Wireless earbuds today take a lot of shapes and sizes. What started out as the around-the-neck form has turned into completely wireless earpieces. But, while the latter is more ergonomic and convenient, none have been able to really succeed, with considerable compromise to crucial aspects like battery life, connectivity reliability, and price. This is all while wired “wireless” alternative have gotten better and better, making their presence in the market still very relevant.
In light of this, we’re checking out how well JBL’s new Reflect Contour 2 wireless earbuds perform. Their solid design, that could suit active and causal users alike, and reasonable price really stood out to us. And JBL, being a Harman Kardon brand, should mean some excellent acoustics. Let’s check out if they’re good enough to deter from the true wireless alternatives.
The form of the JBL Contour 2 wireless earbuds aren’t a departure from others of its type. It’s essentially two earpieces, bridged by a free-hanging cable, with an in-line 3-button remote on one side. The differentiation is those slick ear-contouring (hence the name, “Contour”) guides shooting out and around from the earpieces.
They look tight and really form-fitting. In-person you’ll see that they’re made from a soft, thick rubber material, which should equate to a secure and comfortable fit (more on usability later).
The earpiece shape reminds us of the BackBeat Go 3 we reviewed a couple years ago. That is, a cylindrical chassis, ear fin, and angled nozzle. However, JBL has a clear edge on aesthetics. Their smooth silver finish and shiny chamfered top edge look just like metal (though, we’re not sure that it is). They’re topped with a color-matching cap (in our case, blue) and logo.
The ear fins are a substantial piece of silicone that wraps around the transition point to the angled nozzle. The packaging comes with three different sizes for varying ears, as well as three different silicone tips. This is expected these days, but we would’ve liked the option of foam tips too. Many manufacturers are including these as well these days, as they superiorly isolate sound.
We really like the Contour 2’s cable. We dislike when these around-the-neck cables are too thick, where you can really feel them rubbing as you move around. This cable is very thin and non-intrusive. This also means that the whole unit is effortless to wrap in your hand and stuff in your pocket; it takes up very little space for on-the-go, despite those sizeable ear guides.
Note: if you don’t want the ear guides, JBL offers a vanilla “Reflect” model that omits them – Yay for options.
We like how the blue/silver aesthetic is captured throughout the device. For instance, the base of the 3-button remote (located near the left earpiece) is blue but the top is silver. Additionally, the cable has alternating stripes of the two colors. JBL even cuts a slit into the ear guides and lines the cable so that the silver color shows through – nice touch.
The packaging is fairly essential for a wireless earbud: silicone tips, charging cable, and a carrying case. The form of the case is unique; it’s this rubbery pouch cut open at the top. It doesn’t have a sealing mechanism (like a stiff wire lining or magnetics) but has lips to keep the contents in. It works alright, but smaller accessories could find their way out.
If you’re wondering how to charge the headphone, it’s via a microUSB port behind a flap on the side of the 3-button remote. The current USB standard, Type-C, would’ve been nice, but we’re not there yet on affordable earphones.
Regarding how often you’ll have to charge, the Contour 2 promise about 10 hours of playback. This is above average for wired “wireless” earbuds, with most reaching around 8 hours. You’re getting a lot more life in one charge compared to true wireless earbuds, which usually land around 3-4 hours.
The Contour 2 is marketed as a “Sport” earbud, which can be inferred from the substantial ear hooks. We can contend that they’re great for working out.
The ear hooks hug the ear very tightly, and coupled with the ear fins, there’s no chance that the earpieces are going anywhere. However, the tight fit does make fatigue a concern. We could feel a slight ache after a long session, but not to an unusable point; YMMV. The sporty focus also means the Contour 2 have considerable sweat/water resistance – IPX5, to be exact.
The Bluetooth function worked without fault in our experience. Hold the middle power button to shut them on/off, and they’ll be ready to pair at first boot-up. The volume up/down buttons double-up to switch tracks, and the middle button can play/pause, answer/end calls, and toggle the mobile device’s virtual assistant.
The remote isn’t the easiest to use. It’s hard to know what you’re pressing, as there isn’t clear differentiation as you feel for them; the whole panel feels smooth. JBL should have a detectable texture on each, or raised separators.
JBL is a highly-regarded audio manufacturer, that is backed by Harman Kardon, so we hold a higher expectation here than other, run-of-the-mill affordable earbuds. Overall, the Contour 2 don’t disappointment, but there’s some things to know.
Firstly, we really like open and full the reproduction is. It’s a slightly mid-range forward sound signature. This makes the presentation lively and engaging. Vocals, in particular, stand out, not just because their presence but airy nature. The dynamics in the mids also comes through excellently for this price-point.
The bass is somewhat a mixed bag. The sub-bass is subtlety captured, which may not be everyone’s flavor. However, we can say that it comes through with great definition when the track calls for it. Mid-bass has a nice, spacious punch but it doesn’t fair as well as the sub-bass, being a bit tubby and not as well defined. It’s fair and still enjoyable, just may be a letdown for more critical listeners.
The treble is average to our ears, having a laid-back nature. That is, it’s audible and gets the job done, but slightly recessed and not notably detailed (you don’t get much of the crisp top-end notes). But not “bad” per-se, just fair.
What the Contour 2 has going for it is a nicely balanced sound (ranges are even-leveled for the most part) and decent clarity. Our ears nitpick on the details, but we were glad to not find common issues like muddle, boomy bass, or a flat, unmoving signature. The Contour 2’s open and full sound makes it excel at this price-point.
At $99, the Contour 2 have some stiff competition to contend with. Affordable Bluetooth earbuds have come a long way, and there’s some even at the $30 range that can challenge the JBL’s solution. That said, if you want a little more “Sport” dexterity, these ear hooks and barely-there cable are hard to beat. The Contour 2 will also have an edge with overall sound quality compared to lower-priced options.