Working out is painful enough as is, and JLab—an official partner of the Major League Soccer League—intimately understands this. To ensure that athletes get the most out of their time in the gym, the JLab Epic Air Elite features touch-capacitive panels on each earbud for comprehensive, hands-free control. What’s more, this updated iteration improves upon battery life and connectivity performance. Safe to say it’s a welcome update to the Epic Air true wireless earbuds.
Editor’s note: the frequency response and isolation charts have been updated as of January 24, 2019, to account for ear tip size variance.
Who is the JLab Epic Air Elite for?
These earbuds are intended for athletes; although, general consumers will benefit from the durability too. JLab retained the same dust- and water-resistant IP55 rating with the Elite iteration. What’s more, they feature the same pliable earhook mechanism, which rests comfortably against the back of the ear.
Related: What makes good workout earbuds?
Purchasing the JLab Epic Air Elite provides listeners with the 2,600mAh dual-purpose charging case with integrated micro-USB cable, seven pairs of silicone ear tips, one pair of Cloud Foam ear tips, the true wireless earbuds, and a two-year warranty.
How is the JLab Epic Air Elite built?
The earbud housings are plastic adorned with glossy touch panels. You can operate playback controls, cycle through EQ modes, toggle Ambient Aware activation, and access Siri or Google Assistant. Extending up and away from each housing is a firm, yet malleable rubberized earhook. The material provides enough friction for a stable fit but is soft and light enough to ignore while wearing the ‘buds.
Despite the earhook design, wearing glasses with the Epic Air Elite is comfortable.
Angled nozzles protrude from the earbuds and allow for a comfortable fit since they align more with the natural bend of the ear canal rather than resting at an off-angle. What’s more, JLab provides an array of ear tips, one pair of which is Cloud Foam. A unique property of the foam ear tips allows them to expand at a constant rate no matter their temperature.
On the interior of each earbud housing is a power button. This serves listeners who run across connectivity issues; though, I have yet to experience any hiccups. Heck, even the MEMS microphone performs well. Compared to previous JLab models, this is one of the best microphones for hands-free calls.
Encompassing the edge of the charging case is a hidden micro-USB cable. JLab’s simple brilliance makes it nearly impossible to lose the cable. Once done topping up, the cable is easy to insert back against the case. Granted, I’ve experienced some trouble getting the micro-USB side of the cable to be completely sheathed back into the holding cavity.
Working out is a breeze
Again, the IP55 dust- and water-resistant rating makes these impervious to nearly any workout save for swimming. A new, useful feature for athletes lies in the touch capacitive panels. The left and right sides operate different functions, like the cheaper JBuds Epic Air, and facilitate thoughtless playback control. That way, you can focus your energies on your workout, rather than on how many times you need to press a button to switch tracks.
What’s more, the earhook mechanism works exceptionally well and keeps the earbuds in place during anything from calisthenics to HIIT workouts. Bear in mind, that bringing these to the gym calls for silicone ear tips. The memory foam ones degrade faster as the material becomes compromised from coming into contact with sweat.
As revealed by our objective testing, the 120mAh earbuds allow for 5.16 hours of playback when subjected to a constant 75dB(SPL) output. A full recharge of the ‘buds requires two hours, while a full recharge of the 2,600mAh carrying case requires four hours. While these are long charging times, it’s not a bad ratio considering that the charging case adds an extra 32 hours of playback.
A 10-meter connectivity range is allowed by the JLab Epic Air Elite Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0 support. Unfortunately, the only high-quality codec supported is AAC, which only works well on iPhones. Granted, this is forgivable since these are workout earbuds, not hi-fi headphones. That said, if you’re privy to streaming shows from the treadmill, you’re bound to run into a bit of audio-visual lag.
On the flip side, the auto on and connect feature works reliably whenever the ‘buds are removed from the dual-purpose charging case. Connecting never takes longer than two seconds and they remain connected well within the 10-meter range, a true feat for the technology.
How do the earbuds sound?
In typical JLab fashion, there exist three EQ options: JLab signature, a consumer-friendly bass and treble-heavy sound; balanced, which reproduces a neutral-leaning sound; and bass boost. While bass boost is what most of us are likely to use for exercising, I’ll be speaking from the perspective of the balanced option. Coincidentally, this also happens to be the default mode.
Getting the right fit for your in-ears is imperative for optimal sound quality. The included medium ear tips fit our test head well and isolated most low-end noise. This is something to be aware of when exercising outdoors as you don’t want to completely block out your surroundings. Then again, you can triple-tap either earbud to enable Ambient Aware mode too.
Lows, mids, and highs
Even with the balanced preset selected, bass and midrange frequencies are emphatically emphasized. Generally speaking, clarity isn’t JLab’s strong suit and that shines through with the JLab Epic Air Elite.
In the song Hold My Girl on George Ezra’s sophomore album, the introductory guitar picking and strumming pattern is a great example of the lacking clarity. The fundamental frequencies of the beginning G-D-C chords mask their respective harmonic resonances. While this would be a tragedy for studio headphones, it’s passable with these earbuds since they’re meant for exercise and general use.
Bass emphasis isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but to get an idea of how exaggerated it is with the balanced profile, skip to the song’s refrain at 2:18. Here, Ezra sings with minimal underscoring; however, the bass at 2:22 nearly mutes the word “got.”
Treble frequencies are also stressed, just not to the same extent. For instance, cymbal hits audibly jangle throughout the song, even during the climactic and final chorus. However, just because they’re audible doesn’t make them detailed.
Audio clarity is lacking, but that's to be expected for workout earbuds since durability and functionality take precedence in the gym.
While it may seem that there’s nothing positive to say about the sound quality, the fact of the matter is that these are for working out. If you’re in a gym, it’s nearly impossible for any earbuds to compete with neighboring, boastful grunts and clanging plates. Therefore, it’s fine that audio quality falls to the wayside. After all, when buying workout earbuds, you’re paying for the durability and feature set, not for exceptional audio quality. If you want that, there are plenty of viable options out there.
Should you buy the JLab Epic Air Elite?
Yes. While these earbuds are on the more expensive side for JLab products, they remain reasonably priced compared to the competition and afford similar, if not more comprehensive, features. The IP55 rating seems a JLab standard and the two-year warranty reaffirms the notion that JLab confidently backs its products.
Although the charging case is both bulky and heavy, it’s really two chargers in one: one for the earbuds and one for your smartphone. Quick charging would have been a nice feature, albeit an unnecessary one. Aside from that, it’s a task to find something to nitpick about these truly wireless earbuds. For the price, they’re phenomenal. If you like them but don’t want to spend as much, the JBuds Air is a third of the price.
Still looking? Read up on our list of the best true wireless earbuds
Frequently Asked Questions
As far as functionality goes, there isn’t a huge difference between the headsets. Both are IP66 rated, use Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0 firmware, and support AAC. The JLab Epic Air Sport is a more premium headset as it has a much sturdier design with a silicone material on the ear hooks for an even more secure fit. The touch panels are a smooth, glossy finish and are slightly more responsive than the JBuds Air Sport’s controls. Battery life is nearly double what the JBuds Air Sport offer, 9.28 hours compared to 4.5 hours of listening on a single charge. Although the JLab Epic Air Sport features a workout-friendly sound signature, bass emphasis is relatively tame compared to the more JBuds Air Sport’s emphatic low-end response. This means the Epic Air Sport has a more versatile sound signature that bodes well for a wider range of music.