How a few short years can change things, right? For example, if you had asked us even two years ago if we would consider buying a pair of true wireless earbuds, our answer would have come quickly… Hell no! Hugely overpriced, with constant battery and connection issues, these units had a terrible reputation (and rightly so)!
But, with major cell phone brands opting out of the traditional 3.5mm headphone jack assembly to save space, massive advancements in wire-free earbud technology have been seen in the recent past. Nowadays, finding a quality pair of true wireless headphones for a reasonable price couldn’t be easier, especially with the recent introduction of the JLab JBuds Air Icon!
JLab has seemingly done the impossible here. By being able to mix an amazing sound stage, high-grade build quality, and an astonishing battery life – at a genuinely rock bottom price. And they have achieved what many manufacturers have failed at before them. Make a suburb pair of true wireless earbuds everybody can afford!
So let’s find out all about them in our JLab JBuds Air Icon review…
Design & Construction
Like almost the whole range of JLab earbuds, the JBuds Icon Air are designed with simplicity in mind – two units made of industrial strength, matte black plastic with a JLab logo embossed in gold. The classic, clean look of black with gold inlay projects a feeling of opulence.
The included charging case, also matte black plastic, is small enough to fit comfortably into our front jeans pocket and has a satisfying sturdiness to it. A great addition to the case is the hard-wired USB charging cable, which saved our lives a couple of times when the juice ran low (even with the cases’ LED battery indicators)!
As soon as we slipped these into our ears, we found a snug and comfortable fit. If this is not the case for you, no worries as there are four extra pairs included in the box – a small, medium, and large set in silicone plus one foam pair. While the foam pair don’t create as good of a seal as the silicone sets, they are amazingly comfortable for long listening sessions.
The touch controls are split between the two earbuds, other than powering the unit on or off. To do this, simply press and hold either earpiece for about three seconds. This also automatically switches on pairing mode. For volume control, tap the left for down or right for up. Double-tap the right to play or pause, and the left to access your phone’s assistant.
The list goes on, but it is safe to say this system feels intuitive after just a few uses, and we didn’t have any dramas with it what-so-ever.
With a moisture resistance rating of IP55, the JLab JBuds Air Icon will have no issue with exposure to light rain, sweat from working out, and almost all dust particles.
Even if you don’t think that this really matters to you, know that the better the IP rating, the better chance true wireless earbuds have of simply not breaking (so never buy a set without any water resistance at all!). Be aware that the charging case does not have any rating, so make sure to dry the buds off before replacing them.
Sound & Performance
At this price point, you cannot expect to see the same soundstage as a pair like the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 (our top pick for best sound in this category). But, boy oh boy, they don’t sound half bad either!
Remember what we were talking about earlier, that a few years ago, this whole category was a write-off? Well, the JLab JBuds Air Icon sound massively better than any from that era, and can even outperform many of the more expensive sets currently seen on the market.
Nicely clean and balanced, these earbuds produce an easy listening soundstage. JLab have been kind enough to include three EQ presets – Bass Boost mode, Balanced mode, and a JLab Signature mode – that you can switch between by tapping either unit three times.
We were surprised at the lack of distortion, even with Bass Boost engaged and volume at 100%. For the most part, though, we used the Balanced mode when listening to music, and JLab Signature mode for audiobooks and podcasts.
As soon as we played “Minor Swing” by the Rosenberg Trio, we could tell the effort that JLab have put in to create a balanced, warm, almost friendly sound. In this crowded and chaotic track, the JBuds Air Icon are able to increase the space between the three guitars, two violins, and the upright bass, making it a breeze to switch your attention and focus between.
To change things up, Dr. Dre was next up with “The Watcher”. Just like the last track, there is a fair bit going on here. And, also like the last track, the JBuds Air Icon have no trouble handling everything that’s going on. The staccato of the snare never cracks too loud, and Dre’s drawn out flow is seated perfectly above the orchestral strings.
At its bare bones, the sound a set of headphones or earbuds produce is the single most important factor, and here JLab have done an admirable job.
What can we say here? Without being class-leading, we found the JLab JBuds Air Icon battery setup to be sufficient for us.
Ok, so JLab claims that the JBuds Air Icon have a playback time of six hours with another 18 hours of playback stored in the charging case.
Yes and no. In terms of single charge time, unless you are listening at 25% of the max volume or lower, you are not going to get six hours outta them. During testing, we got an average of 5 hours 12 minutes at 75% max volume and 4 hours 57 minutes at 90% max volume. But we did get three full charges from the charging case, which does a good job of filling the batteries in an efficient time.
The easiest way to put it is that (with the exception of long flights), we never felt like the battery wasn’t up to scratch.
Pairing is swift and simple, which is exactly what we like to see. All you have to do is remove the earbuds from the charging case, hold the touch sensor for three seconds to power on, activate Bluetooth on your device, then pair. Plus, you only need to do this the first time you connect a device.
JLab have opted to go with class 1 Bluetooth 5.0 for the JBuds Air Icon. Bluetooth 5.0 has quadruple the range, double the speed, and eight times the broadcasting message capacity of older versions of Bluetooth, with an effective range of about 33 ft (10 meters).
In our month of testing, we only had one call dropout, and as long as our phone was within 25 or so feet, playback was crystal clear.
JLab JBuds Air Icon Pros & Cons
- IP55 water-resistant.
- Long battery life.
- Impressive sound.
- Bluetooth 5.0
- Great sound.
- Touch control sensitivity is a bit hit and miss.
So Much Choice
With the number of earbud options currently available, making the perfect choice can be difficult, so it may well be worth checking out our review of the Best True Wireless Earbuds on the market.
You may also be interested in our reviews of the Best Wireless Earbuds For Small Ears, the Best Noise Isolating Earbuds, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Best iPhone Earbuds, the Best Earbuds Under 100 Dollars, the Most Comfortable Earbuds, and the Best Airpods Alternatives available at the moment.
The Final Word
In a nutshell, the JLab JBuds Air Icon are our pick for the best budget set of true wireless headphones on the market today. Combining excellent sound, strong and smart design points, great connectivity, and a long life battery setup is not easy at this price point. But Jlab have once again impressed us with yet another set of great wire free earbuds.