So many manufacturers make true wireless earbuds or headphones these days. It seems everyone is doing it with the more reputable companies going for their dark in-ear earpiece rather than the droplet that Apple use and others copy.
JBL has gone for a similar design to many audio companies before them and we were excited to try them out having loved the value for money of JBL products we have tested in the past.
So what are they?
The JBL Reflect Flow are JBL’s new IPX7 waterproof sport true wireless headphones. They include a 5.8mm drive featuring their signature sound profile promising great sound for all music styles and weigh just 85 grams. Their actual size is slightly bigger than the Jaybird Run XT I have.
They have the now common wing tips or shark fin on them to fit them into the ears properly — there are three sizes in the box to fit most ear shapes and sizes. The earbuds fit snugly into the ear and are held in not just by that seal but the shark fin.
Often with this sort of fit / seal it is difficult to hear the outside world but JBL has included a “TalkThru” mode which is enabled by single tapping on the left earpiece button. This allows ambient noise (or someone talking) to take priority over the sound coming out of the earbuds.
In use this feature was great although the button pressing did not work 100% of the time. I was able to hear the person talking followed by another single tap to go back to my music.
The right earbud also has a button to play and pause the music and to answer and hang up phone calls. Double pressing the right earbud button also called up Google Assistant and will most likely work for Alexa and Siri (not Bixby according to the Samsung website).
What makes them different?
What could make them different? The TalkThru option is very handy in such a small headphone and is a lot safer if you are running at night or just wandering the streets. In the end though most are pretty much the same — although I will say that the Reflect Flow’s buttons were relatively easy to press than some others.
The battery life on them is outstanding. This most likely explains the increase in size — JBL say you should get 10 hours of playback with the earbuds with another two full charges in the charging case (20 hours). If you run out of power on the go a quick 10 minutes of rapid charge in the case will give you another hour of playback.
In real use this worked out just about spot on. Obviously louder music drained them a bit more but there was definitely at least 30 hours of playback in the headphones and case if fully charged. Much more than any other true wireless headphones I have tried.
How did they sound and fit?
Headphones can have all the specs and battery life you want but it will be useless if they are uncomfortable and sound terrible. The Reflect Flow headphones are not the best but not the worst at both of these things.
They fit in the ear well and will not fall out even while sprinting on the treadmill or down the street but sometimes that extra security can make them a bit less comfortable. In this case it does – but only minutely.
They were not uncomfortable enough to make me ever take them out and it was more that you could just tell that they were there. That would be the ideal headphones — some that sit in your ears and you cannot feel they are there. In the end I’m really nitpicking to say this is an issue though.
As for the sound — Wow. Just wow. I have not tried anything higher end than the Bose SoundSport Free, Jaybird Run XT or the Jabra Elite Active 65T but the sound that emanated from the JBL Reflect Flow blew them out of the water. Playing various songs the sound was richer, louder, deeper, clearer and simply better in every sense.
I couldn’t believe my ears to be honest that it was so different. I had held the Jaybirds up on a pedestal until then but we have a new pinnacle at the top of the sound heap for true wireless in my eyes (ears?).
I was so amazed by the difference that I thought maybe the phone was causing the issue but on both a Reno 10X Zoom and a Pixel 4 XL JBL Reflect Flow amazed.
So what’s not so good about them?
They are a decent size — which would account for not just the extra battery life but also the better sound but given my experience with the Bose SoundSport Free that doesn’t always ring true.
The case is bigger than a standard case we are seeing these days with true wireless headphones but with 20 hours of extra charge in the case along with 10 hours of charge in the headphones makes up for it.
The one big issue I found though was that when you take the earbuds out of your ears and put them back in the case they remain on and as such you will try and use your phone, answer a call etc and you will hear nothing as the sound will be going through the headphones still, in the case.
Note: if you plan on buying these – and you should, I do recommend them – remember to turn them off after each use before placing them back in the case. The nuances required to power them on and off is certainly something JBL need and should fix before the next version is released.
Should you buy them?
If you have tiny ears then these will stick out a lot and I may not recommend them to you if this bothers you but for all else I highly recommend them.
They sound amazing for such a small package an last for a long time battery-wise and when you add in a relatively comfortable fit and feel then these are indeed amazing value for money.
They sell at JBL online store for $229.95 but many other stores such as JB HiFi have them cheaper. They are available in black, blue and a light blue/white although it seems that only black have made their way to Australia at this stage.
At just $199 in most stores at the moment they are cheaper than most other headphones in this category. If you are in the market for a set of true wireless headphones that simply sound great I can recommend these and at just $199 I can double down on that recommendation.
JBL has allowed Ausdroid to keep these to continue testing and comparing to other products