Among the profusion of true wireless headphones sold by JBL, the Reflect Flow Pro stands out for its sports-oriented design. They also have noise reduction and a more than consistent autonomy.
JBL is one of those manufacturers who offer a plethora of true wireless models, so much so that it becomes difficult to find your way around. Fortunately, the Reflect Flow Pro stand out from the crowd with their sporty orientation. They have a fin for extra support and are IP68 certified, so they can be used underwater without any worries.
New features over the previous Reflect Flow include active noise reduction, as well as advanced integration with Google Assistant and Alexa. The Reflect Flow Pro were launched in September 2021 at a suggested price of $179.
Manufacturing & accessories
The Reflect Flow Pro does not change drastically in design compared to the previous model and is content to round off the angles. The design is still quite imposing and is here entirely made of plastic of relatively good quality, offering the earphones a good impression of robustness. A silicon wing goes around the earphone to maintain it firmly in the ear.
Whether you're in the shower, pool or sea, the Reflect Flow Pro will handle any situation that comes their way, as they have the ability to be fully submersible in both fresh and salt water up to two meters deep for up to an hour. They are also protected against perspiration, sand and all types of dust thanks to their IP68 certification.
The housing design is radically different from that of the Reflect Flow. It comes in the form of a block made entirely of plastic, again very well made, about 7 x 4 x 3.5 cm, which is large enough to be carried in a trouser pocket without feeling discomfort. It is also difficult to handle with one hand because of its size, but also because of the solidity of its hinge which will be able to withstand many opening and closing cycles. On the front, a lighted gauge serves as a visual cue for the amount of battery remaining. A USB-C port for charging and a button for Bluetooth pairing are located on the back of the case.
Comfort & Support
The comfort provided by the Reflect Flow Pro is far from universal. Some people don't feel any discomfort with the default wing/tip combo, except for a point of contact with the concha that becomes painful after an hour or so of use, which happens quite often with this type of in-ear monitor. However, many other people we've had try the earphones on have complained about their large size, heavy weight, or numerous painful contact points with the concha and tragus that occurred long before the first hour of use. Choosing the right earmold and the right wing can limit these pains, but no miracle solution has been found.
Remember that Reflect Flow Pro are in-ear monitors, so they sit inside the ear canal like earplugs, which may put some people off.
However, the fit with their wings is simply impeccable. With the right pair of wings and ear tips, the Reflect Flow Pro are securely locked into the ear canal and stay put no matter what sport you're doing, from running to swimming.
On its exterior, each earphone has a touch surface for the controls; a passage through the manual is essential in order to master all the gestures that go with it. The controls are divided into 4 different profiles: "ambient sound", "playback", "volume" and "voice assistant", the first two being the default profiles. Thus, only two profiles can be assigned to the headphones, and it is therefore impossible to manage the playback, the volume and the ambient sound at the same time. So you have to make a choice. Luckily, the activation of the voice assistant is common to all profiles (long press).
Beyond this sometimes frustrating gymnastics in use, the Reflect Flow Pro remain very pleasant headphones to use on a daily basis and the touch surfaces are perfectly responsive. Each action is accompanied by a beep or a voice prompt that can be set in French. It is also possible to synchronize the Reflect Flow Pro with Google Assistant or Alexa to control the headphones by voice and trigger the assistants with a simple "Hey Google" or "Alexa".
When no device is connected to the headphones, the pairing starts automatically. Otherwise it is possible to force it through a gesture on the touch surfaces or through the physical button located on the back of the case. The headphones are also Fast Pair compatible for easy pairing on Android devices.
The Reflect Flow Pro communicate via Bluetooth (SBC and AAC codecs supported), but don't have multipoint functionality, meaning you have to pair them every time you change sources. It is quite possible to use them as a unit, because a switch to mono is automatically made when one of the headphones is placed back in the box.
The headphones can also be managed through the comprehensive "JBL Headphones" app. In addition to assigning control profiles to each earphone, there is a 10-band equalizer, information on remaining battery level and advanced functions such as sleep mode or proximity sensor activation. Beyond the noise reduction and the control of the ambient sound, it is also possible to juggle between three different listening profiles: the "Normal" mode prioritizing the stability of the connection to the quality of the sound signal, the "Audio" mode prioritizing the quality rather than the stability and the "Video" mode reducing latency. Whatever the mode, we underwent problems of connection, like cuts of the order of one second, even disconnections of the right auricle during nearly one minute!
There is no risk of running out of power with the Reflect Flow Pro. We measured a battery life of 9 hours with noise reduction and 11 hours without, which is 1 hour more than the promise made by JBL in both cases. The box is capable of providing two additional charges for a total of 30 h without noise reduction. The latter can be recharged either through the USB-C port or by induction.
The Reflect Flow Pro has no less than three microphones in each earpiece as a hands-free kit. These manage to capture the voice correctly in a quiet environment, even if we strongly feel the alteration of the voice due to the compression and the limited bandwidth of the microphones. The sound level of the capture is also rather low. In a noisy environment, near a busy road for example, the noise reduction works quite well and the voice remains sufficiently intelligible to be understood at the other end of the line. The effects of compression, restricted bandwidth and low noise level are still present.
In the "Normal" and "Audio" listening profiles, we measured a Bluetooth communication latency of 312 ms. A particularly high value which induces a very strong delay between video and audio. Video games are obviously irrelevant with such a latency. Fortunately, it is possible to practically halve the latency with the "Video" mode and thus reach 172 ms. Here again the delay is detectable by ear, but this time it is much more acceptable than with the first two modes. In any case, the vast majority of sites and applications (Disney+, YouTube, Prime Video...) are able to automatically set up a latency compensation.
On the whole, the Reflect Flow Pro offer a correct sound rendering, but which is unfortunately strongly marred by uncontrolled bass and highs that are a little too metallic.
The main characteristic of the acoustic signature of these Reflect Flow Pro is the frank emphasis of the bass which, in their basic configuration, offer to the rendering a very "boomy" aspect absolutely not controlled. Indeed, the bass suffers from a big lack of definition, which results in a mush where it is very difficult to spot each kick of a kick drum roll or each element of a song with very full bass lines. However, it is possible to greatly limit this overbearing bass by using the application's equalizer and turning down the first band. The bass is then much wiser, but the lack of control remains.
The treatment given to the high mids and highs is just as bad. Far from being catastrophic, the high mids have an abrasive rendering that can seem aggressive on instruments like saturated guitars or brass instruments, for example. Highs can sound unnatural and metallic, especially on cymbals, which are too often prone to flutter. The highs also suffer from accuracy problems leading to sibilance (aggressive reproduction of [s], [f] and [ʃ] sounds), but we have seen much worse on other models.
You should also know that at high volume, the distortion is tenfold and the reproduction of the treble is particularly aggressive. Thus the maximum usable volume is quite low, especially with the strange volume management detailed above.
In spite of these numerous defects, the Reflect Flow Pro benefit from very well controlled midrange, offering a nice reproduction to voices as well as to the timbres of various instruments such as classical guitars or pianos. The essential is thus assured.
Active noise reduction
In order to concentrate on your sports session without being bothered by surrounding sounds, the Reflect Flow Pro have a unique active noise reduction mode called "adaptive", which means that it adjusts the level of reduction automatically according to the surrounding noise. This mode is very effective on low frequencies, but the passive isolation is rather disappointing.
When it comes to covering the lowest static sounds, such as the rolling of a train or the roar of an engine, the Reflect Flow Pro is excellent. They even have the luxury of competing with the current market leaders Sony WF-1000XM4 and Apple AirPods Pro. However, JBL's headphones are far less brilliant when it comes to attenuating sounds above 600 Hz. At this point, the passive isolation of the headphones takes over, but it frankly struggles to do its job properly. Thus, all sounds such as chatter, keyboard clicks, rail squeaks or the running of a faucet are only minimally reduced.
The ambient sound mode does its job well and reproduces voice tones and the various sounds in the surrounding area quite well. The whole however misses a little of naturalness, in particular because of a fast withdrawal of the trebles. It is possible to find some naturalness with the "TalkThru" mode which proposes a better extension in the highs and a better feeling of ventilation.
The Reflect Flow Pro are not without their faults, but they are true wireless headphones that have many advantages. They will undoubtedly seduce runners and swimmers who love bass and for whom a consistent autonomy is an essential criteria. Too bad the user experience is marred by numerous ergonomic frustrations and a comfort that is far from universal.