Review: J&L Real 103 Bluetooth Earphones & 12A Bluetooth Speaker

November 29, 2016 - Written By John Anon

As the smartphone market moves towards a Bluetooth-only status quo, there has never been a better time to consider picking up a new pair of Bluetooth earphones and/or a Bluetooth speaker. Conveniently for the consumer, with the variance of products now on offer, there has never been a better priced time to pick up either of these products. J&L Real is a company who has been bringing to market affordable Bluetooth audio accessories for some time now and the J&L Real 103 Bluetooth Earphones as well as the J&L Real 12A Bluetooth speaker are both two of their newest and competitively-priced offerings. For reference, J&L Real 103 Bluetooth Earphones are available to buy for $35.99 and the J&L Real 12A Bluetooth Speaker is available to buy for $39.99.

J&L Real 103 Bluetooth Earphones

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Specs

The J&L Real 103 Bluetooth Earphones make use of Bluetooth v4.1 to establish a connection. Which should mean that you are able to maintain a reliable connection from as much as 33 feet away from a streaming device. In addition, these earphones come packing an 80 mAh battery which is listed to offer up to 8 hours of continuous playback before needing to be recharged and are listed to be able to be fully recharged in a little under 2 hours. These are earphones which come equipped with large 10 mm drivers and are also designed to withstand light water encounters thanks to an IPX5 certification.

In the box

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In addition to the J&L Real 103 Bluetooth earphones, you can expect to find all the usual aspects including one microUSB to USB cable, the user manual, a selection of additional ear tips (S,M,L) and ear hooks (S,M,L) and a carry pouch.

Design & Hardware

Generally speaking, most Bluetooth earphones in this price range are rather consistent in their presentation. After all, they are simply a unit which consists of two ear pieces and a connecting wire which typically houses the control board. The J&L 103 Bluetooth Earphones largely conform with this general presentation, although they do come with some specifically unique features which do help them stand out. This is mainly evident at the earbud level as the earbuds on offer with the J&L Real 103 Bluetooth Earphones are pretty well-designed. First off, the earbuds consist of machined aluminum alloy which not only means they are relatively lightweight, but they also have a more premium level of presentation compared to what you might find elsewhere at a similar price point. In addition the back of the earbuds contain magnets. This does mean that the two earbuds are able to snap together and do so very easily.

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The benefit of this is that when they are not being used for audio playback, the wearer can simply connect the two earbuds and wear them like a necklace – a very easy and effective way to transport the earbuds when not in use. Alternatively, the magnets also allow for a more portable way to transport the earbuds when not wearing them at all. Simply snap them together and throw them in the bag and they remain tangle-free and ready to use at a later time.

Moving past the earbuds and the wire is somewhat of a typical affair. This is a flat cable connecting to the two earbuds and one which measures about 1 meter in length. On the right hand side of the cable you will find the main control box which offers the ability to play/pause, skip forward (and volume up) or skip back (and volume down). While the back of the panel simply includes the J&L branding and the mic for hands-free calling. So overall while these are fairly typical Bluetooth earphones, they do include a number of small tweaks and design points which means they are far more premium looking and feeling  than other similar-priced earphones.

Sound Quality & Performance

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As to be expected, sound quality is always going to be an extremely important aspect when it comes to anything audio-based or related and especially when you are picking up something which is very much considered to be ‘competitively-priced’. However, J&L Real are not new to Bluetooth audio equipment and this is a newer version of an existing product. Which does mean it has gone through many variations and been the subject of improvements over time. The general sound quality is no exception. These are surprisingly good earphones for their cost. They are not the most bass-oriented earphones in the world, but are certainly balanced enough to offer a level of sound output across the frequency range. The tops and mids really are the winners here when it comes to the sound and they are very bright sounding earphones. In particular, the mids come through very cleanly with the tops and bass accompanying the mids rather well.

It is also worth noting that in spite of the bass being the weakest link in the audio department, it is still there and for most genres of music and tastes, it will be more than enough bass. It is just for those looking for that extra push from a pair of headphones, might find these a little on the lacking side. Sound quality aside though and there were no problems really noted with the J&L Real 103 Bluetooth Earphones. These were largely considered to be good-performing earphones and were more than capable of establishing and maintaining a reliable connection over Bluetooth. Likewise, the battery inside was considered to be more than suitable for the type of product and the level of usage these are likely to encounter. While they do not last quite as long as the paperwork might suggest, they do certainly last more than long enough to satisfy even the most continuous of listening sessions.

J&L Real 12A Bluetooth SoundDrum speaker

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Specs

In terms of the general specs, the J&L Real 12A SoundDrum Bluetooth Speaker comes packing a 1,450 mAh battery which is rated to offer between 6 to 8 hours of continuous playback before needing to be recharged again. When the speaker does need to be charged, the paperwork details that a full (from empty) charge can be obtained in under 3 hours. The total speaker output is listed as 5-watts while the frequency response on offer is listed as 20Hz – 20kHz. This is a Bluetooth connected speaker and one which is able to maintain a connection up to 33 feet away from a streaming device and also comes with a built-in microphone for hands-free calling when needed. Adding to its general portable size, this is a Bluetooth speaker which is designed to be rugged and is water-resistance thanks to its IPX7 certification.

In the box

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In terms of what you will get when you pick up the J&L Real 12A SoundDrum Bluetooth Speaker, in addition to the actual speaker, the package includes a 3.5 mm Aux-in cable, a micro USB charging cable, one carabiner, the user manual and a carry pouch.

Design & Hardware

Bluetooth speakers always seem to be trying to straddle between two naturally opposing features. On the one hand Bluetooth speakers look to offer a good quality audio output while on the other hand, Bluetooth speakers look to offer a more portable design. One which means they can be taken and used just about anywhere. However, there are also those Bluetooth speakers that take portability to the next level and the J&L Real 12A SoundDrum Bluetooth Speaker is one of them. This is one which is designed to be ultra-portable and as such comes in a very small form factor. Adding to its general small size, the J&L Real 12A SoundDrum Bluetooth Speaker comes equipped with its own carabiner which allows for the speaker to be easily attached to a bag, bike or just about anywhere.

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A combination which does make this a very transport-friendly Bluetooth speaker. It is also worth pointing out though, that this is a Bluetooth speaker which is not only designed to be portable, but is also designed to be rugged. As a result, the outer casing of the J&L Real 12A SoundDrum Bluetooth Speaker consists of ABS and sealed silicone. So the general frame of the speaker is one which is designed to be protected against drops or the various bangs that a speaker might encounter while on the road. The other benefit of this type of design and materials is that it is waterproof and the J&L Real 12A SoundDrum Bluetooth Speaker does come with an IPX7 certification. So in short, this is a Bluetooth speaker which is designed to be portable, shockproof, drop-proof and waterproof.

As this is an ultra-portable Bluetooth speaker, the onboard control functions are a little limited. However, you will find volume up and down controls on the right hand side of the speaker, as well as a play/pause and power button located on the opposite side, while the bottom of the speaker includes a small rubber flap which once opened reveals the housed microUSB port for charging and a 3.5 mm jack port for direct connection of Bluetooth and non-Bluetooth devices. Overall, it is very clear that the big selling point with the J&L Real 12A SoundDrum Bluetooth Speaker is that it is designed to be able to withstand the elements. Simply picking the speaker up immediately highlights how rugged it is and it was felt that the protection on offer would easily stand the test of time. Which again, when taking its size into consideration, is a rather impressive aspect.

Sound Quality & Performance

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Much like what was noted with the Bluetooth earphones, there was no overtly major issues noted with the sound quality on offer with the J&L Real 12A SoundDrum Bluetooth Speaker. This is a very small speaker compared to standard Bluetooth speakers and this does naturally mean that bass is going to be a little limited and that is the case with this particular speaker. However, in spite of being limited, bass was present and was surprisingly good considering the actual size of the unit. Which in reality, meant that was not a bad little speaker when it comes to the bottom end. After all, you are not going to be thinking of buying a speaker of this size if bass is the priority. So you can takeaway from this that in spite of the size, the bass is not adversely affected beyond what you might expect from such a small speaker. The tops and mids on the other hand are a completely different story. These are very present and are very bright which resulted in a surprisingly nice and warm sounding speaker. Coupled with the bass that was there, the overall sound is one which is very well-balanced and certainly enough from such a small speaker.

The one area where a criticism could be made is that this is not the loudest of speakers. The top end volume is slightly low compared to other Bluetooth options. Although, again when you factor in the size of the speaker, maybe this is less of a criticism of this speaker and more one of smaller speakers in general. This is not one which will be designed to completely fill a room and is more of a solution to being able to be used at anytime and just about, anywhere. In that respect, the sound is more than enough for when out and about, by the pool or at the gym. It just might not be an ideal solution for a room-filling speaker.

Moving past the sound output and like the earphones there is very little to complain about. This is a highly portable speaker and during all the instances tested, the J&L Real 12A SoundDrum Bluetooth Speaker was more than capable of maintaining a reliable connection. In fact, it never once dropped off or out which is something that cannot be said for all Bluetooth speakers. Likewise, the battery life on offer here is excellent considering the size of the speaker. This is one which is rated to offer up to 8 hours of usage and that was considered to be a very reliable benchmark to expect. The J&L Real 12A SoundDrum Bluetooth Speaker is more than capable of playing continuously without issue for over six hours and that was at the higher volume levels. So adjusting the volume lower will easily improve the level of time it can remain powered for.

Wrap Up

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Bluetooth audio is becoming very big business now. There is a wealth of products now available to buy and across the price spectrum. In fact, many smartphone manufacturers are now starting to omit the 3.5 mm port on smartphones completely, due to the availability and tendency for consumers to prefer Bluetooth accessories. The J&L Real 103 Bluetooth Earphones and the J&L Real 12A SoundDrum Bluetooth Speaker are prime examples of how good the market has now become. Both of these products are priced extremely competitively and both perform very well for that price. If you are in the market for a new pair of Bluetooth earphones or a very portable and rugged Bluetooth speaker and would prefer to not spend too much, these are two products that you should consider picking up.

For those interested in the J&L Real 103 Wireless Bluetooth earphones, these are currently available to buy via Amazon for only $25.99. However, using coupon code R5ZRDWMD will take 30% off that already low price. Likewise, if you are interested in picking up the J&L Real 12A SoundDrum Portable Bluetooth Speaker, then this is also available to buy from Amazon and will cost you $39.99. Although, using coupon code 7GYZVQSL will take 25% off the price.

Use coupon code: R5ZRDWMD

J&L Real 103 Bluetooth Earphones

Use coupon code: 7GYZVQSL

Buy the J&L Real 12A SoundDrum Speaker