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JBL solar-powered headphones promise ‘unlimited playtime’ via Powerfoyle solar cells

Wireless headphones are perpetually hamstrung by their batteries. They only last a short time on a charge, and you’re sapping energy from the electrical grid every time you top them up. JBL believes it has an alternative but it’s asking for your help to make it a reality. The Harman brand is crowdfunding Reflect Eternal over-ear headphones whose solar power theoretically gives you “virtually unlimited” listening.

The key, according to JBL, is Powerfoyle material from Exeger that, like Logitech’s solar keyboards, can draw energy from indirect and indoor light as well as the Sun. Unless you prefer to listen in total darkness, your cans will always be charging. JBL estimates that an hour and a half of outdoor time is enough for 68 hours of listening if you’re starting with a fully-charged battery. Even if the conditions aren’t nearly as favorable, there’s a good chance you won’t have to plug in. There is a backup, of course you can plug the headphones in through USB and get two hours of playback in 15 minutes.

It is important to note Harman’s disclaimer about claimed playtimes.

“Playtime figures are based on estimates under certain lighting, charging and playtime conditions and an initially fully charged battery. Estimated charge time based on at least outside lux values of at least 50,000. Your actual conditions and playtime may vary.”

These are otherwise garden variety headphones. They pack 40mm drivers with a 20Hz to 20kHz frequency response range, hands-free calling, a mode to amplify ambient audio, multi-device pairing and control over your voice assistant of choice. They’re even IPX4-rated, so they can endure some rain or gym sweat.

JBL has already met its crowdfunding target for the Reflect Eternal, so pledging $99 before the campaign’s end on January 14th makes it highly likely that you’ll get a pair around the estimated October 2020 release date. Harman lists a retail price of $165, so it’s a pretty good discount for those willing to purchase sight-unseen. At this point, it’s mainly a question of whether anything will change between now and launch. JBL and Exeger are using the crowdfunding to gauge feedback and tweak the design, so there’s a possibility that complaints you have now might be addressed by the time you can start listening.

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