Minimal wind noise
Discomfort after an hour
AAC and SBC only
Calls only taken through right earbud
More and more flagship phones are ditching their headphone jacks, compelling many of us to join the ranks of true wireless listeners. While truly wireless earbuds tend to be more expensive than their traditional wireless counterparts, the JLab JBuds Air make a strong case for cheap true wireless earbuds.
What is the JLab JBuds Air like?
What starts with a “P” and ends in “-lastic”? Oh, right, plastic, which is what the JLab JBuds Air is made of, from the charging case to the earbuds. It may be unsightly to some, but it keeps the earbuds durable. Something that’s more difficult for me to overlook is the sheer size of the earbuds. Despite the bulbous housings, though, the ‘buds remain firmly in place when worn with the included Cush Fins of which JLab provides two pairs to combine with three varying ear tip sizes.
While the JBuds Air excels in nearly every category for its price range, the omnidirectional microphone falls short of expectations.
The earbuds are IP55-certified and can withstand sweat or a spill, just don’t submerge them. These aren’t just ideal for the gym, though; outdoor running is a pleasure since the earbud shape mitigates wind noise. And while the 3.07-hour standalone battery life isn’t anything to write home about, it’s more than sufficient for most of our workout regimens.
Headed to the gym? How long do you typically listen to music while exercising?
— Sound Guys (@realsoundguys) September 11, 2018
The rounded, oblong charging case has an attached USB charging cable, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to bring one with you. Initially, I was skeptical of its durability but JLab has noted it’s toughness, stating that it can withstand upwards of 10,00 bends. It supplies you with an additional 10 hours of playback and supports fast charging: 15 minutes in the case provides one hour of playtime.
How do the earbuds sound?
The earbuds support AAC for high-quality streaming but not aptX, which is a shame for us Android users as AAC’s performance is unreliable on our OS. Nonetheless, bass notes are emphasized, which is appropriate given the exercise-oriented nature of the earbuds. Although the exaggerated bass degrades clarity, I don’t mind it as I’m not deconstructing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons; rather, I’m working out with these earbuds. To get a detailed rundown of the frequency response, read the in-depth review at SoundGuys.
How do the JBuds Air compare to the JLab JBuds Air Icon and other cheap true wireless picks?
JLab rounded off 2019 with an update to the JLab JBuds Air with the JBuds Air Icon edition. The new Icon earbuds and their included case are smaller than the original model. What’s more, listeners are afforded an extra two hours of playback on a single charge from the JBuds Air Icon. The newer charging case retains the company’s signature integrated USB cable, so you can charge the earphones from anywhere. The new generation uses dual-connection technology, which operates similarly to Qualcomm True Wireless Stereo Plus. All you need to know is that connection strength and autoconnect have been improved.
Alternatively, if you want to keep with a sub-$50 budget, consider the Edifier TWS1. These earphones retail for $49, support True Wireless Stereo Plus, and high-quality aptX streaming. They lack dust-resistance but have earned an IPX5 rating, so you can workout with them, even though they’re not the most ergonomic. If you want something stylish and affordable, the Edifier TWS1 is a great alternative.
If you can swing a more generous budget, the Creative Outlier Air earphones are worth investing in. These earbuds have an awesome 7.78-hour battery life, are IPX5-rated, and support AAC and aptX; no matter what smartphone you have, you’ll be able to enjoy high-quality Bluetooth audio.
Should you buy the JLab JBuds Air?
Yes, but this headset is beginning to show its age when it comes to battery life and size in particular. Today, we’re seeing even smaller earbuds with equal or better battery life, just take the company’s very own JLab Air Go. That said, the JBuds Air earphones remain unique: they’re still a great balance of performance and price. If you’ve been wanting to give true wireless a shot, but couldn’t bear the hit to your wallet, the JLab JBuds Air is an affordable, low-risk option that deserves a fair chance.