Most true wireless earphones simply run out of power too soon. But that’s not the case with the JBL Reflect Flow true wireless earphones. They carry a ten hour charge in the buds themselves, along with two full recharges in the carry case. That should be enough to cover most situations.
JBL Reflect Flow features
Of course, that means that they aren’t really the smallest
earbuds on the market. They do tend to stick out of one’s ears a little more
than some. But that doesn’t come at the cost of in-ear security. The buds are
provided with wings which lock them firmly into the ear. There are three sizes
of wings and three sizes of silicone tips provided. I found that – as usual –
the largest tip size fitted my ears best, delivering the best seal for the bass
passive noise rejection and the best bass. The middle-sized wings worked fine
The batteries in each bud are 110mAh units while the charge
case is rated at 850mAh. Ten minutes in the case gives a depleted set of buds
an hour of playback time.
The case is quite large, too: a bit more than 75mm wide,
35mm tall and 25mm deep. The top flips up to reveal the nests for the two buds.
Perhaps it was because I used the largest silicone tips, I found I sometimes
had to press the buds firmly into place to make sure their electrical contacts
were properly seated. And I found them a touch difficult to pull out, since the
tip seemed to grip a little inside the case. I mastered removal in the end, but
it was harder than necessary.
At the back of the JBL Reflect Flow case, near the hinge, is the charge port. This is Micro-B USB, unfortunately, rather than USB Type C. That just made it a bit more fiddly when plugging in the cable. A rather colourful charge cable is included. Underneath the charge port is a useful 4-segment LED to show you the case’s charge level.
Using the JBL Reflect Flow earphones
I used these buds as my main portable earwear for several weeks, including during an overseas trip. (I used normal noise-cancelling over-ear headphones on the flight, of course.) That also included plenty of gym sessions and a lot of walking around.
I didn’t have to worry about sweat or getting them damp in
the rain. The JBL Reflect Flow earphones are IPX7 rated, which means they can
cope with squirts of water. Not once did they work their way out. The seal was
excellent and remained so. And while sealed, noise isolation seemed to be more
So perhaps it’s just as well they have a “Talkthru” mode and
an “Ambient Aware” mode. You press the single button on the left bud to cycle
through those and normal mode. “Talkthru” mutes the program to something that’s
barely audible and feeds the audio from the built-in microphones through to the
drivers. That lets you hear what’s going on around you. The sound was
surprisingly natural, albeit not perfectly so. “Ambient Aware” merely reduces
the program level a little – perhaps six decibels or so – and again feeds in
the outside sound. That’s good for wandering around city streets since you’re
more likely to hear approaching vehicles.
With a double tap on the right earbud, you can invoke Google Assistant or Siri as appropriate.
Range and reliability
I’m travelling as I write this review so I can’t use my
usual routine for working out the reliable reception range. But I can
nevertheless attest to the fact of a very reliable connection provided via
Bluetooth 5.0. The conference room in which I’m sitting is full of human bodies
and active electronic equipment, and within its confines I could get fifteen
metres away with no interruptions.
Every so often the left bud failed to connect to my phone or
the other bud when I removed it from the case. It was unclear why, and I’m
uncertain as to whether I’d contributed to it by failing to seat it in the case
properly. The solution was to pop it back in the case, make sure the red light
came on to indicate that it was charging, then take it back out. After a second
it would connect and normal service would resume. That was the only real
operational wrinkle. I’d note that you can switch the buds off without having
to put them in the case, so if there are problems and you don’t have the case
handy, you can just switch them off and on again.
The JBL Reflect Flow buds don’t use a spoken voice to tell
you what’s going on. Instead they just use various tones to indicate that
they’re being switched on or off, and when they’re connecting to your phone.
The controls are one button on the back of each bud. They were a bit firmly sprung for my taste. That meant they sometimes had to be pressed firmly into my ears in order to do things like pause music. And applying a double tap to invoke Google Assistant became a hit-and-miss affair.
Listening to the JBL Reflect Flow earphones
The JBL Reflect Flow earphones don’t use any of the
higher-quality fancy codecs for transmitting the sound. It’s plain old SBC. But
better codecs are wasted anyway unless the earphones can physically deliver
good sound. Especially if, as is the case with these ones, they don’t have an
app with EQ facilities.
But these JBL Reflect Flow earphones deliver very good sound without the need for EQ. They produced music with a very natural frequency balance. Across genres, the tone was excellent. Laura Marling’s opening sibilance on Once I Was an Eagle was conveyed by these earphones, but not emphasised at all. JBL seems to have tuned these buds with discretion and good judgement. The bass drum on the same track was full and resonant, while the higher-pitched drums danced around nicely in a near-three-dimensional space.
The soundtrack to Hamilton was handled well too, with
good separation to the various voices. That was particularly important in the
several tracks in which multiple voices are duelling. The bass lines on this
album were delivered with decent authority and sense of good bass extension.
There was respectable transparency. It was easy to hear the slight microphone compression, saturation even, in the early 1970s Roberta Flack singing “Killing Me Softly With His Song”. But better-recorded 1970s material was delivered equally well. For example, as I’m typing, Bill Bruford’s drumming on Yes’ sone “Heart of Sunrise” is being faithfully carried by the JBL Reflect Flow earphones.
For a complete change of pace, I tried the track “Mariae
Wiegenlied” from an album of beautifully recorded German Christmas songs called
Cantate Domino. This track is simply a soprano singing, accompanied only
by a pipe organ, and even that mostly the deep bass from the pedal. The voice –
soprano vocals can be grating on poorly balanced speakers and headphones – was
controlled and beautiful, while the depths of the pipes were plumbed extremely
well by the JBL Reflect Flow earphones.
The JBL Reflect Flow true wireless earbuds are ideal for those who want decent sounding buds at a reasonable price, with good in-ear security and a long battery life. JBL’s site for the JBL Reflect Flow earphones is here.