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JBL Tune Flex review: Talented transformable earbuds

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £90
inc VAT

With a novel design, plenty of features and a fun sound signature, the JBL Tune Flex more than justify the asking price


  • Unique transformable design
  • Fun sound signature
  • Accomplished app


  • May be a bit bass-heavy for some
  • Finicky touch controls
  • ANC and battery life could be better

The JBL Tune Flex are proof, if it was ever needed, that the true wireless earbuds market never sits still. More than six years on from Apple’s arrival on the true wireless scene, we’re still seeing a dizzying release schedule and all manner of interesting innovations.

JBL has been among the most active manufacturers over recent years, producing earbuds catering to a wide range of users at price points that are relatively easy on the wallet. Its latest buds, the JBL Tune Flex, hold true to this idea but have a novel twist up their sleeve: the ability to be used as both open-fit buds and buds that seal off your ear canals.

It’s a clever idea and one that helps set the Tune Flex apart from their numerous competitors, but do they fare well enough in other areas to be worthy of your attention? Read on to find out.

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JBL Tune Flex review: What do you get for the money?

The JBL Tune Flex were priced at £90 at the time of writing, making them more expensive than all of the options on our best cheap wireless earbuds roundup, but significantly cheaper than premium alternatives like the Apple AirPods.

Having a unique selling point is always helpful in a crowded market, and the Tune Flex have an unusual and rather useful one. Unlike most true wireless earbuds, which either use an open-ear design or have silicone tips to seal off your ear canals, the Tune Flex cover both bases.

By default, they’re of the open-ear variety and allow a certain amount of external sound in to help increase your environmental awareness. However, by attaching one of the pairs of included eartips, you can transform them into buds better equipped to block out the outside world and deliver a more satisfying listening experience.

That handy ability is complemented by a fleshed-out app, fun sound signature, active noise cancellation, IPX4 water resistance, Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity and a maximum play time of 32 hours (eight hours from the buds and 24 hours from the accompanying charging case) – a generous suite of features for the money.

JBL Tune Flex review: What do we like about them?

With the Tune Flex, JBL is targeting consumers looking for a pair of true wireless earbuds equipped for general use; the kind of earbuds that will serve you equally well when exercising, commuting or rocking out at home.

What this means in terms of product design, initially, is a well-made app. Many manufacturers offer apps with their wireless buds, but few offer such a feature-rich and smooth experience as JBL. Beyond the quick process of pairing, the app allows users to switch through different levels of noise cancellation, activate ambient listening, adjust listening for audio leakage and change EQ settings. It’s also possible to remap the touch controls and more, so all in all, this is one of the better options available on the market.

Beyond the app, it also means the use of an EQ tuned more for “fun” than absolute detail. These are buds that place an emphasis on bass, and as such are tailor-made for running and sessions in the gym. Punk, dance, EDM and other bass-heavy genres are very well presented, with warmth and energy to spare. The tuning isn’t as heavy-handed as some can be, and as such the JBL Tune Flex work well with a variety of other genres.

Voice call quality also proved to be a particular highlight. While nothing quite rivals the call quality experience that an AirPods Pro and MacBook combo can achieve, the JBL Tune Flex offered crisp performance in most situations. If you work from home or spend a lot of time on video calls, you’ll be pleased to find that these exhibit none of the echo, tinniness or quietness that defines a lot of the competition at the same price point and above.

JBL Tune Flex review: What could be improved?

Although the JBL Tune Flex are a very well-rounded set of earbuds, they’re not entirely without fault.

Despite there being a total of six separate levels of active noise cancellation on offer, they weren’t enough to challenge particularly busy environments. While they will certainly help to dampen the impact of external noise in a busy café, you’re still going to be getting a few distractions making their way to your ears. This will likely be enough for many, but those with long or particularly noisy commutes may wish to spring for something with a little more in this area.

Battery life is another area in which the Tune Flex could do better. The stated battery life is only achievable if you’re not using active noise cancellation and listening at a moderate volume – regular use of ANC saw in-ear battery life fall to between four and five hours. This means you’ll need to top them up midway through a long-haul flight, and those who use their buds while commuting every day will find themselves charging the case at least once a week.

I also found their touch controls a little hit and miss, so this is another area that could do with some work, but any issues were relatively minor and didn’t impact my experience too negatively.

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JBL Tune Flex review: Should you buy them?

The list of relative drawbacks for the JBL Tune Flex is quite short, reflecting the fact that they’re a pair of highly capable and eminently affordable true wireless earbuds. Rarely does a manufacturer get as close to achieving the promise set out in its marketing, while successfully meeting the needs of such a broad target market.

These are buds that are comfortable to wear, sound good, have ANC and impressive microphone quality, and are supported by a very capable companion app. Then you have their unique ability to transform, which isn’t going to revolutionise the true wireless market but is useful nonetheless. With all that going for them, it’s relatively easy to ignore the fact that their noise cancellation isn’t the most effective and that battery life could perhaps be a bit better.

Should you be in the market for a set of earbuds and have around £90 to spend, the JBL Tune Flex ought to be firmly in your sights as one of the best options available today.

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