JBL has been releasing wireless earbuds left and right. And it’s hard to keep up. But out of the many JBL wireless reviews I’ve written recently, this model seems to stand out most, especially given the budget-friendly price. What can you expect in terms of sound and design from the Tune Flex? And is it as good as some of Apple’s models?
What’s in the Box?
JBL Tune Flex Earbuds
USB-C charging cable
3 sizes of silicone tips
Look and Feel
When you first take the Tune Flex out of the box (they come in black or white), they seem to closely approximate the original, universal fit, Apple AirPods, without any silicone tip. In fact, wearing them with the extra small, “open ear tip” (which you can hardly notice) was most notably comfortable for me. Once I fitted the earbuds with the more traditional ear tips, the seal became more snug but also felt a touch more obtrusive. However, overall, I had no problems with respect to comfort, and it’s nice to have the option of an open or sealed fit.
The Tune Flex is dressed in a small, cute case, again, about the general size of the AirPods. The earbuds themselves are also sleek and compact. They are smaller and more elegant than JBL’s other models, and it’s clear that the brand had aesthetics and portability in mind when creating this particular design.
Design and Functionality
Both earbuds have touch sensors that allow you to control a bunch of functions, such as switching through ambient and ANC mode, track skipping, play/pause, as well as call and voice-assistant control. You’ll also find additional touch controls on the accompanying app. It should be noted, however, that you can’t adjust volume on the earbuds themselves. So, you’ll have to control loudness from your mobile device.
The Tune Flex delivers 6 hours of play with an additional 18 hours of charge in the case. This is about average for a pair of wireless earbuds in this price range. The similarly priced Apple model offers about the same playtime. There’s also a quick fix to battery drainage, as these earbuds can yield 2 hours of play from just a 10 minute charge.
ANC (Active Noise Cancellation)
I was surprised that earbuds with a semi-universal, “AirPod-like” fit would produce such decent ANC. At least, the ANC power seems no less effective than other competing mid-range wireless buds. But as mentioned above, if you’re wearing the earbuds without a silicone tip, you’ll get slightly less effective ANC. The Tune Flex also features ambient mode, which can be controlled via the touch control on the earbuds or in the accompanying app. (More about the extra features below.)
JBL features one of the latest versions of Bluetooth, 5.2, which in theory, should mean fewer dropped signals and a smoother transmission overall. And I personally didn’t run into any of these problems during my test.
JBL boasts “crisp clear calls” on the Tune Flex. Although I had no trouble having a conversation on these earphones, the sound was less than crisp. The callers voice came out on the rounder, heavier side. That being said, I experienced no interruptions or dropouts even in the middle of the city.
Like all JBL models, the Tune Flex has an accompanying app that allows you to control a host of functions, such as ANC levels, equalizer balance and earbud touch control gestures. The equalizer is perhaps the most impressive, giving you complete creative control over the entire frequency graph. Given that these earbuds lean on the bassier side, this adjustment feature may prove useful.
The Tune Flex is rated IPX4 in water resistance. This means that it can withstand heavy sweat and even a downpour.
Although the Tune Flex may not present a particularly vast soundscape, there is quite a bit of height to the sound, and instruments reach above the ear, as well as fall to the bottom of the ear. The degrees in instrument placement also feel precise and nuanced. And though you’ll hear little depth, given the good height and accurate imaging, there is enough dimension to the stage to make for an immersive audio experience.
The bass is deep, fleshy and fast. And the sub-bass frequencies vibrate the head and throat. Certainly, if you’re a bass enthusiast, the earbuds are ideal. At the same time, the bass avoids creeping up into the higher frequencies and there’s no bloat. Rather, the bass is tight, powerful and disciplined. So, those who prefer a more moderate balance won’t find this sound signature offensive.
A very full bodied sound in the midrange. The low-mids are given plenty of fair play, while the upper mids stop short of sounding too forward. As a result, vocals and harsher instruments are placed comfortably within the mix, avoiding any ear fatigue. Still, there is some oomph in the upper mids. So, you’re left with a very lush, yet dynamic sound. But although the Tune Flex presents a rich tone, acoustic instruments still feel natural and well detailed, while the tidy separation offers clean layering of all sonic elements. But for sure, in addition to the bass, the midrange makes this sound signature a crowd pleaser.
The highs are sumptuous and smooth, never reaching uncomfortable treble peaks. On the flip side, you will get less sparkle or shine from these buds than you would from a brighter earphone. And vocals and strings have a rich weight to them rather than a light airiness. Acoustic instruments in particular favor smoothness over texture in this range. So, the highs are perhaps less transparent than they are highly enjoyable.
For a $100, JBL is offering a similar design and arguably better resolution than the more expensive AirPods 3rd Generation. The balance is very similar to the AirPods, but JBL just seems to do it better and cleaner. Add to that a comfortable and versatile fit, an equalizer and pretty decent ANC, and you’ve got a quality wireless earphone. I would have loved longer battery life and more crystal calls, but for the price, you can’t complain. A solid deal overall.