Wireless earbuds are all the rage today. That figures. We all love music, and being enabled to listen at any moment through super portable designs is invaluable. Naturally, some solutions perform much better than others, and this is where things can interesting. So we like to cover plentiful and differing of today’s options to properly inform in this important field.
A couple of our most recent wireless earbud synopses shined a light on super affordable options. These certainly get the job done, but there’s still reason one may want to spend a little more. This point leads us to our synopsis today, the JBL Reflect Contour 2. At moderate $99, they beg us to ask, why would you want to spend roughly $70 more for a similarly spec’d wireless earbud to those bargain alternatives? This synopsis runs through the main points.
On the surface, the Contour 2 look fairly traditional. That said, a pair of earpieces bridged by a thin cable and in-line 3-button remote. So what we can expect here is better quality compared to those bountiful, low-priced options. Especially from a highly reputable brand (JBL is a subset of Harman Kardon), a big part of what you’re paying should be noticeably better sound quality.
- Solid, attractive, and lightweight construction
- Superb fit and secure ear hooks
- Healthy 10-hour battery life
- Great sound quality for the price
- IPX5 water resistance is relatively weak
- Included carrying case leaves to be desired
- No foam ear tips option
- Tight-fitting ear hooks may not be for everyone
What it’s like to use
- In form alone, there’s little to set the JBL Reflect Contour 2 apart from the many other “wired” wireless earbuds out there. The cylindrical earpieces are averagely sized and silicone ear tips and fins are standardly fashioned. But with execution, there’s a few notable factors to praise.
- Namely, the silvery accents carried through-out considerably up the aesthetics. It’s more noticeable in person than in promo pics. You’ll see a sheen not just from the chamfered metal earpiece caps but also alternating with the blue sheathing across the cable (there’s also Black, Green, and Red versions of the headphone). The styling helps what is a predominately plastic/rubbery facade and sets it apart from others.
- Another design differentiation is the substantial ear hooks that are hard to miss. This is actually what gives the “Contour” its name and selling point. If you don’t value the extra donned security, JBL also makes a standard Reflect variant that is the same sans the hooks for around $30 less.
- We have to give kudos to JBL for a mindfully thin cable. There has always been questionability over these “wireless” earbuds that have a bridging wire. In our opinion, if you’re going to do it, you should make it as thin and non-invasive as possible (this often isn’t the case). The result with the Contour 2 is that you minimally feel the wire resting behind your head.
- The in-line 3-button controller is the least “premium” part of the Contour 2, having that commonly cheap, hard plastic feel. The only benefit of this fact is that it’s very lightweight and won’t weigh down its left-hand location. This is also where the charging interface is located. A tiny water-sealing flap protects the microUSB port on the side.
- The Contour 2’s packaging is fairly typical for an earbud of this type, such as short USB-to-microUSB cable and carrying case. We’re not big fans of JBL’s case design. The size is perfect, and the rubbery makeup should last, but that it doesn’t completely close can be a problem. Despite there being lips at the free ends to reduce the gap, the contents can still slip out if the case were to find itself upside down.
- In addition to the typical selection of S, M, and L silicone ear tips, you’ll also see the same variety of ear fins. As if the plump ear hooks weren’t enough, JBL opts for additional inner ear security for good measure. These fins are easily fitted wrapped around the center of the earpieces.
- As one might expect, the fit of the earpieces on the ear is tighter than the average bear (the ear hooks are flexible but firmly maintain their narrowly looped, around-the-ear shape). If your workouts are rigorous and you especially care about the earbuds staying in place, the Contour 2 is no doubt a top choice. That said, we can imagine fatigue being a concern for some ears. We only observed a minimal ache after a long session, nothing critical.
- Both the ear tip and fin fit were excellent for us. We were easily able to get a complete in-canal seal, which can’t be said for a lot of the earbuds out there. Comfort is also top-notch. A note when donning is that you may have to assist the ear fins in place by pushing on them. No biggie.
- Getting going with the Contour 2 is easy as pie (if pie were easy to make). Like with most wireless earbuds, the middle play/pause button on the remote is also the power button. Long-press it and it will first boot in pairing mode. The volume up/down buttons, in typical fashion, also double for track forward/back (with a long-press), and the middle button also toggles the source’s virtual assistant with a double-tap. As for ergonomics, the three buttons aren’t the easiest to distinguish by feel at first. But a light slope to the volume up/down buttons does allow you to get used to the placement until it becomes natural.
- Two of the most important performance factors of a wireless earbud is battery life and durability. The Contour 2 sport an above-average 10-hour battery rating (low-cost alternatives are usually around 8 hours). Though, weather resistance could be better, with a IPX5 rating. This should be enough for splashes from rain or sweat, but you’ll have to be mindful of anything more. Water immersion is out of the question. JBL is a little behind in this department, as some bargain alternatives even offer IPX7 protection.
- The Contour 2’s marketing doesn’t highlight the audio capabilities much. We don’t see any word about aptX higher fidelity wireless audio support or any special audio driver technology. But being made JBL, we weren’t suspecting that the audio quality would be passable.
- This is certainly the case. The Contour 2 produce a really enjoyable and engaging sound, with ample detail. It’s fair to say that typical wireless earbuds lack in sound signature balance and liveliness. This isn’t isn’t the case here.
- The most immediate aspect of the Contour 2’s sound is its forward mid-range. This is where most of the energy comes from, as vocals are in your face (in a good way) and instruments in the region surround you. A touch of airiness gives it all a spacious presentation, giving the earbuds a strong advantage in its class.
- The mid-bass doesn’t quite keep up the same amount of strength (lighter in punch than you may used to), which may sound slightly recessed in comparison in some instances. However, the lower half of the bass does somewhat make up for it. There’s decent body, depth, and impact through the upper sub-bass/lower mid-bass (though, slight tubbiness compared to high-end earphones).
- The treble can sometimes pick up ample detail, but it’s mostly average to our ears. Its laid-back nature gets it overshadowed at times. It’s appreciable when the track highlights upper notes (though, you won’t get the high-end sparkle that’s tougher for lower-costing earphones to capture), and carries further the airy/open quality also seen in the mid-range.
- Clarity is notable for the most part for this price-point. We don’t hear the muddiness, bloat, or flat sound found with many earbuds at the sub-$100 range. Overall, what the Contour 2’s sound has going for it is its mostly leveled sound signature and lively, airy, and clean reproduction.
The reality is that the Reflect Contour 2 isn’t the easiest recommendation. There’s a lot of competition in this field, and many that cost significantly less. This doesn’t mean that JBL’s effort can’t be a recommendation. They’re certainly solid all-around. The clearest advantage over the competition more appeals to strict active users. The substantial ear hooks on the Contour 2 are very well designed. You can’t beat security like this, and we can’t imagine a workout that would compromise it.
Build and sound quality are also notable, though, a lot of the lower-priced competition are putting up a compelling fight today. If you want a wireless earbud that can keep up with your rigorous workouts, and that packs a bit more acoustic skill than average, then the Contour 2 should be a consideration.
Also See: Best True Wireless Earbuds