more than these as I'm writing this. 

Sam Cross
Staff Writer

Online news writer at T3.com, Sam has five years of experience in online and print journalism, with work featured in publications like Metro and Last Word on Sports. After years writing about music and football, Sam now turns his hand to bringing you news about new phones, smart home products, smart watches, laptops and TVs. Sam is a longtime fan and user of Apple products, including iPhones, MacBooks and Apple Watches.He’s also T3’s resident football expert, bringing you everything you need to know about the big games, including how to watch them. In his spare time, Sam is a keen guitarist, watch lover and (very) amateur golfer.