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JLab JBuds Air Executive review: Splendid cheap true wireless earbuds

JLab's earbuds prove, yet again, you don't need to spend a small fortune for something that's both functional and reliable.
June 16, 2019
The earbuds in the charging case with the case open.

JLab Jlab JBuds Air Executive

If you're one for the finer things with a budget for the standard things, the JLab JBuds Air Executive is for you. The included charging case appears luxuriant without sacrificing functionality. Meanwhile, the IP55 earbuds afford comprehensive touch controls for on-the-go listeners.

What we like

Comprehensive touch controls
Sleek case with integrated charging cable
Quick charging

What we don't like

AAC-only, no aptX

JLab is known among the athletic crowd for its affordable, functional audio products. The JLab JBuds Air Executive follows this philosophy while departing from the company’s traditional sporty design. Instead, the Executive opts for a more luxuriant look, which will trick you into thinking it’s worth more than the attainable $69 price.

Read the in-depth review at SoundGuys

What is JLab JBuds Air Executive like?

The earbuds in the charging case with the case open.
The charging case opens to reveal the earbuds, which must be removed simultaneously to properly initiate pairing mode.

The included charging case is wrapped in a synthetic leather material. Not only does this contribute to the reasonable cost, it’s also vegan-friendly. The magnetized case opens to reveal the AirPods-esque earbuds. A USB cable integrated into the charging case mitigates any concerns about cable loss or being without one in a time of need.

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An image of the Creative Outlier Air earbuds in champagne gold on a black waterproof bag.

Each stemmed earbud is decorated with a glossy touch panel. The touch controls work reliably and let you adjust nearly everything from volume levels to toggling Be Aware, an ambient noise pass-through mode, on and off. Angled nozzles extend from the earbuds and can be equipped with any of four included sleeve pairs, one of which is memory foam. While they fit securely and isolate the listener well, the wide-diameter nozzles pain my ear canal after just an hour of use.

The earbuds are IP55 rated, like the even cheaper JLab JBuds Air. While they’re not specifically designed for athletics, it’s nice to have the option to exercise without worry. If you do want a pair of exercise-specific earbuds, the JLab JBuds Air Sport offer the same functionality as the Executive with a higher IP rating and ear hook design.

How is battery life and connectivity?

The integrated USB-A charging cable extending from the case.
The USB-A charging cable is built into the case.

Battery life is better than average for true wireless earbuds. SoundGuystesting yielded a standalone battery life of 4.5 hours. Since I always sheathe the ‘buds in the case when inactive, battery life was a non-issue. If you’re a power user, though, the 700mAh case provides an additional four charge cycles and supports quick charging: 15 minutes in the case affords an hour of playback. To fully top up the earbuds or case, you’ll need to free up 1.5 or 2.5 hours respectively.

Autoconnect works immediately and without fail, making these a pleasure to use.

Before pairing the JBuds Air Executive to your phone, read the quick start guide. I skipped this, which messed up the pairing process, and had to manually reset everything before an initial connection was made. Once they’re connected, performance from the Bluetooth 5.0 firmware is great. There were only a handful of connection stutters and zero drops. If you have an iPhone, you’ll benefit from the AAC Bluetooth codec support. This allows for high-quality audio streaming and lag-free playback. Although Android phones support the codec, performance varies wildly.

How do the earbuds sound?

One JLab JBuds Air Executive earbud outside of the case, which is standing vertically.
Each earbud houses a touch-capacitive panel responsible for different controls.

The JLab JBuds Air Executive are so bass-heavy it’s silly. You can tamper this by cycling through any of the pre-installed EQ options: JLab signature, balanced, and bass boost. Even with the balanced mode selected, bass frequencies remain exaggerated. This kind of tuning, while enjoyable for some, means your audio reproduction falls prey to auditory masking. This is when quieter sounds are difficult to hear relative to louder sounds and can quickly diminish clarity.

Isolation properties are above average when you select the proper ear tips. If you want to listen comfortably, choose the memory foam ear tips. That said, SoundGuys’ tests revealed the default silicone ear tips to facilitate the best isolation. Low-frequency noises are passively quieted due to the effective seal, which promotes a stronger bass response. To get a detailed breakdown of the JLab JBuds Air Executive’s sound qualities, be sure to read the full review.

Should you buy the JLab JBuds Air Executive?

If you don’t mind the emphatic bass response, yes. While JLab stepped away from its signature athletic style with the JBuds Air Executive, it’s a gamble that pays off. For just $69, these AAC-supported, Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds separate themselves from alternatives. If you don’t like the design of the Creative Outlier Air and require touch controls (rather than buttons), these are an absolute bargain.