As we hurtle noiselessly into a dystopian future, headphone makers have already started offering Lightning-only earbuds, something that should give early adopters some solace but might be a hard sell for folks with a shoebox full of tangled traditional earbuds. But the future is here and JBL Reflect Aware is the first active-noise canceling soldier in the paddle against the headphone jack.
These $199 sports headphones are designed as a sort of showcase for the capabilities of Lightning-powered headphones. They offer your standard in-ear earbud design with soft silicone tips for either sports or regular use. The Lightning connector ads some smarts to the whole thing thanks to on-board noise cancellation that can be turned on and off with a click of the fairly large microphone/volume control button.
I had some trouble plugging these in on my iPhone 6s Plus – they weren’t supported at first – but a reboot fixed the issue. Obviously if you have a headphone jack you might as well just get the old-fashioned equivalents but if you’re stuck with a Lightning port there are a fair bet.
Sound quality was solid if a little bass-heavy. The country rocker Willin’ by Little Feat received a deep bass thump that you wouldn’t notice other headphones and the noise cancellation cleaned things up considerably – although I wouldn’t depend on these for a long plane ride. The National’s Bloodbuzz Ohio benefitted from some deeper drum sounds and generally everything was slightly improved by the on-board electronics.
For now headphones like the Reflect Aware are gimmicks riding a trend. Soon they’ll be the norm. It’s interesting to see what headphone makers are going to do with the Lightning port especially considering they can power thin and light headphones and offer some audio improvements and better noise cancelling. At $199 these guys are a little too expensive for my taste but they’re worth look if you’ve suddenly found yourself Lightning-only and need a solid pair of workout earbuds that aren’t Apple white.