Affordable. Strong bass response. Neckband can be used with any standard wired earphones.
Audio performance is weak. Feels a tad gimmicky.
- Bottom Line
The JLab Gravity is a Bluetooth neckband combined with earphones that plug into it. It's unique and quite affordable, but don't expect much in terms of audio performance.
JLab has a new twist on neckband-style Bluetooth earphones. The JLab Gravity is actually a two-piece product—one pair of wired earphones, and a Bluetooth neckband that they connect to. The whole system costs a budget-friendly $39.99, so our audio fidelity expectations weren't super-high going into this review. JLab advertises that the neckband will work with any wired earphones, so you almost get the feeling the company assumes you'll use a fancier pair than the one it ships with. But we're here to test the product as a whole, and the included earphones offer a pretty inaccurate, tinny, sibilant audio experience, though they do pack some decent bass response.
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Available in a rubber, matte black, the Gravity is a flexible neckband—sometimes also called a collar band—with an oval-shaped compartment at the back. This compartment houses a small spool for the cable slack of the earphones to wrap around, and there are two cinches on either side to ensure the cable follows securely along the neckband's contour. The Gravity has an IPX4 rating, meaning it can withstand splashes, but don't submerge it.
It doesn't matter which way you put the neckband on—the controls can be on either side. (The earphones are labeled L and R, but nothing on the band itself needs to be.) On one end of the neckband, there's a three-button control panel with dedicated volume up and down buttons (that work in conjunction with your mobile device's master volume levels) and a central multifunction button for playback, call management, and track navigation, depending on how many times you tap it. Behind this control panel, there's a 3.5mm earphone jack for the included earphones (or any others) to connect to.
The fit of the included earphones is quite secure. JLab includes three sets of eartips and two sets of stabilizing fins. You also get a USB charging cable.
The neckband's mic offers so-so intelligibility—using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, we understood every word we recorded, but it had the quality of a mediocre cell phone connection. This is more or less to be expected of inexpensive Bluetooth earphones and neckbands, however.
JLab estimates the Gravity's battery life to be roughly 10 hours, but your results will vary with your volume levels, and also, likely, whether you choose to use the included earphones or ones that pull more battery power.
The first thing to note is the high frequency hiss that the neckband adds to the audio. The hiss is subtle, and you'll only really notice it at quiet moments, but it isn't ideal. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like the Knife's "Silent Shout," the earphones provide a decent sense of bass depth—nothing mind-blowing, but the drivers don't distort, even at high volumes. At moderate volume levels, the bass response has a nice fullness to it, balanced out by plenty of sculpted high-mid and high frequency presence. It bears repeating that, obviously, if you swap out earphones, much of this audio analysis can be thrown out the window—though the hiss will still be there.
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Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track with far less deep bass response in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Gravity's sound signature. The drums on this track get an extra helping of bass depth from the earphones, but nothing that makes them sound overtly thunderous or unnatural. Callahan's baritone vocals get plenty of rich low-mid presence, but also a lot of high-mid and high frequency presence. Things can sound a little tinny at times—the highs are far too boosted and sculpted, resulting in too much brightness and sibilance. It's not an unbearable sound signature, but it's pretty inaccurate.
Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild" proves this boosting is a little out of control—the vinyl crackle that is typically relegated to the background is one of the louder elements of the mix, as if the entire sound signature is enveloped in hiss and crackle. The Gravity's bass response saves things here, providing enough low frequency power to balance this out a bit. But the vocals sound far too sibilant—every "s" stands out notably.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, get some boosting of the lows, bringing the lower register instrumentation to the forefront of the mix. The higher register brass, strings, and vocals retain their brightness and prominent presence in the mix. Overall, classical tracks sound quite bright, but with some added bass depth to them.
For $40, there are few quality Bluetooth in-ears options out there. The fact that the JLab Gravity is a hybrid option can be taken as a pro or a con, depending on whether you already have some nice wired earphones. But with the included earphones, the audio experience is not great. In the Bluetooth neckband earphone realm, we're fans of the Jaybird X3, the Skullcandy Method Wireless, the JBL Reflect Mini BT, and the Skullcandy Jib Wireless, all of which are available at different price points. If you have some sweet wired earphones and want to buy a $40 Bluetooth neckband adapter, we won't judge—but if you're looking for a solid audio experience, you can do better than the Gravity.
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By 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. More »
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