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Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
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JLab JBuds Mini review

The JLab JBuds Mini are short on size, but not on value.
By
December 28, 2023
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8.3
JLab JBuds Mini
The bottom line
The JLab JBuds Mini are a diminutive set of earbuds that you can attach to your keychain. However, they offer more features than you might expect for such an inexpensive pair of earbuds. If you're looking for cheap earbuds that can handle a workout, put these on your shortlist.
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JLab JBuds Mini

The JLab JBuds Mini are a diminutive set of earbuds that you can attach to your keychain. However, they offer more features than you might expect for such an inexpensive pair of earbuds. If you're looking for cheap earbuds that can handle a workout, put these on your shortlist.
Release date

2023

Price

$39.99

Dimensions

Case: 46 x 35 x 24 mm

Earbuds: 19 x 21 x 14 mm

Ear tip diameter: 3.5mm

Weight

3.3g per earbud

18.5g case

Model Number

EBJBMINIBLK50WEB

Waterproof

IP55

What we like
Extremely portable
Price
IP55 rated
Good isolation
Good companion app
What we don't like
Easily lost
May fall out of some ears
8.3
SoundGuys Rating
7.1
User Rating
Rating Metric
Our Rating
User Rating
Sound Quality
9.3
9.0
9.0
Bass
8.5
2.0
2.0
Midrange
9.8
8.0
8.0
Highs
9.5
-
0.0
Isolation / Attenuation
6.5
7.0
7.0
Durability / Build Quality
8.9
2.5
3.0
Value
9.0
9.0
9.0
Design
7.0
8.0
8.0
Connectivity
6.5
4.0
4.0
Portability
9.5
10.0
10.0
Battery Life
5.6
9.0
9.0
Feature
9.0
-
0.0
Comfort
9.3
10.0
10.0

Among personal audio products, truly wireless earbuds have the most shortcomings to deal with. However, if you want something that’s truly portable that won’t weigh you down on a commute, there’s nothing better. But they’re not perfect — even though their charging cases are pretty small, they don’t always fit in your pocket, and that can cause problems. JLab took some time with its design team to polish some of these rough edges off with the new JLab JBuds Mini, making them small enough to be hooked to your keychain. But how good can a pair of $40 ultra-portable earbuds be? Let’s find out.

Editor’s note: this is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.

About this JLab JBuds Mini review: We tested the JLab JBuds Mini over four days. The firmware version was 1.1.4.4, and the JLab app ran version 1.7.7.6. The company provided the unit for this review.

The JLab JBuds Mini are for people who don’t have big pockets or don’t want to spend a lot on earbuds. It’s a highly convenient product. The JLab JBuds Mini are not for parents with small children, as the tiny battery cells are dangerous when swallowed. While this is true of all earbuds, few are as tiny (and therefore as easy to swallow) as the JLab JBuds Mini.

What’s it like to use JLab JBuds Mini?

The JLab JBuds Mini are some of the smallest earbuds I’ve ever reviewed, and after thirteen years of reviewing headphones, that’s saying a lot. Even the case is tiny, as it’s designed to be attached to your keyring to keep it out of your pockets. This is an excellent product if you like wearing skinny jeans or don’t have pocket space for a chunky earbud charging case.

The JLab JBuds Mini live up to their name: they're extremely tiny.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The JLab JBuds Mini live up to their name: they’re incredibly tiny.

Of course, a set of affordable and tiny earbuds have their tradeoffs, and the big one is that these are about as barebones as you get. There are three different-sized ear tips to ensure the correct fit, and you don’t get anything else outside of the key ring and a charging cable.

The build of the JLab JBuds Mini is better than you might expect. With an IP55 ingress protection rating, the buds can handle casual abuse and sweat with no problem. These may be a dark-horse candidate for good workout earbuds if they fit your ears securely.

A man wearing the JLab JBuds Mini.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The tiny earbuds are an easy fit for ears of all sizes but choose the right size tips.

The JLab JBuds Mini fit fairly comfortably because each earbud is relatively light and small. However, the buds do not have a secondary point of contact outside the ear tip, so there’s a much higher risk of falling out if you don’t have a perfect fit. But given their weight and relative ease to get to an appropriate insertion depth, you should be fine with this even when running.

If there is a downside to the tiny size of the earbuds, it’s the fact that they’re very easy to lose. Unless you tether them to your keyring, I found keeping track of the JLab JBuds Mini very tough because the case is incredibly small. Though this does mean that you can fit them into small pockets, it also means that they’re much more challenging to keep track of if you set them down in a cluttered spot. Because of that, we strongly recommend you take advantage of the app, which includes a  Find My feature. It cannot be overstated how easy it is to lose these earbuds.

How do you control the JLab JBuds Mini?

A photo of the JLab JBuds Mini in their case.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
The backs of the earbuds have a touch interface that allows tap controls. Customize them through the JLab app.

Each earbud houses capacitive touch controls, which is a big plus as push buttons will put force on your ear canal and sometimes compromise the fit. You can check out the default control scheme below, but you can tinker in the JLab app.

JLab JBuds Mini controls:

ActionLeft earbudRight earbud
Action
Single tap
Left earbud
Volume down
Right earbud
Volume up
Action
Double tap
Left earbud
Voice assistant
Right earbud
Play / pause
Action
Triple tap
Left earbud
Switch EQ
Right earbud
Noise control
Action
Long press
Left earbud
Music mode / movie mode
Right earbud
Next track

Because the controls generally differ from what you’d find on other earbuds, I suggest tinkering with the JLab app if you don’t care about toggling movie mode, EQ presets, or voice assistant. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to do this; you can just set it and forget it.

Should you use the JLab app for the JLab JBuds Mini?

We generally tell people to avoid installing apps they don’t need because of privacy issues, but you need to use the JLab app to use the JLab JBuds Mini’s advanced features. The app grants the ability to adjust passthrough, enable a volume limiting function, apply EQ presets, and customize your controls. Though you’re not getting a full parametric equalizer in the app, JLab’s 10-band equalizer is still much better than many other competing earbuds. You can choose between one of three presets or make your custom preset while listening to music.

The user interface is one of the better ones on the market, as it doesn’t hide core features in a mess of menus or confusing screens. Everything is laid out quite simply, and most features are easy to find. Firmware updates are a part of the main screen, so you shouldn’t miss out when a new feature drops.

How do the JLab JBuds Mini connect?

The JLab JBuds Mini connect like all true wireless earbuds do: wirelessly. You can connect to any source with Bluetooth via AAC or SBC. These earbuds are for general users, so there are no higher-bitrate codecs or listening modes here. That’s okay, and you shouldn’t notice anything amiss outside of latency on ancient Android phones. Most apps have figured out the lag issue, though, so you only notice it in a phone call. You can use only one earbud for phone calls.

The JLab JBuds Mini are very basic Bluetooth earbuds, and connect in the same way. Assuming you’ve never paired the buds with your device before, you can follow the below steps:

  1. Install the JLab app.
  2. Enable Bluetooth on your source device and scan for devices.
  3. Open the case and remove the JLab JBuds Mini.
  4. If the app doesn’t pair automatically, select the JLab JBuds Mini from the list of available devices to pair.

How long does the JLab JBuds Mini battery last?

In our standard test, the JLab JBuds Mini lasts 5 hours and 52 minutes. This is good for earbuds, especially ones so tiny. This battery life should last two days’ worth of commutes or a half workday. Unless you’re the type to listen to music all day, every day, this should be more than fine enough for most people.

A photo of the JLab JBuds Mini attached to a set of keys.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
If you attach the JBuds Mini to your keys, check your wall charger if you’re ever looking for your keyring.

Once you need a top-up, you can use just about any USB-C charger with the JLab JBuds Mini. Just be aware that the more charging cycles you subject the JLab JBuds Mini to, the more you diminish their potential lifespan. Try not to let your earbuds get to 0% battery often, and top off your cells before the battery level gets too low.

JLab claims 15 minutes of charging grants you 1 hour of listening time. However, you don’t need fast charging to get this. With batteries this small (35 mAh per earbud), even a normal charging rate can appear fast.

How well do the JLab JBuds Mini block out noise?

Because the JLab JBuds Mini can seal to your inner ear quite well, they can isolate a lot of outside noise. While it’s not going to make you forget about your active noise canceling (ANC) headphones, being able to block out around 10dB down to 20Hz isn’t anything to sniff at.

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While this is impressive, please don’t take this as an endorsement of the JLab JBuds Mini as hearing protective equipment; your fit may not give you the noise attenuation shown here.

If you’d rather know what’s happening around you, you can use the Be Aware feature, which pipes in outside sounds using the microphones. This will help you stay aware of your surroundings, which is important if you’re on the road for a run or bike ride.

How do the JLab JBuds Mini sound?

Though the JLab JBuds Mini don’t have any higher-bitrate codecs or Hi-Res listening options, these $40 earbuds do a decent job with their limitations. Against our headphone preference curve, these emphasize bass a bit much, but it isn’t to a wild extreme. It’s common with consumer earbuds, as low-frequency noises are the hardest to physically prevent from reaching your ear. Consequently, many earbud manufacturers will goose the bass a little so your music can be more easily heard.

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My main issue with these earbuds is a strong emphasis on the highs. Though some people may prefer this, it is very grating when a lot of high-frequency content is competing for your attention. Punk, metal, and emo songs will likely run into this shortcoming. You may not notice or care, especially not for a set of $40 earbuds. Songs like King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Ice V have more noticeable kick drums due to the lift in the bass, and it will boost cymbal shimmer because of the peak in the high frequencies. Though it can aid in the illusion of added detail by boosting typically quieter sounds, the tradeoff is that peaks in this range can make sibilant sounds very loud at higher volumes. I strongly suggest leaving the volume limiter at 85dB, as this will allow you to not only prevent harsh sounds from getting too loud but also help avoid noise-induced hearing loss.

The default tuning of the JLab JBuds Mini is very consumer-friendly, and it’s a pleasant surprise given its price. The other EQ presets (Balanced, Bass boost) do exactly what they advertise: “Balanced” will tamp down the bass and treble a bit, and the “Bass boost” will push the lows to a more crazy degree. If the default tuning doesn’t have enough bass, try to find a better fit with the earbuds first. Because the JLab JBuds Mini emphasize bass and the fact that a “missing” low end is usually a symptom of a poor fit, nudging the bass sliders up more may not give you the results you’re looking for.

If you find that the default tuning doesn't have enough bass, try for a better fit with the earbuds first.

These earbuds don’t have any spatial or 3D sound features, and, unsurprisingly, the illusion of 3D space in recordings isn’t quite there. That’s okay, though, as these are simple earbuds geared towards casual listening.

Can you use the JLab JBuds Mini for phone calls?

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Like most other true wireless earbuds, the JLab JBuds Mini have a microphone array. While it’s nothing special, you don’t need a professional-grade mic for phone calls; just don’t expect to use them for podcasting.

JLab JBuds Mini microphone demo (Ideal conditions):

How does the microphone sound to you?

120 votes

Of course, people don’t always use their earbuds in the best conditions, so we test simulated scenarios so you can hear how products like the JLab JBuds Mini fare in the real world.

JLab JBuds Mini microphone demo (Office conditions):

JLab JBuds Mini microphone demo (Street conditions):

JLab JBuds Mini microphone demo (Windy conditions):

JLab JBuds Mini microphone demo (Reverberant space):

Like most earbuds, the JLab JBuds Mini tend to struggle a little bit with noise and wind rejection. That’s unsurprising, though, as even expensive earbuds can struggle. If your experience doesn’t reflect the above, it’s also possible that your network or client is limiting the bandwidth of your call, leading to poorer audio quality.

Should you buy the JLab JBuds Mini?

A photo of the Jlab JBuds Mini attached to a keychain, atop coins.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
Attaching earbuds to your keys can make them easier to find and more of a pain to charge.

Due to their convenience and decent performance, the JLab JBuds Mini are an easy recommendation at under $40. They may not knock your socks off, but exercise junkies, teens, and bargain lovers have a lot to like in decent IP55 earbuds that live on your keychain. It’s a low-stakes gamble.

JLab JBuds MiniJLab JBuds Mini
SG recommended
JLab JBuds Mini
Extremely portable • Price • IP55 rated
MSRP: $39.00
The JLab JBuds Mini are a diminutive set of earbuds that you can attach to your keychain. However, they offer more features than you might expect for such an inexpensive pair of earbuds. If you're looking for cheap earbuds that can handle a workout, put these on your shortlist.

Of course, it’s also unfair to expect too much out of tiny, entry-level earbuds. While the sound quality is decent enough, there’s no ANC or spatial audio features. These earbuds perform their task with a few creature comforts, but ultimately the JLab JBuds Mini don’t make you forget ultra high-end models. They’re just extremely good for their price point.

What should you get instead of the JLab JBuds Mini?

The TOZO NC2 sits on a bit of concrete with the lid open to show the buds with some flowers in the background.
Jasper Lastoria / SoundGuys
The TOZO NC2 offer noise cancelation.

If you want better earbuds for the price, you will be looking for a long time. This is because there are few inexpensive earbuds with this kind of performance and the features JLab offers. This company likes to try to make products that punch above their weight, so to speak, so many of the most appropriate alternatives will be made by the same company.

For example, the JLab Air GO Pop ($24 at Amazon) are similarly-priced, but have a larger earbud size. Though they only offer IPX4 water resistance, these earbuds are similarly suitable for working out. Additionally, the JLab GO Air Pop offers several different skin tones if you’d like your earbuds to blend in with you.

If you need ANC, you may be happy with the TOZO NC2 ($39 at Amazon). With a similar price to the JLab JBuds Mini, the TOZO NC2 offer noise cancelation, IPX6 moisture resistance, and comparable audio quality. However, it doesn’t have as good of an app, and the JLab JBuds Mini have the edge in form factor.

Frequently asked questions

The JLab JBuds Mini aren’t waterproof. However, they have an ingress protection rating of IP55; the buds are resistant to dust and can take a splash of water without worrying too much about damage. You can’t swim or shower with these, but you can work out with them.

Yes. See above for samples.

Yes. Their low weight, decent fit, and IP55 ingress protection rating means these are a good choice for runners.

No.

Not really, no. But if you’ve connected these to your keys and they get stolen, you have bigger problems.