JLab audio has created some of the wildest looking pieces of audio gear we’ve ever tested. The SoCal company has a reputation for producing personal audio products in a rainbow of funky colors, often trimmed with surf-inspired patterns and logos. However, exterior flash can only take an audio company so far. We recently reviewed a sporty little purple and turquoise in-ear headset from JLab called the Diego, and we were disappointed with the harsh sound curve it offered, reproducing sharp and extremely sibilant treble and midrange.
That bad taste left expectations low for JLab’s new over-the-ear headphone, the Bombora. The version we received, called the TEKST, continues JLab’s tradition of ostentatious styling with high gloss ear cups layered in a bright, ice-blue and white finish. But after our experience with the Diego, we had to wonder: could the Bombora’s sound prove JLab is capable of offering more to its listeners than just exotic design and low prices? We sat down for some serious listening to find out.
Out of the box
Opening the TEKST Bombora’s X games-inspired box, we pulled the sparkling, arctic-colored headphones from their cardboard frame to reveal a white nylon traveling bag with a blue cord, and a white, cloth-braided ⅛-inch cable included as accessories.
Features and design
As one of JLab’s pricier headsets, the $70 Bombora are still considered affordable for a circumaural (over the ear) headset. The model is available in several different color patterns, but as we mentioned, we received the TEKST version, which was specially designed by the artist known as TEKSTartist. At JLab’s website, you can watch a video of him designing the headset in conjunction with the JLabs design team. TEKSTartist’s specialty, fittingly enough, is creating art by manipulating text. His beach-inspired word art forms the shape of a wave covering the exterior of each snow-white earcup on the Bombora.
Though JLab was going for a beach vibe with the TEKST Bombora, we couldn’t shake the feeling that, to us, it looked more like something Mr. Freeze from Batman comics might wear. The soft, memory-foam pads on each earcup are covered in white microsuede, which also graces the top of the headband, stenciled with a JLab logo. The Bombora’s 40mm drivers are screened with white fabric dotted with blue JLab logos, reminding us of the pattern on a pair of pajamas. White and silver plastic discs on the outside of each earpiece are framed by thin wire arms that extend and contract from the Bombora’s headband to adjust for length. A thin blue cable extends from each earpiece and disappears into the headband.
A puffy blue cushion runs along the underside of the Bombora’s headband, punctuated by embroidered lines. The heavy plastic connecting pieces at the base of the headband give some strength to the headset, but also lend a bit of a toyish quality. A white cable plugs into the left earcup, resisting tangling thanks to a cloth-covered design. It also includes a single-button mic for handling phone calls.
The earpads of the Bombora grip a bit firmly, but aside from that minor complaint, we found the headphones to be pretty comfortable. The headband cushion and the memory foam pads are plenty plush, which allowed us to wear the Bombora for long listening sessions without issue.
JLab’s website says the Bombora offer a “…warm and rich listening experience for any genre,” and we feel that’s a pretty good description. The Diego’s extreme shrill cymbal crashes, and tinny, overzealous midrange sibilance were totally absent. Instead, the Bombora offer a smooth, soft sound character that envelopes the listener in a mellow, foggy tone not unlike a warm bath. Though we had plenty of issues with the detail and depth that the Bombora leave behind for its distinct sound signature, we couldn’t help but enjoy the very relaxing sonic experience.
The bass response of the Bombora sounds deep and wide, carving out the full bottom range of most grooves in the hip-hop tracks we listened to. We think many listeners will be attracted to the Bombora for its fortuitous bass output alone. However, the quality of the bass is pretty sloppy and undefined. It spreads through the center image like running water, encompassing and masking a lot of the detail there. Vocals tend to get pushed back in the mix as if they are being heard through a film. The Bombora’s soft attack and smoothed-out treble ensure very few harsh moments in the upper register, but at a price: The visceral power and presence that we demand from faster transient instruments tended to get left behind, adding a smearing effect to many tracks we tested.
Though we often wished for more detail with the Bombora, the buttery gloss that runs over much of the midrange frequencies added a sweet color to instruments like piano and brass that we found engaging. To be sure, some productions came out better than others. Listeners may find some of their favorite tunes have an entirely different mix when filtered through the Bombora’s drivers. If you demand precision, clarity, and excitement from your headphones, the Bombora may not be your cup of tea. Still, the smooth, opiate-like resonance the Bombora deliver is inviting for those who simply want to zone out on the bus ride home after a long day, or sit back with a drink and allow music to wash over them.
The Bombora seems to embody the chill, SoCal philosophy that JLab plays up in its marketing. Its exotic styling and distinct frequency curve combine for a rather unique headphone experience. Though we think the Bombora leave too much detail and definition on the table, we think many listeners may enjoy its mix of powerful bass, fluffy tones, and well-spread stereo field. And at $70, the Bombora are one of the most affordable over-the-ear headsets we’ve tested. If you’re looking for a bargain headset that’s as original as Southern California itself, check out the JLabs Bombora – it might be just your style.
- Powerful bass
- Smooth sound signature
- Affordable price
- Muddled center image
- Lack of detail and definition
- Plastic feels a bit chintzy