JBL Tune Flex are wireless earbuds that let you fine-tune the audio quality

JBL Tune Flex are wireless earbuds you can wear two ways
(Image credit: JBL)

There's something new in wireless earbuds – the ability to hear your surroundings. Think of it as the opposite of noise cancelling. Manufacturers have been toying with it for years with various modes, such as 'talk thru' and 'transparency', which use microphones to let in outside sound. And more recently we had the Sony LinkBuds, the first wireless earbuds that were completely opened-backed. 

Now, a new pair gives you the choice of either letting sound in, or blocking it out with a physical barrier. These new wireless earbuds are called the JBL Tune Flex, and by default, they have an open design. But pop on the ear sealing tips, and they become a noise-isolating pair. They're essentially two pairs of buds in one.

That means you can wear them in the open style when out for a run so you can hear traffic and other hazards, then when you need to focus, stick on the ear sealing tips and block out unwanted noise. We'd expect to hear a difference in audio quality, too, with open-backed earphones - certainly larger, over-ear headphones at least - tending to sound better than closed-back cans.

Three sizes of ear tip are included, and you can personalise the sound using the JBL Headphones app.

They also pack six levels of active noise cancellation (ANC), which you can also use when in the open design. Though we're not sure how that would sound. Battery life stands at eight hours from the buds plus another 24 from the case, though that's with ANC off.

They're rated IPX4 splash-resistant, work with Google Assistant for hands-free controls and come in three colourways, plus three 'Ghost' special edition finishes. Look out for them from September for £89.99 (about $108, AU$160).


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Joe Svetlik

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.