If you want a cheap but reliable set of sports headphones and aren’t too concerned about sound quality, the JLab Go Air Sport should be top of your list.
- Secure fit
- Good battery life
- Case has a built-in charging cable
- Fantastic value
- Fiddly controls
- Large charging case
- Connectivity not always reliable
You can trust Coach
When I tested the JLab Go Air Pop headphones earlier this year they went straight into Coach’s round-ups of the best running headphones and best workout headphones as the top budget option, costing just $20 in the US and £19.99 in the UK.
The only real concern with the Pop buds was that the fit might not be secure enough for everyone. That’s not an issue with the JLab Go Air Sport headphones, which have ear hooks to guarantee they stay in place. They cost $10/£10 more than the Pop buds, but that’s a small price to pay for the rock-solid fit.
JLab Go Air Sport Review: Price And Availability
The Go Air Sport headphones are available now from JLab and other retailers in the US and third-party retailers like Amazon in the UK and cost $30/£29.99, which is an absolute snip, even if the JLab Go Air Pop buds do undercut them slightly.
Design And Fit
The ear hooks on the Go Air Sport headphones all but guarantee a secure fit no matter what kind of exercise you plan on doing. I’ve run several times with the buds, and used them for cycling, yoga and strength workouts as well, with absolutely no problems on the fit front.
There are three sizes of in-ear tips in the box, and I found that I could wear the headphones with the tips either inserted into my ear canal or sitting just outside it. Popping them in fully so they form a tight seal is better for sound quality, but being able to unblock your ears and still hear your audio is handy at times to keep tabs on ambient noise around you, especially since there is no awareness mode. The ear hooks mean that even when the tips aren’t fully inserted the headphones stay in place.
The Go Air Sport headphones are fairly light at 0.4oz / 12.3g apiece, but the case is bulky and not very pocket-friendly. That’s a necessary evil with ear-hook headphones as opposed to small in-ear buds, but worth considering if you plan on taking the case with you while exercising.
Another key difference with the Go Air Pop buds is that the Sport headphones have a higher IP rating of IP55 vs IPX4 on the Pops. Both are suitable for sports use, but the extra water resistance of the Sport headphones gives a little more peace of mind when sweating buckets or running in the rain.
The logo on the outside of each bud is a touch panel you can use to control playback through touches and holds. The controls are fiddly even when sitting still, and during workouts it often took a few tries to skip a track or pause my music.
You can each headphone independently, which can extend the already considerable battery life further by using one while the other charges. The Go Air Sport headphones come in six colours – graphite, green, light blue, sand, teal and yellow.
Having been surprised by how impressive the Go Air Pop buds sounded, I knew what to expect going in with the Sport, but it’s still satisfying to get sound this good from budget headphones.
The sound profile is bass-forward, which suits sports use, and while the mid and high ranges can be slightly tinny and aren’t as clear as on more expensive headphones, I never found the sound grating or too distorted.
There are three EQ modes you can switch between using the controls: JLab Signature, Balanced and Bass Boost. I found Signature the best option for the music I listened to. The Bass Boost muddies the higher ranges more, while Balanced is primarily designed for classical music, which I don’t listen to much during workouts.
Sound quality is never going to be the star feature of budget headphones, but the Go Air Sport buds are more than good enough on this front to enjoy using regularly, and they are the match of many sets I’ve tested that cost nearer three figures.
Although the Sport headphones connected easily to my phone and held that connection well when I had my phone in a waist pocket or running belt, I did find that if I used drop-in pockets on the sides of running shorts for my phone then I would lose the connection to the headphones during runs. We can't say for certain if this is a common problem with these headphones, but it would certainly be annoying if it happened repeatedly.
The Sport headphones last eight hours on a charge, with another 24 hours in the case. That’s the same battery life as the Go Air Pop buds, which is a little surprising given that the Sport’s headphones and case are both larger, but it’s still excellent.
I’m also a huge fan of the way JLab builds charging cables into the cases of its headphones, which means you don’t have to worry about carrying a cable with you. The built-in cable isn’t the largest, and it would be handy to also have a socket to charge the case with a longer cable if required, but this is definitely a useful feature.
Are The JLab Go Air Sport Headphones Worth It?
With the Go Air Pop and Go Air Sport headphones, JLab has cornered the market for budget buds. The Pop are just as good on every front as the Sport aside from fit really, with the increase in water resistance on the Sport headphones being useful but not essential, so if you don’t find in-ear buds squirm loose during exercise then the Pop buds are better value.
The Pop buds also have a smaller case and not having ear hooks makes it slightly easier to wear them with sunglasses and hats, though I didn’t have any real issues with this when using the Sport headphones either. However, I would opt for the Sport headphones myself to guarantee a secure fit.
There’s nothing else I’ve come across for $30/£30 that matches the performance of the Go Air Sport, but the Tribute Flybuds 3 cost around £35-£40 and are another excellent set of budget headphones to consider. They have an in-ear design with wings that create a secure fit, but the battery life is not as impressive as on the JLab headphones.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.