Can’t decide between Alexa and Google Assistant? Ponder no longer: Harman’s newest headphones have both.
Update 1/7/2019:Tom’s Guide was incorrectly told that a user could activate Alexa and Google Assistant simultaneously on the JBL Live. We’ve updated the article clarifying that only one, selected in the JBL app, can be used at a time.
That’s right. Launched Monday, the JBL Live is a lineup of headphones with both Alexa and Google Assistant built in. In JBL’s app, you can equip your headphones with the voice assistant you want. Then, you activate your chosen helper using a button on the left side. A button on the right side turns the device’s microphone on.
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The Live series includes both on-ear and over-ear headphones, with and without noise-cancelling technology, ranging from the on-ear 400BT ($99) to noise-cancelling, over-ear 650BTNC ($199).
I tried on the 650, which were comfortable and easy to fit. I did find the microphone button difficult to press. A light touch, like I might use with AirPods, didn’t do the trick, and I found myself having to tap it several times at varying levels of force to awake the assistants. (I assume that if you buy these, you’ll get used to the pressure you need, but there’s a not-insignificant learning curve).
I wasn’t able to test the Live’s audio, apart from Google continuously informing me that “Assistant is not connected.” In the past, we’ve found that JBL’s audio devices deliver well balanced, full, but not quite premium sound.
The two-in-one assistant setup may well broaden the device’s target audience by appealing to fans of both assistants. At the same time, I wonder who exactly will buy these over competing smart headphones. While Alexa and Google both have their strengths and weaknesses, I have trouble imagining a scenario where you’d need access to both at once. And as someone who prefers Alexa, why would I spend extra money on headphones that also have Google Assistant?
The JBL Live is an interesting idea. But these headphones will need to stand out in other ways to be worth the money.
Credit: Monica Chin/Tom’s Guide