Water-resistant charging case
Ambient Aware for outdoor exercise
Lacks multipoint connectivity
Update, September 20, 2020: This review was updated to make note of the updated version of this headset, the Under Armour True Wireless Flash X by JBL.
While true wireless earbuds are convenient for commuting and general listening, the complete lack of wires is most beneficial when working out. Hoping to deliver the perfect true wireless experience for athletes, JBL and Under Armour have partnered up to create the True Wireless Flash. Admittedly, $170 is exorbitant for most of us; however, the included safety and durability features may make it a worthy investment for outdoor athletes.
What is Under Armour True Wireless Flash by JBL like?
The IPX7 water-resistant earbuds rock a stout, cylindrical design and slightly protrude from the ear. Bulkiness is counteracted by the included ear and wing tips which maintain a firm hold to the outer ear without irritation. Under Armour’s logo is brazenly stamped upon each earbud panel, either of which can be pressed to control playback or alternate between listening modes.
Listeners receive a 12-month premium membership to MapMyRun, enabling interval training and more.
Included with the True Wireless Flash is a 1,500mAh aluminum charging case, which relies on a sliding mechanism to reveal the earbuds. It requires two hours to complete a full charge cycle via the included micro-USB cable and provides an additional 20 hours of playback to the earbuds’ nearly five-hour battery life.
Seeing as these are designed for athletes — specifically runners — Under Armour includes cautionary features like Ambient Aware mode. This amplifies external noise during media playback, so you’re always made aware of your surroundings. Ambient Aware mode, however, isn’t to be confused with TalkThru which increases the loudness of others’ voices. I was able to carry a conversation with a friend without needing to remove the earbuds. While I don’t find the latter to be incredibly useful, Ambient Aware mode is a necessity for outdoor athletes who don’t like the idea of bone conduction headphones.
Fickle connectivity remains a common problem for true wireless earbuds, and the Under Armour True Wireless Flash by JBL is no exception. Granted, connectivity stutters only occur a few times an hour but it may be too frequent for some listeners. The earbuds operate via Bluetooth 4.2 and lack high-quality Bluetooth codec support. If you plan to stream video from the treadmill, be prepared to experience audio-visual lag.
How do the earbuds sound?
The True Wireless Flash earbuds house 5.8mm dynamic drivers tuned by JBL, and it’s apparent that they were tuned with gym-goers in mind. Bass notes are amplified to sound noticeably louder than midrange frequencies, which is where the key notes of the human voice fall. This leads to auditory masking, when a loud sound makes it hard to hear a relatively quiet one, and can make it seem like detail is “missing” from your music. In reality, it’s just that the emphasized bass notes make it hard to perceive certain quieter notes.
This kind of sound signature isn’t bad, it just isn’t accurate. While audiophiles would never choose this sound signature, it’s often preferred by athletes because the bass emphasis gives more presence to basslines throughout songs. If you rely on your music to keep you motivated, this is the perfect kind of sound for you.
Should you buy the Under Armour True Wireless Flash in 2020?
The Under Armour True Wireless Flash aren’t as appealing in 2020 as they were when released, because JBL has since released the Under Armour True Wireless Flash X. These earphones share the same sound signature, and even look identical save for minor accent changes. There are some marked changes though, namely to battery life and updated Bluetooth 5.0 firmware. Still, JBL could have done more to update its Flash line of true wireless earbuds by adding fast charging. If you really want a great pair of true wireless workout earbuds, check out our list of the very best which includes picks from Jabra, Jaybird, Beats, and more.