Hands-on review: JLab JBuds Air Pro earbuds
Image credit: Jlab
Air today; Pro tomorrow?
Now launched in the UK after their States-side debut earlier this year, the JBuds Air Pro earbuds are JLab's update on its strictly Air (no Pro) earbuds from 2020.
What is it about these buds that earns them the Pro moniker? JLab says it's the "class-leading features" that distinguish the Air Pros from other competing products, with their true wireless set-up, Bluetooth multipoint connectivity for easy multi-device management, and longer battery life, all for around £75.
The multipoint connectivity is the headline feature, as it's something that typically only comes with more expensive products. It enables seamless switching between devices without having to constantly pair and unpair the earbuds, as well as connecting to two different devices simultaneously. This makes the Air Pros more versatile, as you can easily jump from phone to tablet, or laptop, or smart TV - whichever devices you care to use.
Available in just the one colour for now (black, the JLab's yin to the Apple AirPods' white yang), the Air Pros have a decent core spec, which while not spectacular is as solid as they come.
There's a full range of tap-touch controls on the earbuds - with a complex list of commands, which we wager most users will never fully memorise - and a low-latency Movie Mode, so you don't get that awkward and offputting "lips still moving but no one is speaking" phenomenon when audio drifts out of sync with the video.
The sound is piped to your ears via the "custom-tuned" 6mm neodymium dynamic drivers, which sound fine. Not amazing, but then again anything amazing inevitably comes with an amazing price. Not that the JLabs sound bad or even disappointing: they sound fine. Balanced and even. Good and strong. Only when you start A/B/C-ing them against higher-end products do you start to notice any detail and soundstage shortcomings. Most people will be perfectly happy with them.
The Air Pros have wear-detect sensors, so playback will automagically pause when you remove the buds from your ears. To help find the best personal in-ear fit for the buds, a variety of tips are included. There's also an IP55 rating to guard against sweat and dustproof ingress. Nothing approaching IP67 waterproof status, or even IP65 water resistance, though, so don't get carried away when wearing them.
While there's no accompanying app with EQ tailoring options, as with some rivals' higher-end offerings, the Air Pros do have three different EQ settings (JLab Signature, Balanced, Bass Boost) hardwired into the buds themselves, accessible via tapping. There's also a 'Be Aware Mode', which is essentially a transparency mode, so you can hear more of what's going on around you. With no active noise-cancelling (ANC) technology on offer, this is JLab's way of bringing in some of that functionality without adding to the Air Pro's price or complexity. You can also use the earbuds independently, if you prefer to use only one bud in certain situations. Both earbuds house a MEMS microphone, so you can still make and receive calls.
Nine hours of continuous playtime is claimed by JLabs, with the slim, pocket-friendly charging case holding an additional 27 or so hours, meaning you can fully recharge the earbuds a further three times before everything needs recharging.
One funky feature of the JLabs charging case - as seen on many previous JLabs products - is the built-in USB-A cable, which is stashed inside the bottom of the case. Simply whap it out to plug it in. This approach has its pros and cons. You'll never be stuck without a charging cable, but there again this is the only way to charge the earbuds: you can't use a different - say, longer - USB cable in its place. It's also USB-A, not USB-C, so you might need an adapter for a more modern laptop or tablet.
Finally, it's worth highlighting the two-year warranty that JLabs offers as standard. The company also offers individual earbud replacements for purchase, at a greatly reduced price, should you be foolish or unlucky enough to lose just the one.
The JBuds Air Pro earbuds are a decent pair of true wireless earbuds, bringing some key leading technologies to the table, although quietly ignoring others. At least this approach keeps the spec up and the price down.
There's no support for Hi-Res Audio. No APTx. No ANC. No spatial audio, or any other future-facing high-end audio codecs. They're a reasonably modern earbud, making a reasonably modern fist of things, but the audiophile end of the market is not their target.
With this caveat in mind, it may be a little disingenuous of JLabs to call this update a 'Pro' line. Today's savvier consumers might be expecting a little bit more from a product labelled 'Pro'. Other less demanding or tech-spec obsessed casual consumers might not notice. It's a fine line to walk, for sure.
That said, there is a large swathe of people out there (possibly the majority of consumers) who just want a decent-sounding product; which won't crap out on them halfway through a long, boring work day and commute; which ticks a lot of their real-world, everyday use-case boxes; comes from a brand name they recognise, backing its products with an extended warranty, and which doesn't cost anything close to a three-figure sum. Boom - the JBuds Air Pros fit that bill perfectly.
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