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JBL’s new true wireless earbuds have an open design and detachable neckband

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JBL’s Soundgear Sense is a new pair of true wireless earbuds with an open design that’s meant to allow you to “hear the world around you while enjoying every beat of your favorite tracks.” JBL is announcing the earbuds alongside new Live 770NC and 670NC headphones and a new party speaker called the PartyBox Ultimate.

JBL is making the announcements during Berlin’s IFA trade show this week, where the company is also demonstrating its new Authentics-branded smart speakers, which offer simultaneous access to Alexa and Google Assistant — an industry first. The Authentics speakers and PartyBox Ultimate are coming to both the US and Europe, but the earbuds and headphones won’t release in the US until next year.

The Soundgear Sense earbuds are equipped with ear hooks, an IP54 rating for sweat resistance, and a detachable neckband that allows you to use them either as true wireless earbuds or like old-fashioned wireless neckband earbuds. JBL says using the neckband could offer extra security if you’re exercising and worried that one of the earbuds might fall out.

JBL’s Soundgear Sense, which aren’t releasing in the US until next year.
Image: JBL

JBL is pitching the Soundgear Sense’s open design as being a step above the transparency modes other earbuds use to allow you to hear both your surroundings as well as your music. “Features such as Ambient Aware are so popular in our TWS earbuds that we wanted to take this to the next level and create a naturally open design that provides a true connection with the outside world,” says Carsten Olesen, who serves as president of consumer audio at JBL parent company Harman. The feature puts the earbuds into competition with Sony’s LinkBuds, which literally have a hole in the middle of them to let outside noise through.

Given the emphasis on letting sound in rather than blocking it out, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the Soundgear Sense don’t offer noise cancellation. They do come with four microphones for making calls and offer six hours of battery life from the earbuds themselves, plus an extra 18 hours from the case. They’ll be available in a choice of black or white and support multi-point connectivity for connecting to more than one device at a time.

The headphones offer up to 65 hours of battery life.
Image: JBL

Next up are the JBL Live 770NC over-ear headphones and 670NC on-ear headphones, which the company says both offer active noise cancellation and up to 65 hours of playback (dropping to 50 hours with Bluetooth and ANC enabled). They’ll come in a choice of black, white, blue, or sandstone and also support multi-point connectivity.

Finally, JBL is announcing a series of speakers at this year’s trade show. The PartyBox Ultimate is a hulking Wi-Fi and Bluetooth speaker designed for events. It’s equipped with two midrange drivers, dual tweeters, and two nine-inch subwoofers and, according to JBL, is backed by enough power to fill an area the size of two basketball courts with sound. For home listening, there is a trio of new Authentics smart speakers: the Authentics 200, 300, and 500, which you can read all about in this write-up from my colleague Jennifer Pattison Tuohy

JBL’s PartyBox Ultimate is a big speaker for big spaces.
Image: JBL

While they won’t arrive in the US until next year, in Europe JBL’s new headphones are due to release on August 31st. The Soundgear Sense will retail for €149.99 / £129.99 (which translates to around $162, though US pricing is yet to be confirmed for any of these headphones), and the Live 770NC and 670NC will cost €179.99 / £159.99 (around $195) and €129.99 / £119.99 (around $140), respectively. The PartyBox Ultimate is coming to both regions for $1,699.95 (€1,499.99 / £1,299.99). It’ll be available in the US in October, and Europe by the end of the month.

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