If there’s a single occasion that can stand as a trial for Bluetooth audio gear, a grueling workout is surely it. I’ve tested five variations in the gym—from solar-powered over-ear designs to classic AirPods—and, so far, each type has had its own lapse in design or functionality. Wireless earbuds have flown out of my ears onto the treadmill or delivered less-than-impressive volume levels, allowing the grunts and groans of weightlifters into my rhythm. Finding ones with security, stability, and enough booming bass to get me through the last set sometimes feels nearly unachievable.
And while the JBL Reflect Flow Pro true wireless active sports earbuds aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution to every woe plaguing TWS ‘buds, they come a lot closer to being an ideal design to wear during your next workout. Features including active noise cancellation, ambient noise mode, super-firm ear wings, and an IP68 waterproof rating deliver your favorite tracks during intense workouts—no major slippage while running or sweat damage included.
The JBL Reflect Flow Pro’s design
Despite their designation as a sport earbud, the JBL Reflect Flow Pro doesn’t have any awkward apparatuses that scream gym to the point you wouldn’t want to be seen wearing them anywhere else. The feature that differentiates this JBL pair from the rest is the stiff plastic wing, which securely tucks into the concha of the outer ear and will not budge, no matter what HIIT workout or new calisthenics exercise you’re doing. While these “POWERFINS” might not be highlighted on the product page as a key feature to their workout-ready design, they eliminated the need to constantly adjust and reinsert my earbuds mid-exercise. The JBLs also ship with three sizes of ear tips and fins (in small, medium, and large), which makes the fit exceptionally customizable and secure.
For wireless connectivity, the JBL Reflects use Bluetooth 5.0 with AAC and SBC codec support for maximum iPhone and Android compatibility, though the higher-fidelity aptX is not an option. Just open the case and you’ll begin the sync process, and the Dual Connect feature lets you customize the functionality of each bud separately or use one independently if desired. Once paired, the JBL Reflects use touch controls that allow you to work out without grabbing your phone every time you want to switch playlists. The right earbud controls playback, skipping, calls, and can queue the voice assistant, while the left allows you to toggle between the different noise-canceling modes.
When it comes time to charge the earbuds, the case can be plugged into a USB-C cord, which gives the JBLs bonus points in my book for added convenience. Rather than hunting down some proprietary charging cord, you can plug it into the same one you use to charge plenty of other devices. The case is also Qi-compatible for wireless charging. The LEDs on the outside of the case will indicate that the buds are charging and how much battery life they have—heads up that it’ll take them two hours to fully refuel. The flip-top charging case is somewhat clunky compared to other earbuds, weighing in at 1.6 ounces, though definitely still small enough to fit in any bag or purse.
The battery life overall is more than adequate—with a maximum playtime of 10 hours with ANC turned off, eight hours with it on. Add in a fully charged case and you get a total of 30 hours of battery life.
The JBL Reflect Flow Pro’s key features
The JBL Reflects have what we now consider the standard essentials of modern wireless earbuds: features like Alexa voice controls, built-in microphones, Google Assistant, and hands-free calling. Aside from their workout-approved shape and design, the JBLs have a few other bonus components that differentiate them from your run-of-the-mill Bluetooth ‘buds (something you’d expect at the nearly $200 mark).
ANC and Ambient Aware
Whether you’re trying to get in the zone at the gym or want to tune out chatty customers at a cafe while you work, active noise cancellation, or ANC, is a welcome addition to these earbuds. The ANC is effective overall—upon turning it on I noticed muffling of noises for an overall quieter environment. That said, anything above a low-frequency tone won’t be cut out completely, so if you’re hoping to nullify construction sounds in your apartment or the loud ring of dumbbells in the gym, I wouldn’t hedge your bets on the JBL Reflect Flow Pro. While it might not be the best ANC out there, that dulling is still an improvement over no ANC at all and did help me tune out distractions in the gym.
And for those times where you want to be better tuned into your surroundings—like walking on a busy street, late at night, or while running outdoors—toggle to the Ambient Aware sound mode using the left earbud (or within the JBL Headphones App). Unlike the standard mode or ANC, Ambient Aware allows more sound in so that you can be more aware of your environment.
One of the features making the JBL Reflect Flow Pro particularly suited to workouts is their IP68 waterproof rating—so you can have a sweaty workout and even rinse off the buds afterward with no concerns of water damage (just be sure to dry them off before returning them to the charging case, as that portion of the headphones is not water-resistant). While you probably shouldn’t swim laps in these headphones, you can submerge them in up to 1 meter underwater for as long as 30 minutes so they will survive any rainstorm, sweat-heavy cardio session, or accidental drops in the sink. And their dust resistance means you can take your workout outdoors—to the beach, for example—without worries.
The JBL Headphones App
While the touch-controlled earbud interfaces allow you to easily toggle between the settings if you’re looking for a more in-depth way to fine-tune your earbuds, download the JBL Headphones app on any Android or iOS device. From within the app, you can change the default setting for on-ear controls to your liking, as well as set up Google Assistant or Alexa. But arguably the best setting on the app is the adjustable EQ, so you can boost or cut frequencies to your unique preferences. The app comes with preset modes for you to test out, or you can tinker with the settings to find your perfect audio balance.
The JBL Reflect Flow Pro’s sound
These bonus features are great additions to the JBL Reflect Flow Pro, but the audio performance is the most integral part of the equation if you’re still deciding whether these wireless earbuds will deliver on all fronts. The JBLs have 6.8 mm drivers that deliver a frequency range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, which effectively captures both booming bass and detailed highs—though the midrange comes across as a little scooped out in comparison. It’s a mildly U-shaped signature but, as someone who covets a somewhat bass-heavy headphone (especially while working out), this sound profile hits my marks. That said, on a song like James Blake’s “Say What You Will,” the bass came across a bit overbearing when listening on moderate to high volume levels. If you’re bass-averse, you might be safer off with a better balanced, more personalized sound profile, like that of the NuraTrue earbuds.
If you want thunderous verb and thumping bass to power you through your workout, however, the JBL Reflects are a welcome addition to your essential gym equipment. Songs like “Floor Seats” by A$AP Ferg showcase impressive low-frequencies without overwhelming the vocals, for an overall intense but pleasurable listening experience. Even on tracks with little bass and a higher-frequency profile, like Sufjan Stevens’ “It’s Your Own Body And Mind,” the vocals, acoustics, and orchestral sounds rang through with detail and sculpted range.
So, who should buy the JBL Reflect Flow Pro earbuds?
For fitness enthusiasts who want waterproof earbuds that won’t shift or short out in the middle of a sweaty workout, the JBL Reflect Flow Pro active sport earbuds are a great selection. If you’re more of an audiophile who appreciates a deeply customizable, office-oriented EQ and ANC system, these buds might not be as good a choice as, say, the Sony WF-1000XM4. For the gym, however, the JBL Reflect Flow Pro earbuds are now my go-to pair; with their POWERFINS, IP68 rating, and bass-forward sound, they are an ideal trifecta to take you from warm-ups to burnout sets.