JLab JBuds Earphone review: JLab JBuds Earphone

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The Good The JLab JBuds are comfortable and cheap and provide decent sound quality for the price.

The Bad The term noise canceling in the JBuds' name is misleading--the phones don't really keep out ambient noise; bass response could be tighter.

The Bottom Line If you're looking for an ultra-low-cost replacement for the earbuds that came standard with your MP3 player, the JLab JBuds are a good alternative.

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6.5 Overall
JLab Audio came onto the scene early this year, announcing a small handful of products at CES. The items, which include the Mini Blaster speakers for iPod Nano, recently started hitting the market with attractive street prices. The $20 JBuds Hi-Fi Noise Canceling Earphones are no exception. The earbud-style 'phones are available in white or black to match your favorite portable device, and they sound surprisingly good for the price.

Part of the reason JLab is able to keep prices so low on the JBuds is because no extras are in the box. Open it up, and you get the earbuds and three sets of different-size silicon ear fittings. The cushions are quite comfortable; in fact, I was pleased to note that one set actually fit in my small ear canals (I'm constantly complaining about this issue). The 'buds do not, however, block out ambient noise very well. First, the term noise canceling in the product name is a misnomer, as active noise canceling requires electronic circuitry, which the JBuds do not have. What these 'phones are capable of is passive noise isolation, which uses the seal to block out extraneous sound. The JBuds do a decent job at this when you're playing music at a medium volume, but if there is little to no music playing, you can hear everything going on around you. Compare this to Shure's E4cs, which work passively even with no tunes playing. Of course, those 'phones retail for about $300.

The JBuds offer good sound quality, which is elevated to the status of great when you factor in the $20 price tag. Perfect Circle's hard rock track "Magdalena" came through with a surprising amount of detail and clarity; the hip hop track "Who's That Girl" by Eve sounded rich with a defined high end; and classical tracks were clean, though not all the detail was as present as with high-end headphones. In all cases, bass was a tad overpowering and very boomy. As such, I found that techno tracks tended to get a bit lost in it. Tighter, punchier bass would have been more enjoyable. Still, the JBuds sound decent overall, so if you're on a budget, I have no qualms about recommending them.

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