The JBL Reflect Aero are doing something that many other waterproof headphones struggle with, which is to sound great while keeping things tight in the submersion department. The headphones have an IP68 rating, very good sound quality, amazing touch controls, and a fantastic feature set. Oh, and they’re more affordable than you’d think.
Very good sound performance
IP68 and waterproofing works well
Amazing touch controls, helpful sound prompts
Good in-ear detection
ANC is just ok
Not the best for phone calls
Bass is weird
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JBL Reflect Aero: One-minute review
The JBL Reflect Aero may look like most sports headphones on the shelves with their circular frame fringed with wing tips to help keep them in place when you’re exercising. However, there’s more to these headphones than meets the eye.
The one obvious thing that sets them apart from other workout headphones is their waterproofing. With an IP rating of IP68, these wireless earbuds aren’t just water-resistant. You can dive down 1.5 meters in salt or fresh water with them on for 30 minutes, and they’ll keep on blasting those tunes (although you do have to account for the fact that Bluetooth signals don’t travel well in water).
But wait, there’s more. JBL doesn’t stop there. It also packs the headphones with other premium features like active noise cancellation, touch controls, in-ear detection, and up to 8 hours of battery life (24 hours total with the charging case). That’s already a lot for that sub-$150 / £150 price without factoring in their great sound quality and the fact that you can actually customize their touch gestures to offer volume control.
The JBL Reflect Aero aren’t just one of the most feature-rich headphones we’ve tested; they’re also one of the best waterproof headphones on the market.
JBL Reflect Aero: Price and availability
- How much does it cost? $149 / £119
- Where is it available? Available now
- Where can you get it? Available in the US and the UK
Interface: Bluetooth 5.2
Battery life: 8 hours per earbuds, 24 hours total with case
Noise cancellation: Active Noise Cancellation
Water resistance: IP68
Weight: 0.5 oz (13g) per earbud
The JBL Reflect Aero are surprisingly affordable for what they offer. These true wireless earbuds will set you back just $149 / £119.
Granted, that price tag isn’t in the budget range, but it still puts these earphones in the mid-range market, making them more affordable than the Sony WF-1000XM4, Apple AirPods Pro 2, and even the Beats Fit Pro. To be fair, those three models deliver superior sound and better ANC. But, none of them are submersible and have an app with a 10-band EQ so you can really customize the sound.
All things considered, the JBL Reflect Aero are definitely the best value out of all those headphones. They’re a terrific proposition not just for swimmers and active users, but also budget-minded consumers seeking some premium features.
- Value: 5 / 5
JBL Reflect Aero: Design
- Ear tips not the best for smaller ears
- Touch controls are amazing
- JBL Headphones app expands functionality
Design-wise, the JBL Reflect Aero aren’t that different from other sports earphones. In fact, they look very similar to the Beoplay E8 Sport earphones from Bang & Olufsen, except those are a little clunkier and definitely not suited for smaller ears, and the JBL Reflect Aero have that nice honeycomb pattern on the side that faces your ears.
So, we won’t get into the nitty-gritty of the design and focus instead on the details that set them apart. Their charging case, for example, comes with a strap that lets you wear it around your wrist or secure it to your backpack so they don’t pop out when you’re on the move.
Perhaps the best aspect of the JBL Reflect Aero’s design is the touch controls, which we have to commend for being responsive and customizable, with helpful sound prompts. You can even program two of those touch gestures to control the volume – something that the popular AirPods Pro line didn’t offer until the release of the second generation, months after the JBL Reflect Aero hit the streets.
To make these more inclusive of different ear sizes, these earphones come with not just silicone tips in three sizes but also three different-sized wing tip pairs. Unfortunately, those ear tips could stand to be a little smaller. Their smallest size might still be a little too big for users with small ears (or ear canal openings).
The JBL Reflect Aero come with app support, that app being the JBL Headphones (not to be confused with JBL Portable, which is for JBL speakers). You certainly do not have to download the app to use the earphones, but it’s well worth having. Not only does it expand their functionality, but also allows you to personalize their sound using the 10-band EQ, which lets you significantly customize those frequencies.
- Design: 4 / 5
JBL Reflect Aero: Performance
- Ambient Aware is good, ANC only ok
- Very good sound quality, bass a little weird
- Mic has less low-end and no background noise rejection
There’s a lot to unload in terms of the JBL Reflect Aero’s performance as they do most things well. The Ambient Aware feature (JBL’s transparency mode), for example, is great. We’ve found that it lets you hear enough of your surroundings to have a conversation with another person while music is still playing at about 50% volume.
You can also pair two devices at the same time, so you can easily switch between your phone and your laptop, for example, when you’re getting a call on your phone while watching a movie on your laptop. There’s also the very reactive in-ear detection that’s very good at detecting when you’ve taken an earbud off or put it back on. Meanwhile, the mic sounds good for making phone calls – so you can rest assured that the person on the other end is hearing you clearly.
As far as sound quality (with the in-app EQ off), the vocals come through clearly and uncolored (not filtered). The high end in general sounds very clear and detailed, if a little on the bright side.
The rest are just ok, decent at best. The active noise cancellation is nothing to write home about as it doesn’t really block out higher frequency sounds – anything that’s in the mids or highs. The only way it works well is when you’ve got music playing at a louder volume.
While you can connect to two devices at once, you can only listen from one input at a time. Plus, you also have to stop or pause one source, wait a couple of seconds then play the other one, which can be inconvenient when you’re in a rush. The mic is also limited in its frequency range so there’s less low-end, and it doesn’t have background noise rejection.
As far as the sound goes, the mids sound a little recessed. In Gemma Hayes’ “Hanging Around,” the guitars sound polite when they should be more in your face as it is a rock song. They just don't hit as hard as they should. The low end is a little weird. In Taylor Swift’s “Maroon” and Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever,” the low end comes out thick and powerful. Yet in Japanese Breakfast’s “Paprika,” the bass sounds anemic.
Our guess is that the bass frequencies are inconsistent as if there’s a valley in the frequency curve somewhere in the low end. And, because the bass in “Maroon” and “Happier Than Ever” is distorted and getting into the mid-range a little, it’s not being affected by that dip. On the other hand, because the low end in “Paprika” is pure bass, it’s losing a chunk of it due to that dip.
Be warned: if those silicone ear tips do not fit properly in your ears, these headphones will sound terrible. The overall sound isn’t going to sound full and rich, with the mid-range sounding recessed, the bass being very restrained, and the high end not delivering the same level of detail. Be sure that those ear tips completely plug your ears before playing music or watching videos.
We’re pointing out those shortcomings to make it clear that the JBL Reflect Aero don’t sit at that premium, audiophile level, which means they’re not going to have the most superior sound or the most high-end features. However, that only really matters to folks who are much more discerning or used to pricey headphones.
As they stand, the JBL Reflect Aero are great sounding, feature-rich earbuds that, despite a few quirks, make good workout companions – especially if water is involved. With their IP68 rating, these can be fully submerged for up to 30 minutes without any effect on performance. Having tested this ourselves, we can confirm that only do they survive being submerged in water, but they also continue to play music. And, so long as your phone is nearby, and you’re not doing deep dives, you can swim laps with these on. Let’s see other earbuds do that.
- Performance: 4 / 5
Should I buy the JBL Reflect Aero?
Buy it if...
You need feature-filled buds to work out with
From the wing tips to keep those earbuds secured to the in-ear detection and sensitive touch controls, the JBL Reflect Aero are filled with all the best features to keep you focused on your workout.
You want waterproof earbuds
With an IP68 rating, the JBL Reflect Aero can withstand complete submersion, something that most other earbuds can’t handle.
You want good sound but don’t want to spend too much
These are good-sounding earbuds that perform almost as well as ones that cost $200/£200 but cost much less.
Don't buy it if...
You need great ANC
While the JBL Reflect Aero have active noise cancellation, it’s somewhat underwhelming. There are plenty of other earbuds out there with better ANC.
You like consistent audio performance
These earbuds generally sound pretty good but the low end’s inconsistency means you never know how that bass will sound from track to track.
Bone conduction headphones that use an FM radio transmitter as a workaround for water’s Bluetooth-blocking properties (though without headset playback buttons).
Read our full Zygo Solo review
Naenka Runner Diver
With 16GB of flash storage, these minimalist but versatile bone conduction headphones are waterproof to depths of 5 m and have up to 10 hours of battery.
Read our full Naenka Runner Diver review
Once you’ve transferred MP3 songs or audio files from your computer, these bone conduction headphones allow in-pool control and great sound.
Read our full Shokz OpenSwim review
JBL Reflect Aero: Report card
|Value||You're getting a lot of features and great performance for the price.||5 / 5|
|Design||The design is nothing special, but the earphones are loaded with so many features, including the IP68 rating.||4 / 5|
|Performance||Their sound quality is very good, and the waterproofing really works.||4 / 5|
|Total||The JBL Reflect Aero are great value waterproof earphones that deliver great performance and a great feature set.||4.5 / 5|
- First reviewed November 2022
How we test
We pride ourselves on our independence and our rigorous review-testing process, offering up long-term attention to the products we review and making sure our reviews are updated and maintained - regardless of when a device was released, if you can still buy it, it's on our radar.
Michelle Rae Uy is the Computing Reviews and Buying Guides Editor here at TechRadar. She's a Los Angeles-based tech, travel and lifestyle writer covering a wide range of topics, from computing to the latest in green commutes to the best hiking trails. She's an ambivert who enjoys communing with nature and traveling for months at a time just as much as watching movies and playing sim games at home. That also means that she has a lot more avenues to explore in terms of understanding how tech can improve the different aspects of our lives.