When JLab’s Epic Air earphones arrived final 12 months, they felt like a giant step ahead for true wireless earbuds—they appeared completely different than the competitors and had higher battery specs. At $149, the brand new Epic Air Elite earbuds value the similar, however boast much more battery life for his or her charging case than the unique. The waterproof in-ears additionally now have EQ modes you possibly can swap between, in addition to an ambient mode that means that you can hear your environment. Whereas the unique Epic Air earned our Editors’ Alternative, this time round there are even extra true wi-fi choices to compete with, so the sequel falls a bit shy of these honors. And whereas the Epic Air Elite earbuds ship high quality audio, there’s room for enchancment in subsequent 12 months’s mannequin.
One key differentiator within the black-and-silver Epic Air Elite’s design is the ear hook. Certain, we’re used to seeing these on Bluetooth and wired health earphones, however true wi-fi in-ears hardly ever deviate from the usual, earplug look. The Epic Air Elite’s hooks present further stability, however in addition they require an even bigger case. So the draw back right here is that the case, which measures about 1.5 by four.four by 2.eight inches (HWD), is among the many largest you will discover within the true wi-fi class. The upside is that bigger circumstances can maintain larger batteries, and the Epic Air Elite’s holds a best-in-class 32 hours of cost. The earphones themselves maintain six hours of cost at a time, however your outcomes will differ along with your quantity ranges.
The case has a built-in recessed space for the charging cable to snap into. The cable wraps across the exterior of the case, and it vaguely resembles a rubber watch band. It has a USB connection on one finish, and a micro USB connection on the opposite. The case additionally homes a micro USB port (for charging the case itself) and a USB port (for charging cellular gadgets utilizing the case’s battery—one other distinctive design resolution). Blue standing LEDs contained in the case (that additionally shine via a small window via the lid) inform you how a lot battery life the case has, in addition to when the earphones are securely docked.
If the ear hooks weren’t sufficient to make sure a steady match, JLab additionally contains extra kinds of eartips than we usually see. There are three commonplace silicone pairs (S, M, L), one triple-flange pair, one double-flange pair, one shallow pair, and a foam pair. Amongst these decisions, it must be no downside discovering the best match.
The earpieces have touch-sensitive controls on the outer panels, and JLab divides the controls in a left/proper method, all with numerous faucets or holds. The left facet, as an illustration, handles quantity down, and the fitting facet controls quantity up. The left facet additionally handles playback, monitor backward, and the Be Conscious ambient monitoring mode. The suitable earpiece handles monitor ahead, name administration, Siri or Google Assistant, and likewise can swap out and in of ambient mode. To change between the three EQ modes, you press and maintain every earpiece’s buttons for 3 seconds. Loading every ear up with a wide range of finger faucet instructions that should be memorized could make utilizing the Epic Air Elite a bit annoying till you have figured all the pieces out.
It is troublesome to regulate the amount utilizing on-ear sensors, and once we adjusted the amount regionally on our paired iPhone 6s, there was typically a multi-second delay between transferring the amount slider and listening to the outcome. Additionally, a number of occasions, I summoned Siri by chance when solely which means to regulate the in-ear match—merely touching the earpieces can obtain numerous unintentional outcomes.
The three EQ modes are Signature, Balanced, and Bass Increase—extra on these within the subsequent part. Be Conscious mode is a stable further—it means that you can hear what is going on on round you with out taking the earphones out, or you may as well select this mode when exercising to be sure you’re conscious of your environment.
The Epic Air Elite’s IP55 rating means the earphones are proof against mud and water, however they are not full dustproof or waterproof. The case is not water-proof in any respect, so make sure that the earphones are utterly dry earlier than docking them.
As for the mic, we might perceive each phrase we recorded utilizing the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, however general audio high quality was poor, regardless of there being mics in each ears. This isn’t distinctive, nonetheless—mic high quality is low throughout the board within the true wi-fi realm.
We discovered the general audio efficiency to be best in each Signature and Balanced modes, with loads of bass depth and crisp high-frequency presence. Bass Increase mode tended to be overkill—and pointless, since all three modes pack substantial low finish. On tracks with intense sub-bass content material, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the earphones dole out loads of deep low-frequency response that can enchantment to bass lovers. Fortunately, the highs are additionally fairly manipulated, so whereas the sound signature will not enchantment to purists even in Balanced mode, it is balanced sufficient that readability isn’t sacrificed within the identify of boosted bass.
Invoice Callahan’s “Drover,” a monitor with far much less deep bass within the combine, offers us a greater sense of the Epic Air Elite’s normal sound signature. The drums on this monitor sound nearly thunderous, even in Balanced mode, however there’s sufficient sculpting and boosting within the highs to maintain issues clear throughout the board. Callahan’s vocals get loads of low-mid richness that’s balanced out by crisp treble edge. The high-mids and highs are fairly sculpted in each Balanced and Signature modes, bringing out the assault of the acoustic guitar strums and the upper register percussive hits.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church within the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives loads of high-mid presence permitting its assault to retain it punchiness, however we additionally hear the vinyl crackle and hiss usually relegated to background standing pushed ahead notably, which means the high-mids and highs are all fairly boosted and sculpted right here. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with stable depth as effectively, and the tip result’s a sculpted, however balanced, dynamic-sounding combine.
On orchestral tracks, just like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel Based on the Different Mary, the decrease register instrumentation will get a lift, for sure, however the highlight nonetheless belongs to the upper register brass, strings, and vocals. Purists will not love this sculpted sound, however the drivers do a stable job of protecting issues from sounding unnatural regardless of the boosting all through the frequency vary.
JLab’s Epic Air Elite earbuds are a worthy successor to final 12 months’s mannequin, and among the finest true wi-fi pairs we have examined. They sound good and have a few of the greatest battery life within the class—we might similar to to see extra sleek controls within the subsequent iteration. Within the sub-$200 true wi-fi realm, we’re additionally followers of the Bose SoundSport Free, the Jabra Elite Active 65t, and the Altec Lansing True Evo. And for those who’re searching for a cut price, the $50 JLab JBuds Air might not blow your thoughts, however you possibly can’t argue with the worth.