JLab Audio Epic In-Ear Headphones Review
Great sound at an even better price
The Insides That Count
Even though they're relatively affordable in-ear headphones, the JLAB Audio Epic Earbuds (MSRP: $49.99) tested on par with much more expensive models. They had a frequency response that closely matched an equal-loudness contour, practically zero distortion, and enough isolation to fall in league with other in-ears. I’ll break down our results for each test below and explain how we arrived at our findings.
The Epics follow an equal-loudness contour—represented by the blue line below—fairly closely across the audible spectrum. This means that certain frequencies—like bass and treble—are boosted because human ears have a harder time hearing those sounds. If done correctly, an equal-loudness contour does exactly as its name implies and makes the entire spectrum able to be heard equally as well.
When we test frequency response we start with a parent signal of 78dB and chart the output from the headphones from 20Hz–20kHz. For the Epics, the sub-bass and bass frequencies (0-300Hz) get a serious boost to right around 88dB, which means they sound twice as loud as our parent signal.
As the frequencies reach the midrange (300Hz-2kHz) the output steadily drops from 86dB until it hits 72dB. At 1kHz there’s another small boost—to follow the equal-loudness contour—that bumps it back up to 76dB, which is consistent with our parent signal.
There’s another drop following the end of the midrange frequencies and introduction of the upper mids and then a bigger spike for the high frequencies. In the end, no matter what genre of music you listen to, it should sound nice and balanced with the JLAB Epics.
Almost every headphone we’ve encountered handles distortion—fuzzy, crackling sounds introduced by the hardware—in different ways. Some of the cheaper headphones out there will have a hefty dose of it, while other, more expensive models will feature hardly any at all. As far as we’re concerned though, anything at 3% or above is grounds to be considered audible to the average person.
Luckily, these bargain earbuds don’t even reach a third of that. Instead, the highest level of distortion we measured was in the sub-bass range, which peaked at .8%. Considering that distortion is notoriously difficult to hear in the sub-bass and bass frequencies anyway, it’s highly unlikely you’ll hear anything that wasn’t meant to be there.
Thanks to the gel tips that fit into your ear canals, in-ears have a natural advantage when it comes to blocking the ambient sounds of the outside world. The amount of isolation will also increase if you use the double-flange tips that come packaged with the earbuds.
Using the double-flange tips for extra isolation, the Epics perform on pair with other, similar in-ears that we’ve tested. Sub-bass and bass sounds (0–300Hz) get a small decrease in relative volume, but it isn't enough to make a noticeable difference. Meanwhile, the midrange sounds (300Hz–2kHz) hover around 75% their total volume before dropping to be half as loud as normal around 800Hz.
The upper mids (2–6kHz) and high frequency sounds (6–20kHz), however, quickly drop to almost 1/16th as loud around 4kHz before a quick rise back to 1/8th as loud at 5kHz. While this is normally great news, you’re unlikely to encounter ambient sounds in these ranges so it’s practically a moot point.
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