Strong audio performance with full bass response and three EQ settings. Exceptionally secure in-ear fit. Sweat-proof design ideal for exercise.
Easy to skip tracks by accident. Sculpted sound signature not for everyone.
- Bottom Line
The gym-friendly JLab Epic Sport Wireless earphones offer solid audio with variable EQ modes and a very secure fit.
The $99.99 JLab Epic Sport Wireless are bass-forward Bluetooth earphones with three EQ modes, a waterproof design, and an exceptionally secure fit. The sound signature isn't for purists, as the mids are scooped and the highs and lows are sculpted and boosted dramatically regardless of the EQ mode you choose. But generally speaking, these are solid Bluetooth in-ears, ideal for exercise.
The Epic Sport Wireless is a neckband-style pair, available in black. The earpieces are connected to adjustable memory wire that pops up, over, and behind the ears, and can be molded to stay in whatever position fits you best. This, and the excellent included eartips and fins, ensure an extra-secure fit. In all, JLab includes five pairs of eartips in various sizes and materials, and three pairs of fins (S, M, and L) that help add stabilization to the fit. An IP66 rating means the earphones are dust and waterproof.
Nearest the right earpiece, there's an inline remote control and microphone. The remote automatically redials whoever you last called when you double tap it, which is more often annoying than it is useful. The plus/minus buttons are for volume when tapped, and track navigation when held longer. We're not fans of this button array, as it easily results in accidentally skipped tracks. So we're not thrilled with the inline remote control in general, but it works, and once you memorize the buttons, mistakes will be less likely.
In addition to all the eartips and fins, the earphones ship with a USB charging cable that snaps on to the bottom of the remote control compartment, rather than using a micro USB cord as much of the competition does. There's also a cable cinch for adjusting the neckband's slack, a cable clip, and a small zip-up protective case.
The mic offers so-so intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, we could understand every word we recorded, but the audio was fuzzy and distant. This, however, is common with Bluetooth earphone mics. JLab estimates battery life to be roughly 12 hours, but your results will vary with your volume levels.
In the default EQ mode, on tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife's "Silent Shout," the earphones deliver powerful, thumping bass response. At top, exceptionally loud and unsafe listening levels, the bass doesn't distort, and at more moderate levels it is still quite powerful. Those motivated by deep bass during their workouts will appreciate the low frequency response, which can be adjusted (more on that in a moment).
Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the overall sound signature. The drums on this track can sound overly thunderous on earphones with heavily boosted bass, but through the Epic Sport Wireless, have a roundness and fullness that is boosted, but not to insane levels. Callahan's baritone vocals are delivered with rich low-mid presence and use a smidge more high-mid presence to balance things out. The guitar strums get a solid high frequency presence—they pop with brightness and stand out more in the mix than usual. In other words, this is sort of a scooped sound signature—strong bass response, bright highs, and a little less in the way of mids than might be ideal.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the kick drum loop receives slightly less high-mid presence than we prefer—its attack isn't dull here, but it lacks the crisp punch it often has, while the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with strong depth, but are not quite as intense as we have heard on some seriously bass-boosted earphones. The vocals on this track receive added brightness and less high-mid presence, and we notice the high frequency crackle of vinyl in the background a little more than usual.
For orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, the lower register instrumentation is boosted far more than usual—this tells us that much of the bass presence pushed out is in the lows and low-mids, while sub-bass frequencies are delivered more or less as they are. This is why Callahan's vocals sound so rich, and why the deepest bass elements on the previously mentioned tracks are well-represented, but aren't necessarily as powerful as they are on some bass-forward earphones. Here JLab is all about pushing the lows (and some low-mids) up in the mix, as well as the highest frequencies. It can translate well on most pop, rock, and rap music, but it doesn't sound quite as ideal on orchestral tracks such as this one.
You can adjust the EQ, as mentioned, by holding the two plus/minus buttons at once—this switches from the default signature mode we tested in to Balanced mode, and doing it again switches to Bass Boost. Unfortunately, there's no announcement of which mode you're in, nor an LED that tells you. We found the Balanced mode seemed to even out the treble and bass response a bit—sometimes the Signature mode sounded crisper and clearer, sometimes it was the Balanced mode. But the Bass Boost mode sounds a little ridiculous—the lows are pushed even more forward in the mix while the highs are dialed back significantly—it's a muddy sound, and we suggest sticking with the two more crisp choices, both of which still offer plenty of bass.
JLab's Epic Sport Wireless earphones deliver strong audio performance that can be adjusted. They'll appeal to those who like deep bass and want bright highs to balance it out, but will probably irk listeners who want the mids to be more consistently represented. The design is excellent in terms of secure fit and exercise-friendliness—that IP66 rating is no joke, and plenty of companies don't even bother to test for dust ingress. Throw in the generous array of included accessories, and the major gripe here is the layout of the remote control panel.
For the price, though, the Epic Sport Wireless is a solid pair, albeit one with some stiff competition. We're fans of the JBL Reflect Fit, the Jaybird X3, the JBL Reflect Mini BT, and the Bose SoundSport Wireless in this price range. JLab gets a lot of things right here, but it's worth looking at these other options before you commit to this one.
Other JLab Headphones
About the Author
Tim Gideon Contributing Editor, Audio
Contributing Editor Tim Gideon has been writing for PCMag since 2006. He specializes in reviewing audio products, and is obsessed with headphones, speakers, and recording gear.