Product Review: JBL Synchros In-Ear Headphones

JBL's Synchros Reflect in-ear headphones integrate many runners' preferences. Photo: Patricia Vollmer
JBL’s Synchros Reflect in-ear headphones integrate many runners’ preferences. Photo: Patricia Vollmer

This past month I had the privilege of reviewing several of JBL’s latest in their Synchros line of headphones. In this post I’ll be reviewing two of their newest in-ear headphones, the Reflect Sport Headphones and the E-10.

JBL Reflect

The Reflect headphones were designed with the headphones-wearing athlete in mind. I took these headphones out for several runs this past month and was absolutely enamored with their comfort and sound quality. While I can talk about the PureBass sound quality, there are numerous other reviews of these products that can cover it with more authority than I could.

However, I am quite picky when it comes to headphone comfort during high impact activities such as running and mountain biking. This is where I feel my opinion matters.

SynchrosReflect
The JBL Synchros Reflect has really comfortable ear tips. Three sizes are included for a custom fit. Image: JBL.

The Reflect has several attributes that will make this a favorite set of corded headphones for athletes.

  1. Silicone ear tips. The packaging states that they’re called “Freebit” ear tips. They are similar to the PEAR Sport headphones I had reviewed earlier this year, where the silicone piece tucks up into the curvature of the outer ear. There are three pair of these tips in three sizes, so you can use the ones that best fit your ears. When properly installed, there is NO MOTION in your ears. A very comfortable fit.
  2. Reflective flat cord. The flat cord helps to keep the cable from tangling as easily, and it is coated in a silvery reflective surface. This makes it wonderful for nighttime runs.
  3. Magnetic earpieces. The “JBL” ends of the earpieces are magnetic and will clasp together for easy storage. Also, you can clasp the earpieces around your neck for security.
  4. All-in-One controller just below the left earpiece. You can use these headphones to have phone conversations (as well as other microphone-enabled tasks on an iPhone). There is a single controller bar, similar to what you get on the iPhone 5’s headphones, with which you can start or stop the music, increase or decrease the volume, and pick up or hang up the phone.
  5. Clip. There’s a tiny little clip at the left and right ear wire junction. It works well for me on a v-neck shirt, but on a crewneck I have to bunch it up to get the clip aligned. I only tried it for the purposes of this review and didn’t clip them while actually working out.
  6. Sweatproof. This is merely what I saw on the box. I have sweat plenty in these headphones in the three weeks I’ve had them and so far have had no problems. I’ve had other headphones destroyed by sweat and it has always taken at least six months.
  7. Dual cord lengths. This is my favorite attribute, because I usually connect my headphones to my iPhone in an arm band. In the past, I had to figure out how to wrap the excess cord so that it doesn’t bounce around when I run (a pet peeve of mine). The detachable cord allows you to have a shorter cord for running, and a longer cord when needed.
JBL_Reflect
In both of these photos you can see the reflective properties of the headphone cable. The top photo shows the longer cord. The bottom shows how short the cable can be. See the next section for some limitations to how well this works on the iPhone 5. Photo: Dave Vollmer.

Here are some other notes about the Synchros Reflect:

  1. The plug to connect the headphones to your device is nearly twice as tall as the iPhone’s original headphones. Let me explain why this is an issue. The iPhone 5 decided to have its headphone jack on the bottom of the device. So if you want it face-up in an armband, the plug is near the crevice of your inner elbow. The longer plug on the Reflect can dig into your skin, unless you flip the phone around such that the headphone jack is facing up. You might end up with several apps that don’t work that way, but the ones I care about, such as Nike+, will be fine.
  2. The instructions for how to use the controller button near the left earpiece are complicated and different than other similarly-featured headphones. The center button is to be depressed once to start/stop music, twice to fast forward one track, and three times to rewind one track. I had a very hard time controlling my music this way. If you take your time depressing the buttons, you will get the wrong response. I guess this takes practice.
  3. Reflect headphones are not completely interchangeable between iPhone and Android devices and JBL has released separate models for them, both of which are the same price. I received the Reflect-I for my iOS devices, but if you will be using these headphones with any Android devices you have to make sure to buy the Reflect-A model for full operability. You can use an -I model in an Android device—and vice versa—and you will be able to hear things just fine. However, don’t expect the controller under the left earpiece to function properly. There are more color options for the Reflect-I model than the Reflect-A.

JBL’s Synchros Reflect-I and Reflect-A headphones are available through major electronics retailers such as Amazon with an MSRP of $59.99.

JBL Synchros E10

The Synchros E10 headphones are a basic model of in-ear headphones, particularly well suited for listening to your favorite tunes while on your commute or while flying. They are super-lightweight and will coil up nice and compact for easy travel.

The Synchros E10 headphones are perfect for commuters and travelers. They pack up nice and small. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
The Synchros E10 headphones are perfect for commuters and travelers. They pack up nice and small. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

The E10s are fully compatible with iOS and Android devices, as well as with laptops and even old-school headphone jacks. It includes assorted sizes of silicone earpieces for a comfortable fit. In addition, the clear plastic case is reusable, perfect for packing the headphones for a trip. The cable is flat to minimize tangling.

There are a couple other nifty features. There’s a sliding piece on the right and left cables so that you can clip the headphones tightly below your chin, if you are doing anything high impact with these headphones. Like the Reflect line, there is a multi-function button on the left-ear cable. This one is more simple: the single button only starts and stops music, or picks up/hangs up your phone. There is neither volume control, nor is there forward/backward control with this button.

I had no problems with the sound quality with these headphones. It also has the “PureBass” sound feature that the Reflect models do, and I could hear the strong bass loud and clear with the Pearl Jam and Daft Punk with which I tested these.

The E10 comes in a variety of colors. As you can see, the review model I received was purple.

Ready to travel! My E10s fit nicely in the included carry case.

The JBL Synchros E10 retails for $39.95 and is available through major electronics retailers such as Amazon.

GeekMom received these products for review purposes.

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Patricia Vollmer is the proud mother of two emerging geek sons, ages 12 & 14. She serves part time as a meteorologist with the Air Force Reserve and is currently assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Patricia blogs about her family's nomadic military life at Ground Control to Major Mom. Home is always where the Air Force sends her family, which for now is in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hobbies include running, despite no one chasing her, sharing her love for Disney and Star Wars, and exploring the world with her boys. Ask her why the sky is blue at your own risk.