One of the problems with noise-cancelling headphones – those with active devices that intercept external noises – is that they need to be bulky. Those extra receivers and sound units usually require a separate battery pack, and quickly weigh down even lightweight headphones: You can check our list of best noise cancelling headphones for 2018 to see how even the best headphones still struggle with this.
JBL’s current solution to the problem is practical, and appears to be very effective: The Reflect Aware C earphones use the Apple lightning connector to draw power and audio from the same source. This is one of the major benefits of the USB Type-C connection, and no doubt one reason that Apple keeps updating its connectors – it wants more companies to experiment like this.
But that’s not the only thing that makes the Reflect Aware C interesting. This one of the relatively few pairs of in-ear earphones that provide full active noise cancellation that you can turn up or down to help target particularly annoying ongoing noises. It’s impressive technology in such a small package, and it’s great if you’ve been want to block noise but dislike over-ear headphones.
They are also sports earphones, which is a bit more puzzling. We love exercise-oriented features like sweatproof materials, tilted ear tips designed to stay in your ears through runs, and other features included on these earphones. But where does noise cancellation fit in? Noise canceling is useful when you’re riding the subway, in a crowd, trying to concentrate in the common room, and so on. On exercise headphones, the most they could do is get rid of the rumbling from a treadmill – and you definitely wouldn’t want to shut out noise when jogging out on the streets.
But maybe that’s the point. JBL may be positioning these headphones as dual-purpose, a pair you can wear for exercise but also pull out when you want some peace of mind. How much would you pay for that? We want to know, too, because JBL hasn’t announced a price yet.