I’m reviewing Much of true wireless earbuds, so I’m always curious about the next trends when companies give their annual update of new products. Over the past few years, smaller sizes, better battery life, and hands-free features have become the norm, but there’s a lot you can do on such a small device.
In 2021, Jabra set a new standard for affordable wireless earbuds with. At $80, it covers most of the basics well, and now the company is improving its mid-range option with. It’s a more exercise-focused model, complete with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and adequate moisture protection for the most sweaty sessions. As it did last year, Jabra is striving not only to make its true wireless range convincing in terms of features and performance, but also to make the price more competitive. This $120 model offers plenty of options that we typically see on $150 to $180 earbuds.
- reasonable prices
- Comfortable fit
- Solid sound quality
- Customize ANC
- Noise canceling is fine
- cumbersome controls
- No auto stop
- No wireless charging
The Elite 4 Active carries the new Jabra design that debuted in the Elite 3, Elite 7 Active and Elite 7 Pro last year. Instead of a mostly circular earpiece with an attachment that holds the microphones, the company has switched to a rounded triangle shape that offers a cleaner look. Most importantly, the latest Jabra earbuds are much smaller than their predecessors and the Elite 4 Active continues that trend. Not only does the smaller size mean that these buds not only protrude from your ears just as much, but they are also lighter and more comfortable.
I wouldn’t blame you for mistaking the Elite 4 Active for the Elite 3. Aesthetically the main difference is that the outer panel on the 3 is one big button, while that area on the Active 4 is seamless. The button is there, but it is closed. Jabra has increased the water resistance to IP57 for this model, and the onboard controls is one area where it has had to increase the protection. Of course, Jabra has always designed its earbuds with the Active brand for workouts. Better sweat protection is usually part of that formula.
Not having a specific panel or button proved to be a problem for me when accessing the controls. I had to train myself to remember the pressure in the middle of the earpiece because moving too far up or down wouldn’t register my actions. The exterior of the Elite 4 Active is completely smooth, with no prominent point to indicate you’re in the right place. Over time, I may get used to it, but after two weeks of testing, I still don’t have control of it constantly.
Like any other Jabra model, you can customize the Elite 4 Active to your needs via the company’s Sound+ app. Since this group is Jabra’s mid-range option, you get more features than the entry-level Elite 3, but not quite as much as the Elite 7 Pro or Elite 7 Active. First, there is ANC which is customizable. Note that I did not say modifiable. Specifically, the app lets you set the noise cancellation level during the initial setup. You can also adjust the scale if you need one side more than the other. Jabra will let you repeat this process if you need to, but there is no easy-to-reach slider like Elite 7 models.
The company’s transparency mode, HearThrough, can be controlled in the app via a slider. In fact, you can even adjust what the on-board control does in sound mode (one click on the left side). You can get it with HearThrough and ANC and HearThrough and Off or HearThrough and ANC and off. The app also lets you turn Sidetone on and off, letting you hear your own voice while on a call. Unlike some Jabra models, it’s not adjustable – just all or nothing. However, being able to hear yourself so that you are less screaming on Zoom is better for everyone. The company’s Find My feature is also back, which helps you locate a misplaced earphone if you want to give it the appropriate permissions. And on Android, you can choose to have one-touch access to Spotify if that’s your preferred streaming service.
For a $120 set of earbuds, I wouldn’t blame you for not expecting much in the audio department. However, Jabra has a proven track record of powerful audio across its true wireless range. With the Elite 4 Active, the company is keeping its reputation for buds that look good, but aren’t great. There’s decent clarity and nice detail, but they lack the wider sound range and more expensive depth models of the display.
The Elite 4 Active has a very good sound range, but the big, stylized tracks like Run The Jewels “Mean Demeanor” and Gojira’s “Another World” sound overly compressed. The bass is solid and not muddy, so conserving energy during workouts with hip-hop, EDM, or isn’t an issue. It’s just that the songs in general lack the dimensional punch that you can find with a bigger investment. For $120, the Elite 4 Active gets the job done in most cases.
If you find yourself craving an EQ tweak, you can do so in the Sound+ app via a set of sliders. If one-click audio changes are your style, Jabra also offers a range of presets for quick customization. It’s not the most powerful set of options for voice calling, but it’s more than what you get in the very affordable Elite 3.
One feature that the Elite 4 Active has over the Elite 3 is Active Noise Cancellation. As I mentioned, you can customize the feature somewhat, but it’s not nearly as powerful as the Jabra earbuds. That said, the ANC here will help prevent some distractions, but don’t expect it to do a lot of heavy lifting.
The Elite 4 Active has four microphones for calls. Jabra says it’s covered in a “special mesh” to reduce wind noise when you’re outdoors. Usually, mileage varies greatly in call quality with true wireless earbuds. Most of the time, you end up like you’re using a speakerphone. With the Elite 4 Active, call quality is a little better, but it’s still not as good as if you had a mic closer to your mouth — or even more toward your face. Background noise is reduced when you speak, but any environmental roar distracts you when you are not speaking.
Photos: Jabra Elite 4 Active Review | 7 photos
Photos: Jabra Elite 4 Active Review | 7 photos
Jabra says you can expect up to seven hours of battery life on the Elite 4 Active, with three additional charges in the case for a total of 28 hours. The company doesn’t specify if this is with ANC or not, but in my tests I managed seven and a half hours with noise canceling active. It’s by no means the best battery life you’ll find in true wireless earbuds, but it’s definitely enough to get you through a work day if you take a break or two. Should you run out of juice before you walk out the door, the quick charge feature gives you an hour of use in 10 minutes.
At $120, Jabra offers a solid mid-range spec for the same price as some companies’ budget models. What’s more, most of these don’t offer ANC, let alone a customizable transparency or audio mode. Samsung has put noise cancellation inside its cheapest true wireless model with. These earbuds are small and comfortable and wireless charging is included, but the ANC performs just fine. Plus, the Galaxy Buds 2 are only IPX2 rated, so you’ll need to be careful about how much you get wet. The full price is $150, but we’ve seen them.
If you are looking to maximize your bucks, I suggest looking into the Anker Soundcore line. You can find a lot of value and features there. Plus, the company’s flagship, ANC model, is priced at just $170. And if you’re good at isolating passive noise, you can get the job done for $60.
If the new Jabra’s mission is to offer the same overall quality as previous earbuds at an affordable price, then I’m here for it. With the Elite 4 Active, as it did with the Elite 3, the company has been able to offer a compelling set of features at a great price. It didn’t cut corners to do so, improving details like design and fit while maintaining the sound quality standard. There are a few omissions, but the basics are all covered and mostly done well. Once again, we have more evidence that you don’t need to spend more than $150 to get a set of good wireless earbuds.
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