Review: JLab Audio Epic Bluetooth Earbuds
Image courtesy of JLab Audio
I have been around in-ears for many years, but have been immersing myself with learning more and sharing more about Bluetooth earphones as the years go by. I had the chance to listen and keep some Bluetooth earphones, and I wasn’t really thoroughly content with the sound that was presented from these earphones, until now. I have been on the lookout for a great sounding Bluetooth in-ear, and I happened to find the JLab Audio Epic Bluetooth Earbuds by chance. I was looking for new running shoes, and while browsing, started looking at the assortment of Bluetooth in-ears from Garrett's Run Shop in Manhattan Beach, CA. I asked Garrett how he liked them, and he said he really liked how it sounded. Nice endorsement. I wasn’t totally convinced, so I went online to look for the “best” current Bluetooth earphones. JLab and their Epic were ranked 1st from a website, and I saw they were mentioned in a couple of other websites. Still not fully convinced, I contacted JLab to see what they had and if I could listen to at least one of their Bluetooth earphones. As a result of our conversation, I would like to say thanks to JLab for providing the Epic Bluetooth Earbuds in exchange for my opinion.
A message from JLab Audio
"JLab Audio is an award-winning designer of personal audio: Earbuds, headphones and Bluetooth speakers. Founded in 2005, our mission is to enhance an active lifestyle through incredible sound, inspired design, and innovative technology without the rockstar price.
True to our roots, #TeamJLab embodies the So Cal lifestyle: Laidback, upbeat energy and an active life. No matter your passion, we keep you rocking with high quality gear, inspired designs, and world class, hassle free customer support.
Will this Bluetooth earphone provide hours and hours of true wireless bliss? Come on along with me and my wireless journey to find out…
Audio equipment used in the review
JLab Epic Bluetooth Earbuds: On sale for $79.99
Mentioned and compared Bluetooth earphones
Axgio Vigour Sport: $49.99
Axgio Sprint: (discontinued, probably replaced with the Spirit Sport)
iPhone 6 (Space Gray, 128GB): $849.99 or $399.99 with a 2-Year Contract
Microsoft Surface Book: Starting at $1,499
Questyle Audio QP1R Golden: $899 USD
Software Applications Used
Spotify Premium – Extreme Setting
TIDAL HiFi – Lossless
Here is my video review of the Epic:
Color choosing process
Since I received an item that is on sale since the new Epic 2 is on preorder as of this writing, I received the Epic in the Cloud White color. I really like the white color because my other Bluetooth in-ears are black, so it’s good to have a change from time to time.
Time to arrive
From the time I finished talking with JLab to arriving at my doorstep took only a couple of days. What helped ensure quick delivery was that the JLab headquarters are based in San Diego, California, which is a hop, skip and jump away from where I live.
Packaging and accessories
Pictures from various angles
In the box you’ll receive:
- Epic Bluetooth Earbuds
- 4 sizes (Very Small, Small, Medium, Large) Silicone Tips
- 2 sizes (Small, Medium) Double Flange Silicone Tips
- Cable Management Clips
- Micro USB Charging Cable
- Quick Start Guide
- Warranty Info
- JLab Sticker
Quick Start Guide
Build and aesthetics
The build is very good, as it has a soft-touch texture that are very gentle on your ears. The 45 degree housing angle is well thought out and allows an easier fit. The cable is thick yet supple, and the remote and earphone housing looks like it can take a lot of sweat and keep on trucking - rugged, yet soft to the touch. Literally, the best of both worlds.
At 15 grams, this is one very lightweight Bluetooth earphone. Not an issue to wear for hours on end. If you feel the length is too long, you can use the included cable management clips that effectively shortens the cable to your own preferred length.
Fit and comfort
SpinFit tips on the Epic
Epic fit in the left ear, Epic fit in the right ear
The fit is a little loose to my ears, but I use the small-sized SpinFit tips with the Epic, so not all is lost. I still have good seal with pretty good isolation, but it won’t be absolutely awesome when it comes to fit at least to my ears. The main reason why I use the SpinFit is not just because of the pivoting tip. Not having to use the double flanges to increase length is great because the SpinFit are slightly longer than regular tips, which means the tip as a result can go a bit deeper in my ears. The nozzle of the JLab is very short, so that means that some people will need to use longer tips to be able to sufficiently obtain as sealed and isolated a fit as possible. Comfort is high, which is a plus. The housing is soft and feels comfortable when it touches your ears. The memory wire is soft, unobtrusive and a joy to use. The earphone is lightweight as a whole, and the remote doesn’t distract me or force me to think of it at any time, which is a plus. I would say the memory wire holding the remote relatively in place has something to do with the overall comfort and the remote not troubling me in any way.
Easy to pair: choose Epic BT after holding multi-function button down
The Epic offers exemplary battery life, as I observed around 10 hours run time (JLab documents 10 hours run time). Total run time will vary based on the volume you listen, using the remote functions often, etc. I am impressed with the battery life though, as my Axgio Bluetooth earphones only last several hours before they need to be charged again.
When I was first listening to the Epic, I would experience intermittent drop-outs; sometimes where the IEM would reconnect without me having to intervene, and some times when I have to press play on the streaming app itself to allow the IEM to play again. Range was not the best as well. However, drop-outs have been kept to a minimum as I have kept the Epic at line-of-sight, and is overall not a major issue to me. Yes, time to time you may get a hiccup here and there, but for the most part, it’s not a problem to me, especially when the Epic sounds the way it does to my ears. The intermittent drop-outs were only reason I took off half a star from my review's stars rating.
Easy C/IEM side detection
The Epic shows an easy to read (except in the dark) L marking on the left side and R marking on the right side on the insides of the earphone housings. Usually how I tell both sides easy is I look at one and whichever side the top cable is facing, that’s the side I need to put in my ear. This method helps in most IEM situations. The Axgio Vigour Sport that you’ll see later is a little more difficult to tell which side is which because of the design of the sport earhook that faces/points left when the earphone actually goes in your right ear, and vice versa.
Power to drive the Epic
The Epic is easy to drive and can reach very loud levels when it is at it’s highest volume setting. No issues with tuning out people at the gym or around you, if you want!
Disclaimer and hearing factors
The Epic sound impressions are mainly for anyone wanting a point of reference regarding how they more or less pair with the iPhone 6 and Surface Book. Other sources may vary slightly or greatly as the Epic sounds different enough with these two sources to warrant mentioning. The Epic will have a warmer and pronounced effect in the overall bass region when pairing with the iPhone 6. The Epic will have slightly more balanced and natural sounding approach to its presentation when paired with the Surface Book. As mentioned before, the Epic is fairly easy to drive, as a smartphone such as the iPhone doesn't take full volume for the Epic to emit levels that can damage hearing pretty quickly.
We all hear differently, and our experiences with regards to how our interpretation of what we hear vary greatly. Some factors that come to mind (and not limited), are:
Your inner ear and skull’s overall composition: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-unique-vibrations-of-your-skull-affect-how-you-hear-music-654940/?no-ist.
Hearing loss as we age, also known as presbycusis: https://www.ohio.edu/news/months/nov1998/111.html,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presbycusis.
Heredity, noise trauma, dietary habits, smoking, hypertension, atherosclerosis, are other factors that affect people’s overall hearing ability.
Are Your Earphones Correctly Inserted?
The frequency response across the full audio spectrum should be smooth, and the bass response should be fully present - that is, if you have a "full, tight seal". If you have any doubts regarding hearing both earphones equally (assuming you don't have a hearing tested significant FR imbalance), you can self-administer the "Audio Seal" test - it's to help determine if your earphones (Universals/CIEMs) are correctly inserted. The webpage comes with downloadable and streamable audio files in .mp3 or .wav format. The test is great to find out if you have a correct insertion and proper fit, and can also reveal other issues other than an incomplete and/or poor seal. From the webpage: "The test consists of two brief audio tracks. Both include two sine waves, one at 50 Hz and the other at 500 Hz, played at the same volume. On one track, the two tones are played together. On the other track, the tones alternate in 2-second intervals."
Here's the link from Sensaphonics: www.sensaphonics.com/test.
According to JLab: “C3 (Crystal Clear Clarity) technology delivers a clean, crisp, immersive sound with vibrant highs, mids and a pumping bass through pristine high performance 8mm drivers, which are up to 50% larger than the competition. Rock it out!” Intrigued yet? Yeah, I don’t understand the C3 technology either, but whatever it is, it is very much working for the Epic. I listened critically after over 100 hours of burn-in, and I did not observe an overall change of the sound after the burn-in. The 8mm drivers are larger than the competition as a whole, that’s a fact. Also, the sound from the semi-large diameter nozzles do emit a very full sound, with bass that is detailed and resolute but also my favorite with regards to most IEMs I’ve listened to, and a midrange with treble that is smooth and has a lot of texture. Soundstage is sufficient especially because of the slightly wider and 45 degree angle positioning in your ears. Also the overall liquidity of the sound lends a present and clear sound, like a listenable version of Cream of Wheat - nice and smooth, with that creamy texture. Simply put, the Epic is currently my favorite sounding Bluetooth in-ear. The Epic, especially when paired with high quality tracks such as from TIDAL’s lossless library, sounds better to my ears than quite a few wired headphones that have listened to. Yes, the sound is truly “epic” to my ears. Also, I am aware that a 2nd version of the Epic called the Epic2 will be available soon. After listening to the Epic for a while, I contacted JLab and asked them if any changes would be administered to new version. The rep told me that the sound would stay the same. I replied with heartfelt thanks that the sound won’t be changed! I will be receiving the Epic2 in the near future, and I’ll be comparing both to find out for myself if the sound has changed any.
Select Bluetooth earphone comparisons
Before I start with the comparisons; I have listened to a lot of audio equipment, but I haven't listened to everything. If you request a comparison and it's not listed in my profile and hasn't been reviewed, then there is a chance that either I haven't listened to it in a long while and don't want to compare by memory, or I don't have the requested product(s) with me to compare. Consider being proactive by sending me a PM (private message), sending me the headphone(s) and/or sources, IEMs, etcetera, you would like for me to compare, and I'll add it to the review (or any review that I've written). If you don't have the requested product(s) with you and I don't have the requested product(s) with me, chances are slim that I will be able to fulfill your request because I always like to A/B with audio equipment that's immediately on-hand.
Axgio Vigour Sport
This is an earphone that is very comfortable because of the rubber ear hook, and my favorite type of Bluetooth earphone when it comes to comfort, as it makes working out with it a breeze. The earphones stay in place whether I’m running or jumping rope. The Vigour Sport has an overall warmer sound than the Epic, and a less to much less resolute sound signature as well. The Epic has a more energetic and juicy sound compared to the Vigour Sport. The sound is pretty vast in comparison. Even though the Vigour Sport’s sound isn’t completely resolute, it does give a warmer take on the sound that gets presented. The Vigour Sport offers less soundstage presence, and less overall detail capabilities as well.
Axgio Sprint (discontinued)
The Sprint is a more resolute version of the Vigour Sport, as bass is tighter, midrange is more detailed and the treble is well extended in comparison. However, when the Sprint is compared to the Epic, the Sprint loses out to overall musicality to my ears, even though the Sprint is fantastically detailed in sound. There is more bass presence and bravado with the Epic, there is more texture from the transitions of the frequencies, and there is a more full and fulfilling sound when you listen to the Epic in comparison to the Sprint. I truly enjoy the detailed and very slightly laid-back approach to the Sprint, and I enjoy the broad, full, and textured sound of the Epic.
Should you modify?
It’s really up to you. If you like the fit, and sound but are in the mood for a change, you may want to dial in EQ to bring out areas you want to hear more of, and possibly taming down the bass if you are sensitive to awesome levels of bass. What can you do?
EQ – use your source’s EQ settings to dial in a preferable frequency response to your ears. Spotify has an onboard EQ as well as local music players on your phone or device. TIDAL doesn’t have EQ, but TIDAL's HIFI sounds so resolute with satisfying punch and brilliance to my ears without EQ that I rarely find a need or want to use EQ.
Cultivate a fresh sound™
What does this mean? Too often we focus on only the music we are accustomed to. I am usually this way as well. Here’s an opportunity to listen to something you either may not normally listen to, or haven’t heard of. As I publish reviews in the future, I will have new and older tracks from various genres that I’ve listened to in this section, and will be largely based on what songs really moved me in particular to the reviewed product I’ve listened to on it. Even though the tracks will be linked to YouTube videos or audio-only versions, the tracks will either be listened solely from the iPhone 6 and TIDAL HiFi - Lossless, or from my Microsoft Surface Book and TIDAL HiFi - Lossless. Instead of describing each track in immense detail, you can simply listen for yourself and bask in the beautiful music you may have just found for the first time right now! What’s also great is that you can come back here just to listen to the tracks mentioned! If you have any personal issues with any tracks posted, please PM me and I'll replace it with another track. It's all about positivity in our musical journey. With those kind words of encouragement, here we go…
Como Bailar Cumbia by Dengue Dengue Dengue
Land Of Gold by Anoushka Shankar
Jai Hanuman by The Hanumen
Is the Epic right for you?
In the ever-growing sea of Bluetooth in-ears, it can be tough to find the right one. I don't know if I’ve found the right one so far because I haven’t listened to everything the world has to offer, but during my journey of Hi-Fi audio, I was able to find a gem, in the form of the Epic. The price isn’t very bad at all with JLab’s sale of $20 off of $99, and a great choice if you are in the market for a new Bluetooth in-ear or a new in-ear, for that matter.
This is my favorite sounding Bluetooth in-ear thus far in my wireless audio journey. I will be on the lookout for an IEM that may dethrone the Epic, but for now, this reigns as the king or queen of Bluetooth IEMs with regards to most pleasing sound to my ears. If you want a Bluetooth IEM that competitively wins compared to others on the market in most, if not all factors, and an engaging presentation that sounds better than a lot of wired in-ears in the market, then I would give the Epic a serious audition.
- IPX Rating: IPX4
- Battery Life: 10 Hours
- Driver Size: 8mm
- Weight: 15g
- Bluetooth: BT 4.0 with aptX
- 3 free months of "RockMyRun Rockstar"
- JLab Audio Epic Bluetooth Wireless Earbuds
- 2 Mini Cable Management Clips
- Micro USB Cable
- Neoprene, Eco-leather Case, 3.25" W x 6" H (when open) x 0.75" D
- Six Sets of Silicone Gel Tips
- JLab's World-Class Service and One-Year Warranty