There's no shortage of strange demonstrations at a show like CES, but few of the ones I've done this year are stranger than sitting in a mock airplane to test out the noise canceling power of JBL's new over-ear headphones.
The headphones I was there to test were the JBL Live 770NC wireless over-ear headphones with true adaptive noise canceling. A spokesperson for the brand says that the headphones analyze and adjust the noise cancelation "up to 4,000 times per second" which helps combat loud ambient noise like a jet engine.
Hence the reason I had to sit in a fake airplane to test them out.
What I discovered is that, not only are these good wireless headphones for your next intercontinental flight, but thanks to extra features like JBL Spatial Sound and 50-hour battery life with ANC turned on, it might just be JBL's best answer to the Apple AirPods Max.
Affordable noise cancelation for travel at 30,000 feet
There's no shortage of great over-ear noise-canceling headphones. There's the Sony WH-1000XM5, the Bose QuietComfort Ultra, the Sennheiser Momentum 4 Wireless and, of course, the aforementioned Apple AirPods Max. But all of these headphones cost well-over the $200 JBL plans on charging for the Live 770NC.
To put them to the test, JBL had me pair the headphones to my phone and throw on some music. Then, they turned on some speakers playing a jet engine sound at full blast.
As you'd expect, the headphones weren't able to cut out the engine noise entirely — but the sound that made it through was barely noticeable when I had my music playing.
Did JBL just make a cheap AirPods Max alternative?
Love them or hate them, the AirPods Max have a ton of great features. From hands-free Siri to spatial audio support via Apple Music, few headphones manage to go toe-to-toe with Apple's over-ears in the features department.
Surprisingly, though, the Live 770NC come close.
Besides the surprising ANC performance, the 770NC also come with spatial audio support and a better battery life. There's no hands-free Siri or a native Find My... feature for iOS users, but I imagine a lot of folks won't miss them. Especially at this price point.
We'll still need to put them through their paces at home and outside the crowded CES show floor to see how they stand up to the competition before they launch later this year. But at a show filled with the latest and greatest audio products, the JBL Live 770NC stood out as a budget-friendly alternative to the best noise-canceling headphones.
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Nick Pino heads up the TV and AV verticals at Tom's Guide and covers everything from OLED TVs to the latest wireless headphones. He was formerly the Senior Editor, TV and AV at TechRadar (Tom's Guide's sister site) and has previously written for GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade. Not sure which TV you should buy? Drop him an email or tweet him on Twitter and he can help you out.