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(Pocket-lint) - With Apple having famously ditched the 3.5mm jack in the iPhone 7, we're just on the cusp of audio companies rushing to flood the market. Among this first wave is JBL, with one of the first pairs of Lightning-equipped wired in-ear headphones.

They cost £170, but their feature list and design should ensure you don't think you've thrown your money away... shouldn't they?

JBL Reflect Aware review: Design

Although they look fairly standard on the surface, the design of the JBL Reflect Aware earphones is fairly unusual when you get up close.

Starting at the tip, instead of employing a bog standard circle outlet for the audio, the JBL's are oval shaped and the tips have a fairly wide base. This gives them an overall look that's similar to those shallow plastic cones your PE teacher would throw on the floor during football or rugby sessions.

More importantly, it seems to make them fit a little nicer in the ear. By offering this shaped tip, there's a better chance it'll fit individual ear shapes than a traditional circle tip, plus there are three different sizes included in the box.

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What's more, the extra material to grip the inside of your ear is made from a grippy, soft rubber, and ensures it doesn't slip out easily. Or, often, out at all.

As is common with sports earphones, they come equipped with detachable "fins" - the shape of which reminds us of a huge quotation mark - which add further grip, holding the earbuds onto your ears. Again, three sizes are available.

We tested the earphones on several runs and found that they fit so well, they felt comfortable in the ear... well, almost comfortable; as comfortable as anything shoved into your ears can be. Vitally, they didn't once feel like they'd fall out on any of our runs. The grippy texture and design of the tips and fins ensures they stay in place.

The outside of the plastic housing which holds the drivers features a collection of small holes, used to let noise into the earphones when required. Water and sweat resistance mean you should be good to run in the rain, or do some intense work outs without worrying about ruining your precious buds.

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There's nothing remarkable about the cables attaching the earphones to the in-line control and Lightning connector, except to say it features painted-on reflective strips, presumably to help drivers see you at night. Sadly, it's far too slim to make that much of a difference.

The in-line remote and mic unit, however, is impressive. It has four very easy-to-click buttons, which are also easy to find when running, walking or generally not having the freedom to look with your eyes. They protrude just enough to feel, and click reassuringly when pressed.

Those buttons include the volume up and down buttons, separated by the action button, which is used to answer calls, play/pause music, or activate Siri. The stubby pill-shaped button at the bottom is the ANC (Active Noise-Cancelling) activation button. So switching noise-cancellation on or off is as easy as just clicking a button.

JBL Reflect Aware review: Features

JBL offers an app for use with the Reflect Aware, which can be used to control a few different aspects of the earphones' behaviour.

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As you'd expect, part of it is the equaliser which includes three different presets as well as the ability to fully customise your own sound balance.

You can also use it to switch the noise-cancelling on or off, as well as adjust how much ambient noise you want to let through using the low, medium or high sensitivity. So when you're running on the road, you can hear what's coming and aren't completely sealed off from the world. You can even have different sensitivity settings on each ear.

How useful this is depends very much on how loud your music is. At times we could barely hear cars driving past, even with high sensitivity selected. Still, when music was at a moderate level, any outside noise came through well, although it did kind of sound a bit muted and warped.

If you want complete silence, you can just switch off the ambient noise pass through and switch on noise-cancelling. This does a good job of cutting out low frequency background noises, but it doesn't completely cut out all the noise - at least not when music is at a lower volume. However, with volume cranked up, the world outside soon disappears.  

JBL Reflect Aware review: Sound

There's a full, warm and immersive sound from these small earphones. It's certainly full enough that you can crank it up and pretend the world around you doesn't exist.

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However, as in-ear headphones go they're pretty bass-heavy. There's always the option to use the app-enabled equaliser if that doesn't suit, but even with the bass set to low and treble pumped, the earphones do lack a little clarity.

The JBL Reflect Aware are seemingly designed to pump out tunes, and keeping you pumping on the treadmill, Tarmac, or wherever you like to get your move on. For that, you need the bass.

Perhaps the most noticeable thing about these earphones is the volume, and that's one advantage of using a Lightning connector over Bluetooth or traditional 3.5mm jack. The audio can be pumped up really loud, in fact, so loud that even just getting the headphone volume to the halfway point is enough to drown out everything else around you. 


As an overall package, the JBL Reflect Aware offer a great option for iPhone users who need good in-ear headphones that stay in during long runs or workout sessions.

For those who fit in to that category, it's going to be a tough task finding many in-ears that do it better. The combination of materials and shape make for an earbud that not only feels comfortable and light, but secure. 

At the £169 full asking price, though, it's a lot of cash for a product that you can only use with your iPhone and not plug in to your computer, or any other device sporting a 3.5mm jack. It only comes with a Lightning connector, which isn't as versatile or platform agnostic as Bluetooth or the traditional jack. 

Writing by Cam Bunton. Originally published on 23 September 2016.