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Review of JLAB Epic 2 bluetooth sport headphones

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment

Introduction

We are a couple of weeks away (probably) from the announcement of the next iPhone and rumors are swirling about the headphone jack being ejected. This means you will have to buy Lightning port headphones or Bluetooth (my vote is Bluetooth for everyday use). Who wants wired headphones that get tangled and caught on things?

What attracted me to the JLAB Epic 2 was the promise of 12 hour battery life and a secure fit. Until this review, the most secure fitting headphones I have ever tried are the Jaybird ones (Sprint and X2).

Sound Signature

The JLab Epic 2 in an in-ear style exercise Bluetooth headphone and the sound signature is clearly aligned with that target market. The sound is tuned to enhance bass (not as much as Monster or Beats headphones) to keep you pumped during your exercise session. If you are looking for a more neutral / balanced sound then this is not for you.

Design

The Epic 2 can be stealth (black version) or very flashy (blue/grey or teal). I opted for the blue/grey. 

You expect sports headphones to be able to handle a much higher level of abuse and the JLAB Epic 2 doesn't disappoint. The product is certified IPX5 which means you can rinse it off after a workout and it can handle sweat and light rain. Just make sure you leave it out to dry otherwise you will shorten the devices useful life.

IPX5 means it can handle water being sprayed on the product from any direction. It does not mean you can wash it with a pressure washer (won't protect from strong jets of water) and you can't dunk it (it is water resistant not water proof). No other major brand can come close to the protection offered by JLAB (not even the venerable Jaybird which labels its products only as sweat resistant).

The material directly around the headphone (aka the part that goes behind your ear) is more rigid which means it will hold a hook shape and stay in place. Couple this with 8 different types of eartips in different shapes & sizes and you are sure to get a very secure fit. 

The JLAB Epic 2 has a small control box that houses the battery, a flap covered USB charging port, a microphone and the usual buttons. Pressing the up/down arrow adjusts the volume. Pressing and holding them skip's or rewinds the song. Pressing and holding the middle multi function button turns the device on/off. Pressing and releasing the middle multi function button pauses the music. 

The antenna

JLAB has spend a lit of marketing space promoting their "RADICAL SKIP-FREE SOUND WITH BEACON™ SIGNAL TECHNOLOGY". I compared reception (or lack thereof) to different Bluetooth headphones from Jaybird, Monoprice, MPOW, Motorola and Beats. I tested it by holding the phone in different places:

  • In my left/right hands
  • In my left/right/back pants pockets
  • In my dress shirt pocket
  • In my shoulder laptop bag

Each test was performed with an iPhones 6s Plus and a Motorola Moto G (Android). I walked outside at least 5 minutes with each pair of headphones in each location. Does the JLAB Beacon signal technology make a difference? Not really. It worked perfectly where the others worked perfectly and it skipped where other products also skipped. 

JLab’s Beacon Signal Technology failed to impress me during my tests.

Performance

I tested the audio quality with on device AAC high powered bass heavy songs and with FitRadio steamed mixes. The first thing I noticed was that the JLAB Epic 2 can get very loud, and that's a good thing. Even with a high bass songs (AAC & streamed) at maximum volume, I didn't notice any distortion. Testing music at more reasonable levels, the bass still stays strong. 

Using the song Africa by Toto (don't judge my music selection), you can hearthe bass enhanced tuning of the Epic 2 (compared to the other Bluetooth headphones). The only other pair with more extreme bass was the Beats (which has a sound signature I dislike).

Using opera, you can again hear how much it emphasizes the bass. This gave me an idea. I love listening to talk radio, podcasts and audiobooks. I realized the enhanced bass also enhances male voices, which made listening to these types of content very enjoyable. 

At no point during my testing did the music sound muddy, garbled or sub-par.

The Jaybird Sprint, Jaybird X2, MPow and Monoprice bluetooth headphones deliver a more neutral sound signature. 

Comparing the Jlab Epic to the Jlab Epic 2

If you already own the JLAB Epic, what does v2 bring to the table? It brings improved water resistance (IPX4 to IPX5). The circuit board in the control unit is now coated to protect the headphoneseven if moisture enters from the USB charging port through the flap. 

JLab also says the antenna is greatly improved but in my tests, I didn't notice it. 

The button arrangement is a little different (not good or bad just different).

The cable (connecting both ear buds) is coated in a matte feeling material JLAB says will minimize tangling and less rubbing sounds when you are working out. I can confirm that these statements are accurate. 

Jlab now includes 2 more tips in the original kit which could help if you had issues in the past. My ears are "normal" sized and I have never bought a pair of headphones that didn't fit.

The flaws

All Bluetooth headphones suffer from the fact that they add one more device you have to remember to charge. If you are forgetful, maybe opt for something with wires instead. JLab's EPIC 2 regularly delivered close to 12 hours of use per charge, which means it is much less likely to die during a workout [than most of its competitors] (Beats got less than 6 hours; Jaybird X2 got about 8 hours, MPow got less than 3).   

If you have large outer ears and deep ear canals, getting a tight fit might be difficult with the wrap behind ear design, but for most "normal" people, this isn't an issue. 

And that's it. I really had to think hard in order to find some flaws. This thing is well designed. 

Summary

Pro

  • Light set of Bluetooth headphones that regularly get 11+ hours of play time per charge
  • Water resistant design (aka rinsable to get the funk out) 
  • Good audio volume with enhanced bass response
  • Works with iPhone and Adnroid devices

Con

  • Even for Bluetooth headphones, the sound quality could be improved (particularly clarity and mids/highs).

Conclusion

Jlab has produced something very impressive with the Epic 2. They are priced much more competitively than other high end sport headphones and the waterproofing/battery life is excellent. 

I just can't recommend these headphones enough. I love them and they have become my daily use headphones while commuting.