Busybodies rarely have time to fiddle with half-baked features, which is why the JLab GO Air has made an impression among the utilitarian crowd. As the name implies, these true wireless earphones are for listeners constantly on the go. For $30, you can’t go wrong, but let’s cover the pros and cons before hopping on the GO Air bandwagon.
Editor’s note: this JLab GO Air review was updated on December 29, 2020, to reflect changes in pricing, and to include additional information regarding sound quality.
Who should get the JLab GO Air?
- Listeners on a budget should get the GO Air because they’re some of the best ~$25 true wireless earbuds you can buy. They’re durable, have a nifty USB charging cable integrated into the case, and have touch controls.
- Athletes may want to snag these earbuds because they’re IP44-rated, and can handle all sorts of sports from rock climbing to running. Plus, they’re uniquely affordable; if they do break outside of the two-year warranty, it won’t be too devastating to replace.
How are the JLab GO Air built?
Just like the JLab JBuds series, the JLab GO Air is all plastic from the charging case to the earbuds. While it may not be the most eye catching, it to reduces the cost and weight of the headset. Each earbud has an angled nozzle protruding from it; these are large in diameter, and may prove uncomfortable for listeners with small ear canals.
A touch-capacitive pane on each bud is easy to operate, and allows users to control virtually anything without removing their phones. Each earbud panel has different controls that take a moment to memorize, but the relatively steep learning curve is worth it. Commands aren’t registered 100% of the time, which I’ve experienced with other JLab products too.
While the IP44 rating means the earphones are durable, they’re not impervious to scratches. The case’s always-open design looks unique and makes it easy to grab the earbuds, but isn’t very protective. I dropped it a couple of times by accident, and some plastic chipped from the edges. The magnets aren’t strong enough to hold the earbuds in place, so I ended up scuffing the touch panels too.
The GO Air earbuds are great for listeners looking for just the bare necessities.
On the bottom of the case is JLab’s famed integrated USB charging cable, featured in all of its true wireless products to date. This means you can charge the case from anywhere without fiddling around with a separate charging cable. While I was initially skeptical of its durability, JLab claims to have tested this component to withstand 10,000 bends before showing signs of wear.
Connection strength is good
While these buds are extremely cheap for the true wireless category, JLab didn’t skimp on the wireless technology. They use Bluetooth 5.0, and the same proprietary Dual Connect technology as the more premium JLab JBuds Air Icon and JBuds Air. Effectively, this works similarly to Qualcomm’s TrueWireless Stereo Plus, and creates an individual connection to each earbud, yielding fewer connection stutters. Bluetooth multipoint isn’t supported, but that would be pretty remarkable if it was included here.
As far as high-quality Bluetooth codecs are concerned, the Go Air supports AAC and SBC exclusively. This means iPhone users can stream high-quality audio with consistency, but Android still struggles with the AAC wireless codec depending on which device you use. This is ultimately okay, though, because auditory masking proves a greater problem than on-par codec support. There’s only so much you can demand of $30 earbuds.
How to pair the JLab GO Air
In order to initiate pairing the JLab GO Air with your smartphone, remove both earbuds from the case. This action will make the LED indicator on each bud flash white and blue. Enable the Bluetooth function on your device and select JLab GO Air.
Related: Best AirPods alternatives
To perform a manual reset of the GO Air, keep the earbuds in the charging case and remove the JLab GO Air from your phone’s Bluetooth devices. Then tap on earbud in the charging case seven times, until the LED blinks blue three times. Do the same tapping on the other earbud. Afterwards, you can remove both earbuds from the case, and one LED will be a solid white color, while the other will blink blue and white. You’re now ready to re-try the pairing process.
How long does the battery last?
The earbuds lasted 4 hours, 5 minutes in our 75dB battery test, and the case itself supplies three extra charge cycles. Quick charging is also supported: 15 minutes in the case yields an hour of listening. This isn’t nearly as impressive as what we’ve seen from the likes of Anker SoundCore, but it’s better than nothing (and matches the rate of the more premium JLab JBuds Air Icon rapid charge feature). The case takes two hours to fully charge, while the earbuds take 1.5 hours to fully charge. This is fairly slow, but again: these are just $30—more premium components will be more expensive to manufacture.
The JLab GO Air don’t sound amazing, but that’s okay
It’s important to keep realistic expectations when purchasing a pair of cheap earbuds. While the GO Air does afford some premium features and a durable build, the fact remains that corners have to be cut to keep the price down.
JLab’s products tend to loosely target ISO226:2003, which is an attempt at reproducing each note at the same perceived loudness (as opposed to all sounds at the same pressure). The problem with this tuning is that it assumes the audio engineers didn’t apply some kind of corrective engineering to the original recordings. By also tuning the GO Air to follow this curve, it could theoretically further amplify what are presumably properly-mixed bass notes. This kind of frequency response can result in some issues.
Bass notes are 2-3 times louder than midrange notes; the latter is where the fundamental frequencies of most instruments fall. Unfortunately, this means auditory masking can potentially make your music sound worse than it should, for example: making it sound like songs are lacking clarity, when it’s really the fault of the cheap dynamic drivers. The sound is perfectly fine for the price though, and to be expected. Plus, if you’re coming from super cheap gas station buds, you may even find this to be a good upgrade.
Isolation is very good if you’re able to maintain the seal. If reviewing earbuds has taught me anything, it’s that I subconsciously move my ears a lot. Some ear tips and large-diameter nozzles lose their seal easier than others, and that’s the case for the JLab GO Air. That said, when I was able to achieve a proper fit, background noise was blocked out substantially and made very difficult to hear when music was playing. JLab doesn’t provide nearly as many ear tips with the GO Air as it does with its more premium options, which makes sense, so you may have to look into third-party ear tips.
Lows, mids, and highs
The song Save Myself by VINCENT begins with an upbeat chord progression on a bass guitar as VINCENT vocalizes the first verse. By nature of the emphatically emphasized low-end, it’s immediately apparent how the bass makes it hard to hear any vocal notes once the kick drum enters at 0:19.
The emphasized bass of the JLab GO Air makes it difficult to hear vocals over basslines and kick drums.
As VINCENT sings, “Maybe we could fix this,” the breathlessness of his voice is audible (0:30). If you skip ahead to the chorus, even the fundamental notes as he sings the word “myself” are lost while enunciating -self. While it’s common for vocalists to drop the last sounds of a given word, this is the fault of the dynamic drivers rendering VINCENT’s harmonic resonances nearly imperceptible, a shame. The headphones have a fine sound for commuting and working out, but shouldn’t be used with the expectation of accurate audio.
Bassheads won’t mind this sound and will likely embrace it, but for most listeners, the heavy-handed bass will become tiring. I did, however, appreciate it when exercising.
The microphones are fine for phone calls
Each earbud has a microphone, which is great because it means you can use either bud for mono listening and still accept calls. That said, microphone quality leaves quite a bit to be desired as it heavily attenuates low frequencies while retaining accurate reproduction from 600Hz and higher. JLab prioritized speech intelligibility over vocal accuracy. The emphatic low-end de-emphasis results in a “hollow” or “distant” sound.
JLab GO Air microphone demo:
While I wouldn’t recommend this headset for long professional calls, the mic system is perfectly fine for quick, casual use. I will say, my mother wasn’t a huge fan of how I sounded with these earbuds, but she’s a great critic of embedded systems. Speaking outside with these earbuds is a nightmare as wind noise is overwhelming to the person on the other line.
How does the JLab GO Air compare to other true wireless headsets?
The JLab GO Air earbuds don’t have much in the way of comparably priced competitors, but here are a few comparisons that are bound to be made by those shopping around.
JLab GO Air vs. JLab JBuds Air Icon
Both the JLab JBuds Air Icon and GO Air are economical headsets, but the latter is much more affordable than the former. The GO Air earbuds and case are more portable than the JBuds Air Icon, but that’s at the expense of battery life. What’s more, the more expensive variant affords greater durability—IP55 compared to IP44. The Air Icon case is also more protective than the GO Air because of the closed design.
Neither headset sounds great, but you get a more accurate sound with the JBuds Air Icon memory foam ear tips. They don’t create a suction-like seal to the ear and are much more comfortable for extended listening sessions. The biggest factor when considering these headsets is the case: I reached into my bag with the GO Air only to realize one or both buds were knocked out of the case, something that never happened with the JBuds Air Icon’s closed lid.
JLab GO Air vs. Anker SoundCore Liberty Neo
The Anker SoundCore Liberty Neo costs $10 more than the JLab GO Air, and the buds are more impervious to water damage: IPX7 compared to IP44. Passive isolation is fabulous, especially for a set of cheap in-ears, but this comes at the expense of feeling the earbuds’ seals place a great deal of pressure on the ear canal openings. Sound quality is more neutral-leaning than with JLab’s earphones but not by much: bass notes are still exaggerated, subjecting music to auditory masking. The microphone array makes voices sound a bit more natural than the GO Air mics, but it’s basically a wash.
Should you buy the JLab GO Air?
The JLab GO Air are the utilitarian’s earbuds, and are definitely worth picking up. Listeners who want something affordable that does plenty of things well enough should get these buds. Sound quality isn’t the best but you can always tame the bass response by cycling through JLab’s EQ presets. The integrated charging cable is a feature that I’ve grown quite fond of over the years, and something I’m happy to see included here. Anyone who wants a more technologically impressive pair of true wireless headphones will have to ramp up their budgets.
Frequently Asked Questions
No. JLab has yet to release any companion app for their earbuds. The company has released the JLab Audio App, but it's merely a marketing tool that promotes sales, discounts, and includes a (not-so-useful) burn-in tool.
JLab's customer service team is responsive and can be reached via phone (+1 405-445-7219) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Every JLab audio product includes a 30-day guarantee whereby consumers may return or exchange merchandise within 30 days of the purchase date. Wired audio products have a lifetime warranty, while wireless ones include a two-year warranty.