Workout noise-cancelling earbuds are the new “it” item in the true wireless space. All the biggest players have their hands in the market, from Beats to Bose and Jabra to JBL. Speaking of JBL, the audio giant continues to build out their collection of fitness buds, recently launching the Reflect Flow Pro.
The JBL Reflect Flow Pro is a sporty, waterproof noise-canceller with signature bass-forward sound, lots of customization, and some of the category’s best battery life (per charge). It has plenty to offer fitness fanatics and casual listeners. It also happens to be a flawed follow-up to one of our favorite wireless earbuds, the Reflect Mini NC, lacking execution in common areas. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite make it to the levels of our best noise-cancelling earbuds.
JBL Reflect Flow Pro availability and price
The JBL Reflect Flow Pro can be purchased for $179 at Amazon or directly from JBL. Three colors are available: Black, Blue, and White. In the box are a wireless charging case, USB charging cable, three pairs of different sized ear tips, three pairs of different sized ear fins, warranty, and quick start guide.
These buds are up against heavyweights such as the Beats Fit Pro ($199) and Powerbeats Pro ($169), as well as category leaders like the AirPods Pro ($249) and Jabra Elite Active 75t ($172). If the price seems steep for your budget, we recommend the highly underrated Reflect Mini NC for its excellent audio and sporty performance; it can be had for as low as $99.
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JBL Reflect Flow Pro design and comfort
Aesthetically, the Reflect Flow Pro is no different than the Reflect Mini NC. Both bear an oval design with integrated fins, logo plastered in front, and silver accent around the touch panel. Even the mics are placed in the same areas. The only major difference is the IP68-rated water and dustproofing, a very minor downgrade from the Reflect Mini NC’s IPX7 certification.
JBL didn’t bother updating the charging case either. The all-plastic frame with integrated lanyard remains intact. It’s still portable and sturdy, much like the buds, and has unique details like the pairing button in the back and slim LED light on the front for battery level indication. The magnets remain strong for shutting the lid tight and keeping the buds locked into their charging slots.
Runners and those living an active lifestyle will find the comfort levels acceptable. Wearing the buds for workouts doesn’t bother much, but they can become fatiguing after two hours of casual listening, applying pressure to the concha. Anyone with a low pain threshold will feel discomfort sooner.
Fit isn’t a problem whatsoever, thanks to the flexible ear fins that easily mold into the cymba and provide enough stability to engage in lateral-heavy workouts without falling out. The silicone tips demonstrate great sweat absorption, and the Check My Best Fit feature comes in handy to help users determine the best tips for optimal fit.
JBL Reflect Flow Pro controls and digital assistant
Users receive a full suite of media controls, including playback, call management, volume, digital assistance, and listening mode activation. These are employed through single-/double-/triple-tap and long-hold gestures. The touch pads are highly responsive to input methods. On-ear detection to automatically pause music when removing the buds is also on point.
Alexa and Google Assistant integration were added, along with Bixby and Siri compatibility. One would think that JBL fixed its ongoing digital assistant problem by now, but that’s not the case. Google Assistant remains a nightmare to use. Most earbuds let you access Google’s AI right out of the box, yet JBL makes you go through the entire setup process. After completing it, the feature still didn’t work properly.
Speech recognition was off, and the buds took an estimated 3 seconds to register and respond to commands. “Hey Google” voice activation didn’t seem to work at all. The Alexa wake word function did, but it suffered from serious lag.
JBL Reflect Flow Pro audio quality
JBL’s bass-forward sound profile will rev up the engine before hitting the road. Listening to music with Ambient Sound Control on maintains the Reflect Flow Pro’s punchy output, but enabling ANC gives the low end more oomph.
Sound can be personalized via EQ to manually adjust frequencies or select from five different presets: Bass, Jazz, Vocal, JBL Club Pro+ TWS EQ, and JBL Tour One EQ. Of the group, the Tour One EQ is the most well-rounded and the way to go for all music selections.
Eminem’s “Godzilla” was the perfect warm-up song before heading out on a 5K run. To hear these buds deliver the energetic thump I desired from the monstrous bassline was stimulating. That same liveliness carried over to Cypress Hill’s “(Rock) Superstar,” where the clashing cymbals, pounding drums, and thrashing guitar riff blended well without any distortion.
The pulsating lows on Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ (2008 Remix)” was pronounced and knocked hard. Akon’s synth vocals and MJ’s mush-mouthed crooning sounded distinctive over the boomy production. Not all details on the record shined; adlibs and the electric xylophone notes were subdued. The Tour One EQ was engineered for critical listening, but it performs better on the model it was most meant for: the Tour One over-ear headphones.
For those who like to stream videos when using the exercise bike or treadmill, there is a Smart Audio & Video feature that lowers latency to improve lip synchronization.
JBL Reflect Flow Pro active noise cancellation
I’ve tested better wireless ANC earbuds from JBL. Not to say that the Reflect Flow Pro’s noise cancellation isn’t serviceable. It’s decent at best. Wind resistance isn’t up to par, so you’ll hear whisking effects at a high level when walking or running in gusty conditions. High frequencies aren’t handled well either; baby cries or bird chirps will be heard.
Low and mid frequencies are restrained well. Exercising in the living room with a loud TV on in the background didn’t stop me from completing workouts. My toddler running around the house with his electronic toy boombox wasn’t a distraction either. It was also satisfying not to hear household appliances or any landscaping work on morning jogs.
Ambient Sound Control is the better performing feature and comes with two settings: Ambient Aware and TalkThru. Both are fantastic at opening the soundscape to hear surrounding noises clearer. The barge work taking place across the street on the Intracoastal Waterway was discernable from the front porch, along with cars and motorcycles that whisked by the house. I favored TalkThru most since it let me have lengthy conversations with the missus without having to remove the buds.
JBL Reflect Flow Pro app and special features
The hub for all extended functionality runs through the JBL Headphones app. It’s one of the more feature-laden apps out there and has plenty of perks to enhance the user experience. The Reflect Flow Pro has most of the features found on other premium JBL headphones, including aforementioned ones like ANC, Ambient Sound Control, Check My Best Fit, EQ, and Smart Audio & Video.
What else is there? A handful of other settings to keep in mind when customizing the buds. The homepage greets you with battery level indicators for both buds and the charging case. Hitting the settings icon on the top right leads to more functions like Auto-Off, Find My Earbuds, firmware updates, and Standby Mode.
Overall, JBL gives you a wide array of features to play with compared to other rivals; Beats isn’t giving you this much, at least from a companion app standpoint.
JBL Reflect Flow Pro battery life and charging case
JBL has never been one to stiff us on battery life and the Reflect Flow Pro doesn’t break from the norm. A full charge generates up to 8 hours of ANC playtime, which can be extended to 10 hours when disabling the feature. These listening times drop by 45 minutes when factoring in high volume and special features. We’re talking more than what the AirPods Pro (4 to 4.5 hours) and Beats Fit Pro (6 hours) provide with ANC on. This was good enough for 3.5 days of moderate use (2 hours daily).
The wireless charging case holds up to 30 hours when fully powered. As I’ve stated many times, any case that comes with more juice than the AirPods Pro case (24 hours) is worthy. A 10-minute quick charge nets you 1 hour of use.
JBL Reflect Flow Pro call quality and connectivity
The Reflect Flow Pro is reliable for making voice and video calls in most environments. Quality wasn’t crystal clear, but according to several people, my voice was audible enough to hear every sentence. Running in gusty conditions resulted in some muffling. Still, my wife understood our conversations despite wind being a huge distraction.
Bluetooth 5.0 operates smoothly for solid connectivity across all platforms (iOS, Android, Windows). Wireless range was lengthy at 40 feet. Opening the charging case instantly pairs the buds to any recognized devices, and one-tap Google Fast Pair expedites the process on Android smartphones.
Multipoint technology (pairing to two devices simultaneously) is MIA, but JBL’s proprietary Dual Connect technology is here to seamlessly switch connections between devices. While I prefer the former, Dual Connect comes in handy for special occasions like when you’re just coming home from a run using your Android phone and need to hop on an emergency Zoom call via MacBook Pro.
In a crowded market, the JBL Reflect Flow Pro does little to stand out from widely popular competitors and its own siblings. The waterproof design with strong sound and feature set are enticing hallmarks for avid exercisers. Even the middling ANC can help minimize ambient noise at the gym. But the digital assistant troubles and unpleasant wearability hinder these buds from being a top-tier selection.
Consider the Reflect Flow Pro if a significant price drop occurs and you fancy booming sound in a near-indestructible frame. Otherwise, seek out the lower-priced Reflect Mini NC.