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There is a lot going on in JBL’s eight-strong range of sports headphones. There are three sets of truly wireless Reflect buds, with the Pro coming in above the entry-level Reflect Flow and mid-range Reflect Mini NC. Then there are a few pairs of headphones that have arisen from partnerships with Under Armour and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, plus assorted other options to suit different budgets and preferences.
To cut to the chase, the Reflect Flow Pro buds are the best set of sports headphones JBL makes. They’re a stand-out option beyond JBL’s range too, challenging the likes of the Jaybird Vista 2 and Jabra Elite Active 75t for the crown of best all-round sports headphones.
As with the Vista 2 and Elite Active buds, the appeal of the Reflect Flow Pro headphones is that they hit the sweet spot of features for the price. There are certainly good options available at lower price points, and if your budget gets nearer £300 you’ll find some truly stellar headphones, but for £159.99 the JBL buds more or less nail every key feature you need for exercising and they are great for general use as well.
That starts with the fit, which is as solid as it gets for in-ear buds. The headphones come with three sizes of ear tips, plus four sizes of wings for extra security during intense exercise. Whether I was running, doing strength work, yoga or cycling, the Reflect Flow Pro didn’t budge.
I was also surprised by how comfortable the wings felt over extended periods of wear. I generally find the secure fit wings afford comes at the cost of comfort, and that they start to irritate my ears after an hour or two. But I wore the Reflect Flow Pro on a run and then all afternoon at my computer without any significant irritation. They’re not as comfortable as the Bose Sport earbuds, but are fine for long stretches of general use alongside sports.
The buds last for 10 hours on a charge, or eight hours if you use the active noise cancelling (ANC) feature. The case provides another 20 hours of juice, and while it’s a little larger than ideal – the Vista 2 case in particular is much smaller – it does have a useful loop on it allowing you to attach it to running belts and backpacks.
When running outside I generally had to turn off both the ANC and awareness modes, since neither does a good job of filtering out wind, so wind is mostly what you hear. However, when exercising indoors or travelling the ANC was impressive, almost completely cutting out the sound of an indoor bike or a train.
There are two different awareness modes, Ambient Aware and TalkThru: the former is better for allowing general sounds from your environment in and the latter is designed to allow you to have a conversation without taking out your headphones. I’d still take out my headphones when talking to someone – it just seems rude not to – but you can hear people and your surroundings pretty clearly in either mode, as long as it’s not too windy.
The sound profile of the Reflect Flow Pro is bass-heavy and provides plenty of punch on that front. You can change the EQ in the partner app to one of several presets or set up your own.
I was impressed with the sound. It leans a little too bassy for me as standard, but it was simple to set up an EQ that suited my preferences better, and whether exercising, or using the headphones at work or when travelling it was enjoyable to use the Reflect Flow Pro. I found the sound as good as the Jaybird Vista 2 and Jabra Elite Active 2, and I only marginally prefer the Bose Sport earbuds, though those don’t have a customisable EQ so it’s blind luck that the sound profile suits me so well.
The JBL buds have some of the best touch controls I’ve come across. Every time I tapped either bud my command registered. I also liked that when switching between ANC and awareness modes, a voice tells you which mode you are in after each tap. You can also customise the controls in the app.
The Reflect Flow Pro buds kept a reliable connection with my phone, but switching between devices was a faff and I had to forget them on my phone to pair them to my laptop. This is something the Jabra Elite Active 75t headphones are much better at.
The Reflect Flow Pro buds are rated IP68 so rain, sweat or dust won’t damage them. If you use the Google voice assistant you can activate it using only your voice, and you can fire up Siri or Alexa using a long press.
It’s a complete set of features and the real-world performance is excellent. At £160 the Reflect Flow Pro buds aren’t cheap, but they are a little cheaper than their Jaybird and Jabra rivals (on RRP at least – the Elite Active 75t can often be found for around £150).
I do prefer the Vista 2 and Elite Active 75t overall. The cases are smaller, the fit is slightly more comfortable, and the ANC and awareness modes are less windy when running. There’s really not much in it, though, so if you do find the JBL buds for less then they’re a great choice – and they offer more battery life too.
Buy from JBL | £159.99
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.