JBL Reflect Aware headphones review: Good and bad in equal measures

Apple may include a 3.5mm to Lightning dongle with the newest iPhones, but honestly, that's not the best solution for everyone (neither are the included EarPods!). The dongles are easy to lose, for one, and a great way to get around that is to invest in some headphones with a Lightning connector.

There is a decent selection out there, and one such option is the Reflect Aware from JBL. As a respected brand in audio, you may expect big things from these headphones. In some regards that pans out, but the Reflect Aware isn't perfect at all.

What you'll love about the JBL Reflect Aware

JBL Reflect Aware

The first thing to highlight is that the cable is pretty long. Wherever you stash your phone while exercising, you'll be able to comfortably get the headphones into your ears. There's an inline remote, too, which is pretty sizeable and offers volume controls along with play/pause, track skipping, a microphone for the times you need to make a call and a button to turn the active noise cancellation (ANC) on and off.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Headphones14.8mm Dynamic Drivers
Noise cancellationActive Noise Cancellation
OtherAdaptive Noise Control
Companion appMy JBL Headphones

You'll never enable it by mistake, either, since you get a strong message in your ears to tell you when it's turned on and off. What's particularly good is that JBL allows you to adjust the level of noise cancellation you're getting. The idea here is that when you're out for a run, for example, you probably want to hear some of the outside world, but on a plane you'll want to block it all out.

Controlling this is done through the companion app, which also offers a rudimentary equalizer as well as an easy way to update the firmware of the headphones.

Sound wise, the Reflect Aware is pretty good for the most part. I'm not too bass-friendly, so I appreciate a well-balanced sound, which these headphones deliver. With some mild tweaking of the equalizer the sound quality is very pleasing.

They're very comfortable to wear as well. You have a selection of different sized hooks and earbuds to help you get the perfect fit for your ears, and as they're sweatproof you can go out for a run and know that they'll stay the course.

What you'll hate about the JBL Reflect Aware

JBL Reflect Aware

Having ANC is a definite positive, but the quality of it is questionable in some scenarios. When you're listening to music, it's fine, albeit a little weak since you can still hear some of the outside world when it's on its maximum setting.

But if you're listening to something quieter like a podcast or an audiobook with ANC on, there's a weird background noise that will drive you crazy. Well, until you turn the ANC off and just put up with background noise. This is the best solution. A little is to be expected thanks to how ANC works, but on the Reflect Aware it's annoying and distracting.

What's also disappointing is the volume. I'm not one for ridiculously loud music, but with or without the ANC on the Reflect Aware just doesn't feel loud enough. Again, extra annoying with quieter audio like podcasts.

Most of all, though, you shouldn't pay full price. It's not hard to find them on a deal somewhere (I picked these up for £27 on Amazon UK Warehouse Deals, £100 below RRP). Lightning headphones have a reputation for being expensive, but at full price, you can probably do better.

Bottom line on the JBL Reflect Aware

JBL Reflect Aware

These aren't bad headphones to use with your iPhone or iPad. In some ways they're very good, and the sound quality is one of those, as is the comfort and the fact you get a pretty large carry case for them.

The companion app is also very good. It's easy to use and adds some definition between these headphones and others with features like the adaptive noise control.

But, they're too expensive at their full price and the ANC is definitely a case of "you tried hard, but could do better." If you listen to a lot of podcasts, look elsewhere, because the ANC background noise will drive you insane. If it's mostly music, shop around, find a deal and you've a solid pair of headphones. Particularly if you're the sporty kind.

Ultimately, JBL's Reflect Aware headphones are good and bad in equal measures.

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Richard Devine

Editor at iMore, part time racing driver, full time British guy. Follow him on Twitter and Google+