Review: JLab’s JBuds ANC 3 Are Ideal Budget-Friendly Earbuds

You won't find a better pair of noise-canceling buds for $60

February 13, 2024 12:57 pm
JLab JBuds ANC 3 earbuds
JLab's JBuds ANC 3 are inexpensive but offer excellent sound and noise cancellation

Nota bene: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.

I found my perfect pair of earbuds late last year.

But if I had a (much) smaller budget, could I find something almost as good? Surprisingly, yes — the new JLab JBuds ANC 3 True Wireless Earbuds seem rather generic on the surface, but these $60 buds deliver surprisingly robust sound and excellent noise cancellation for a fraction of the price of my Jabra Elite 8 Active headset.

I spent a week with the JLab buds, using them during commutes, workouts and at night while streaming TV on my iPad. While certainly not handsome, the earbuds were at worst acceptable in all situations and at best quite nearly as good as any “premium” headphones I’ve used in the past.

The specs: 

• Smart active noise canceling (ANC) up to 25 dB with three noise control modes: ANC High, ANC Off, Be Aware 

• 42+ hours playtime (34+ with ANC) with case; 9 hours per charge, 7 if ANC is on

• Customizable touch-sensitive controls for music and call management

• Customizable sound profiles and ANC with the JLab App

• IP55 rating 

• Noise-control ENC microphones 

• “Movie Mode” for low latency pairing to watch TV and movies

• Google Fast Pair for locating headphones

• USB-C charging case

• Comes with three soft gel tips, plus a Cloud Foam tip

Review: Jabra’s New Elite 8 Active and Elite 10 Are an Ideal Pair
Both the Elite 8 Active and Elite 10 have strengths, but one style truly excels

What works:

  • The noise cancellation was some of the best I’ve ever used — screeching subway cars were not an issue with these on, even if I wasn’t listening to music
  • “Be Aware” mode allowed in enough sound so I could easily hear muffled subway conductors telling me why we were stuck for 10 minutes between stops
  • The case is very compact and the earbuds are pleasantly lightweight
  • The buds stayed secure even during aggressive HIIT workouts (see below for one minor quibble) 
  • After using the buds constantly for a week, I was still at full power
  • The earbuds paired easily and quickly with two different devices simultaneously
JLab JBuds built-in USB-C cord
You’re either going to love the built-in USB-C cord…or hate it.

What kind of works:

  • You’re either going to love the built-in USB-C cord…or not. It’s the only way to power up the case (and the buds) and the cord is very, very short. It’s great if you want to plug it into your laptop; it’s not so good if you’re, say, at a hotel and want to power up (since the outlets there tend to be inconvenient and out of reach).
  • The equalizer’s preset sounds range from clear and bold (JLab Signature) to bass-heavy (bass boost) to flat and lacking character (balanced). There’s also a customizable mode but I pretty much stuck with Signature whether I was engaged with music, podcasts or TV shows.
  • While I prefer more tactile controls, the touch controls here were intuitive and not prone to accidental commands (lightly adjusting or brushing against them did not trigger anything — you thankfully need to make very deliberate taps to pause, play or adjust settings)
  • The earbuds stayed in place during workouts, but more aggressive running caused them to wiggle in the ear a bit. 

What needs work: 

  • The app sometimes takes a while to connect to the earbuds, meaning you might have to forego easy access to the equalizer and other customizable options at times.
  • I updated the firmware on my earbuds three times in one week, which seemed excessive
  • The case feels a bit flimsy and plastic. The buds themselves, only available in black, lack personality.

Overall thoughts

The JLab JBuds ANC 3 True Wireless Earbuds are an excellent choice for those who can’t afford top-tier earbuds, or if you want a second pair that never seems to run out of battery. If the sound quality never goes beyond “pretty good” it also sounds better than several more expensive options — and they fit better than most of my pricier earbuds. Given the standout noise cancellation here, I’d highly recommend these for commutes or planes (or loud offices).

The InsideHook Newsletter.

News, advice and insights for the most interesting person in the room.