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My favorite budget earbuds are on sale for $42 through this early Prime Day deal

The JLab JBuds ANC 3 offer everything a budget shopper could want in a pair of capable noise-canceling earbuds, and they're only $42 right now ahead of Prime Day.
Written by Nina Raemont, Associate Editor
JLab Jbuds ANC 3 against pink backdrop
Nina Raemont/ZDNET

ZDNET key takeaways 

  • Priced at $60 and discounted to $42 ahead of Prime Day, the JLab JBuds ANC 3 earbuds are a great pair of budget earbuds for all-day use. 
  • These earbuds deliver amazing sound, impressive battery life, and effective ANC. 
  • Some premium features, like touch controls and in-ear detection, are missing from these earbuds.

I've always been skeptical of affordable earbuds that claim to have noise-canceling technology. I've tested enough earbuds to know that some earbuds advertise the technology without actually offering it. In my testing experience, some of the best noise cancellation tech comes from earbuds that cost upward of $300.

Also: The best noise-canceling earbuds

So I was happy to test a pair of affordable earbuds with effective ANC for only $60. I tested out the JLab Jbuds ANC 3 for two weeks to see how these budget-friendly earbuds fared with the regular sounds of New York City living. I took these buds on the subway, wore them on runs in the park, and put them to the test against my upstairs neighbor whose music shakes my bedroom. 

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The JLab JBuds ANC 3, which I'll refer to as the JBuds ANC 3, come with three sizes of ear tips and a lightweight, pocket-sized carrying case. The earbuds boast 42 hours of battery life, an IP55 proof rating, multipoint Bluetooth, and three noise controls (noise canceling, noise canceling off, and aware). 

The JBuds ANC 3 produce a clear sound with booming lows and bright highs. Bass-heavy songs sound full and groovy, but the JBuds ANC 3 still preserve a song's subtler details. 

When I listened to Jungle's Holding On, the JBuds ANC 3 delivered full bass while keeping the song's subtler details clear and bright. Compared to a high-end pair of earbuds, like the Bose QuietComfort Ultra, the JBuds ANC 3 can get louder, but some small sound details aren't as well articulated, which I expected given the JBuds ANC 3's modest price tag.

Impressively enough, the JBuds ANC 3 sound close to the QuietComfort Ultra buds. For almost $200 less, I'll take it. 

Also: The best earbuds you can buy

Through ZDNET's testing of the latest Bose headphones and earbuds, we declared Bose the ANC king. So I was pleasantly surprised that on the ANC front, the JBuds ANC 3 performed really well.

When I tested the JBuds ANC 3's noise-canceling properties, my upstairs neighbor, an aspiring DJ (by the sounds of it), was mixing his music at such an eardrum-blasting volume that the songs' bass shook my bedroom walls. 

It was becoming nearly unbearable to work with these background noises in my ears, so I turned on the ANC feature on these earbuds and listened to some classical music. The irritating noise disappeared completely, so much so that I didn't notice when the upstairs DJ's music stopped playing. 

Also: OnePlus' $99 earbuds look and sound extraordinary, but there's one big catch

Wearing the earbuds is easy. They are as comfortable and lightweight, and they stay in my ears during my 45-minute runs without having to adjust them or push them back in - not even once. I can't say the same for other, more expensive noise-canceling earbuds I've exercised with, like JBL's Tour Pro 2, Bose's QuietComfort Ultra, or Urbanista's Phoenix earbuds

JLab Jbuds ANC 3 against wood backdrop
Nina Raemont/ZDNET

But there was some trouble in paradise. The JBuds ANC 3 have touch controls on the buds' outer surface that can be finicky and unreliable. As a result, I relied on my phone to pause and skip songs instead of tapping the earbuds' controls. 

Also, the JBuds ANC 3 will make a high-pitched squeaking noise if you grip them oddly while the earbuds are in transparency mode. My guess is that my fingers disrupted the buds' outer mics responsible for funneling environmental noises into my ears. But for only $60, what can you expect? I'm not complaining. 

ZDNET buying advice 

The JLab JBuds ANC 3 earbuds offer everything I need from a pair of noise-canceling earbuds -- without the bells and whistles that push a pair of earbuds into pricier territory. These earbuds may be bare bones, but the bones you get are more than enough.

These earbuds are great for all your daily needs from running outdoors and taking conference calls to quieting down loud sounds on the subway and jamming out to music in your bedroom. 

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