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Hands-on review: The JBL Reflect Flow wireless earbuds are a dark horse

09 Dec 2019

JBL has released its JBL Reflect Flow true wireless sports earbuds, designed for those on the go. They’re positioned as fitness headphones for those living an active lifestyle in a market that’s saturated with earbuds at various price points.

We take a look at what’s in the box.

Design, case, and fit

The Reflect Flow comes in a charging and carrying case that is slightly bulkier than expected, possibly to accommodate the width of the different ear-fin sizes and the height of the actual earphones. The construction of the case also didn’t seem as solid as I would expect, with a slight give noticeable at the case cover when you apply pressure to the edges.

The case has four LED lights on the back so it’s easy for users to know what the charging status of the battery is.

The earbuds themselves come with three fin sizes – small, medium, and large. I found the small fins to be a good fit for my ears, and after a bit of fiddling, found them to be quite comfortable for my ears.

The physical controls on the earbuds are a single button on each earbud. These buttons turn the earbuds on and off, connect to Bluetooth, answer calls, and can access your voice assistant.

There isn’t much real estate for physical buttons on wireless earbuds, but I found the physical controls slightly uncomfortable to use as I’d have to push the earbuds deeper into my ears in the process of using the buttons. Otherwise, I felt that the controls made sense, and I got accustomed to them quickly enough. 

The Reflect Flows are also rated IPX7 waterproof and sweat-proof. I worked out with them, finding they stayed put comfortably, and I feel the waterproof rating shows that JBL is serious about the earbuds catering to the fitness community (just don’t go for a swim in them).

Audio quality

The Reflect Flows have stellar audio quality, presenting full-bodied sound.

The bass, mids, and highs are balanced and come through well, and I was pretty impressed with how they sounded. I liked the fact that this clarity came through even without needing to put the volume up – I found myself using the earphones at between 30% to 40% of the volume the majority of the time.

I also listen to podcasts on earbuds a lot, and the earbuds performed well in this aspect too. The nuances in the dialogues come through well along with the sound engineering accompanying it, providing a really satisfying audio experience.

Battery life

Battery life is one of the true points of difference for the JBL Reflect Flow, delivering a whopping 10 hours of continuous playback on a single charge while holding another 20 hours in its case.

This is where the Reflect Flows have the distinction of being earbuds that can last you a full workday, a marathon, or a long-haul flight – a feat only matched at the moment by Beats Powerbeats Pro and the lesser-known Creative Outlier Gold earbuds.

I’m used to earphones that boast a playback time of four hours struggling after phone conversations that last for over an hour, so the Reflect Flows are well-equipped to handle those long international phone calls.

The Reflect Flows also have a speed-charge feature, going from 0% to a full charge in under two hours.

Ambient Aware and Talk Thru

There are times when you want your music to obscure the environment, and there are times when you want it to accompany you, but not block out external sound for safety reasons.

JBL’s Ambient Aware and Talk Thru features account for both these scenarios. Press once on the left earbud and you activate Talk Thru. The audio level is significantly reduced, and the microphone magnifies higher-pitched noises so you can have a conversation with a person or listen to the airport/ bus stop announcements.

Press the left earbud twice, and you activate Ambient Aware, allowing your music to come through at a low level and also letting a moderate amount of background noise come through. This is especially important for me on the road – I’ve found that it works perfectly both when I’m walking to work and when I’m driving.

Verdict

At $249, the JBL Reflect Flows are playing in the mid to high-end range of true wireless earphones.

However, for what they pack, the Reflect Flows are great value for money.

Its closest competitor is the Powerbeats Pro, which retail for at least $150 more, and for the other players in the space, the JBL Reflect Flows have either better battery life, better fit, or a better price point.

They’re a considered purchase that would stand anyone with an active lifestyle who love their music or audio products in good stead.