The JLab Epic ($49.99 list) is an inexpensive earphone pair with plenty of bass and no distortion at top volumes. Should audiophiles seeking flat response keep reading? No. But if you’re looking for big bass on a small budget, the Epic manages to balance it out somewhat with decent high frequency response, and like many JLab offerings, it ships with more accessories than some earphones that cost four times as much.
JLab’s design for the Epic is, to me, not terribly attractive. To call it a sporty look would probably be the most accurate way to word it—my review unit was primarily gray and light blue, with a multitude of light blue ear tips offered in various shapes and sizes. (There’s also a silver-gray model.) The earpieces have silver-colored bases that add a bit of flash to the proceedings, but these earphones are more sporty than stylish.
As for fit, the Epic ships with a plethora of options—six pairs of eartips in both standard and flange shapes, along with swappable fins for the earpieces that help provide a more stable fit. The fins help, but whatever material is used for the eartips felt a little harsher than the typical eartips I’m used to. Pretty much everything is a silicon hybrid these days, but something about the Epic’s ear tips felt mildly uncomfortable at times. A deal-breaker? No, more like nitpicking—especially when we consider the low price the earphones are offered at.
There’s also an inline remote control and microphone for mobile device—it’s of the single-button variety, so you won’t be able to control volume, but at this price, it’s hard to complain much about the inclusion of a remote at all.
On tracks with serious sub-bass content, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Epic doesn’t distort, even at top, unsafe listening levels. This is no small feat—plenty of earphones twice the price run into trouble when reproducing this track’s considerable bass. Not only does the Epic not distort, but it delivers the bass with gusto. However, lovers of flat response, or even simply lovers of a reasonable balance in the mix, will likely not love the intense boosting the Epic brings to the table. If big, booming bass is what you crave, these affordable earphones will make you happy—partly because they bring just enough high frequency presence so that things don’t sound like a muddy disaster. But if a truly balanced mix, with definition throughout the mids and high-mids, is what you’re after, this pair isn’t for you.
On Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” the drums get a serious dose of added bass—much more than they really need. Some listeners will find this exciting, and at least the vocals get enough treble response so that they maintain some of their presence in the mix. But this is not a track with gobs of low-end in it, so when it sounds like it has tons of bass, you know you’re hearing a very sculpted, inaccurate depiction of the mix.
Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the high frequency sculpting helps to bring out the crackle of the vinyl samples, and the attack of the kick drum loop—but the diminished presence of high-mids makes the vocals, and the most powerful aspect of the kick’s attack, sound a little weaker than it does on less scooped out earphones. Combine this with the booming low-end, which bring plenty of the sub-bass synth stabs that punctuate the beat to the forefront of the mix, and you have something that, while not muddy, can only be described as bass-heavy.
Basically, JLab equates the word “epic” with “booming bass.” If you seek balance in your life, or at least your audio, the Epic will skew it and send everything to the lows and highs. This is a pair for big bass fans on a budget, plain and simple. If you’re interested in a more balanced in-ear pair, both the NuForce NE-650M and the Sennheiser CX 685 SPORTS are quality options. And if you want a little balance for even less money, the RHA MA150 is a solid budget choice. Finally, JLab’s own Fit is a viable option in the budget realm—it also comes with plenty of accessories, and emphasizes a big bass response. No one will mistake the JLab sound signature for an accurate mix, but if a sculpted, bass-forward approach is what you crave, this pair is affordable, comes with plenty of eartips, and does not distort.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc