JBL Reflect Flow Pro review: sports earbuds which fit well and sound swell
Can these wireless earbuds achieve sporting success?
What makes a great set of fitness earphones? A secure fit? A lightweight but sturdy build? A lively sound signature? For most sporty sorts, the answer is all of the above. And the JBL Reflect Flow Pro aim to deliver the whole package – with active noise-cancellation adding the sonic cherry.
JBL has a packed stable of true wireless earbuds to its name, but the target for the Reflect Flow Pro is clear: active listeners who want excellent audio, a stay-put fit and the option to mute interruptions.
But with a price tag at the higher end of the spectrum, do the JBL Reflect Flow Pro do enough to earn a spot in the canal of keen-eared sprinters? We got our jog on to find out.
JBL Reflect Flow Pro review: design & fit
Taking a tips and wings approach, the JBL Reflect Flow Pro use silicone tips and ‘Powerfin’ attachments to hook into each of your ears. Rather than sticking them straight in, a good fit requires a twist. The result? A lock-tight setup that’s not going anywhere. From runs to workouts, the Reflect Flow Pro never once felt at risk of shifting position or falling out.
Headphones with hooks can often put extra strain on your ears. But take the time to find the right combination of tip size and wing shape – there are three of the former and four of the latter – and you’ll find that the Reflect Flow Pro are surprisingly comfortable to wear, even for extended periods. There’s a fit test available in the JBL Headphones app, although the good old trial-and-error approach works just as well for choosing a comfortable combo.
The earbuds themselves also belie initial expectations. They’re not the smallest wireless earphones around, with a rounded shell that looks like it should stick out of your ears. Yet once you’re wearing the Reflect Flow Pro, they strike an excellent balance: not so small as to be fiddly to control, but not so big as to feel cumbersome or attention-seeking.
It helps that they’re relatively light and neatly formed, with a uniform shape and no awkward ergonomics. Everything feels well-made and suitably sturdy, something the IP68 water-resistance rating confirms. The trickiest thing about their shape? Unhooking them from the charging case, which grips them quite tightly.
JBL Reflect Flow Pro review: interface & connectivity
Setting up the Reflect Flow Pro is simple enough: a button on the back of the charging case enables Bluetooth pairing. Connection strength is solid, with the earbuds linking up as soon as you open the case. On the one occasion that wireless pairing was lost, the mystery issue was solved by simply sticking the ‘buds back in the case and rebooting it.
On the outside of each earphone, you’ll find a capacitive touch surface which can be configured independently of the other. These are the right amount of sensitive and perfectly sized for a fingertip to poke. They’re easy to find and tap while jogging, but rarely suffer from accidental inputs – thanks in part to the little ridge which runs around the edge of each.
The controls themselves can be customised through the JBL Headphones app, which harbours a wealth of adjustment options. You can assign different functions to various tap combinations, including volume control – although you oddly can’t set one earphone to reduce the volume and the other to increase it.
The Reflect Flow Pro also feature auto-pause smarts, which halt the tunes when you remove them from your ears. This works reliably, although it can sometimes takes a second for them to react. Google and Alexa are supported for voice assistance, too. With your helper of choice configured via the app, you can assign the voice assistant function to an earbud – then either either tap and hold to talk, or just say the wake word.
JBL Reflect Flow Pro review: performance & sound quality
Sound quality can often take a back seat when it comes to fitness ‘phones. Not with the Reflect Flow Pro: steering clear of the overbearing bass so often pumped out by active earbuds, the JBL ‘buds instead deliver a dynamic listen that’s just as enjoyable on the run as it is during a warm down – or your rest day.
The 6.8mm drivers inside are on the smaller side, yet they serve up impressive detail with excellent separation. The sound signature is warm, but balances rich bass with crisp, clear mids and treble tones, offering plenty of room for your music to breathe. The Reflect Flow Pro deftly handled the layered textures of Janelle Monáe’s Prince-approved Make Me Feel, for example.
If mega bass is what it takes to move you, there are punchier ‘buds out there. Hook up the Reflect Flow Pro to the JBL Headphones app and you get the option to tweak the EQ, selecting from presets or configuring your own levels. Even with a bass focus chosen, though, the low-end refuses to dominate the overall listening experience.
That’s not to say the Reflect Flow Pro earbuds are tinny. Far from it: they don’t want for whump. Fire up some Run The Jewels and you’ll still feel the meat of those low frequencies as you sprint. But it won’t drown out the other details, either. There are zestier alternatives with slightly more energy, but the Reflect Flow Pro produce a surprisingly big sound with plenty of depth.
Adaptive noise cancelling helps a lot, hushing the outside world to create a soundstage where tunes can bloom. Ambient Aware can be toggled with a tap, which is useful if you want to keep on top of traffic while you’re out and about. But if you prefer to escape, the Reflect Flow Pro do an excellent job of muting low sounds, whether on the train or the trail. And there’s minimal hiss from the ANC.
JBL Reflect Flow Pro review: battery life & charging case
It’s not massive, but the Reflect Flow Pro’s charging case is certainly on the larger side. A rounded oblong with flattened sides front and back, the 35mm thick pod will create a notable bulge in your pocket. It’s not completely unwieldy, but the whole package is relatively weighty at 77g.
Despite its heft, the case wears a matte plastic finish which feels neither premium nor cheap. The heavier bottom element seems sturdier than the lid: there’s a fair amount of flex in the hinge. There’s no danger of actually damaging the mechanism, but you’ll find more reassuring latches elsewhere.
Attached to the charging case is a generous loop of rope, complete with reflective elements. Some will find this an unnecessary addition, but it does prove handy when you’re fishing around for the headphones in the bottom of your backpack.
One benefit of the case’s larger dimensions is the generous cell inside. The earbuds alone can last for up to 10 hours with ANC disabled, or eight with noise-cancelling on – which trumps much of the competition. The case adds an additional 20 hours of listening life, taking the total to a perfectly respectable 30.
You’ll probably run out of puff before the Reflect Flow Pro, anyway. Assuming you return the earbuds to the charging case after every session, you should always find them fuelled and ready to go. That’s especially true if you regularly place the case on a wireless charging pad: it’s Qi-compatible, so it can refill without the faff of finding a USB-C cable.
JBL Reflect Flow Pro verdict
You can assess wireless sports earbuds by several metrics. Whether they have the battery life to last an ultramarathon. Whether they pump out bass to power you past your PB. Whether they fit securely without chafing your delicate lugholes.
Only the best of the bunch tick every box. And the JBL Reflect Flow Pro get very close. Yes, the charging case is on the large side. And, yes, there are stellar sports earbuds which cost less.
But in every meaningful respect, the Reflect Flow Pro deliver. They sound great, fit well and last longer on one charge than most rivals. The interface is the right amount of responsive, while the partner app provides welcome customisation options. Plus they do a respectable job of cancelling background noise.
If you’re looking for some Goldilocks headphones to soundtrack your sporting pursuits, the JBL Reflect Pro are in the running for the top spot.
Dynamic sports headphones with a secure fit and solid noise-cancelling, the JBL Reflect Flow Pro do plenty to please the ears
Firm, secure fit
Dynamic, balanced sound
Solid noise cancelling
Useful app features
Case is a little large
Slightly plasticky finish
|Microphones||3 (per earbud)|
|Battery||10 hours (earbuds), 20 hours (case)|
|Weight||7g (per bud), 77g (with case)|