I like to listen to music and podcasts while I exercise, but I don’t like when a headphone cable gets tangled and distracts from what I’m trying to do. For this reason, I began my quest for the perfect Bluetooth earbuds. My main requirements were good wireless range, secure fit, and passable sound quality. I quickly realized that the market isn’t very crowded with a lot of great options. Many Bluetooth earbuds fall short in at least one of those three categories. When I researched the JBL Reflect BT earbuds, I felt I’d finally found my match.
Bluetooth earbuds range from about $30 to $200. The JBL Reflect BT earbuds fall at $100. Although they aren’t cheap, they’re pretty average in the scope of available options.
The Reflect BT earbuds come in black, blue, red, and green. I would like to see some other “classy” colors like white or silver, but these headphones are clearly aimed at a colorful sports market, with black as the fallback for people like me who might want to use the them in a more conventional setting as well. A reflective “3M” material runs along the cable. This is useful for running at night, and it looks pretty cool. They’re also sweat proof, which is great for athletic applications. JBL put magnets in the earbuds for a secure fit around the neck when not in use. They hold well, but I prefer to shorten the cable too much for the earbuds to reach around my neck. Sometimes I still play with the magnets for fun…
Fit and comfort
Some aspects of the Reflect BT earbuds show a thoughtful consideration for the fit of the product. For example, the adjustable cable allows for very precise adjustment. On the other hand, the ear-tips could be improved or enhanced. The springy wings that wedge inside the ear work for me if I use the largest size (small, medium, and large are included). I can go running or jumprope over 100 times in a row without them getting loose. I don’t have large ears, and I’ve read that other people have trouble keeping the earbuds in place. It would have been nice for JBL to include some tried and true over-ear hooks as well. Despite having to use the largest ear-tips, the earbuds are very comfortable. I’ve worn them for 4 hours without any irritation.
I appreciate that JBL implemented a familiar three-button inline remote to control these earbuds. It’s placed higher than usual, which keeps it out of the way for high-motion activities. The remote includes controls for volume up/down, accepting/ending calls, and play/pause/track skip for music. The earbuds don’t provide a way to activate Siri, or start a call in any other fashion. With that being said, most people probably wouldn’t buy these for handsfree calling, so it isn’t a huge loss. The controls work fairly reliably, but the track skipping button sequence sometimes registers as a pause instead.
In my criteria for my purchase, range was the top requirement. If I’m buying anything that’s wireless, I want to be able to reap the benefits. A lot of Bluetooth earbuds only claim a range of up to 5 feet, and a lot of those perform questionably at just 2 feet. The JBL Reflect BT earbuds claim a range of up to 40 feet. In application, the Bluetooth 4.0 earbuds achieve this in open space, and reach about 25 feet through a wall or two. If you don’t mind occasional hiccups, you can go even further away. This performance is impressive for the product category.
If your main concern is volume, these earbuds have you covered. At full volume on an iPhone, distortion is undetectable. The overpowering hi bass and slightly lacking hi mids/treble make music sound a little puffy, or less defined and punchy than I prefer. These are by no means audiophile earbuds, but they can sound very good with some equalization. The Reflect BT ear-tips make a good seal in my ear, which doesn’t let much external sound in. This could be a concern for runners who like to hear vehicles. Smaller ear-tips will let more sound in, but the earphones will be more likely to fall out.
Battery life and charging
JBL claims a battery life of up to 5 hours of playtime. The Reflect BT earbuds always last just over 5 hours in my experience. With 30 minutes left, they will occasionally interrupt music with a warning beep before they turn themselves off. If you want to use the earbuds for all 5 hours, plan on spending 2 hours for a full charge (a Micro USB charging cable is included). If your iPhone says that the earbuds are partially charged when they’re fully charged, this is normal. The JBL earbuds don’t seem to send an accurate battery life to the phone until they’re in low battery mode. Lastly, the charging port for these earbuds is behind one of the JBL badges on the back of an earbud. It’s a clever hiding place, but I’m afraid that the badge might break off eventually.
Overall, the JBL Reflect BT earbuds have proven themselves to be useful for anyone who would like to rid themselves of the hassle that can arise with wired earphones. Although they leave room for improvement, they’re arguably one of the best options that are available today. You can buy them from Best Buy for $99.99 in the US, or from Amazon for £67.08 in the UK.