If youâ€™re always out and about, the last thing you need is to fiddle around with unreliable Bluetooth earbuds, hence why the JLab GO Air true wireless earbuds are so popular among utilitarian consumers. For just $30, JLabâ€™s headset is one of the best on the market.
Who should get the JLab GO Air?
- Budget listeners need to pick up the GO Air buds, because theyâ€™re durable and include a novel feature: an integrated USB charging cable inlaid on the underside of the case. Sound quality is fine and connection strength is consistent, since each bud forms an independent connection to your smartphone.
- Athletes should get these earbuds for exercise as theyâ€™re IP44-certified, denoting both dust and water-resistance which is great for rock climbers and runners alike. In the unlikely event that the earbuds malfunction beyond the two-year warranty, buying a replacement wonâ€™t be too hard on the wallet.
Using the JLab GO Air true wireless earbuds
Just like other JLab JBuds series headsets, the JLab GO Air sports an all-plastic build. This isnâ€™t the most luxuriant material choice, but it keeps costs and weight down relative to alternatives like metal. An angled nozzle protrudes from each earbud, which improves ergonomics, but only so much: the nozzles are very wide and may prove uncomfortable if you have small ear canals.
Each earbud casing has a touch-capacitive panel, which made it easy to operate playback, make volume adjustments, and access Google AssistantÂ â€” all without reaching for my smartphone. The controls arenâ€™t remappable, and each bud is designated to perform different functions. It took me a few uses to get the hang of the onboard tap sequences, but the convenience was gratifying. Unfortunately, the touch panels didnâ€™t register my commands with 100% accuracy, and misfires were almost commonplace.
The GO Air are cheap, reliable earbuds built to last.
A headsetâ€™s ingress protection (IP) rating denotes durability, but doesnâ€™t guarantee scratch-resistance. See, the magnets inside the case are weak, and the earbuds often flew out of the case when dropped. Scuffs immediately appeared after the caseâ€™s inaugural drop, and the earbudsâ€™ edges showed scratch marks too. Despite this, the open-faced design is unique, and it was cool to see JLab experiment with the design of its budget headset.
The companyâ€™s proprietary USB charging cable inlaid on the bottom of the case was a major convenience. I loved the option to charge the headset from anywhere, be it my laptop, battery pack, or even my carâ€™s USB input. When I was first introduced to this technology, durability concerned me, but JLab promises itâ€™s been tested to withstand at least 10,000 bends before fraying.
How good is battery life?
During SoundGuysâ€™ JLab GO Air review period, the headset lasted 4 hours, 5 minutes on a single charge, which is average for true wireless earbuds in 2020. Quick charging is supported; 15 minutes in the case supplies 1 hour of playtime. Weâ€™ve seen better quick charging rates from Anker SoundCore and OnePlus, but itâ€™s better than omitting the feature altogether. It takes 2 hours to charge the case from 0-100%, and the earbuds take 1.5 hours for a full charge cycle.
Connection strength is consistent
JLabâ€™s Dual Connect technology creates two independent connections, one from each earbud to the source device. This ensures stable connectivity and reduced latency, though thereâ€™s still some audio-visual lag when streaming YouTube, Netflix, and any other streaming service. The earbuds use Bluetooth 5.0 firmware, which is great, but Bluetooth multipoint isnâ€™t supported. Given the economical nature of the headset, it would be noteworthy if listeners could connect to two devices simultaneously.
Bluetooth codec support is limited: your only options are AAC and SBC, the latter of which is the Bluetooth standard and lowest-common-denominator of wireless codecs. AAC only performs reliably on iOS, MacOS, and iPadOS devices; Android still struggles with AAC across devices. This isnâ€™t a huge deal, as sound quality isnâ€™t just dependent on codec support: it also depends on finding a proper fit to isolate the listener from her environment, and on the audio engineering that went into the headsetâ€™s driver system. Suffice to say, AAC support doesnâ€™t mean too much here.
Sound quality isnâ€™t great, but it isnâ€™t supposed to be
When youâ€™re considering $30 earbuds, itâ€™s important to temper your expectations. While $30 is certainly nothing to shrug off, it also isnâ€™t exorbitant for true wireless technology. One of the GO Airâ€™s shortcomings is sound quality, but listeners coming from standard cheap earbuds will be accustomed to the exaggerated bass response.
If you want to get into the nerdy details of the frequency response and how it appears to mimic the equal-loudness contour (ISO226:2003), I implore you to read SoundGuysâ€™ full review. For those who donâ€™t have the time or care, just know that bass notes are reproduced very loudly. It may seem as if vocal clarity or instrumental resonances are missing from your music, but itâ€™s actually that the bass notes are making it harder to perceive those relatively quiet frequencies.
Isolation performance is very important for optimal audio quality, and it happens to be quite good with the JLab GO Air true wireless earbuds. Itâ€™s also dependent on your ability to find a proper seal with the provided ear tips. My ear canals are on the small side of average, which doesnâ€™t bode well with the GO Airâ€™s large-diameter nozzles. When I was able to maintain a cogent seal, background noise (e.g., A/C units) were rendered almost one-half as loud as theyâ€™d sound without ear or headphones. However, I move my ears a lot which frequently loosened the earbuds, so I was rarely able to get an optimal fit for longer than 15-30 minutes at a time.
Microphone quality is passable
Each earbud has an embedded microphone, which means you can accept calls when listening in mono mode regardless of what earbud is inserted. Microphone quality isnâ€™t that good, though. Speech intelligibility is a non-issue, but the heavy-handed low-frequency attenuation means speakers with particularly low voices will sound â€œhollowâ€� or â€œdistantâ€� to those on the other end of the call.
JLab GO Air true wireless earbuds microphone demo:
Something that proved to be more problematic than accurate vocal production was background attenuation. The microphones do a poor job of rejecting background noise, and speaking outside with these buds was horrific. If you only plan to take calls from the confines of your home or office itâ€™s fine, but for all other environments use your smartphoneâ€™s mic.
JLab GO Air vs JLab JBuds Air Icon
Both the JLab JBuds Air Icon and JLab GO Air feature a case with an integrated USB charging cable and are dust and water-resistant. The JBuds Air Icon are slightly more durable than the GO Air (IP55 compared to IP44), but neither headset may be fully submerged. Perhaps the GO Airâ€™s case concerns you; in that case, an alternative pair of buds like the JLab JBuds Air Icon will ease your concerns as its case completely protects the earbuds.
Neither headset reproduces accurate or clear audio, but the premium Air Icon has one trick up its sleeve to improve sound quality and isolation: memory foam ear tips. These donâ€™t create an uncomfortable suction-sensation, making them a better option for people who listen in hours-long chunks. Microphone quality is virtually identical from one headset to the other, so that shouldnâ€™t be a deciding factor when picking between the JLab JBuds Air and JLab JBuds Air Icon true wireless earbuds.
Should you buy the JLab GO Air true wireless earbuds?
Yes, the JLab GO Air headset is great for listeners who are looking to listen on the cheap. While they wonâ€™t be winning awards any time soon, the earbuds tick off all the necessities for a budget headset, and the integrated charging cable is such a treat to use. If you want slightly better sound and microphone quality with a more water-resistant build, check out the Anker SoundCore Liberty Neo. These cost just $10 more than JLabâ€™s cheapest totally wireless earbuds. Otherwise, anyone who wants a more technologically sophisticated set of earbuds will have to reassess her budget.