All in all, the JLab Epic 2 is a pair of decent earbuds, but it falls short in fit and durability, making it vulnerable and easy to lose.
The Epic 2 wireless earbuds by JLab do so many things right that it’s a wonder they’re not more popular. That is, at least, if you’re looking at the on-paper specifications. On-paper, these earbuds look and sound phenomenal, but if we could get the lay of the land just by looking at the specs we wouldn’t need reviews.
And it’s not as if these headphones are bad by any means, but they’re not everything they promise to be. So if you’re considering buying the Epic 2 earbuds, here’s what you need to know:
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|Name||JLab Epic 2|
|Dimensions||2 x 5 x 7.5 inches (5.1 x 12.7 x 19 cm)|
|Weight||0.33 pounds (0.015 kg)|
|Driver size||8 mm|
|Wireless technology||Bluetooth 4.0 + AptX|
Whenever you’re dealing with earbuds it’s important that you have a tight fit and – and this is often overlooked – a comfortable fit. This will ensure that the sound isolation is maximized and that you can use them for prolonged periods.
But when you’re dealing with sports earbuds these things become paramount. Whether you’re using them in the gym, where you’ll want to drown out all the background noise, or during a marathon, which is traditionally a lengthy experience, you’ll want to find earbuds that will fit your ear like a glove.
And the Epic 2 is a hit-or-miss in this regard. You get as many as 8 different tips of varying sizes and shapes, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll find a perfect fit among them. And considering that these are $100 earbuds this is a much bigger problem than it would be in some cheaper ones. Comply foam tips would have been a great addition, and they have indeed proven effective, but you’d have to buy them separately, driving up the already pricey cost even further.
Also, these headphones were designed to be worn behind the ear, which in and of itself can be a problem if you’re not used to this. The memory wires that extend from the earbuds helps with this, as you can shape them however you see fit, but they won’t sell you on the ‘behind the ear’ style if you’re already not a fan.
Sports earbuds are destined to endure far more wear and tear than your regular old earbuds so the way manufacturers go about designing them for maximum longevity is one of their most important aspects, possibly even eclipsing sound quality. This is where the introductory ‘on-paper’ thought comes into play.
The Epic 2 earbuds are waterproof and sweatproof. With an IPX5 rating, they’re not really in front of the competition, but it’s certainly better than what many other sub-$100 solutions have to offer. An IPX5 is certainly good enough for them to withstand getting rained on and even to wash them in running water.
But a quick glance at any online user reviews will tell a different story:
Durability is an issue with the JLab Epic 2. It’s fair to point out that most wireless earbuds don’t fare much better when it comes to user reviews, especially in this price range. There’s simply too much technology that needs to be cramped in such a tiny space. But it’s definitely something you ought to be aware of. The 1-year limited warranty is some assurance, but chances are you want your $100 earbuds to last you longer than that and, honestly, whether they will or won’t is as reliable as a coin flip.
The only thing truly durable is the battery life, advertised at 12 hours and consistently delivering at least 10, if not the entire 12. And the battery takes only 4 hours to charge from zero to full.
The Epic 2 earbuds are packed with Bluetooth 4.0 and, more importantly, AptX. To put it simply, AptX is an audio compression codec that makes wireless music infinitely better, by reducing latency and bit rate without negative impacts on audio quality and thereby essentially getting around Bluetooth’s bandwidth problem.
So far so good.
In order for it to work, both the transmitter and the receiver must have the technology integrated and, unfortunately, Apple opted not to include AptX in iPhones. Most of the new Android phones feature AptX and it really makes the headphones worth it, but, unfortunately, you won’t be able to experience the best sound quality they can offer if you use an iPhone.
Ultimately, this means that if you’re an iPhone user you won’t really be getting what you paid for. This really is a shame, because it’s not a fault with the headphones themselves, but it is what it is.
On the flip side, these earbuds are also packed with Beacon Signal Technology that reduces interference. Both devices will reap the benefits of this technology, however, its effects are somewhat dubious.
And this may be as good a place as any to mention the microphone that’s placed neatly along with the convenient in-line controller. The microphone itself isn’t bad, but it’s positioning is sub-optimal, to say the least. The person you’re talking to definitely won’t have a fun time if you try to use it hands-free. It’s just too far removed from your mouth.
There are two things to keep in mind when evaluating the sound quality for the Epic 2.
Firstly, these earbuds are meant to be used while exercising. As such, audio quality isn’t the most important aspect as is the case with regular earbuds. It’s much more important the sound isolation is on point as well as the fit, and then that the volume can be cranked up without causing distortion.
Secondly, always remember that these are wireless earbuds. Wireless technology is usually regarded as wholly positive for its convenience; and you’ll certainly need the convenience that cable-free earbuds provide while exercising, be it running or hitting the gym. But it doesn’t come without its detriments: reduced audio quality, lag, and the threat of signal interference.
The Beacon Signal Technology helps prevent interference, but it’s the AptX that will make or break your decision to buy these, as the headphones do lose a lot of value without it. The sound quality evaluation in the following paragraph is written with AptX turned on.
All things considered, the audio quality on the Epic 2 is good, or more precisely, it’s good for wireless earbuds. The sound signature is just what you’d expect: the bass is slightly boosted, as expected, but tastefully so, and the mids and highs still remain clear and detailed. The soundstage was surprisingly good as well, with a better instrument separation than expected and you’re ears are much more likely to give up before distortion starts kicking in.
All in all, the Epic 2 headphones fit somewhat awkwardly between budget solutions and more premium choices. They are definitely better than the cheaper headphones you can stumble upon but they still don’t feel quite like a $100 product. Nevertheless, if this is your maximum price limit then the Epic 2 headphones remain objectively the best possible pick, but this is only if you’re not an iPhone user.