JLab Work Buds with Detachable Boom Mic
JLab Work Buds with Detachable Boom Mic do deliver on their product name (which, BTW, is much longer than listed here, stuffed with all kinds of SEO goodness), but the microphone, at least for this reviewer, created too much drag, pulling the earbuds from the ear. The unstable fit, kludgy case and lack of Qi charging make for a questionable buy.
JLab Work Buds with Detachable Boom Mic Review
I was intrigued by the $80 JLab Work Buds with Detachable Boom Mic when I first saw the description. I spend a lot of time on calls, and while several of the true wireless earbuds seem to offer excellent sound, (see our Top Enterprise Buds comparison), none of them have offered a boom microphone as part of the design. After receiving the JLab Work Buds, I understand why this probably won’t be a design choice for many manufacturers.
While the technology is there, the microphone creates an imbalance that, at least in my case, slowly pulls the earbud with the microphone from my ear as gravity overcomes friction. I can feel the battle. I push, I try new wings and tips, and still, gravity wins. Remove the microphone, and the earbuds stay put, but I don’t need a boom microphone for a pair of earbuds that only work well when it’s not attached. I have plenty of those.
Now, the various fit approaches may work for some people. They just don’t work for me. Ears are a tricky thing, which is why simple triumphs over complex. The more complex, the less likely the design will fit a wide range of people’s ears.
- Speaker: 6 mm dynamic driver
- Output: 101 +/-3 dB
- Microphone: MEMS (Earbud) + Condenser (Boom) -6 dB +/- 4 dB
- Freq Response: 20–20 kHz
- Impedance: 16Ω
- Bluetooth Version: Bluetooth® 5.3
- Support Protocols: HSP / HFP / A2DP / AVRCP
- Codecs: SBC
- Battery Life: 10+ hours in each earbud (6+ talk)
- Total Playtime: 55+ hours total
- Standby: 50 hours
- Earbud Battery: 70 mAh lithium polymer
- Earbud Charge Time: ~2 hours (in case); 15 minutes charge = 2 hours playtime
- Charging Case Battery: 1000 mAh lithium polymer
- Case Charge Time: 3 Hours
- Charge Plug: Type-C
- Weight: 96.8 g (earbuds + case)
- IP Rating: None
- Warranty: 2-year warranty
What we like
- Earbud selectable EQ
- Good call quality (when the boom microphone is available)
- Great battery life
- Multi-point connectivity
JLab Work Buds with Detachable Boom Mic are not without their charms, despite my struggle to keep their key feature, the boom microphone, in play.
The JLab Work Buds sound pretty good, with on-device control of the EQ, though keep in mind for those who subscribe to music services, the EQ settings and other features like Apple’s Spatial Audio may not mix well with device settings. My advice is to pick one or the other. The JLab App offers additional features. Apple owners will miss the AAC codec, as the Work Buds only support the SBC codec.
When tested, the boom microphone delivered good sound most of the time, but with its unsteady seating, my realignment of the earbud could be heard on calls. Using the microphone evokes noise-cancelling on either earbud (which can be used in single earbud mode).
Ten hours of battery life is plenty for all-day work-from-home needs. The large charging case takes total time without the need for a connected charge to 50 hours. Big cases have their advantages.
JLabs offers a 2-year warranty.
Unfortunately, the good things about the JLab Work Buds are weighed down by design issues that make them a less-than-desirable work partner.
What could be improved
- Boom microphone weight pulls the earbud with the boom from my ear, and offers no ear loop options
- No wireless Qi charging
- Kludgy case
- No IP rating
Many old-school Bluetooth® headsets sported a boom microphone. They also wrapped around the ear with an ear loop. The electronics were a bit bigger and more power-hungry. Batteries and chip shrinkage help, but these remain much bulkier than many earbuds, most likely because of the accommodation of ear wings (which I do not like in principle as a complexity factor) plus the wiring and placement of the boom microphone. With all of that, I think the JLab Work Buds would benefit from an ear loop, at least for me.
Now, regular readers will know that I’m also not a fan of earloops as they often are too short for my ears, which means either the speakers don’t reach my ear canal at all or the slow pull-out as the tension in the loop tugs beyond the friction of silicon ear tip on skin. An ear loop, however, would have stopped the Work Buds from falling out of my ear completely. And as you will read in another review, JLab actually makes sports earbuds that do work with my ears, although the overall design of the JLab Epic Air Sport is very different from the Work Buds.
The other two issues with the JLab Work Buds involve the case. The first is easy. No Qi charging. This is a work-oriented product and should include wireless charging; the case is very large for earbuds, so no reason not to include Qi, which they do with the less expensive Epic Air Sport, which, BTW, also includes Tile built-in, another nice-to-have feature for an enterprise product.
And then there’s the case itself. No hinge, but kind of a cacoon of sorts. The bottom is rubberized but it took me a while to figure out that was the bottom because the earbuds themselves store upside down. The internal magnet keeps them on the charge connectors, but it’s all a bit weird. My earbuds occasionally failed to align properly with the charging connectors, resulting in one of the earbuds that wasn’t charged when I wanted to use it.
The boom microphone loops around the top of the case, above the earbuds. It requires some futzing to put it in its proper place when not plugged into an earbud. Even when in place and not attached to an earbud, the boom microphone interferes with the placement of the earbuds in the charger, requiring at least lifting it up to place the earbuds. Another example of complication.
The base is also very smooth, which makes removing the earbud cocoon from the base/cover challenging and may require hooking a fingernail in the USB-C charging port. When in use, the base/cover acts as a base to hold the earbud cocoon.
I give JLabs points for trying, but I think another design round would help bring refinement and simplification to a product that doesn’t live up to its promise.
JLab Work Buds with Detachable Boom Mic: The bottom line
The JLab Work Buds with Detachable Boom Mic suggested an exciting development. The reality, at least for me and my ears, was less revelatory. JLabs overcomplicated the design in several ways, including ear wings and a very odd case that further detracts from the general problems with the stability of a boom microphone on an earbud.
I have another pair of earbuds coming that also offers a boom microphone option. It will be interesting to see how they approach the design challenges of dangling a weight from an earbud held in place only with friction.
JLab provided the Work Buds with Detachable Boom Mic for review. Images courtesy of JLab unless otherwise noted.
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