Adding to competition for Apple's AirPods, JLab is out with a new pair of fully wireless earbuds, the sport-focused Epic Air Elite. We're putting them through the wringer.
The first thing to know is that while you can still get the original Epic Air, you should automatically get the $149 Elite if you're looking in JLab's direction. The Elite improves wireless connections between the buds and your Apple device, making it more reliable. That's in no small part because it uses a Class 1 Bluetooth 5 connection, which has the knock-on effect of increasing range, even if you're unlikely to wander far from your iPhone or Apple Watch in the first place.
The Elite also has a slightly larger battery in its charging case. The case can theoretically provide up to 32 hours of playback on top of the 6 the buds themselves have, which gives it at least one edge over AirPods, which have 5 hours of internal power and just 24 hours with the case.
Another is that while you'll see plenty of people with AirPods at the gym, they aren't officially sweat-resistant, whereas the Elite has an IP55 rating.
The Elite has hooks for each bud, which in early testing seem to do wonders at keeping them in place. For fit there are also seven bundled tips in different sizes, materials, and shapes. There's a pair of blue foam tips for example, and double- and triple-flanged ones may reach deeper into the ear and/or prevent slip-outs.
JLab has modified and expanded its touch-sensitive controls. The most important is "Be Aware," which amplifies and mixes in ambient noise so that you're aware of your surroundings — especially important when you're riding a bike, board, or scooter. We've so far left this off most of the time since it can be distracting when it's unnecessary.
As always we'll have more to say in a full review, but audio quality has so far been good. It's not the best fidelity but it's extremely clear, and you can toggle between three EQ settings without an app. Bass hasn't been as strong as we'd like, even with Bass Boost on, but that seems to be a question of choosing the right tips for better isolation. We'll see.
Keep following AppleInsider for our final thoughts.
Where to buy
Ready to get your hands on a pair now? JLab Audio's Epic Air Elite wireless sport earbuds are in stock at Amazon for $149 with free shipping.