We all know the most popular manufacturers of headphones. You have Bose, who probably markets themselves better than any other manufacturer out there, Klipsch, Dr. Dre, Ultimate Ears, Sennheiser, and the list goes on. When I see a product get as many reviews as the JLabs J3 have received and yet they are a little known company, I like to see what all the hoopla is about. One of my buddies from theDailyETF.com purchased these and let me give them a spin. Read on to get my take on these things.
I’m going to jump straight to the point on these, simply because I don’t want you to waste your time if you’re considering purchasing a set. As of this writing, Amazon has these for $24.95 with free shipping if you’re a Prime member. My ultra-quick take is this…unless you can pick these things up for $5, shipping included, don’t waste your money. Heck, I personally wouldn’t buy them for that price either – I think a ham sandwich sounds better than these did!
Just so you know, it pains me to write a review of something I value so little. It’s easy for me to go on and on about a set of headphones that makes me feel like I’m in a concert hall surrounded by first chair musicians. In general, I like spreading positive news and joy. The best joy I can give you on these is the advice not to purchase them. Now, if you’re curious as to why I wouldn’t waste the cost of a McDonald’s value meal on these, let’s go ahead and dive right in.
JLabs J3 Build Quality
The J3’s seem to be put together rather well. For the price, you could definitely find worse. A touch I really do like about the J3’s are the magnets built into the headphones that give them a nice snap together. This is a unique feature that I’ve not seen in any other headphones and helps keep the cord from tangling up. The tips that are included with the J3’s are absolutely horrible. They remind me of the tips that came with the $5 Monoprice headphones I recently purchased (and will be reviewing soon). The tips are so flimsy that they create little to no seal so that I was constantly messing with them to get the “proper” sound. One last note on the J3’s, and a positive one (I was digging here), they actually do look quite nice. Not that it matters all that much because most people buy headphones to listen to them rather than to look at them.
JLabs J3 Bass
If there was one area where the J3’s weren’t an utter disappointment, it was in the bass. On many of the tracks I listened to, I had notes that were along the lines of “Bass notes decently separated and volume is ok”. The one thing that I noted when listening to various tracks were that when the volume gets cranked up, the bass tends to turn muddy and starts creeping into the midrange. I did find that listening to rap was decent in these headphones. There are still better options out there for cheaper (which I’ll mention down towards the bottom), but if all you listen to is rap and hip-hop, then these might work ok for you.
JLabs J3 Mids
So, on the inverse side of the coin, if the bass is where the J3’s had any validity, the mids is where these things fall flat on their face. One thing I’ve noticed in auditioning a number of headphones is that a strong showing in the midrange can overshadow slight deficiencies in the bass or treble, but nothing can really compensate for weak or overpowered mids. The midrange on the J3’s were absolutely horrible. Vocals, guitars, any instrument that worked in that frequency band just sounded terrible. You remember that science project we all tried when we were kids where we’d take two tin cans and tie a string between them? Yeah, that’s about what these sounded like. If you know who Josh Groban is, and you’ve heard his voice on a quality set of speakers or headphones, then you know what this man is capable of. I personally refer to him as “He is chorus”. The mans voice has more body and fullness than any man has the right to possess. But, that’s one of the reasons I use his material when testing out headphones. Well, the J3’s were atrocious. Not only did they not do his voice a bit of justice, they actually made me question whether there was something wrong with the headphones. There’s only been one other time while doing a headphone review where I had to question if maybe I was using a defective product. Groban’s voice sounded hollow and tinny. A combination that is intolerable when listening to vocalists. Hoping my brain was just messed up, I threw in some tracks from Third Day, a Christian band who’s lead singer can give most people chill bumps. His voice is another one that defies what vocal cords were meant to do. Again, it sounded like he was singing at the end of a narrow hall with no body or air that is so key to having that moving experience with a set of speakers.
Trying to find something that the J3’s just didn’t suck at for the midrange, I moved on to instrumental pieces. I’ve found times when vocals may be terrible, but at least instruments sounds ok. This was not the case with the J3’s. Guitars sounded like they were missing body and oomph, and pianos sounded tinny and horrible. Basically, there is nothing to like on the mids for the J3’s.
JLabs J3 Treble / Highs
This was an odd area for the J3’s. While the treble on these headphones weren’t terrible, they weren’t very good either. In my notes I actually stated that they were recessed and sibilant at the same time. A contradiction that’s a bit confusing but accurate. Basically the tinniness that was present from the mids crept into the treble as well. The problem is, you’d get that recessed sound, but for the upper end of the treble range that is so delicate for our ears, it would be piercing and nearly unlistenable.
Yet again, the JLabs didn’t really excel here either. These headphones were average as far as the comfort was concerned, however, this is one of the few sets that I wore where I would actually feel some pressure build up when listening to music. I’m sure a set of Comply Foam tips would do wonders, but honestly, I wouldn’t waste my foam on this set of headphones!
I feel that if you made it this far into the review, you probably already know my thoughts on this. The soundstage consisted of a long, narrow, acoustically terrible hallway. Music sounded tinny, and there was no sense of space. Just noise floating down a corridor. Nuff said…
Consider these if:
- You want to own every set of headphones known to man
Look further if:
- You have a pulse and eardrums that actually work
Other Headphones to Consider
At the price point these currently sell at, between $20 and $30, there are so many other headphones to consider that giving a comprehensive list would be nearly impossible. However, some that you should listen to are:
Sennheiser CX-200 – review coming soon
Altec Lansing UHP 363 – review coming soon
Monoprice xxx – review coming soon
JLabs J3 Conclusion
If you couldn’t tell from the review, or if you just skipped down here to get the bottom line. These were one of the LEAST favorite headphone reviews I’ve done to date. There was so little to like about these that I was actually annoyed, especially considering the asking price of $59.95. At that price, this would be one of the very few products I’ve ever purchased that I would actually return. Even at the street price of $24.95, these are so bad that I feel you’d be throwing your money out the window. Please, if you read one sentence in this review, don’t waste your money on these. You’ll be happy you didn’t.