Since 2005, JLab has been making headphones and speakers aimed at giving music-lovers an easy way to hear their tunes while going through life. JLab puts extra emphasis on that “go,” and with the company’s new JLab Rewind Wireless headphones, it’s making Bluetooth headphones that are an affordable pick for people on the go.
The new headphones are light, low-profile and most of all, incredibly affordable at just $20. It’s hard to find something that’s exactly a competitor outside of the virtually anonymous brands all over Amazon. Skullcandy has the Uproar Wireless and Method Wireless for $49 and $59, respectively. But those are practically a different league when it comes to budget prices.
The result is JLab’s Rewind Headphones fitting into a category of its own. And, while it has its shortcomings, it turns out to be a compelling offer anyway, thanks to a long-lasting battery and conveniently portable design.
The JLab Rewind Wireless headphones offer a simple design that harkens back to the ‘80s in incredibly clear fashion. The stainless steel frame of the headband makes a simple arc and creates all of the clamping force needed to stay put on your head in most situations.
Its retro look is comprised of the stainless steel with matte black plastic, completed with a touch of flair in the orange earpads and the JLab logo emblazoned on each earpiece in the fashion of a vinyl record. If they had wires, you’d think someone had just stolen from the old Sony Walkman forgotten in a dusty cupboard at their mom’s house.
The headband is impressively flexible. It can bend completely straight and then go right back into its normal curve. It also twists a fair bit without any issue. Since the headband is steel, it should be able to handle a bit of abuse, but it could get bent out of shape if kept flexed outside its natural position for too long.
Though the headband is durable, the rest of the headset doesn’t have that same ruggedness. The headphones attach to the headband on plastic sliders. Each earpiece connects to the slider portion on a simple hinge that gives them a few degrees of pivot so they can rest flat on your ears. The plastic used feels fairly burly, but the hinges and slider feel like weak points that may not hold up to a bit of careless handling.
The headband doesn’t do much to spread out pressure, but the JLab Rewind Wireless headphones are so light, it doesn’t need to. And, the clamping force isn’t enough to get uncomfortable, Unfortunately, that also means they don’t stay on terribly well. We are able to give our head one good shake and they fall off.
There are a few other seeming flaws in the design. The micro-USB charging port is hidden away on the underside of the right headphone, and the gap for a charging cable is small. We were careful when charging, but it’s too easy to get the foam earpad crushed into the port. Beneath the earpads, JLab has made the odd decision to include its logo on the plastic speaker grill, and though we can’t prove it in any scientific way, we have a hunch that this can’t be helping the audio quality.
From the outset, the JLab Rewind Wireless headphones are easy to use, if you read the instructions. If you haven’t used a set of Bluetooth headphones before, you may want to. All of the interaction is handled by the button on the right ear piece. Pushing it briefly turns the headphones on, while holding it for several seconds readies the device for pairing. While playing music, a tap pauses and resumes, and a one-second press skips the song.
JLab thoughtfully set up spoken notifications, so the headphones will say, “Hello,” when they turn on, tell the battery level, and announce when they’re connected–and they’ll stay connected for a while. The advertised 12-hour battery life lives up to expectations. We played as much Of Montreal and Electric Light Orchestra tunes as we had on our phone and the headphones just kept going. They are easily all-day headphones.
As on-ear headphones, the JLab Rewind offer virtually no noise isolation. We could hear most of what was going on around us while wearing them, even if we were listening to some quiet music.
The volume can go decently high, offering a way to drown out a good bit of the noise that bleeds in. Unfortunately, at higher volumes, the speakers are a bit grating. High tones came through with a bite that wasn’t pleasant. But, if the alternative is listening to a whiny child on a bus, we’d probably prefer the loud volume of these headphones.
With the volume set at a more reasonable volume in a quiet listening environment, the JLab Rewind can offer a passable audio experience. The bass packs a small punch–emphasis on small, but it’s enough to bring out the smooth bass line of Of Montreal’s Dour Percentage so we can get our groove on. Mids, especially vocals, came through clearest of all. The high end is a bit soft, and for songs that really use that register, something is lost in the soundstage.
Sound quality via Bluetooth has its limitations, and they apply to these headphones. Some tunes play worse than others, and loud cymbals turn into a hissy mess in busy sections of some music. Portugal. The Man’s pre-chorus and chorus in Evil Friends are all but ruined. But, most of the time, the sound is acceptable. The headphones do have a weird reaction when connected to multiple Bluetooth devices though, as notifications on our phone can completely interrupt our PC audio stream for a few seconds.
And, though the headset includes a microphone for handling phone calls or communicating with virtual assistants, the audio quality isn’t very great. Still, it is a fairly complete solution.
The age of Bluetooth headphones is here, and new ones are coming out left and right. Most of the time, they cost a pretty penny, and that’s generally a shame since Bluetooth is likely to hamstring the audio quality of a lot of otherwise great headphones. Fortunately, with the JLab Rewind Wireless headphones, none of this is really a big concern.
These headphones are really a powerhouse of convenience. Given the starting price of $20, finding a pair of Bluetooth headphones cheaper will be a challenge. Beyond the price, they’re light, small, kind of stylish and have a long battery life. They’re pretty much a perfect pair of on-the-go, budget headphones for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with cables or the bulk of higher-quality audiophile headphones.