I like to listen to music and podcasts while running, but I find that I am hard on headphones. After destroying several nice pairs I decided to that it was easier to replace them with bargain bin specials than to continue to purchase quality earbuds. However, I have been intrigued by Bluetooth Wireless headphones, since I usually destroy the cord in some fashion, including some models that are designed for sports enthusiasts so I was excited when I saw that 4alloutdoors.org would be reviewing wireless earbuds. Over the next few months I will be reviewing the JLab Audio Epic2 Bluetooth Wireless Sport Earbuds.
JLab Audio is a California based company that seeks to “enhance an active lifestyle through incredible sound, inspired design, and innovative technology without the rockstar price.” I think this is a pretty good mission statement. They make all types of earbuds, wired and wireless, as well as over the ear headphones, speakers and some apparel. This is my first interaction with the company and I look forward to seeing how the Epic2’s perform.
The Epic2’s (or earbuds) are over the ear Bluetooth wireless earbuds and they are available in three colors – black, blue and grey, and teal. They hang over the ear via JLab’s proprietary “Memory Wire” and come with an astounding array of tips, 8 different pairs of tips, to ensure that the Epic2’s will fit any user. They also come with a hard side carrying case, universal USB to micro USB cord, and 2 mini cable management clips. The earbuds charge via the micro USB connection at the controls. JLab recommends charging the Epic2’s before their first use for at least 4 hours. The Epic2’s retail for $99.99 US dollars. The JLab Audio website has more detailed information on each of the components.
As I mentioned, I have been intrigued by Bluetooth Wireless earbuds for a while, but there were two particular claims about the Epic2’s that stood out to me – the 12 hour playback time and the water and sweat resistance of the earbuds. One of the drawbacks of using new technology for long distance running is that the runtime for the products don’t last as long as it takes me to run ultra-distance races. Most of my ultra-distance runs are in the 8 to 12 hour range. I have only run over 12 hours continuously once – a 100 mile race last February. The 12 hour playback time is the best in the industry according to JLab, and more than I have seen on competitors’ websites. Since this is one of the characteristics that drew me to the earbuds, I will add a new category to my training spreadsheet to track my time usage of the earbuds and will share my results in my interim and long term report updates.
The second quality that drew me to the Epic2’s is the sweat and water resistance of the earbuds. JLab Audio claims that the Epic2’s “are 100 percent splash-proof, sweat-proof and washable with an IPX5 rating with an ultra-sonic sealed battery compartment and plasma coated microelectronics.” I was not sure what the IPX5 rating meant so I did some research and found that it means that the item is basically protected from “water jets” in any direction (Outdoor Technology).
This is great news, I felt like I sweat a lot running when I lived in Alaska, but since I made the transition to New Orleans, I have truly learned what it means to sweat. I don’t plan on running in the earbuds in an afternoon rainstorm, but it is good to know that 100% humidity and my sweat shouldn’t damage the earbuds.
I am not an audiophile, but the sound quality seems to be very good. In my initial use the earbuds produced good sound for both the rock and rap that I listen to while running as well as the spoken voice from my podcasts. I like that the earbuds have a controller that allows me to change the volume and skip ahead or behind without having to make the changes on my phone.
As I mentioned earlier there are 8 different sets of tips that can be placed on the earbuds so that they will fit any type of ear. My ears are fairly normal, and I tried all the various tips and found that I like the standard size tips that were already on the earbuds the best. Putting the earbuds in is fairly simple. I put them in perpendicular to my ear and then fold the memory cord around my ear. This method seems to consistently create a tight but not uncomfortable fit. The earbuds also include mini clips to shorten the cord that hangs behind the user’s head.
As I use the earbuds over the next several months I will look for several factors. First is comfort. Do they stay in place while running and hiking? Are they comfortable to wear for multiple hours at a time, or do I want to take them out after an hour or two of wear? I will also look for durability. Do they stand up to daily use and sweat soaked runs? What is the battery life? Is it really 12 hours? Also how well does the Bluetooth work? Can I place my phone in a pocket or my backpack and still receive clear communication? Is the Bluetooth easily interfered with? A significant portion of my running is on the Mississippi River Levy and I run by numerous ship yard repair facilities – will their radios or the ship traffic on the river interfere with the earbuds. I am sure there are other items I will think of as I use the earbuds.
Update – November 4, 2016
I have used the JLab Epic2’s for training runs, a marathon and a half marathon over the past month, and their performance has been amazing. The audio clarity has been great, battery life meets expectations, and the earbuds are comfortable and so far have proven impervious to Southern Louisiana induced sweat. Read on for my full review.
The last month has been a pretty strong training and racing month for me. I ran and hiked over 200 miles including long training runs, the Medoc Trail Marathon in North Carolina, and the Jazz Half Marathon in New Orleans. Overall, I have used the earbuds for almost 13 hours with no significant issues. I charged the earbuds initially per JLab’s instructions, and I charged them again after 6 hours of use the night before the Medoc Marathon, and since then I have used them for another almost 7 hours without charging them. One of the cool features that I did not expect is that the earbuds have a built-in “assistant” if you will that tells the wearer how much battery life is left. The voice will come on and say battery full, or medium, and I am assuming it will say battery low, too – but I haven’t drained the battery enough to get to this point. This is something that I was interested in because the small controller doesn’t have any way for me to tell how much battery life is left. It appears that JLab anticipated this concern and already addressed it.
The audio quality has been great over the past month. As I mentioned I am not an audiophile, but everything sounds great from rock music to rap. The bass is not overwhelming and the midrange and high sounds are clear. In addition, I have listened to podcasts and the spoken work is clear and easy to understand. I did not experience any interruptions while using the earbuds and the shipyards along the Mississippi river did not interfere with the headphones. I was able to walk about 30 to 40 feet away from my phone before I would lose the signal. Usually I just carried my phone in my hand or stuffed it in a pocket on my Ultimate Direction Jurek vest. The earbuds fit well into the ear canal so they are also good at blocking out noise. I mention this because many races now require runners to only use one earbud during the race so that they can hear other runners and race officials.
Comfort has been superb. The earbuds have not caused any irritation or discomfort. The Medoc Trail marathon took me almost 5 hours and I had the earbuds in the entire time and they were very comfortable. I wouldn’t hesitate to wear them during longer races. The tips that came on the earbuds have continued to be the best for me, but the 8 different included tips should allow these earbuds to fit almost every potential user. I used the included 2 mini cable management clips to shorten the length of the cord that rests behind my head while wearing the earbuds. I did this to minimize bounce from the wire, and it worked. Once I got into a running groove I really didn’t even notice the wire running behind my head or the wire that ran over the top of my ears. All in all they are a super comfortable pair of earbuds.
The controller operation is fairly straight forward. I can reach up with my right hand and touch the raised buttons to either turn up my music or by holding the button down skip ahead or back. The only tricky part comes with using the cable management clips to shorten the distance between the earbuds. I had to try a couple different lengths to make sure I still had good access to the controller. Once I set the behind the head wire distance I have not had to adjust it again.
Durability with the JLab Epic2 earbuds has been excellent. Even though the calendar says fall, Southern Louisiana is experiencing record high temperatures in the 90s and upper 80s most days. This has meant that I continue to sweat profusely on my runs. The earbuds have had no issues shedding my sweat. In addition, I have tossed the earbuds in my backpack while traveling versus the case and they show no signs of wear on the wire, earbuds, or controller.
November and early December are packed with another half and a full marathon and hopefully cooler weather to run in. I will continue to use the JLab Epic2 earbuds during my runs and report on their long term performance. Check back in about a month for my update.
Final Update December 26, 2016
The JLab Epic 2 Earbuds have continued to perform well since my last update. Durability and comfort have been amazing and the sound produced by the earbuds is great. Playtime has met expectations with me getting between 11-13 hours of playback before needing to recharge. These earbuds have performed above expectations!
Since my last update, I have used the JLab earbuds to watch movies while flying to Disneyland, while running a 5k, 10k and a half marathon at Disneyland, on long training runs, and the Ole Man River Half Marathon in Gretna, Louisiana. Temperatures have continued to range from the upper 80’s to mid-60’s with high humidity. On several of my runs, I experienced steady winds in the 10-20 mph range.
There were three main factors I wanted to confirm or deny when I started out this review – comfort, durability and sound quality. The JLab Epic 2’s exceeded my expectations in all three categories. They are super comfortable. It didn’t matter if I was wearing them for a 3 mile training run or a 26 mile marathon, I never felt any discomfort wearing the earbuds. Most of the time, I hardly noticed that they were there. They never interfered with me getting into a groove and the controls were easy to use and I never had to break stride to reach up to the right side of my head to skip ahead or adjust the volume.
The second factor was durability. I have broken numerous earbuds but after almost 40 hours of use with these earbuds they look, feel and sound like they are brand new. They have been soaked with sweat and tossed in a backpack or running vest after a race with no damage. I have not had to baby them which is a big plus. I know they are going to work every time.
Another part of durability for me was the playback time. JLab advertised a 12 hour playback time and I am happy to say that I was able to achieve a playback time of 12+ hours consistently. There was one time where I only achieved 10.5 hours of playback time, but I could have missed logging a run with them. Unfortunately this happened during the Ole Man River half marathon, and only 22 minutes into the race. There is a voice that comes on that says Low Battery, and it repeats the low battery warning 4 times before the headphones stop working. I found that I generally had about 10 minutes of use from the first low battery warning. I did notice that there is a small battery icon that shows up when I connect the earbuds to my iPhone, however, I obviously didn’t really pay much attention to this icon since the earbuds died during a race.
Sound quality is great. Every style of music that I listened to – metal, rap, country; it all sounded great. The earbuds do a good job of blocking out other sounds which is good and bad, if I had the music up to loud I could lose awareness of my surroundings. This was an advantage on a plane full of people headed to Disneyland but I made sure to keep the sound low while running on the trails and road races. I mentioned that several of my runs were in windy conditions. The earbuds were unaffected by the wind and I did not have any wind noise affecting the sound quality of the music or podcasts I was listening to.
Overall, I am extremely pleased with the JLab Epic2 Earbuds. I become a believer when a company sets high expectations and then meets them. I highly recommend the Epic2 earbuds to anyone looking for a high quality pair of earbuds that can handle tough environments.
Thanks to 4alloutdoors.org and JLab Audio for providing the Epic2 earbuds for this review.