JLab Epic in-ear headphones review: Not quite epic, but quite decent
The JLab Epics ($50) may look a little cheap, but they offer a comfortable, secure fit, and sound richer than their design would indicate.
When you name a product Epic, it's got some pretty big shoes to fill.
JLab's Epic in-ear headphones, which come in a couple of different color options, don't quite achieve their eponymous status, but they are decent earphones for their relatively modest price tag of around $50 online.
The Epics' claim to fame is that they feature large 13mm drivers and come with six gel-tip sizes and four "Cush Fins" that give you a number of options for creating a secure fit. They're also lightweight and have a flat cord that's tangle-resistant.
I sampled some of the tips and Cush Fins and came up with a combo that enabled me to get a tight seal; the earphones really stayed in my ears. You could definitely use these for athletic workouts (I ran a bit with them), but it would have been nice if they were sweat-resistant (I didn't see any mention of it).
The earphones seem durable enough, but they've got a little too much of a plastic vibe to them, so they come across as a budget headphone. The long and short of it is they sound better than they look (by that I don't mean they're ugly, they just look a little cheap).
My only other gripe was that -- while the Cush Fins are easy to get on and off -- I ended up losing one and was forced to switch over to a second-choice fin. It's nice that you get all the tips and fins, but the fact is, you're probably going to end up liking one size tip and one type of fin more than the others and you'll wish JLab had including doubles.
JLab reportedly has good customer service, so I decided to test it out. When I called customer service to tell them I'd lost a fin, they offered to send me out a new pack of fins free of charge (if you're wondering, I did not identify myself as a CNET editor). So there's something to be said for that.
As far as extra features go, the Epics have an inline one-button "universal" remote with microphone. The button allows you to pause and play tracks and skip them forward and back (two quick button pushes for forward, three for back). However, there are no inline volume controls.
You also get a protective carrying case, which is nice. It's a little bigger than it needs to be, but that isn't such a bad thing -- it's easy to get the headphones in and out of the case.
I liked the Epics' sound, though their sound profile leans toward the aggressive end of the spectrum (if you like a warmer, more laid-back headphone, this isn't). They're a tad bright and there's a little bass push -- and that bass isn't incredibly tight at higher volumes -- but the earphones deliver good clarity and are quite punchy without being boomy.
While the Epics don't have the clean, refined sound of significantly more expensive in-ears, I thought they acquitted themselves well for their price point. They're designed for mobile devices and are easily driven -- I had to turn down the volume to about 65 percent when listening to tracks on an iPhone 5S and a Galaxy S4 or risk ear damage and listening fatigue.
In my listening tests, I put them up against the Sol Republic Relay earphones, which come with a special silicone ring to ensure a secure fit. The Relays have a slicker-looking design and are water-resistant, but the Epics delivered a bit better sound, offering more detail in particular (the Relays are also a little hyped in the bass, as are most "mainstream" headphones these days). I found that the Epics had a similar sound profile to the
I made a few calls with the Epics and the microphone worked well enough, though outdoors in the noisy streets of New York I did end up pulling it closer to my mouth to make sure people heard me.
My only real gripe about the Epics is that they look a little cheap (they look more like $30 earphones), which is the same way I felt about Sol Republic's $40 Jax earphones. The Epics aren't expensive, but I've seen sub-$50 in-ears that look and feel a little swankier (Moshi's Mythro is a good example).
Otherwise, there's a lot to recommend about the Epics. They offer a comfortable, secure fit, have plump bass, and deliver pretty detailed sound with an aggressive tilt that a lot of mainstream listeners like these days. It's not the most refined sound, but the Epics are definitely worth considering if you're looking for an affordable, decent-sounding in-ear that will stay in your ear.