JLab recently expanded their in-ear portfolio with the JBuds Air ANC, a model with active noise cancellation that impressed us with a powerful sound, which can be adjusted via EQ modes, and the length of its playing time.
Comfort and functionality
Sitting on top of the JBuds Air ANC’s driver channels are the earpieces; the manufacturer includes three pairs of these in different sizes (S, M, L) made of silicone gel and one made of adaptable foam (size M). A band around the housing fixes the earpiece in the ear and thus ensures hold – despite the smooth, hard plastic surface. The earpieces also have an indicator LED and two microphones.
Weighing just five grams, the JBuds Air ANC are among the lightest headphones out there, and this is certainly noticeable when wearing them. Due to their size, they can be easily inserted into the ear canal, where they fit tightly, thanks to the appropriate ear tips and the fixing ring, effectively sealing the ear canal, which benefits their sound performance. This means that the earphones remain in position even during more vigorous head movements, for example, during sporting activities. In addition, the JBuds Air ANC are IP55-certified and therefore protected against sweat, dirt and splashes of water.
The two discrete buttons can handle fourteen different functions. To avoid confusion, some are assigned to only one side of the headphone at a time. The features are coded with a corresponding number of taps; separate signals also confirm the corresponding activated mode. The two function buttons do not react to mere touching but need light tapping, which feels somewhat unpleasant in the ear canal. Also, the earpieces do not always recognise every tap, which means it is possible to unintentionally activate different modes.
When they’re not in your ears, you can store the JBuds Air ANC in their charging case, where they fit into two wells with golden pins and two magnets for power charging. The case confirms the battery status with three LEDs, not only the power held by the case but also when charging the in-ears. The USB cable is clamped to the bottom and it is debatable whether this is a practical solution. Although the cable is always within reach, the very short length and the fact that it cannot be replaced in the event of a cable break are negative issues.
Due to the larger dimensions, JLab bestows these in-ears with twelve-millimetre dynamic neodymium drivers with a frequency response of 20 to 20,000 Hertz and an extremely low impedance of 28 ohms; the manufacturer specifies 104 +/- 3 decibels as the output. Like the Epic Air ANC, they only support AAC and SBC audio codec; unfortunately, there are no concrete details from the manufacturer on this.
The JBuds work with Bluetooth version 5.2, which means they have a range of at least ten metres. The battery life of these earphones is more than ten hours, with the charging case storing another 30 hours or more. With ANC switched on, the operating time is reduced to a total of at least 24 operating hours. The Earbuds need less than two hours to fully charge, but according to my test it was done in less than 90 minutes, and JLab estimates less than 2.5 hours for the case. The total standby time, according to the manufacturer, is 165 hours.
When switched on, the two earpieces immediately switch to pairing mode; a single mode connecting just one earpiece is also possible.
Using the two function buttons, you can pause and skip the music, adjust the volume, the active noise reduction or the sound in three EQ modes and communicate either with a voice assistant or make a phone call. I found the voice quality of the microphone to be the biggest shortcoming of this model. Voice recordings sounded noisy, a bit muffled and interspersed with a phasing effect and, therefore, somewhat unclear. But for shorter phone calls, the quality was perfectly adequate.
To cater for different tastes in sound, JLab allows each user to have their own personal blend using the EQ preset modes. Under the “JLab Signature” setting, I found the sound to be full-bodied, thanks to its concise but not exaggerated or obscured bass, which primarily provides warmth and volume without concealing the treble and thus the transparency resulting from it. Even peaks, such as sibilants and hi-hats, sounded clear and accurate without distorting. Only the mids were a little more subdued, so the instruments in this frequency band were a little lacking. The “Balanced” setting delivers a sober and linear sound, making it an EQ mode that personally I prefer for jazz and especially for videos and audiobooks, as it impressed me with naturalness, clarity and intelligibility in speech. The “Bass Boost” setting exploits all the reserves of the low frequencies, reduces the treble on top of that, so that it really has some decent boom, but it reduces the transparency.
Thanks to their very low impedance, these headphones can also cope with lower-power headphone outputs. When turned up to full, the drivers perform confidently with such a rich level that one might wish for a little reserve. But at my preferred volume of between 50 and 70 per cent, these headphones provided a pleasant and satisfactory sound.
Active noise reduction
Finally, more volume is not necessarily needed because the three modes of active noise cancelling, “On”, “Off” and “Be Aware”, helped with annoying background noise. The latter mode does not isolate the user from their surroundings but rather plays in ambient noises via the built-in microphones. This is a feature that should not be missed, especially during outdoor sports activities. Although the test subject has to do without a microphone compared to the better Epic Air model, I find the ANC of the JBuds to be more effective. Although I perceived the ambient noises fed through the microphone to be somewhat quieter, they are more natural and the sound of your own voice does not sound so artificial.
In conventional ANC mode, these headphones shut off completely, blocking out distracting noises which allowed me to devote myself fully to the music.
With Movie Mode, the headphones provided visibly improved lip-sync between words and images when watching videos by reducing latency to below 100 milliseconds.
The JBuds AIR ANC from American manufacturer JLab deliver a powerful sound that can be changed using three EQ modes. But the JBuds AIR ANC also know how to distinguish themselves with their simple, quite comfortable operation, their three-stage noise-cancelling and their long playing time. The microphone is the only weak point, with its somewhat noisy, muffled voice quality, but this is acceptable given the lavish features included for a price of around 89 Euros.
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20.000 Hz
- Impedance28 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)±3 dB, 1 mW at 1 kHz: 104 dB
- Weight without cable5g per earphone, charging case 55 g
What's in the box
- 3 pairs of silicone ear tips (S, M, L)
- 1 pair of memory foam ear tips (M)
- 1 pair of silicone fins
- Charging case with integrated USB cable
- 3 months free subscription to TIDAL
- BT codecs: AAC, SBC
- BT version: 5.2