JLab JBuds Air Pro Review: Good wireless earbuds for the price of a PS5 game
Just a few years ago, most truly wireless earbuds were really bad. Battery life, synchronization between both buds, charging, and other features often had issues. Fast forward to 2022, and you can get a decent pair of true wireless earbuds for well under $100. One more recent entry is the Jbuds Air Pro from JLab, which boasts Bluetooth multi-point support and an IP55 rating for just $59. I’ve been using the JLab JBuds Air Pro for a little over a week, and while I do have some issues with the earbuds, it’s a decent package for what you’re paying.
JLab JBuds Air Pro: Pricing and Availability
JBuds currently only sells the JBuds Air Pro on the company’s own online store. Even though some of JLab’s other headphones and earbuds are sold at stores like Office Depot, that doesn’t seem to be the case for the Air Pro — at least not yet, anyway.
The price is set at $59.00, as of when this review was published, and standard shipping is free.
JLab JBuds Air Pro: Specifications
|Specification||JLab Jbuds Air Pro|
|Build||IP58 dust/water resistance (earbuds only)|
|Dimensions & Weight||
|Microphone||Built-In MEMS -38dB+/-1dB microphone in both buds|
|Battery & Charging||
About this review: JLab sent the JBuds Air Pro to XDA for this article. JLab had no input on the contents of this review.
Design: Your average earbuds
Much like modern cars, all true wireless earbuds are more or less designed the same at this point. The earbuds themselves are a bit large, as all the hardware components are contained in the bud — there’s no ‘stem’ like on the Apple AirPods. Everyone’s ears are different, but if the earbuds were any larger, they wouldn’t fit in my ear. On the bright side, I haven’t had any issues with the earbuds slowly falling out of my ears, like I’ve noticed with some other in-ear designs.
JLab includes three sets of gel ear tips (including the default pair) in the box, in case the regular fit isn’t quite right. There are also two sets of rubber ‘cush fins’, which can wrap around the edges of the bud so your ears aren’t touching the plastic. They might also help the buds not slip out of your ear after moving a lot (during exercise, for example), but I didn’t personally have that problem without the fins.
Like most recent true wireless earbuds, there are sensors in the buds that detect when you take them out and will automatically pause media playback. The delay between taking one out of my ear and the music pausing is about a second, but that’s not too bad.
The main catch with these earbuds is that there is no Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), so the only noise being blocked out is from the eartip seal. Even without ANC, there’s a decent level of sound isolation, and there’s a gesture to pipe in outside sounds using the earbud’s built-in microphones — more on that in the next section. If you’re going to be in noisy environments where you definitely want to block out as much as possible, like train rides or air flights, the Galaxy Buds 2 is usually on sale for around $100 and has decent ANC.
Moving onto the charging case, you get three indicator lights in the front for the current battery level and a cheap-feeling plastic build. However, the charging solution is definitely unique — most earbud cases have a USB Type-C port for power (and sometimes Qi wireless charging), but the Air Pro has a USB Type-A connector that folds out from the bottom. JLab’s advertising and product manual imply you’re meant to charge the case mostly from a laptop or PC, and if you’re traveling, you don’t need to bring a cable with you.
I’m not sure this design decision is the best idea, since many laptops now have no USB Type-A ports at all. The short cable length also means plugging it into a PC or wall charger means the case will be hanging from the USB port (see the above photo), like in the above photo. USB Type-C mostly already solved the problem of carrying around different cables and chargers for each device, and given there are many true wireless earbuds in this price range with a Type-C port (and some with wireless charging too), I’m not sure JLab needed to reinvent the wheel here.
JLab claims up to nine hours of playtime on a single charge, with the case providing an extra 27 hours. I don’t think I’ve ever had earbuds in my ears for nine hours at a time, but I certainly didn’t notice the battery dropping below the advertised number. The larger battery packs and lack of ANC likely help battery life.
Software: Multi-point and complex controls
The Jbuds Air Pro has no mobile app for customizing controls/audio or installing updates, which is fine by me — most apps for audio accessories aren’t great. However, that means you’ll need to be familiar with the Air Pro’s gestures, which are a bit complicated and vary depending on which earbud you tap. I’m sure most people can get used to the controls after a while of regular use, but you’ll definitely be checking the manual at least a few times after taking the earbuds out of the box.
The main selling point, especially at this price, is support for multi-point Bluetooth. This allows you to connect the earbuds to two Bluetooth devices at once, such as a phone and a PC, and the earbuds will switch between them. For example, you could have music playing through your computer, then the earbuds will switch to your phone when a call comes in.
This functionality might be handy for some people, but I honestly don’t have much of a use for it — I don’t make calls on my phone often, which seems to be the main use case. Many other earbuds already have the ability to quickly switch to different devices, which the JBuds Air Pro actually handles worse than most other earbuds. There’s no way to easily enter pairing mode on the earbuds unless you find which device they are currently paired to and disconnect them from the Bluetooth settings. Otherwise, you’ll just be paired to the new device and the old device at the same time. It’s sort of just a confusing mess.
The JBuds Air Pro seemingly isn’t built for each earbud to function independently. When I tried to take just one earbud out of the case to keep in one ear, it kept pausing any media playback, and then usually allowed me to play something after 10-20 seconds.
Sound quality: Three settings and an okay microphone
There are three audio profiles to choose from, which can be changed by triple-tapping on the left earbud. The first is ‘JLab Signature,’ which seems to boost vocals and other midrange frequencies. There’s also ‘Bass Boost,’ which does exactly what it sounds like, and finally ‘Balanced.’ I prefer the sound coming from the Balanced option, and the Bast Boost makes vocals a lot harder to understand.
Like most budget true wireless earbuds, the JBuds Air Pro supports the standard AAC audio codec, but not any of Qualcomm’s aptX codecs. The main advantage with aptX is lower latency, but most Android apps at this point can adjust for Bluetooth latency without a problem.
Indoor voice recording from JBuds Air Pro
Outdoor voice recording from JBuds Air Pro
The built-in microphone is average for in-ear Bluetooth earbuds… as long as you’re indoors with minimal background noise. I tried using the microphone outside, and even the smallest bit of wind or noise caused my voice to fade out.
Should you buy the JLab JBuds Air Pro?
I’ve never tried any earbuds from JLab before now, but the JBuds Air Pro seems like a decent deal for the $59 asking price. The earbuds fit well (at least with my ears), there’s no app required for basic functionality, and I don’t have any complaints with the sound quality on the Balanced option. The USB Type-A connector for charging is a bit strange, though — a standard USB Type-C port seems like a better solution in 2022.
JLab advertises this as one of the cheapest options for multi-point Bluetooth earbuds, but the complexity of that functionality and how it affects pairing harmed the experience. Most of that is just due to Bluetooth being a terrible technology, but I much prefer earbuds that can quickly switch between different devices (like the Galaxy Buds Pro or Apple AirPods) over something built for multiple simultaneous connections.
You should buy it if…
- You really want multi-point Bluetooth support.
- You’re looking for a decent pair of earbuds around $50.
You shouldn’t buy it if…
- You need ANC support.
- You’re switching between devices constantly (not using all of them at the same time).
- You often only use one wireless earbud at a time.