Most wireless earbuds that offer noise cancelling also use the microphones for an ambient sound mode for when users want to hear the world around them. JBL’s new Tune Flex takes a different approach, with buds that can switch between an open or sealed design, naturally blocking or allowing ambient sounds to get through.
With true wireless earbuds, you more or less get to choose between two designs these days. There’s open earbuds, like the original and second-generation Apple AirPods, that sit just inside your ear (but outside the ear canal), providing a more comfortable experience during longer listening periods. The downside is that they naturally let a lot of external sounds and noises in, and often have a looser fit that makes it harder to keep them in during exercise and workouts.
The alternative is a sealed design, where the earbuds feature a squishy silicone or memory foam tip that’s inserted into the ear canal. They provide a more secure fit, better sound directed right towards your eardrum, and both passive and active noise cancellation, letting the wearer tune out the world around them and focus on what they’re listening to. The downside to a sealed earbud design is that they can sometimes be uncomfortable to wear, particularly for users who struggle to find eartips that perfectly fit their ears.
JBL is promising the best of both worlds with its Tune Flex. The earbuds feature an open design for those times when you want to be aware of what’s going on around you, like enjoying your music or a podcast while walking down the street. But attach one of the three included sizes of ear tips, and the Tune Flex can instead be worn securely in your ear canal, naturally blocking out other sounds. When paired with a mobile app, the sound profile of the earbuds can also be tweaked, letting you boost the bass as needed in open mode, or dial it down when using the tips.
Four microphones ensure your voice will be easily picked up when using the Tune Flex wireless earbuds for calls, but they’re also crucial for the active noise cancellation, which offers six different modes that JBL claims work when using the earbuds open or sealed—although it’s probably more effective when using the latter. Battery life is promised to be up to eight hours per charge, with the charging case adding an additional 24 hours of runtime when away from a power source.
The JBL Tune Flex will be available starting next month for around $102 (€99.99).