Source: Forbes Magazine (Mark Sparrow)

JBL Reflect Aware-Black-0971_HERO

Now that Apple’s latest iPhone has been stripped of the conventional 3.5mm headphone socket we can expect to see a whole heap of new products from headphone manufacturers who have licensed Apple’s proprietary Lightning Connector. First out of the traps is JBL with a brand new set of noise-cancelling earbuds designed specifically for sport. Thanks to something called Adaptive Noise Control, these JBL earbuds enable you to adjust the level of noise cancellation to suit the environment you find yourself in. These chunky-looking earbuds also feature a choice of different eartips that should fit most size of ear-hole. Also included are three sets of JBL’s Sound Tunnel eartips that lodge firmly in your ear and won’t fall out even when you’re doing vigorous sports.

Towards the top of the JBL Reflect Aware’s 1.3-meter light-reflective cable (cyclists will love that feature) is a little cartouche-shaped remote control that offers all the buttons you need for altering volume, skipping tracks and answering phone calls. There’s also another button that turns noise-cancelling on and off. A mic is built into the cartouche for making phone calls while you’re pedaling away or jogging, presuming you have enough puff to carry on a conversation. The earbuds are also sweat proof… so there’s no excuse for going too easy on the cross trainer.

The earbuds include large 14.8mm dynamic driver units which deliver a really deep bass with a response from 10Hz up to 22kHz. The tonal character of the earbuds can be adjusted using a downloadable JBL app which prompts you to install it as soon as you plug the earbuds into your iPhone for the first time. Simply play around with the tone sliders and save the EQ sound profile that suits your ears best. There are a few pre-loaded EQ settings but go ahead and shape your own sound; it’s fun.

The JBL app also enables you to adjust the level of noise cancelling that suits you best. You can opt to filter out three pre-set levels of ambient sound. So, if you’re a cyclist and need to be aware of traffic noises, you can choose high level of ambient awareness. However, if you’re on a train or plane you can select mid or low ambient awareness to filter out more extraneous noise. You can even apply noise cancelling in small increments for each earbud. The noise-cancelling circuitry works very well and a voice prompt will tells you when it’s switched on or off. I used the app’s settings to turn the voice prompt off as it was a bit annoying after a while.

The sound quality from the JBL Reflect Aware is excellent. At this price level you’re getting really high-quality sound that JBL is renowned for. I’ve reviewed a few JBL products lately and been impressed with the sonic quality and design. They’re not the cheapest products on the market but the level of design and sonic engineering is top notch. These are great earbuds that will suit most musical tastes and being able to shape your own EQ response by adjusting bass, mid and treble ranges is a real bonus. We’re going to see a lot more of this EQ tailoring in Lightning headphones in the future as we all have ears that interpret sound in different ways.

Previous generations of Lightning headphones from the likes of Philips and Audeze have included their own amplifier and Digital-to-Analog converter circuitry, either in the headphones themselves or contained in some sort of inline dongle. It was this external circuitry that made Lightning headphones such premium products. However, Apple’s Lightning connector can also output a regular analog signal which means passive Lightning connector headphones like the JBL Reflect Aware are more affordable because they don’t need a separate DAC and amplifier circuitry.


Whether you’re into sports or just appreciate superb quality sound, JBL’ Reflect Aware earbuds are a great set of noise-cancelling Lightning earphones that sound really good. They don’t draw much battery power so there’s no need to worry about listening and recharging your phone at the same time. With this level of energy efficiency a lot of the worries about getting rid of the iPhone’s headphone socket will be allayed. If you want to upgrade from the inexpensive bundled Lightning headphones included with the iPhone 7 but you don’t want Apple’s new wireless AirPods, take a look at JBL’s Reflect Aware.

Prices: $199.95 / £169.99 / €199,00

More info: JBL Reflect Aware


  • Drivers: 14.8mm
  • Eartips: three sizes
  • Connection: Apple Lightning
  • Frequency response: 10Hz – 22kHz
  • Colours: Black, Red, Blue and Teal