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JLab Epic Air Elite review: True-wireless earbuds with few compromises

An affordable alternative to the Beats Powerbeats Pro.
May 11, 2020
JLab Epic Air Elite: The earbuds surrounded by water on a black table.
aa2020 editors choice
aa2020 editors choice

The JLab Epic Air Elite were once a brilliant pick for athletes but its limited availability makes it a hard sell. Instead, JLab pushes customers toward its JLab Epic Air Sport headset, and other more compact alternatives. Still, if you're able to find a pair of Epic Air Elite earbuds in stock, they're a great option and the dual-purpose charging case is a wonderful touch.

What we like

IP55 dust- and water-resistance
Dual-purpose charging case
Optional ambient awareness
Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0
Battery life

What we don't like

Bulky charging case
Slow to charge
JLab Epic Air Elite: The earbuds surrounded by water on a black table.
The IP55 JLab Epic Air Elite earbuds can withstand both dust and water.

There are few places more appropriate for truly wireless earbuds than a gym, which is exactly where the JLab Epic Air Elite feel most at home. The ear hook design is great for athletes as it provides a stable fit during all sorts of movement. While $150 is substantial, the Epic Air Elite remains more affordable than its comparable competitors.

This JLab Epic Air Elite review comes from the audio experts at our sister site SoundGuys. Check out their in-depth take on the Epic Air Elite.

Editor’s note: this JLab Epic Air Elite review was updated on May 11, 2020, to address the headset’s limited availability and make note of the JLab Epic Air Sport as an alternative.

What is JLab Epic Air Elite like?

JLab Epic Air Elite: The case open with the earbuds placed inside. The removable micro-USB to USB-A cable is detached from the case on a white table.
The charging cable is integrated into the case and is easy to remove for on-the-go charging.

Based on appearance alone, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish the Epic Air Elite from its predecessor the Epic Air. Both feature glossy touch-capacitive panels, a rubberized ear hook shape, and ergonomically angled nozzles. Where the Elite iteration diverges is with its reliable connectivity, a feat for true wireless technology.

The earbuds remain connected without signal skips within the listed 10-meter range, which can be attributed to the Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0 support. While there aren’t many shortcomings of these earbuds, you could cite the lack of high-quality Bluetooth codec support as an issue. In all fairness, these are workout earbuds, not studio headphones, so audio streaming quality likely takes a backseat to bass emphasis, connectivity, and a stable fit.

Due to the malleable ear hooks, stability is excellent. The IP55 earbuds stay secure while running, jumping rope, and during calisthenic exercises. To get the best fit, take a moment to experiment with the array of included earbuds. JLab provides eight pairs, and the wrong size can negatively impact sound quality and fit.

To get the best possible fit and sound quality, take a moment to test out which of the provided ear tips best suit you.

Battery life with these earbuds is excellent as the 2,600mAh charging case provides an additional 32 hours of playback. Standalone playback time for the earbuds is also exceptional at 5.16 hours according to SoundGuys’ objective testing. While the charging case takes up a bit of room compared to others, it can charge your smartphone, justifying the large size. Similar to the JLab JBuds Air, the microUSB charging cable is integrated into the case and wraps around the edge.

Related: Why true wireless connectivity is so bad

How do the earbuds sound?

JLab Epic Air Elite: A woman wearing the earbuds against a black background.
The JLab Epic Air Elite provide a bass-heavy sound, which is often preferred for exercise.

The JLab Epic Air Elite earbuds are as you’d expect workout earbuds to sound: bass-heavy. JLab provides listeners with AAC support and three EQ options: JLab signature, balanced, and bass boost. Even with the balanced mode activated, which is the default preset, the low-end is audibly exaggerated.

That said, even with the emphatic bass emphasis, mid-range frequencies remain distinguished. There’s a bit of auditory masking as clarity isn’t the greatest, but again, this is forgivable since most listeners are using these earbuds to stay pumped during a workout, not to appreciate the nuances of a classical piece.

Perhaps the only disappointment regarding audio reproduction has to do with the treble response. If your music library contains a lot of cymbal crashes and violin solos, you may be surprised by how difficult it is to perceive treble frequencies with these earbuds.

Should you buy the JLab Epic Air Elite in 2020?

JLab Epic Air Elite: Top-down image of the earbuds with a Nintendo Switch controller in the bottom right corner of the image.
Listeners benefit from Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0, facilitating a 30-meter connectivity range.

Those interested in spending a bit more on workout earbuds but feel intimidated by the Bose SoundSport Free’s $200 price tag will enjoy these, if you can find them in stock. It appears the company is pushing the JLab Epic Air Sport instead, which forgoes the multipurpose charging case. That said, the Epic Air Elite battery life and connectivity are stellar, and while the physical appearance may not be eye-catching, it’s discreet and sophisticated for the workout variety. If you’re enticed by these but feel it’s not worth spending $100-plus on exercise ‘buds, then the company’s JBuds Air Sport may be more financially viable. Ultimately, though, the JLab Epic Air Elite is a great compromise with few compromises.