JLab continues to broaden its true wireless portfolio, releasing not one, but two new noise-cancelling wireless earbuds: the Epic Air ANC and Epic Air Sport ANC. Based on the naming conventions, you can tell which was designed for standard use and which was designed for fitness.
Despite sharing the same price tag ($99), the Epic Air Sport ANC boasts the more enticing spec sheet and proves to be the better option, delivering strong performance that places it among the best running headphones available. Keep reading our JLab Epic Air Sport ANC review to find out why.
The JLab Epic Air Sport ANC has also won in the Tom's Guide Awards 2021 Audio categories, claiming the Overall Winner spot for the Best sports headphones award! It also won a Highly Recommended nod for the Best headphones for battery life award. Check out the main Tom's Guide Awards 2021 hub for all the awards and winners.
Battery life (rated): 11 hours (with ANC on), 15 hours (with ANC off), 70 hours (with charging case)
Size: 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches
Weight: 0.3 ounces (per bud); 2.3 ounces (charging case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Processor: Not stated
These buds stuff energetic sound, strong connectivity, and decently effective active noise cancellation into a sporty design. More importantly, they advertise longer playtimes than category leaders like the Jabra Elite Active 75t and Beats Powerbeats Pro, and that is with ANC on. The Epic Air Sport ANC hits most of its marks, but there are issues with the controls and call quality that may persuade you to look at its more premium competitors.
Still, the number of features programmed into the Epic Air Sport ANC make these buds worth the purchase, especially for fitness fanatics who desire something durable and functional for cheap.
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC review: Price and availability
Best Buy briefly sold it for $49.99 before bumping it back up, though that's at least an encouraging sign if you're hoping to catch more early sales.
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC review: Design and comfort
These buds don’t have the flair of the Beats Powerbeats Pro or Jabra Elite Active 75t, nor the brand recognition that speaks loudly on a design like the Sony WF-SP800N, which I feel is the Epic Air Sport ANC’s more formidable competitor on the sporty true wireless front. And that’s OK. JLab prefers to sell you on two other factors: sturdiness and stability.
JLab has a penchant for creating unique charging cases, and the Epic Air Sport ANC comes with one of the coolest and most powerful options out there. The pebble-shaped design is more portable, lighter, and functional than the Powerbeats Pro’s case. Returning is the integrated charging cable, which has become a brand stable and makes charging on the go less obtrusive; you won’t need to carry wires around with you, though you will need a USB-equipped device or wall plug adaptor to top up. Four LEDs are placed on the front to inform users of battery life, which is ridiculously high (more on that later).
The all-plastic construction is solid, reassuring you that these buds won’t fall apart when dropped to the ground. IP66 resistance protects them from sweat, rain, splashes, and dirt. Subtle details like the JLab logo and tiny status LEDs on the front make the design more distinctive too. The Epic Air Sport ANC is only sold in black, but I would love to see what a Navy Blue, Red or Teal version might look like.
The Powerbeats Pro can be a painful wear at times and the WF-SP800N’s size and weight causes slippage issues. Wearing the Epic Air Sport ANC was a relief, providing some of the best fit and on-ear stability in the category, thanks to the integrated hooks. They are flexible and wrap snuggly around the ear without applying unwanted pressure. I wore the buds during outdoor runs and around the house for about 3 hours daily before fatigue set in.
JLab bundles the buds with five different ear tip sizes that create a decent seal to minimize external sounds from entering the soundstage. You also get a pair of the brand’s patented Cloud Foam tips for optimized comfort, which also work well for sweat absorption, ensuring the buds remain in place when fighting off moisture.
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC review: Touch controls and digital assistant
JLab created new touch sensors for the Epic Air Sport ANC, though the results are mixed. The tap controls were responsive more than half the time, as well as on-ear detection, which automatically pauses music when removing the buds from your ears. Other times, the sensors would mistake a two-tap command for a one-tap command, and a three-tap command for a two-tap command.
The one area where JLab hits it out of the park: control customization. Their companion app presents the most convenient way to set up the control scheme, giving you full functionality directly on the buds. On top of the basics like play/pause, answer/end call, forward/back track, and voice assistant, you can also assign volume controls and cycle through the different EQs or listening modes.
This can be achieved through single, double, and triple taps on either earbud, giving you a total of six different functions to work with. Something else you’re bound to discover is that the sensors support hold gestures, therefore, expanding the controls: laying your finger on the left bud cycles through modes and doing so on the right will forward a track.
Siri and Google Assistant are available on the Epic Air Sport ANC as well, so you can shout out voice commands to execute daily tasks or request information. Using the buds with my Pixel 3XL was a pleasure, as the buds picked up vocals well and fired up Google’s AI bot as quickly as it responded to inquiries. That same satisfaction was felt when using Siri on my MacBook Pro to open up calendar invites and Apple Music playlists.
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC review: Active noise cancellation
Comparing JLab’s active noise-cancelling technology to big names like Bose or Sony is unfair. Remember, these is a $99 pair of wireless earbuds we’re talking about here. That being said, the Epic Air Sport ANC has decent noise neutralization to silence common distractions like door buzzers, phone alarms, and neighborly chatter; it was good enough to block out my mother-in-law’s business calls via speakerphone.
The true test was with my newborn. Watching him in the gazebo was peaceful for the most part, as ANC mode hushed his whimpering during YouTube viewings. Crying was a different story, which was audible no matter how high I blasted music, though his yells weren’t as blaring as what I have heard leak through on other ANC headphones.
Only those with selective hearing might be able to tell the difference between ANC levels; I barely did. That doesn’t take away from the Epic Air Sport ANC’s effectiveness to minimize ambient noise. The buds made running outside peaceful, blocking out a respectable number of external sounds.
Be Aware is JLab’s ambient listening mode, and like ANC, it is adjustable in the mobile app. The slider lets you determine how much external noise you want to hear, with max level being highly transparent. Enabling it gave me a heads up of oncoming traffic when running at night. I used the feature around the house as well, often eavesdropping on my wife’s conversations with the baby, which sounded clear. Even when lounging on the front porch, the mics picked up the chatter taking place across the street between a married couple, though it was tough making out certain words because of the multiple distractions around me.
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC review: Audio quality
I’ve tested a handful of JLab models, and though audio wasn’t top notch, it was impressive on the Epic Air Sport ANC. It is arguably the company’s best-sounding model to date. As expected, bass is emphasized and gives the soundstage an energetic presence to fuel your workouts.
Getting ready for a short run, I blasted 2Pac’s “California Love” and was met with a pulsating G-funk bassline that gave my legs some bounce after a mile in. Roger Troutman’s synthesized vocals were far from the distorted mess that I’ve endured on other budget headphones; they rode out smoothly on the hook and at the end.
Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” showcased JLab’s commitment to balancing out the buds’ frequency range, reproducing many of the song’s sonic elements extremely well. This included the iconic guitar riff, Axl Rose’s screeching vocals, and the pounding drums. You’ll still get better clarity and more oomph out of the WF-SP800N, but the Epic Air Sport ANC’s bass performance shouldn’t be underestimated.
After runs, I usually delve into mellow tracks to aid with the recovery process, so I pulled up some Duke Ellington and was fond of what I heard. The symphonic tone of “In a Sentimental Mood” was immediately felt from the first horn blow. Once the production picked up, the buds delivered great dynamic range, allowing me to hear the loudest and quietest passages during orchestral play that made instruments more distinctive; the double bass and hi-hats sounded crisp.
You’ll want to be mindful of platforms when using the buds, as sound takes a dip on iOS/macOS devices. Bass was tamer on my MacBook Pro and the volume levels were noticeably lower compared to what my Android smartphones produced.
If you’re someone who prefers binging movies or TV shows on an exercise bike, there's much to enjoy from JLab’s Movie Mode, a new feature designed to reduce audio lag during views. It does the trick, meaning you’ll enjoy clear (and synchronized) sound from video content.
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC review: App and special features
Companion apps are a huge sell for true wireless conformists and I’m glad JLab finally got on board with the program. The company took its time developing the program, focusing on a more streamlined user experience by placing all functionality on one page to effortlessly enable or adjust features as you please.
The star of the show is the Equalizer. To understand this feature’s relevance is to have either tested or owned a pair of older JLab wireless earbuds, which boasted 3 preprogrammed EQs that hindered audio output. This time around, not only does the EQ have four different settings that are each engineered for use, but you can also manually tweak them to your hearing. Being able to adjust the different bass, mid-range, and treble levels is a massive upgrade, and something that isn’t available on many sub-$100 models.
Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of Customize Controls, as the setting makes assigning and swapping out controls simpler and more organized, so you can easily remember which taps perform which functions. It would have been cool if you could designate commands to hold gestures, but this seems like something that can be added in a firmware update (yes, the app supports this as well).
Other standouts in the app include the aforementioned adjustment sliders for Noise Cancelling and Be Aware, battery life indicators for both buds, and a toggle for automatic play/pause.
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC review: Battery life and charging case
JLab rates battery life at 11 hours with ANC on and 15 hours with ANC off. That's far more sufficient that what many luxury ANC models deliver such as the AirPods Pro (4.5 hours), and higher than the WF-SP800N (9 hours). At the same time, however, these numbers are misleading.
My buds came 70 percent charged and battery life dropped to 35 percent after about two hours of Spotify streaming and switching between listening modes. In addition, the discharge times are all over the place. One time, the app showed me the left bud was at 35 percent and the right was at 55 percent, while another time, after I had the buds charging for about two minutes, it had the left at 75 percent and the right at 40 percent. Confused? You're not the only one.
The good news is that you can still get plenty of playback time. On a full charge, I would say the Epic Air Sport ANC rewarded me with about 9.5 hours of use with ANC on. A quick charge also netted me 1 hour of playtime on a 15-minute charge.
The charging case holds an additional 55 hours (70 hours when fully charged) of portable power. I don’t need to tell you that this destroys the AirPods Pro’s (24 hours) and Beats Powerbeats Pro’s (28 hours) charging cases, as well as the WF-SP800N’s case (18 hours). You can also toss it on any Qi-enabled wireless charging pad to juice up the buds.
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC review: Call quality and connectivity
JLab’s C3 Calling technology allegedly boosts call quality by eliminating surrounding noise on one mic and picking up vocals on the second for clear conversations. It doesn’t work.
I was shocked by how bad the wind resistance was on calls, creating unbearable clatter in the background that made communicating with others difficult. My wife couldn’t make out some of what I said during chats and complained about the high amount of background noises she could hear.
Only when I was inside could she hear my words, and that required me being in completely silent setting like my office. Even then, she pointed out how muffled my voice sounded. Video chats were no different, as I had to swap out the buds during a Skype session for my AirPods Pro.
On the plus side, wireless performance is adequate on the Epic Air Sport ANC. I was able to stream music and take calls from a 35-foot range before stuttering occurred. JLab’s auto connect technology is also more reliable than ever, instantly reconnecting the buds to known devices.
Multipoint technology may be missing from the spec sheet, so you can’t pair the buds to two devices simultaneously. However, you do get Dual Connect, a feature designed by JLab that allows each bud to form its own independent connection for a more stable streaming experience.
JLab Epic Air Sport ANC review: Verdict
The JLab Epic Air Sport ANC is more than just a pair of $99 wireless sport earbuds. These are actually great everyday buds that produce lively audio, last for hours, and boast a sturdy shell that can withstand the daily abuse you’ll put them through. Having a companion app to personalize sound is a plus, and the portable charging case is clutch for travel. JLab’s noise cancellation won’t win over Bose or Sony aficionados, but it’s fairly decent for what it is; at least you’ll be able to silence loud commuters during runs.
While the Epic Air Sport ANC does overachieve, this set of buds isn't without its flaws. As a calling headset, it's practically useless. The touch controls could use some work as well. Also, there are bugs that affect discharge times, which causes confusion over how much battery life each bud has when in use.
All things said, you can’t go wrong with the amount of functionality the Epic Air Sport ANC gives you for the price.