JLab JBuds Air Executive full review
The name is something of a mouthful, but JLab’s new Air Executive true wireless earbuds promise long battery life and multiple EQ modes for audio. We see how these and other features stand up to scrutiny in our full review.
Price & Availability
Design & Build
All wireless earbuds come with carry-cases that also acts as a charger, but the one for the JBuds has to rank as at the top or thereabouts in terms of aesthetics. The top and bottom are covered in faux-leather (one that JLabs calls vegan leather) with the upper section tapering down to create a wedge shape.
Along the front there is also a short USB cable that pops out and enables you to plug it into a charger. While we’ve seen this on other cases, it’s perhaps a bit surprising that there’s no other port that you can use if the cable isn’t long enough. Three lights adorn the front, indicating either how much charge is left in the case or which buds are currently charging.
The buds themselves look compact while in the case, with their black livery decorated by the silver JLabs symbol on the back. Taking them out reveals slightly chunkier main chambers out of which juts the in-ear bud themselves. This size is no doubt to accommodate the large battery (more on that later) as well as the 8mm drivers that deliver the audio.
Under the JLab symbol there’s touch sensitive buttons for controlling playback, EQ settings, answering calls and the like, plus there’s small stems pointing down that give a bit more purchase when placing the buds in your ear and also act as home for the dual microphones.
The JBuds come with an IP55 rating, which means that can withstand sweating at the gym or being caught out in the rain, but won’t fare so well if submerged.
Sound Quality & Features
The JBuds offer three different EQ settings, all easily accessible via tapping the left earbud three times in quick succession. These are the JLab Signature (which favours vocals and bass), Balanced (which has all around the same), and Bass Boost (which does exactly what is says).
Cycling through them does give the effect of quite a range of volume levels as parts of the mix almost disappear.
There’s no doubt that the Signature EQ is the brightest and has the most presence, but it fails to truly impress as the mid scoop takes too much out of the balance, making many tracks sound slightly bland.
Playing something like Ed Sheeran has an empty centre (not knocking Ed there) and full band rock and blues results in something similar. Old Public Enemy tracks were much better, but then there’s hardly any instruments in those songs, so you don’t miss the textures and frequencies that the EQ diminishes.
Switching to the other settings didn’t really help, as they alter so much of the mix that you only really notice what’s missing rather than what’s there. No matter the EQ we chose, we were always left with the sensation that there was never quite enough of one thing or another and the volume needed to be up near the top to make things come to life. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely not great.
Of course, switching between the modes involved using the touch-sensitive buttons, but we also found these to be quite hit and miss. The triple tap to change EQ worked one minute but not the next and it was similar for other controls on the right bud too.
That’s a shame as there are quite a few options available. Depending on how many taps and on which bud you can turn the volume up and down, launch your device’s voice assistant, change the EQ, play/pause payback, answer or reject calls, and turn on the Be Aware mode.
The latter is meant to be used if you need to hear anyone in the room, as it uses the built-in microphones to feed some surrounding noise into the mix. This is a nice feature, and it does indeed allow you to hear when someone talks to you, if a little quietly, but you’ll want to turn it off if you intend to speak as it produces a weird echo effect.
Video syncing is solid, with only the occasional drift on certain content. Netflix, YouTube and other streaming services all seemed happy to keep in step with the JBuds. Call quality is also good, with those we called reporting back that our voice was clear and free of any artefacts, buzzes or echoes.
Battery life is also a real bonus, as the JBuds lasted a mighty five hours and forty minutes from a single charge. This makes them an ideal companion for long trips, especially as the case holds a further twenty-four hours of charge that can be delivered in just over two hours.
We like the design of both the JBuds and their case, plus that long battery life and high-quality call performance will be a draw for many people. It’s a shame then that the audio itself is one of the most disappointing aspects. You can get a decent enough sound out of them, but nothing really sparkles.
The sometimes-fiddly controls are also annoying, but this is not uncommon with cheaper wireless earbuds. The real issue is the price. Yes, you’re getting basic water resistance and all of the aforementioned plusses, but at around £70/$70 the JBuds are up against the likes of the Xiaomi Mi True Wireless Earbuds and the Lypertek TEVI, the latter of which offers better waterproofing, similar battery life, and to our ears more enjoyable audio.
If they were cheaper then we’d be willing to accept the limitations, but at the current price they just don’t deliver enough to warrant the cost.
Check out our chart of the best budget wireless earbuds.
JLab JBuds Air Executive: Specs
- Bluetooth 5
- 8mm drivers
- Dual microphones
- Touch-sensitive control buttons
- 3xEQ settings
- Be Aware mode
- Charging case
- IP55 rating
- 40mm x 25mm x 39.5mm