“The ANC won’t wow you, but these buds are still insane value at just $ 99.”
Customizable controls and EQ
Huge battery life
Excellent ambient sound mode
Bad call quality
JLab has made wireless headphones and true wireless earbuds in the past that offer a great mix of performance and features at shockingly low prices. The $ 29 Go Air and $ 149 Epic Air Sport are both good examples.
But both were clearly just warm-up exercises for what JLab has just released: The $ 99 Epic Air ANC, a set of noise-canceling true wireless earbuds with a feature set that seems to go on forever.
Has JLab finally promised too much and delivered too little, or is the Epic Air ANC setting a new benchmark for value? Note: you are amazing.
Let’s see what all the fuss is about.
What’s in the box?
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
JLabs crates have always been incredibly flimsy, cheap looking affairs. And while this may not score the corporate points for shoppers looking at a range of competitive products on a retail shelf, I think it’s great.
I love it because it’s made entirely from easily recyclable paper and cardboard. The only plastic you’ll find are two tiny removable stickers over the earbuds charging contacts. The rest is as guilt free as it gets.
This box contains the Epic Air ANC earbuds in the charging case, an easy-to-read and very well-illustrated quick start guide and the five additional earbuds supplied (the earbuds come with the medium size installed).
JLab’s true wireless earbuds come in three general shapes: the simple earbud-only design of the Go Air, the sport-oriented earhook design of the Epic Air Sport, and the AirPod-like earbud-plus-stem design of the Air Executive.
Workout addicts are assured: With an IP55 rating, these earphones can survive very little.
The Epic Air ANC uses the same design as the Air Executive. They are so similar that you may not even be able to tell them apart by looking closely.
The Epic Air ANC are a little bulkier than Apple’s AirPods or AirPods Pro, for example, but they’re still remarkably light and don’t look as massive as many of the top earphones we tested, such as Sony’s WF-SP800N or Sennheiser CX 400BT True Wireless .
With the touch controls on the outside you have full access to all the most frequently used functions. With a wear sensor on the inside, you can automatically pause your music when you remove an earbud – if you want.
Workout addicts are insured: with an IP55 rating, these earbuds can survive very little.
The charging case is bulkier and less pluggable than many others on the market, but it makes up for its added size by offering a built-in USB charging cable – a brilliant feature for those who often forget to bring cables when traveling. Better still, if the cable is ever damaged, the case can also be charged wirelessly.
Synthetic leather has a double function both as the outer surface of the housing and as a hinge for the lid. It’s unusual and clever, but it does mean the lid moves a little even when it’s closed, which reduces the overall feeling of quality.
Even so, the lid magnet and earbud docking magnets are strong enough to keep everything in place, which is really all that matters.
A three-LED display on the top shows the charging status of the case and the charging status of the earphones.
The Epic Air ANC may not win beauty pageants, but functionally they are very well designed.
Convenience, control and connections
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
If you’ve ever worn earphones in your ear and found them comfortable, you will likely like the fit of the Epic Air ANC.
If you don’t, JLab should add five different sizes and styles of silicone earbuds, plus an extra pair of Cloud Foam earbuds to get them just right no matter your ear shape.
The quality of the seal is always important with in-ear earphones as it determines how good they sound. However, this is especially important with ANC earphones. Having a variety of earbuds to choose from definitely makes it easier to get a good seal.
Personally, I recommend the cloud foams. Memory foam earplugs don’t last as long as silicone and not everyone likes the squishy feel they create in your ear, but they are super comfortable and make for a great, no-pressure seal.
Once you’ve found the best size and type of earbuds, the Epic Air ANC should fit just right and feel just the same. I found them to be more comfortable than some earbuds that cost more than double, which just goes to show that money can’t always give you a good fit.
I don’t like touch controls on earbuds because they tend to trigger when you don’t want them to do something, or more often they don’t respond properly (or not at all) when you need them.
The Epic Air ANC’s touch controls largely avoided this trap, but there were still instances where I had problems. Some taps were not recognized and a double tap was sometimes only registered as a single tap. I would still prefer a really good set of physical buttons like the ones on the Jabra Elite 75t, but as far as touch controls go, the Epic Air ANCs are perfectly serviceable.
While I’m not a fan of Touch Control, I’m really impressed that JLab’s free Air ANC app for iOS and Android lets you customize the functionality of each earbud for each tap combination. With three faucet combinations per earbud, you can cover pretty much anything you could want. The following commands are available: play / pause (answer / end), skip tracks forwards / backwards, increase / decrease volume, access voice assistant, EQ mode and ANC mode (on, off, caution).
The only thing to keep in mind is that if you are only using one earbud, then you need to make sure that the earbud controls have the following features – a great option for making phone calls or when you need to be more aware of your surroundings and settings, that they need. There’s no point in increasing the volume with a single tap on the left earbud when you need the right earbud to turn it down again.
The wear sensors worked like a charm and quickly paused and resumed music when you removed or inserted the earbuds. The app allows you to turn the feature off if you don’t find it helpful.
Bluetooth pairing is easy and quick – just remove the earbuds from the case and select them from your Bluetooth system menu. The connection quality was very reliable, but in some cases – especially after a long pause with no music playing – the left earbud stopped responding. Quickly plugging both buds into the charging case and pulling them out again was a reliable way to get things back to normal.
The simultaneous pairing of devices (a.k.a. Bluetooth Multipoint) would be nice, but an unusual function even with more expensive earphones.
True wireless earbuds have seen their battery life improve massively over the past 12 months, and the Epic Air ANC is near the top of that range.
With up to 48 hours without ANC, they’ll be ashamed of all other true wireless earbuds.
JLab claims to be 8 hours with the ANC on and 12 hours off – just an hour less than the reigning champion, Sony’s WF-SP800N.
Even more impressive is the charging case, which offers space for three full charges. This means at least 32 hours total time, but up to 48 hours with the ANC switched off. That puts all other true wireless earbuds to shame. Even the Sony WF-SP800N only offers a single charge for a maximum time of 26 hours.
Get an extra hour of playtime with a 15 minute quick charge.
In reality, JLab’s numbers are pretty much spot on. I left them on continuously with the ANC off and after 12 hours they were still on the go.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends
For its price, I think the Epic Air ANC sounds very good. You don’t get the pristine sound quality of the Sony WF-1000XM3 or the Sennheiser CX 400BT, but these earbuds cost more than double what you pay for the Epic Air ANC.
When it comes to deep bass and crisp highs – the two areas that people notice the most – these earbuds don’t disappoint.
I’m willing to bet that unless you already own a much more expensive earbud, you’ll be amazed by the sound of the Epic Air ANC.
They offer very good frequency separation and when it comes to deep bass and crisp highs – the two areas that people notice the most – these earbuds don’t disappoint. The bass response is full, but not overwhelming, and the highs, while not crystalline, are well defined. The midrange drivers are neither shiny nor lackluster and manage to make themselves heard even if they aren’t quite the stars of the show.
And while they may not have perfect levels of detail or an extremely wide soundstage, they are surprisingly balanced for listening to a wide variety of genres.
As with virtually all of the earbuds and headphones I’ve tested, to get the most out of these earbuds, you need a decent source. I found a huge difference between listening to my personal collection of AAC format tracks on Apple Music and CD quality lossless offerings from Tidal or Qobuz.
More importantly, the JLab Air ANC app lets you tweak the EQ as you like. The equalizer has discrete levels for 10 frequency bands and you can save four presets with your favorite mixes.
JLab includes a “movie mode” which is designed to reduce the audio delay compared to the usual “music mode” so that the on-screen dialog matches what you are hearing. My iPhone 11’s Bluetooth connection may already be very low in latency, but I saw practically no difference whether or not the movie mode was activated. Both modes provided great synchronization when streaming Netflix and Disney + movies.
It’s difficult to get a feel for the Epic Air ANC’s noise cancellation effectiveness.
Whether you use the standard silicone earbuds or the cloud foams, the seal they offer is pretty good. This means that very little outside noise can get into your ear.
But even with strong passive noise isolation, ANC should show a noticeable decrease in some external noises. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
Switching between ANC off and on resulted in only the slightest decrease in lower frequencies. Even then, I could only tell when no music was playing.
JLab’s Air ANC app lets you adjust the level of noise cancellation – a welcome feature – but maximizing the setting didn’t do much to improve performance. They’re certainly not AirPods Pro killers in terms of noise cancellation.
On the upside, the Be Aware mode that lets in sounds is excellent and the app-based customization gives you good control over how much sound is let in.
Call quality at Epic Air ANC is not an area of strength. It’s not a feature that true wireless earbuds do excellently even on some very expensive models, but they are particularly weak on these earbuds.
External noises such as cars, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and even a light breeze created strong aural competition for my voice and sometimes drowned it out completely.
It looks a lot better indoors, but even then your voice will suffer from shake.
On the other hand, the Be Aware mode makes making phone calls very convenient from the wearer’s point of view, allowing you to hear your own voice with absolute clarity.
No matter how you look at them, the JLab Epic Air ANC are epic value at just $ 99. The ANC may not be spectacular, but with great sound isolation thanks to a variety of ear plugs, it just doesn’t matter. What can you not love with very good sound quality, enormous battery life and countless practical additional functions?
Is there a better alternative?
For $ 99, you might find true wireless earbuds with ANC and decent sound, but I’m not sure if there are earbuds at this price point that also have 12 hours of battery life, IP55 protection, wireless charging, fully customizable controls, and EQ offer a wear sensor.
You can spend less and get fewer features, like the highly affordable Truengine SE Soundpeats for $ 40, or you can spend more and get slightly better sound quality with the Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro for $ 150, but nothing beats that Epic Air ANC for total value.
How long will they last?
The build quality of the Epic Air ANC seems to be on par for earphones in their price range. With an IP55 degree of protection and a very generous two-year guarantee from JLab, however, they should have a very long service life. The beauty of starting with batteries that last 12 hours is that even if they eventually drop to 50% capacity, they outperform a lot of brand new earbuds.
Should you buy it?
Yes. In the Epic Air ANC, JLab has developed a feature-rich and comfortable earphone set that offers an incredible price-performance ratio.