Just a few years ago, most truly wireless headphones were really bad. Battery life, syncing between the two earbuds, charging, and other features were often issues. Fast forward to 2022, and you can get a good pair of true wireless earbuds for well under $100. A newer entry is JLab’s Jbuds Air Pro, which offers Bluetooth multipoint support and an IP55 rating for just $59. I’ve been using the JLab JBuds Air Pro for just over a week, and while I’m having some issues with the headphones, it’s a decent package for what you pay.
These $59 true wireless headphones are good value, but fall short in a few areas.
JLab JBuds Air Pro: price 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 appear to be the case for the Air Pro — at least not yet, anyway.
Pricing is set at $59.00, at the time of this review, and standard shipping is free.
JLab JBuds Air Pro: Specifications
|specification||JLab Jbud Air Pro|
|To build||IP58 dust/water resistance (headphones only)|
|Dimensions and weight||
|Microphone||Built-in MEMS microphone -38dB +/-1dB in both buds|
About this review: JLab sent the JBuds Air Pro to XDA for this article. JLab had no influence on the content of this review.
Design: Your average headphones
Much like modern cars, all true wireless headphones are more or less designed the same at this point. The earbuds themselves are a bit chunky, as all the hardware components are contained within the bud – there’s no ‘stem’ like on the Apple AirPods. Everyone’s ears are different, but if the earbuds were bigger, they wouldn’t fit in my ear. On the bright side, I had no issues with the headphones slowly falling out of my ears, as I’ve noticed with other in-ear models.
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 “padded fins”, which can wrap around the edges of the bud so your ears don’t touch the plastic. They might also help the buds not slip out of your ear after moving around a lot (during exercise, for example), but I personally haven’t had that problem without the fins.
Like most recent true wireless headphones, there are sensors in the headphones that detect when you take them off and automatically pause media playback. The delay between removing one from my ear and the music pausing is about a second, but that’s not too bad.
The main issue with these headphones is that there’s no active noise cancellation (ANC), so the only blocked noise comes from the ear tip seal. Even without ANC there’s a decent level of noise isolation, and there’s a gesture to channel outside sounds using the earcup’s built-in microphones – more on that in the next section. If you’re going to be in noisy environments where you absolutely want to block out as much as possible, like train rides or airline flights, the Galaxy Buds 2 are usually on sale for around $100 and have decent ANC.
Switching to the charging case, you get three indicator lights on the front for the current battery level and a cheap plastic construction. However, the charging solution is definitely unique – most earphone cases have a USB Type-C port for power (and sometimes Qi wireless charging), but the Air Pro has a USB Type-C connector. A who unfolds from below. JLab’s advertisement and product manual imply that you’re supposed to charge the case primarily 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 no longer have USB Type-A ports at all. The short length of the cable also means that plugging it into a PC or wall charger means the case will hang from the USB port (see the photo above), as in the photo above. USB Type-C has already solved the problem of carrying different cables and chargers for each device, and given that there are many true wireless earbuds in this price range with a Type-C port (and some with a wireless charging as well), I’m not sure JLab needs to reinvent the wheel here.
JLab claims up to nine hours of playback on a single charge, with the case offering an additional 27 hours. I don’t think I’ve ever had the headphones in my ears for nine hours straight, but I certainly didn’t notice the battery dropping below the advertised number. The larger batteries and lack of ANC likely contribute to battery life.
Software: Multi-point and complex controls
The Jbuds Air Pro doesn’t have a mobile app for customizing controls/audio or installing updates, which I’m fine with – most audio accessory apps aren’t great. However, that does mean you’ll need to get familiar with the Air Pro’s gestures, which are a bit fiddly and vary depending on which earbud you’re tapping. I’m sure most people can get used to the controls after some time of regular use, but you’ll definitely check the manual at least a few times after taking the headphones out of the box.
The main selling point, especially at this price, is the support for multipoint Bluetooth. This allows you to connect the headphones to two Bluetooth devices at once, like a phone and a PC, and the headphones will switch between them. For example, you can stream music to your computer, then the headphones will switch to your phone when a call comes in.
This feature might be handy for some people, but honestly, I don’t really get much use for it – I don’t often make calls on my phone, which seems to be the primary use case. Many other headphones already have the ability to quickly switch to different devices, which the JBuds Air Pro actually handle. worse than most other headphones. There’s no way to easily enter pairing mode on the headphones unless you find out what device they’re currently paired to and disconnect them from the Bluetooth settings. Otherwise, you will just be paired to the new device and the old device at the same time. It’s kind of a confusing mess.
The JBuds Air Pro is apparently not designed for each earbud to work independently. When I tried to remove only one earbud from the case to keep it in one ear, it would stop all media playback, then usually let me play something after 10-20 seconds.
Sound quality: three settings and a decent microphone
There are three audio profiles to choose from, which can be changed by triple tapping the left earbud. The first is “JLab Signature”, which seems to boost vocals and other mid 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 much harder to understand.
Like most budget true wireless earbuds, the JBuds Air Pro supports the standard AAC audio codec, but none of Qualcomm’s aptX codecs. The main benefit of aptX is lower latency, but most Android apps at this point can adapt to Bluetooth latency without issue.
JBuds Air Pro Indoor Voice Recording
JBuds Air Pro Outdoor Voice Recording
The built-in microphone is average for in-ear Bluetooth headphones…as long as you’re indoors with minimal background noise. I tried to use the microphone outside, and even the slightest wind or noise made my voice disappear.
Should you buy the JLab JBuds Air Pro?
I’ve never tried headphones from JLab before, but the JBuds Air Pro seem like a great deal for the $59 asking price. The headphones fit well (at least to my ears), no app is required for basic functionality, and I have no complaints about the sound quality of the Balanced option. The USB Type-A connector for charging is a little odd, though – a standard USB Type-C port seems like a better bet in 2022.
JLab touts it as one of the cheapest options for multipoint Bluetooth headphones, but the complexity of this feature and how it affects pairing detracted from the experience. Most of this is simply because Bluetooth is terrible technology, but I much prefer headphones that can quickly switch between different devices (like the Galaxy Buds Pro or Apple AirPods) than something designed for multiple simultaneous connections.
You should buy it if…
- You really want multipoint Bluetooth support.
- Looking for a good pair of headphones around $50.
You shouldn’t buy it if…
- You need ANC support.
- You constantly switch between devices (you don’t use them all at the same time).
- You often only use one wireless earbud at a time.