I've tried out numerous JBL audio products in the last year from earbuds to headphones to party speakers and generally I've been very impressed with the brand's performance.
The company's new Reflect Flow Pro earbuds are the latest, aimed at those who are looking for waterproof, wireless, active noise cancelling (ANC) sport earbuds.
Too often sports earbuds ask you to accept low quality audio performance for the sake of being a little hardier than others.
Could the new JBL earbuds keep me happy while I'm out running or would they fail to stand up to my audio needs?
I've been using the JBL Reflect Flow Pro for a couple of weeks and here are my thoughts.
I was a little worried when first opening the charge case and seeing the size of the earbuds, but those concerns were quickly dismissed.
They might be a touch larger than I'm used to, but the weight and the fit in my ears was as good as any I've used.
I didn't even need to change the earbud tips or wings for one of the other sizes provided in the package as the default sizes were great and the JBL Headphones app on my phone confirmed the fit was perfect.
The size briefly led to concerns over comfort when used over long periods of time, but I was delighted that on walks of over two hours I didn't suffer any ill effects.
Other sports earbuds I've used also tend to be a little less secure once you get up a sweat, but at no point during my usage was I concerned that an earbud might drop out - and running on hard ground didn't cause them to dislodge either.
The Reflect Flow Pros are IP68 compliant, meaning you don't need to worry about dust or dropping them into water. I'm usually very careful when reviewing products to do nothing that might cause issues, but I felt a test here was necessary.
Okay, that's not quite true. While making dinner one night I accidentally knocked the earbuds into the sink, immersing them in water. I can confirm there were no ill effects on the earbuds.
Given JBL says you can wear these while surfboarding, I shouldn't have been surprised.
The ANC is also very good. I judge this in two ways - can it kill the monotone drone of the air conditioning in the office and can I still hear my podcasts as big trucks drive by?
On both of these measures, the JBL earbuds proved more than a match for the distracting dins.
Battery life is also more than good enough for everyday use.
JBL reckons without ANC you can get 10 hours of battery life out of a fully-charged set, and around eight hours with it on. Then there's enough juice in the case to fully charge them another twice.
I struggle to see any situation in which I'm going to be exercising for 30 hours without access to a simple USB-C cable, which charges the set fully in around two hours. They'll also charge via any Qi wireless charger if that's your preference.
One of the things I really appreciate about the JBL range of audio products is the software support, in this case the JBL Headphones app.
It's both easy to use and it allows a level of customisation that too few headphone manufacturers do, in my experience.
Not only is there an equaliser with multiple predefined settings, you can also create your own to tailor the sound just to your liking - this is handy when you're a big fan of bass like me.
There's also the testing function, to make sure you have the right fit and 'Find My Buds' functionality that plays a high-pitched beeping sound on the earbuds if you've misplaced them.
The best part is being able to define exactly what I wanted both earbuds to do when I tapped them, what JBL calls 'gestures'.
Each bud has multiple settings depending on function - single tap, double tap, triple tap and tap and hold.
You can choose the same settings for both the right and left bud or, as I did, have one controlling playback and one controlling volume.
You can also set the earbuds to work with your favourite virtual assistant, or to be able to switch the ANC on and off quickly depending on your preference.
Even if you choose to switch touch controls off for playback (and why would you?) double-tapping will always answer a phone call, while a tap and hold will reject it or mute/unmute your microphone during a call.
Of course, all the above don't matter as much as the quality of the audio - in this realm the product delivers well. I switch often between podcasts, audiobooks and music while exercising and the performance across all three was excellent.
Voices were clear and audible across my favourite podcasts and I listened to Billy Connolly's Windswept and Interesting autobiography with glee using the Reflect Flow Pros. It was a great experience.
I also tried out a variety of different music genres to ensure the buds don't just cater to my preference for rock and heavy metal.
From Motorhead to The Beatles, via Debbie Gibson, Jimmy Buffett and Max Richter, I found the sound to be full and true and, coupled with the ANC, I was able to close my eyes and be transported to those places only beautiful music can.
There is very little downside to the Reflect Flow Pros.
Perhaps the biggest issue might be the price, at least for some. Coming in at just under $300 they're not cheap, but I don't consider that outrageous for the quality and functionality provided.
I did have a couple of recurring minor issues during the testing period.
The first is that I'm a fiddler and so am constantly touching and adjusting the earbuds. That means I kept on engaging the 'gestures' by mistake.
Most often this meant accidentally pausing my music or podcast and so it's not exactly a big deal, but depending on how you configure the touch controls you might find it a bigger issue.
The only other problem I had was on one of Auckland's particularly windy days. While heading into the wind, the noise of the wind hitting the earphones felt quite loud.
Of course, the JBLs aren't alone in that, but their slightly bigger bulk made it more noticeable than others.
If you're not someone who heads out for a run in 40km winds then it's unlikely to cause you any woes, however.
JBL has kept up its record of producing audio products that have impressed me with these sporty earbuds.
The Reflect Flow Pro may be at the upper end of what I'd consider an acceptable price for sports earbuds but their overall performance and ability to tailor them to my needs make them an irresistible package.
Not only am I happy to wear these while pounding the streets, they're also more than good enough for my headbanging habits at home.
They might not be as 'cool' as some brands, but JBL's consistency in delivering high-quality audio means they should be considered one of the go-tos for anyone looking to buy some.
The app is the cherry on top. By allowing me to control the volume by touching an earbud rather than relying on a smart assistant, these have been elevated to the top of my exercise pile.
Newshub was supplied with a pair of JBL Reflect Flow Pro earbuds for this review.