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Home / Reviews / Audio / Headphones / JBL Live Beam 3 review: how touching

JBL Live Beam 3 review: how touching

JBL's touchscreen charging case heads to the mainstream

JBL Live Beam 3 review lead

Stuff Verdict

Makes JBL’s clever touchscreen case that much more mainstream, no matter your preferred flavour of wireless earphones. The Live Beam 3 is long-lasting and fully featured, too.


  • Case with screen a dream for multi-device users
  • Excellent battery life, with ANC and without
  • Engaging, entertaining sound


  • No major new screen-friendly software additions
  • Using LDAC Bluetooth restricts sound customisation


Clever cases that save you reaching for your phone to change sound settings might just be the next wireless earbud battleground. JBL was first in line to squeeze a screen where one had never been before, and a string of Chinese copycats quickly followed. Now the originator is back for a second go. And a third. And a fourth.

The JBL Live 3 true wireless earphone trio offers three new takes on the touchscreen charging case set out by 2023’s JBL Tour Pro 2. The Live Flex 3 goes for an open fit meant to please fans of Apple’s Airpods; the Live Beam 3 tested here are stem-style in-ears; the Live Buds 3 are, well, bud-shaped. All three promise fitness-friendly weather resistance, ample battery life, and energetic audio, at a more mainstream price than their pricier predecessor.

At $200/£180, the Live Beam 3 is stepping into hotly contested territory. Can a diminutive display make all the difference? After a week of testing, I’m convinced it’ll appeal to one type of gadget fan in particular.

How we test headphones

Every pair of earphones and headphones reviewed on Stuff is used for a minimum of a week’s worth of daily listening. We use a playlist of test tracks made up of multiple genres to assess sound, and use our years of experience to compare to other models. Manufacturers have no visibility on reviews before they appear online, and we never accept payment to feature products.

Find out more about how we test and rate products.

Design & build: flip your lid

The Live Beam 3’s charging case isn’t a simple retread of the Tour Pro 2’s. Given I described the earlier model as “a little on the chunky side” in my review, that’s certainly not a bad thing.

JBL has totally redesigned the charging case for 2024, shrinking its dimensions and dialling down the blingy bits to match the more mainstream price. It has also moved the 1.45in LED touchscreen to the lid, which now opens up wider to make the earphones that little bit easier to retrieve. The whole thing is far more pocketable as a result.

A Bluetooth pairing button lurks next to the USB-C port at the rear, and there’s also a hole in one corner for attaching a lanyard strap. JBL doesn’t include one in the box – just a compact charging cable and four pairs of silicone ear tips.

The gunmetal plastic of my review sample did a good job at hiding fingerprint smudges; the glass covering the screen and its thick bezels, not so much. There’s also a silver option, and a few more colourful options elsewhere in the range if you find black a bit basic.

The buds themselves have a rounded stem instead of the Tour Pro 2’s flattened one, and dial back the silver trim just a little. The driver housings aren’t dramatically sculpted to match your ear shape, but the silicone tips ensured they stayed in place while I commuted to work meetings or went jogging. I can take or leave the tiny Blue LEDs that indicate Bluetooth pairing, which turn off once you’re actually wearing the buds.

Case features: screen star

Tap the screen and the Live Beam 3’s case springs to life. First you’ll see a lock screen wallpaper, which can be customised through JBL’s companion app – although that’s about the only thing you’ll really need to reach for your smartphone to change. Swiping the screen scrolls through playback and volume controls, noise cancelling, spatial audio settings, and EQ presets.

You can adjust how much of your own voice is piped through when on voice calls, turn in-ear detection on or off (I left it on, as it worked perfectly throughout my testing), and find a missing earbud by triggering a loud tone – which worked brilliantly after I slept with them in and could only locate one the next morning.

There’s a basic timer and even a flashlight, which boosts the screen’s brightness and shows a white image – it’ll do in a pinch if you’re in total darkness. Remaining battery life and the current time are always on show, no matter which page you’ve swiped to. And if all that sounds like a lot of swiping, you can disable pages you don’t use often through the companion app.

I like that the case shows incoming calls, with options to answer or reject, but wish it at least showed the number trying to contact you. I also struggled to get app notifications from the Xiaomi 14 Ultra smartphone I’d initially paired the earbuds with; they worked correctly on a Google Pixel Fold, flashing up each new Spotify track as I skipped through my playlist. There’s no way to interact with the envelope icon once that initial text has disappeared, though.

JBL obviously has to balance smartwatch-style features with battery life, but I still think the Live Beam 3 could do more with its screen. A calendar, weather reports or even album art for the currently playing song would be nice. That said, I was able to swap between my phone and my tablet while on a work trip, adjusting EQ presets for music and video based on what I was watching, even when the connected device didn’t have the companion app installed. That’ll be a real boon for multi-device users.

Interface: app or tap

That’s not to say the companion app isn’t worth a download, though. It’s packing a comprehensive personalised audio test, lets you customise the buds’ touch controls, and has a 10-band custom equaliser for sound geeks that want more adjustment than the six basic presets provide.

It’s also great to see LDAC Bluetooth on board here, given the pricier Tour Pro 2 made do without any hi-res codecs at launch. Enabling it does lock you out of some of the more advanced audio adjustment options, though. That includes spatial sound, which I thought did a great job of expanding the soundstage for films and games. I preferred to leave it off for music, as it tended to push the mix too far back – but that was never much bother, on account of the touchscreen case.

There’s also an ear tip fit test, an automatic talkthrough function that lowers volume and activates ANC transparency mode as soon as you start talking, and even a relaxing white noise generator. That last one I’d quite like to see added to the charging case, as it was great for concentration when working – having it in easy reach would be a real win.

The app lets you set how quickly the buds go into power saving mode, or turn off altogether when you’re not listening to tunes, but this is one area you don’t have to be very conservative. The Live Beam 3 lasted for around eight hours of continuous use in my testing with noise cancelling enabled, and can almost reach twelve if you forego ANC. That’s several hours more than many buds at this price point can manage.

The case then holds enough juice for three full charges, meaning there’s not a long-haul flight on the planet these won’t last through. Wireless charging is a welcome addition, too.

Sound quality and noise cancelling: high energy

Multiple microphones and adaptive algorithms give the JBL Live Beam 3 convincing noise cancelling abilities. I wore them at home, in the city, on commuter trains and on several flights; in all situations it did a great job of muting low-frequency rumbles, and adjusted quickly to louder noises.

Voices and keyboard clatter weren’t completely silenced when listening at particularly low volumes, and the noise floor was pretty prominent when listening to spoken word podcasts – but for the most part, I thought its ANC performance was on the money. Sure, Bose still does it best, but that’s less of an issue given the Beam 3 costs considerably less than the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds.

The 10mm dynamic drivers are also right on the money for audio punch. They’re tuned to JBL’s parent company’s famous Harman Curve, albeit with a beefier low end that should please the Live Beam 3’s target audience. Tonal neutrality is left to Harman’s higher-end brands such as AKG, Mark Levinson and the rest; Sigma’s Adrenaline Rush has a thumping sub-bass, but one that avoids intruding on the bassline or stepping into boomy territory.

The Live Buds 3 get the same 10mm drivers, while the Live Flex 3 has larger 12mm units to make up for the open fit not being so close to your ear canal. I’ve not tested either, but JBL says tuning is identical.

Overall clarity is very good across the rest of the frequency range, with clean highs and vocals that are given the right amount of prominence in the mix. Analytical or subtle these are not; there’s an energy here that’ll work brilliantly for your workout playlists while in the gym or out running. The custom EQ can dial down the bass a bit, but never to the point they’ll rival pricier, more nuanced rivals. But given the asking price, and JBL’s customer base, I think that’s absolutely fine – the Live Beam 3 are an entertaining listen through and through.

JBL Live Beam 3 verdict

JBL Live Beam 3 review verdict

Do you regularly swap between gadgets, and tweak sound settings more often than Rick Rubin? Then you’ll love the JBL Live 3 series. The clever charging case makes on-the-fly adjustments a lot easier on devices that don’t have a companion app. Battery life is also very good indeed, and they’re a properly fun listen.

Personally I prefer a bud-style earphone over the Live Beam 3’s stem – but that’s just fine; JBL has catered to all tastes, with matching tuning and an identical price no matter your preference. The firm gets a big thumbs up for bringing the touchscreen case down to a more mainstream price point, too.

If you’re all-in on smartphone listening, though, or aren’t constantly diving into your earphones’ companion app, it still makes sense to shop around. The excellent Sony WF-1000XM5 can now be had for not a considerable amount more; it has the JBL beat for noise cancelling and has a more nuanced sound, even if it’s left behind on battery life. And let’s be honest – Sony’s charging case is a real dullard in comparison.

Stuff Says…

Score: 4/5

Makes JBL’s clever touchscreen case that much more mainstream, no matter your preferred flavour of wireless earphones.


Case with screen a dream for multi-device users

Excellent battery life, with ANC and without

Engaging, entertaining sound


No major new screen-friendly software additions

LDAC Bluetooth restricts sound customisation

JBL Live Beam 3 technical specifications

Drivers10mm dynamic
Bluetooth versionBluetooth 5.3
Codecs supportedSBC, AAC, LDAC
Bluetooth LE (in future update)
Battery life12hrs+36hrs (buds/case, ANC off)
Profile image of Tom Morgan-Freelander Tom Morgan-Freelander Deputy Editor


A tech addict from about the age of three (seriously, he's got the VHS tapes to prove it), Tom's been writing about gadgets, games and everything in between for the past decade, with a slight diversion into the world of automotive in between. As Deputy Editor, Tom keeps the website ticking along, jam-packed with the hottest gadget news and reviews.  When he's not on the road attending launch events, you can usually find him scouring the web for the latest news, to feed Stuff readers' insatiable appetite for tech.

Areas of expertise

Smartphones/tablets/computing, cameras, home cinema, automotive, virtual reality, gaming

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