JLab Epic Lab Edition earbuds review

They're superb value for money, but do they deliver epic sound?

from JLab
RRP  £199.99
JLab Epic Lab Edition

by Adam Binnie |
Updated on

I've reviewed loads of JLab tech products, from keyboards and mice, to webcams and headphones, and they always offer great value for money. A decent specification at a price that won't put you off. More recently though its "Epic" range has been impressive at a higher price. These JLab Epic Lab Edition earbuds come with a tag that undercuts pro-spec earbuds from Apple, Samsung and Google.

Even if you shop around for the previous (and often discounted) generation earbuds from Sony and Bose, the JLabs are still cheaper. That's a seriously accomplished and challenging set of rivals.

Verdict (4.5/5): A feature-rich and neatly designed pair of earbuds, with a flexible EQ that ranges from big and dynamic, to a more subtle and nuanced setting quite unlike anything you get from most bass-forward alternatives. Often discounted, these represent serious value for money. The sound quality and battery life are great, the noise cancelling less so, but as an overall package JLabs has nailed the brief.

What’s good?

JLab aims to take on that strong competition with some serious specs, but the first thing I noticed about these earbuds was the design and quality of materials used.

For a start the case is a classy looking aluminium construction, with a grippy rubber base that makes it super stable when stood up on my desk. The lid has a satisfyingly snappy hinge that I often find myself absent mindedly fiddling with on long work calls. It’s a massive upgrade on the usual plasticky construction and feels built to last.

The buds themselves are quite a chunky shape – not unusually large but round and squat so they take up a fair bit of space in your ear. There’s also a partially translucent section, which allows you to see some of the electronic gubbins inside, which I really like.

In the box you get six sets of ear tips to tailor the fit – small, medium and large in either silicone or Cloud Foam. The latter is a squashy substance not unlike a foam earplug, that you compress before fitting into your ear.

There’s also a USB-C dongle, which is a really clever addition, because it means you can plug it into devices that don’t have Bluetooth (or a work laptop that has it disabled) and listen wirelessly. In theory it also has much lower latency than Bluetooth, making it better for gaming or playing instruments.

The companion app is also a neat bit of design, with a really clean interface and all the important features laid out on the home screen. There are four EQ settings (JLab Signature, Knowles Preferred, Bass Boost and Custom) and a super easy-to-use touch control customisation option. From here you can select what you want each earbud to do in response one, two or three taps, or a long press.

Onto the features then – and the JLabs Epic Lab Edition earbuds come with a heavy hitting trio of hi-res audio (LDAC on Android, AAC on iOS), spatial audio support and Bluetooth Low Energy.

The hardware consists of a hybrid dual-driver, with a dynamic driver for bass and a Knowles Balanced Armature for high frequencies. This is backed up by the Knowles Preferred curve, a sort of crowd sourced equaliser setting that majors on high frequency detail rather than ear-shaking bass.

It sounds great at lower volumes, retaining the level of detail you’d expect at higher volume, without having to crank the noise all the way up. It’s worth experimenting with – I wasn’t keen at first, preferring the punchier and more dynamic JLab Signature setting, which conversely this sounds more dynamic and exciting at high volume.

Low volume performance is impressive and also useful if you want to use earbuds like these for hours on end (and retain decent hearing health, of course). Helping out in this regard is a two-stage volume limit of either 85/95dB, limits recommended by the World Health Organization for eight or one hour’s use.

I’ve found it takes my ears a bit of time to get used to the sound when switching between the two EQ modes – Knowles Preferred is initially a bit tinny compared to JLab Signature, which in turn is muddy at first in comparison.

Once you’re passed that point though the sound quality in general is up there with the earbuds mentioned in the intro. You get deep and punchy basslines, clear and dynamic guitars, and crisp vocals. The only downside is a bit of distortion at higher volume, with the Knowles Preferred mode also becoming slightly hissy when pushed hard.

I’m being very critical though, and one of the nicest things about the JLabs earbuds is how “big” they sound. At times they sound like a much larger pair of over-ear headphones, with good spatial sound and rich bass that defies their small size.

On the subject of large, the battery life is also very impressive, promising 13 hours or 9 hours total if you activate the noise cancelling mode. You’ll have to put them back in the case for two hours for a full recharge, but 15 minutes will give you an hour of use. I’ve not timed it, but I’ve had regular full days of use in the office with no bother.

Multipoint Bluetooth means you can hook these up to a phone and laptop for seamless switching between music and calls in the office, and the case can either be topped up by a USB-C cable or wireless charging.

What’s okay?

The noise cancelling is so-so – a pair of earbuds is never going to block out as much sound as a pair of headphones, and while the JLabs do a decent job of turning the world down, they can’t completely keep out things like close proximity speech.

Inversely, they do seem to suffer from quite a bit of bleed-through, with my wife often complaining that she can hear whatever I’m listening to reasonably clearly.

An IP55 dust and water resistance is good enough for rain and sweat but you won’t be able to take them swimming like the Jabra 8 Elite Active.

Finally the buds themselves can be a bit fiddly to get out of the case – they sink in a long way so there’s not much to get hold of and they’re held in place with strong magnets. This does at least mean they won’t fall out accidentally, but it makes getting them out slightly annoying.

Any negatives?

The aforementioned USB-C dongle is a really nice touch and this is definitely a nit-pick, but its wide shape limits its usability.

For example, it won’t fit in my phone when it’s in a case, nor will it squeeze in next to the power cable in my laptop.

More items to consider

Bose Quiet Comfort Ultra
Price: $299.00
Alternative retailers
Adorama$160.00View offer
Dell$249.00View offer
Walmart$249.00View offer
Macy's$299.00View offer

Price: $263.99

"Our best sounding earbuds ever" says JLabs, and we agree, with dual drivers and long battery life to add to that list of impressive features.

Pros

  • Sound quality
  • Attractive case design
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Average noise cancelling
  • Build
    4.5
  • Design
    4.5
  • Comfort
    4.5
  • Features
    4.5
  • Value for money
    4.0
Weight535g each
Bluetooth version5.3
Battery life13 hours
DriversHybrid dual drivers

How the product was tested

I wore these earbuds for three months in various settings – the office (home and actual), on a train and aeroplane, in the car while my kids were being loud, and at the gym. I listen to a fairly eclectic mix of metalcore, drum and bass, punk and classical music (well, film scores). But more recently I’ve got into audiobooks, so any pair of earbuds I test is going to get a bit of a workout.

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