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JBL Reflect Mini NC TWS - Review 2021

This year’s onslaught of affordable noise-cancelling true wireless earphones continues with the JBL Reflect Mini NC TWS. And if you love massive, booming bass, these in-ears certainly deliver on that front. As for noise cancellation, however, the earphones are inconsistent at best, and mediocre at worst. We like the Reflect Mini’s waterproof build and ultra-secure fit, but ultimately, the $130 Anker Soundcore Liberty Air Pro 2 earphones deliver better audio performance and noise cancellation for less money.

Sporty and Secure

Available in black, blue, or white models, the Reflect Mini’s sporty earbuds offer a secure fit, aided by earfins. They ship with three pairs of eartips (S, M, L) and three pairs of fins (also S, M, L). The fit is exceptionally stable, making the earphones ideal for exercise.

The earpieces have an IPX7 rating, meaning they’re waterproof and can be submerged up to a meter for 30 minutes. Bluetooth signal doesn’t work in water, but the point is, you can wash these off under a faucet, get them soaking wet or sweaty, and they’ll still work. The charging case isn’t waterproof, however, so the earpieces must be fully dry before docking them.

The touch-sensitive on-ear controls are divided between the two earpieces. A tap on the right controls playback, two taps skips forward a track, and three taps skips backward. A double tap also answers an incoming call or ends it on both earpieces. A long press on either ear summons your device’s voice assistant. A single tap on the left ear toggles through ANC on, ANC off, and Ambient Aware modes.

The charging case has a flip top lid and built-in cloth strap. The included USB-C-to-USB-A charging cable connects to its bottom panel. There’s a status LED strip on the exterior that tells you how much battery life the earphones have left.

JBL Reflect Mini NC TWS lifestyle

JBL estimates battery life to be roughly seven hours, with 14 hours in the charging case. So the battery life spec for the earpieces is good, but the case holds less extra charge than most models we test. However, it’s also smaller and more pocketable than many, so there’s a trade-off. Regardless, your results will vary with your volume levels.

The earphones are compatible with Bluetooth 5.1 and support AAC and SBC codecs, but not AptX. Internally, 6mm drivers deliver a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz.

The JBL Headphones app for Android and iOS is a one-size-fits-all app that offers a variety of useful controls. There’s adjustable, savable EQ, as well as presets to choose from. You can rearrange the on-ear controls and assign them as you wish in the Gestures menu, and the Voice Assistant menu allows you to switch from your device’s default assistant to either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. There are also ANC and Ambient Aware mode controls in the app, which we’ll discuss in the next section.

Inconsistent Noise Cancellation, Intense Bass

When it comes to ANC (active noise cancellation), the app allows for some degree of fine-tuning, but it’s unclear what you’re actually changing. Is moving the fader left lowering the level of ANC, or focusing on lower frequencies? It’s a legitimate question, because we couldn’t hear a notable difference when moving the fader in testing, and furthermore, we’d adjust it, leave the menu, and then come back immediately to find the fader in a different spot than we left it.

Aside from the ANC tuning quirks, when we went through our low-frequency noise tests, the earphones performed decently. They took out a wide swath of lows, comparable with some of the better budget models we’ve tested. But beyond lows, the performance is average at best. Blasting music and turning ANC on or off made only subtle differences. Noises you might hear in a crowded restaurant are dialed back modestly, and sometimes sound as if they’re not being dialed back at all.

Despite an in-ear fit that feels exceptionally stable, the ANC performance seems inconsistent—sometimes even the low frequencies don’t sound all that dialed back. Compared with the less expensive Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 Pro, the ANC here is similar when dealing with low frequencies, but not even close with mids and highs.

JBL Reflect Mini NC TWS

As far as audio performance, on tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the earphones deliver thunderous low-frequency depth that doesn’t distort at top, unwise listening levels. At more moderate listening levels, the bass depth is still quite boosted.

Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the general sound signature. The drums on this track are thunderous to an almost unnatural degree, and Callahan’s vocals get an extra helping of low-mid richness, as well. The tape hiss on this track also takes a step forward, telling us that the deep lows and brightest highs are both boosted and sculpted dramatically. The end result is a sound signature that is wildly scooped, with the midrange frequencies on vacation for the most part.

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On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives less high-mid presence than we’re used to hearing, which means the loop’s attack loses a bit of its punchy presence. But the deep lows beef up the loop’s sustain, and the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with gusto—it sounds like there’s a subwoofer inside of the earpieces. The vocals on this track are delivered with solid clarity, so despite all the bass boosting, they don’t sound overwhelmed in the mix, but there’s some added sibilance at times.

Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, sound comically off. There’s just way too much bass depth added for things to sound as they should. Those who love extra bass response will be pleased, but this is one of the more bass-forward sound signatures we’ve heard in a while.

The mic offers strong intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone, we could understand every word we recorded cleanly and clearly. There was only a little bit of Bluetooth distortion in the mix—less than we hear with most true wireless in-ears. The signal was strong and crisp.

Booming Bass, But Not Much Else

If you’re looking for exercise-friendly waterproof true wireless earphones with subwoofer-like bass, the JBL Reflect Mini NC TWS won’t disappoint. But if you’re interested in audio accuracy and/or effective noise cancellation, you should definitely look elsewhere. For $130, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 earphones are your best alternative, though if you’re more interested in a waterproof, sport-friendly design than you are in noise cancellation, we also recommend the $170 JBL True Wireless Flash X. And if you’re looking for our favorite noise-cancelling true wireless models, you’ll have to spend quite a bit more on either the $250 Apple AirPods Pro or the $280 Bose QuietComfort Earbuds.

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