There are few corners of the audio market more saturated than workout earbuds. Just like U.S. democratic presidential candidates, they’re a dime a dozen. While some companies struggle to set themselves apart from the pack. JLab stands out with its durable, affordable products. The JLab JBuds Air Sport is no different. This includes IP66 earbuds and a charging case with an integrated USB cable, something we’ve yet to see beyond JLab. Are these $69 workout earbuds too good to be true or are they worth every penny?
Editor’s note: this JLab JBuds Air Sport review was updated on September 2, 2020, to answer an FAQ about onboard controls.
Who is the JLab JBuds Air Sport for?
- Exercise enthusiasts will enjoy the JBuds Air Sport. The ear hook design is comfortable and should fit most ears. The earbuds form a proper seal, which keeps external noise out.
- General consumers can use these too. If you’re worried about losing your true wireless earbuds, the ear hook is the way to go. It’s nearly impossible to accidentally knock these out and off of the ear.
- Rock climbers and cyclists should get these earbuds. I used one earbud while biking about Georgia and never experienced a stutter or full stop (note: the law for listening to music while cycling varies by state). What’s more, according to our Instagram poll, 62% of respondents listen to music while climbing. The touch controls remained responsive even when my fingers and hands were layered in chalk.
What’s it like to use the JLab JBuds Air Sport?
Each earbud is decorated with a touch panel, allowing for comprehensive controls. You can adjust the volume, skip tracks, access your voice assistant, and toggle Be Aware mode. No matter how sweaty or chalky my fingertips were from rock climbing, the touch controls worked without a hitch. What’s more, touch controls are easier to operate on the fly than hard-to-press buttons. I especially appreciated tapping, rather than forcefully pushing, the panels. Finding a pair of true wireless earbuds with more comprehensive built-in controls is a challenge.
Unlike the Executive model, the JBuds Air Sport uses an earhook design. It may not be the most in-style look but, like the Beats Powerbeats Pro, it effectively keeps the earbuds in place. Also, the IP66-rated earbuds are remarkably durable. I knocked my water bottle over and liquid splashed on to the earbuds. This would’ve been anxiety-inducing had it been a pair of untreated earbuds, but the JBuds Air Sport’s functionality was unaffected.
If you're stranded in the office without a charging cable, fear not: the case features an integrated USB cable.
The charging case has the shape of an oblong rock and is larger than the Executive. It features an integrated USB cable, which can withstand 10,000 bends. This is excellent news for the forgetful as you no longer have to worry about carrying a backup charging cable. It allows you to charge the case, and thus the earbuds, from anywhere.
How long does the battery last?
Our testing yielded 4.5 hours of playback from the earbuds. This is above average for the true wireless earbuds we’ve tested. Although it’s not the best battery life out there, the 930mAh charging case supports quick charging: 15 minutes in the case provides one hour of listening. A full charge of the case requires three hours and a full charge of the earbuds requires 1.5 hours. What’s more, the case affords approximately 5.5 additional charges to the earbuds, meaning you’ll get well over 30 hours of real-world use before needing to consciously charge anything.
How do you connect the earbuds to your phone?
You need to remove both earbuds to properly initiate the pairing process: the earbuds need to connect to each other prior to pairing to your phone. They support Bluetooth 5.0 and support the high-quality AAC codec. Since AAC’s performance on Android devices is unpredictable, AAC compatibility really only matters for iPhone users. You’ll still experience some audio-visual lag which, while annoying, isn’t a dealbreaker for most of us.
Connection strength is astounding. I went on a few cycling routes, which took anywhere from 1.5-2 hours, and never stutter or dropped a signal from the earbud. I say “earbud” because I only used one for safety purposes. Skipping songs or increasing the volume from the right earbud elicited a snappy response.
What do the JLab JBuds Air Sport sound like?
Just like the JBuds Air Executive, these dramatically exaggerate bass frequencies. No matter what sound signature you select (JLab signature, balanced, or bass boost), bass notes are firmly exaggerated. Sub-bass sounds four times as loud as certain midrange notes (~650Hz). It appears JLab was trying to model after the equal-loudness contour (ISO 226:2003). Due to the disparate difference in loudness, your music won’t sound as clear as a more studio-friendly sound. Additionally, if you find it hard to discern vocals you’re experiencing auditory masking. This isn’t my preferred sound signature for everyday listening, but it’s great for workouts: emphasized bass is super important at the gym because there’s so much of it around you.
Isolation, on the other hand, is great. Take the time to find the appropriate ear tips; it’s worth it. JLab provides four pairs, three of which are silicone and one memory foam option. The memory foam retains its shape well and is extremely comfortable, but is more prone to wear and tear. When exercising I used the default silicone ear tips, but for all other listening purposes, I installed the blue foam tips.
Lows, mids, and highs
In Raleigh Ritchie’s song Werld Is Mine, a voice is heard saying, “world is mine.” This begins 13 seconds in and is joined by a pianist alternating from Fm-D before ending on a C note for each chord pattern. While the lyrics are hard to discern, the male voice is loud enough to register without strain. However, skip to the bridge joining the second chorus and verse (1:53): here the same voice is still repeating the phrase, “world is mine” but this time it’s underscored by a kick drum on the downbeat. Since the JBuds Air Sport dramatically emphasizes the low-end, it’s hard to hear the worlds “world is…,” which serves as a great example of auditory masking addressed earlier.
Treble frequencies are also hard to identify. At 2:50, Ritchie begins the chorus and cymbal hits stress the song’s finale. Unfortunately, none of the harmonic resonances of the cymbals are heard because they’re overpowered by the bass and synth sounds.
While it may seem I’m ragging on the sound signature, that’s not the case. This sound is perfectly fine, perhaps even preferred, if you’re exercising. However, it’s important to realize the JLab JBuds Air Sport earbuds’ limitations beyond a workout context.
How does it compare to the JLab Epic Air Sport?
The JLab JBuds Air Sport are a much more economical option compared to the company’s Epic Air Sport, because the latter is aimed to compete directly with the Beats Powerbeats and Beats Powerbeats Pro. Battery life is nearly doubled with the Epic Air Sport, and the charging case is dual-purpose, meaning it can charge earbuds and an external device like a smartphone. I love this feature especially since my Samsung Galaxy S10e battery leaves a lot to be desired.
Silicone ear hooks on the Epic Air model are much more flexible and comfortable than the JBuds Air Sport, I felt more confident performing vigorous exercises with the premium model. Listeners who typically have a hard time getting ear tips to fit properly may want to get the Epic Air Sport instead because it includes a flurry of ear tip options ranging in size, style, and material.
There are similarities between the two models, though: both are IP66-rated, both use Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0, and both support Be Aware mode for ambient awareness. Both earbuds have touch panels but I enjoyed the ones on the Epic Air more. The Air Sport has a leg up over the Epic Air when it comes to quick charging, something the Epic Air lacks altogether. Listeners who need a portable phone charger, but don’t want to carry another device may find the Epic Air worth it but when it comes to raw functionality, the JBuds Air Sport performs rather well.
Should you buy the JLab JBuds Air Sport?
Athletes in search of a cheap pair of earbuds with excellent connection strength should get these. They’re a great pair of value-true wireless earbuds with Bluetooth 5.0 and AAC support. While sound quality isn’t the clearest or most versatile for EQ fanatics, it’s appropriate for the gym.
Listeners willing to forgo the earhook design should look into the JLab GO Air, which boast an IP44 rating. Although the headset costs juust $30, you’re still afforded premium features like the integrated USB charging cable and JLab’s latest Dual Connect technology. However, if you want a high-value, low-cost option, the JBuds Air Sport is one of the best headsets around.
Frequently Asked Questions
The JLab JBuds Air Sport touch controls are as follows for the left touchpad: tap once to decrease volume, double-tap to access your virtual assistant, triple-tap to cycle through EQ settings, tap-and-hold for one second to go back a track, and tap-and-hold for three seconds to power the earbud on/off. The controls for the right touchpad are as follows: tap once to increase the volume, double-tap to play or pause your music, triple-tap to toggle ambient aware listening, press-and-hold for one second to reject a call, and press-and-hold for three seconds to power on/off. You can also tap the right panel once to answer a call, or double-tap to end a call.
No, we don’t recommend testing out the IPX6 rating of the JLab JBuds Air Sport by taking them in the shower. An IPX6 rating is impressive but only guaranteed to withstand powerful sprays from something like a showerhead for three minutes. If your shower is less than minutes long, you may be able to get away with doing so, but we advise against it. Alternatively, you may want to look into getting a shower speaker.
As far as functionality goes, there isn’t a huge difference between the headsets. Both are IP66 rated, use Class 1 Bluetooth 5.0 firmware, and support AAC. The JLab Epic Air Sport is a more premium headset as it has a much sturdier design with a silicone material on the ear hooks for an even more secure fit. The touch panels are a smooth, glossy finish and are slightly more responsive than the JBuds Air Sport’s controls. Battery life is nearly double what the JBuds Air Sport offer, 9.28 hours compared to 4.5 hours of listening on a single charge. Although the JLab Epic Air Sport features a workout-friendly sound signature, bass emphasis is relatively tame compared to the more JBuds Air Sport’s emphatic low-end response. This means the Epic Air Sport has a more versatile sound signature that bodes well for a wider range of music.