With the Epic Air ANC, the American manufacturer JLabs have incorporated several features that mobile users swear by: long playing time, active noise cancellation, convenient music control and telephony. In addition, its balanced sound with self-confident bass is pleasing, and it can be adjusted to suit your personal taste via configurable graphic EQ in four modes.
Even though they’ve named their model the Epic Air ANC, JLab are not aiming at an epic price class with these headphones. These small black in-ears are made of hard plastic that hides quite a few technical refinements, rather untypical for headphones with a price of 119.99 Euros RRP. Their appearance is defined by a long shaft, with pins for inside for charging in the case and a voice microphone at the end. The narrow driver channel ends at an angle in a widened body with a tip button and silver logo and comes with slip-on earpieces made of silicone gel in two different shapes and different sizes and another made of foam. Both earphones have three microphones and an indicator LED.
Which pod is assigned to which ear is only apparent from its position in the chic, leatherette-covered charging case, in whose recesses these earphones recharge. The case is powered either by contact with a compatible charging surface or via the short USB cable, which folds in and is firmly connected to the case, unfortunately, this cannot be replaced if the cable breaks. Three LEDs confirm the current charging status of the case, as well as that of the sound source.
Comfort and functionality
Due to their very smooth surface, these seven-gram earphones tend to slip out of your fingers, but with the help of the shaft and the wide body, they can be inserted into the ear canal quite easily. Thanks to the various ear moulds that are included, these earphones ensure a secure fit and hold their position confidently, even during faster sporting activities such as jogging. This is also where the IP55 certification pays off as they are resistant to sweat, dirt and splashes of water.
The touch controls respond very quickly to a light touch. However, sometimes some touches missed and the wrong action was triggered. For example, Siri often appeared when what I actually wanted was to switch to EQ mode. Tapping the buttons also transmitted a knocking sound. I think a button on the stem, as with Apple’s AirPods Pro, would be more practical. Thanks to an infrared sensor in each earphone, the music is automatically paused when they are taken out of the ears and plays again when they are put back in.
JLab has installed eight-millimetre neodymium dynamic drivers in the Epic Air ANC, and these cover a frequency spectrum between 20 and 20,000 Hertz. The impedance is rated at 32 ohms and the output at 110 +/- 3 decibels.
Thanks to Bluetooth version 5, the connection is not interrupted under ten metres. The impressive playing time of more than 48 hours is put into perspective somewhat because the battery lasts for at least 12 hours without returning to the charging case and eight hours with ANC. The remaining 36 hours are stored in the case, and according to the manufacturer, a full charge takes three hours; in my test, the empty batteries were fully operational after less than two hours. According to the manufacturer, these headphones must be left in the case for fifteen minutes for each hour of play.
When you take the Epic Air out of their case, the blue-white flashing LED automatically confirms pairing mode and the in-ears appear under Bluetooth devices on your Smartphone. When connected to a mobile phone, the touch control buttons can be used to start, pause, skip and adjust the volume of streamed music. To avoid getting confused by this abundance of options, the controls are distributed separately on both earphone surfaces. In addition, different acoustic signals confirm each mode.
Telephone calls can be accepted, ended or rejected with a touch of a button. JLab uses C3 calling technology. Each in-ear has an omnidirectional microphone to detect and suppress background noise and a second microphone for voice recording positioned close to your mouth. The conversation can be heard on both earphones. As a receiver, I understood the person on the other end of the call really well, whereas my voice sounded somewhat artificial and compressed, sometimes even becoming unclear due to an audible phasing effect.
Thanks to the built-in microphones, these headphones also receive voice commands via Siri and Google.
If you don’t like the pre-sets, you can download and install the corresponding app, which modifies the intensity of the two active noise reduction modes and offers four additional EQ modes that can be individually adjusted using a 10-band equaliser. I could also decide which of eight possible functions are assigned to which of the buttons using the “Customize Controls” tab in the app.
The Epic Air ANC do not support aptX audio codec, only AAC and SBC. These earphones offer four modes (“JLab Signature”, “Balanced”, “Bass Boost” and “Beep”), the latter can be individually adjusted and replaced in the app by a further one of four via the equaliser to suit your listening habits. When playing various songs under “JLab Signature”, the default setting, I was treated to a very grown-up and rich sound, which was particularly impressive due to its firm, but not deadening or intimidating bass, it still offered the clearly delineated, cleanly reproduced treble quite a lot of room for development. With its not too thickly layered bass texture, which does not unravel even at maximum level, it breathes warmth into MP3s that sometimes seem cool. “Balanced” stands for a linear sound setting, more sober in the low-frequency spectrum, but with more noticeable mids and sometimes exaggerated highs in the sibilant sounds, I noticed this especially with electronic music. On the other hand, organic music, like jazz, suits this sound and benefits from the higher transparency. I am not a fan of the “Bass Boost”, it boomed heavily at the expense of other frequency ranges that were drowned out. If you can’t find your desired sound among the pre-sets, open the app and adjust the frequencies between 200 and 16,000 hertz according to your own taste.
The active noise cancelling works in three stages. When switched on, the earphones isolate themselves well from the surroundings, so that ambient noise, such as in my case vacuuming for testing purposes, was blocked out and the volume can remain set at a moderate level. The “Be Aware” mode adds ambient sounds through the connected microphones, which ensure necessary safety and attentiveness, especially when on the move. Ambient noises as well as your own voice sound somewhat artificial and compressed, as with telephone calls, but they get your attention, which is what matters in the end. For athletes, we should mention that these headphones do not conspicuously transmit an impact sound when jogging, only wind noise creates a disturbance when in transparency mode. The Epic Air ANC can’t compete with the ANC of Apple’s AirPods Pro, but you’ll easily have to pay twice as much for a pair of those.
If you hold down both buttons for three seconds, these earphones switch to Movie Mode, which provides convincing lip-sync thanks to a low latency of less than 100 milliseconds between the screen and the earphones. It must also be said that there is little to no difference noticeable without Movie Mode.
JLabs Epic Air ANC impressed us with a considerable playing time, their hefty sound, a reasonably effective active noise reduction, IP55 certification and a wirelessly chargeable case. The manufacturer not only caters to different customer needs with the various earplugs that are included but also with the sound, the function assignment of the buttons and the ANC, which can be adjusted using the app. This makes it possible to accept the shortcomings of the voice microphone and the reduced selection of supported audio codecs. On its website, JLab are appropriately self-confident and does not shy away from comparisons with competitors such as Apple & Co, to whom they are definitely equal in terms of features and value for money.
- Ear couplingIn-Ears
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20.000 Hz
- Impedance32 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)+/- 3dB @ 1kHz: 110 dB
- Weight without cable7 g each, Case 57 g
What's in the box
- 3 pairs of silicone gel tips
- 2 pairs of extra long tips
- 1 pair of Cloud Foam Eartips
- Charging case with integrated USB charging cable
- 3 months free subscription to TIDAL
- BT codecs: AAC, SBC
- BT version: 5.0