UNBOXED: Reviewing the JLab Air Icon True Wireless Headphones
We already know the story with JLab Audio. They’re one of the fastest growing personal audio brands here in the U.S., and they’re starting to grow that name internationally—as we saw in Berlin at IFA 2019. And how they’ve done it is by building a strong line up of products that perform well beyond their insanely low price points.
One particular line that has been impressing us of late is the JBuds Air true wireless headphones. JLab now has four different options available under the JBuds banner, including the original JBuds Air, the JBuds Air Executive, the JBuds Air Sport (essentially the rebranded Epic Air Sport buds from last year), and the more recent JBuds Air Icon that we have our hands on now.
Incredibly, the entire lineup is priced under $70, with the Air Icons that we’re looking at for this review coming in at $59. What the JBuds Air Icon can be boiled down to is an upgraded version of the original JBuds Air true wireless headphones. For $10 more, users receive 10 extra hours of battery life, dual connect (which we’ll get into), and stereo calling. There’s also the added gold JLab logo and accents on the side of the buds that class these bad boys up just a bit.
Let’s start with the fit of these headphones. The sizing of the buds is just about perfect for my ears. They rest snuggly inside the ear, providing a nice, secure fit. It never felt like they were going to fall out, which is obviously important when you’re talking about the true wireless space and these being more traditional buds than the something like the JBuds Air Sport. For added security, JLab provides a silicone sleeve of sorts that fits over the inside of each ear bud. The thin material provides a more snug fit that would certainly be beneficial in more active scenarios. (They’re IP55 rating, so you can certainly put these buds through the workout wringer.) But even with their ultra-slim design, I found that extra snug fit to get a little uncomfortable after maybe 30 minutes of wearing them. So, again, perfect for a workout, but not something you’d need to have on the earbud for basic every day use.
As for use, the JBuds Air Icon provide six hours on a single charge with an additional 18 hours through the charging case—so, 24 hours+ of total listening time. The case itself is a sleek, minimalist design that hides a little secret. On the bottom, JLab integrates a USB charging cable so you simply need to plug the case into a USB port or power adapter to get that needed charging boost. And their attention to detail with this cable didn’t go unnoticed. Though the USB adapter looks like a standard USB tip, it’s thin and double sided, meaning, similar to USB Type-C connectors, you don’t need to fumble around and figure out which way you need to plug the case in. It’ll work no matter which way it’s facing—a simple, convenient feature that earns them some brownie points with this reviewer.
Moving on to performance, the JBuds Air Icon live up to the expectations I’ve developed for JLab Audio products. Knowing the price point, it’s simply hard to believe just how powerful these tiny earbuds can be. They produce exceptionally clear, crisp sounds that rattle between your ears. And, as we’ve come to expect with JLab, they’ve integrated their Custom EQ3 Sounds settings, which allows the user to adjust between three different audio profiles—Balanced, Bass Boost, and JLab Signature. The Signature sound profile grew on me over time, but it’s nice to have the option to simple switch between the different settings based on what type of music you’re listening to.
Further, JLab went with the Dual Connect route, so each bud connects directly to your streaming audio device for a more secure Bluetooth 5 connection, as opposed to the master/slave connection that other true wireless devices sometimes opt for. This method also allows you to take stereo calls with the buds, so you don’t have to take calls out of just one ear if you don’t want to.
Another nice feature with the Air Icons is the touch panel interface on the side of each bud. I’m finding this style of earbud to be more appealing when there’s a touch interface as opposed to physical buttons that require force—you end up shoving them further down your ear canal, which isn’t the most comfortable experience. With the JBuds Air Icon, the touch interface is seamless, but will require some getting used to. Each ear has a slightly different feature set. For example, a double tap on the left ear will bring up your digital voice assistant, but a double tap on the right ear is the play/pause control. There are also some Morse Code-y type inputs where you need to press and hold for things like track back, and so on. But once you get the hang of these headphones, they’re an absolute joy to use.
And really that’s what you can say about JLab products in general. They’re the best option out there for consumers looking for a strong, enjoyable listening experience. And you’ll never have to break out more than a Benjamin. The JLab Audio JBuds Air Icon are just the latest product from this booming brand to live up to (and exceed) our expectations.