Gadget NewsJabra Elite 4 Active review: Checking a lot boxes for $120

DarylJanuary 14, 2022

I review a lot of true wireless earbuds, so I’m always interested in what the next trends will be when companies release their annual product refresh. Smaller sizes, longer battery life, and hands-free features have become the norm in recent years, but there’s only so much you can do on such a small device.

Jabra’s Elite 3 wireless earbuds set a new standard for affordable wireless earbuds in 2021. At $80, it covers the majority of the fundamentals quite well. With the Elite 4 Active, the company is now improving its mid-range option. It’s a more workout-oriented model, with active noise cancellation (ANC) and enough moisture protection for even the sweatiest workouts. Jabra is attempting, as it did last year, to not only make its true wireless lineup more compelling in terms of features and performance but also to make the price more competitive. This $120 model includes many features that are typically found on $150-$180 earbuds.

Elite 4 Active

Pros

  • Affordably priced
  • Comfy fit
  • Solid sound quality
  • Customizable ANC

Cons

  • Noise cancellation is just okay
  • Cumbersome controls
  • No automatic pausing
  • No wireless charging

The Elite 4 Active features Jabra’s new design, which debuted last year on the Elite 3, Elite 7 Active, and Elite 7 Pro. Instead of a mostly circular earbud with an elbow holding the microphones, the company went with a rounded triangle shape for a cleaner appearance. Most importantly, all of Jabra’s new earbuds are significantly smaller than their predecessors, and the Elite 4 Active follows suit. Because of their smaller size, these buds not only don’t protrude as far from your ears, but they’re also lighter and more comfortable.

I wouldn’t blame you if you confused the Elite 4 Active with the Elite 3. The main visual difference is that the outer panel on the 3 is one big button, whereas that area on the 4 Active is seamless. The button is present, but it is obstructed. Jabra increased the water resistance to IP57 for this model, and one area where it had to increase protection was the onboard controls. Jabra has, of course, always designed its earbuds with the Active label for workouts. Better sweat protection is usually included in the formula.

 

Jabra continues to revamp its true wireless lineup with compelling options at affordable prices. With the Elite 4 Active, you get upgrades like ANC and better water resistance over the base model Elite 3. Sound quality is good and battery life is solid, which helps make up for the lack of premium conveniences.
 

When it came to accessing the controls, the lack of a defined panel or button proved to be a problem for me. I had to train myself to press in the middle of the earbud because pressing too far to the top or bottom didn’t register my actions. The Elite 4 Active’s outer surface is completely smooth, with not even a raised dot to indicate you’re in the right place. I could get used to it over time, but after a couple of weeks of testing, I’m still not nailing it consistently.

The Elite 4 Active, like every other Jabra model, can be customised using the company’s Sound+ app. Because this is Jabra’s mid-tier option, it includes more features than the entry-level Elite 3, but not as many as the Elite 7 Pro or Elite 7 Active. First, there’s ANC, which is fully customizable. I didn’t say “adjustable.” Specifically, during the initial setup, the app allows you to select a level of noise cancellation. You can also adjust the balance if one side requires more than the other. If necessary, Jabra will allow you to repeat this process, but there is no easily accessible slider like on the Elite 7 models.

A slider in the app controls the company’s transparency mode, HearThrough. In fact, you can customise what the onboard sound mode control does (single press on the left side). It can cycle between HearThrough and ANC, HearThrough and off, or HearThrough, ANC, and off. You can also use the app to turn on and off Sidetone, which allows you to hear your voice while on a call. It is not adjustable, unlike some Jabra models; it is all or nothing. Having the ability to hear yourself so you’re not as shouty over Zoom is still beneficial to everyone. The company’s own Find My feature is also back, and it can help you find a misplaced earbud if you’re willing to grant it the necessary permissions. If Spotify is your preferred streaming service, you can enable one-touch access to it on Android.

 

Jabra continues to revamp its true wireless lineup with compelling options at affordable prices. With the Elite 4 Active, you get upgrades like ANC and better water resistance over the base model Elite 3. Sound quality is good and battery life is solid, which helps make up for the lack of premium conveniences.
 

I wouldn’t blame you for not expecting much in terms of sound quality for a $120 pair of earbuds. However, Jabra has a track record of producing high-quality audio across its entire true wireless lineup. The Elite 4 Active maintains the company’s reputation for good-but-not-great sounding buds. There is good clarity and detail, but they lack the wider soundstage and depth that more expensive models from Sony and Sennheiser provide.

Although the Elite 4 Active has a wide dynamic range, big bombastic tracks like Run The Jewels’ “Mean Demeanor” and Gojira’s “Another World” sound overly compressed. The bass is solid and not muddy, so maintaining energy during workouts with hip hop, EDM, or isn’t a problem. It’s just that, on the whole, the songs lack the three-dimensional punch that comes with a larger investment. The Elite 4 Active, on the other hand, does the job in most cases for $120.

If you want to adjust the EQ, you can do so in the Sound+ app using a set of sliders. If you prefer one-tap audio changes, Jabra also provides a library of presets for quick customization. It’s not the most robust set of options for fine-tuning the sound, but it’s more than the ultra-low-cost Elite 3.

The Elite 4 Active has an advantage over the Elite 3 in terms of active noise cancellation. As previously stated, you can customise the feature to some extent, but it is not as powerful as what is available on Jabra’s more expensive earbuds. Even so, the ANC here will help to block out some distractions; however, don’t expect it to do much heavy lifting.

For calls, the Elite 4 Active has four microphones. According to Jabra, they are covered with a “special mesh” to reduce wind noise when used outside. Call quality with true wireless earbuds typically varies greatly. Most of the time, you’ll sound like you’re on speakerphone. The call quality with the Elite 4 Active is slightly better, but not as good as if you had a microphone closer to your mouth – or even pointed more towards your face. When you’re talking, background noise is reduced, but any environmental roar is distracting when you’re not.

Gallery: Jabra Elite 4 Active review

According to Jabra, the Elite 4 Active has a battery life of up to seven hours, with three additional charges in the case for a total of 28 hours. The company does not specify whether or not that is with ANC turned on, but in my tests, I was able to sleep for seven and a half hours with noise cancelling turned on. It’s not the longest battery life you’ll find in true wireless earbuds, but it’s more than enough to get you through a workday if you take a couple of breaks. If you run out of juice before leaving the house, a quick charge feature allows you to get an hour of use in 10 minutes.

At $120, Jabra provides solid mid-range specs at a price comparable to some companies’ budget models. Furthermore, the majority of them do not include ANC, let alone a transparency mode or customizable sound. With the Galaxy Buds 2, Samsung integrated noise cancellation into its most affordable true wireless model. These earbuds are small and comfortable, and wireless charging is included, but the ANC performance is only adequate. Furthermore, the Galaxy Buds 2 are only IPX2 rated, so be cautious about getting them wet. They’re $150 at full price, but we’ve seen them as low as $100.

If you want to get the most bang for your buck, I recommend checking out Anker’s Soundcore line. There is a lot of value and features for well under $100. Furthermore, the Liberty 3 Pro, the company’s flagship ANC model, is only $170. If you’re only interested in passive noise isolation, Jabra’s Elite 3 can do the job for $60.

If Jabra’s new mission is to provide the same overall quality as its previous earbuds at a lower price, I’m on board. The company has managed to offer a compelling set of features at a great price with the Elite 4 Active, just as it did with the Elite 3. It hasn’t scrimped on details like design and fit while maintaining its high standard for sound quality. There are some omissions, but all of the fundamentals are covered and done well for the most part. Once again, we have proof that you don’t need to spend more than $150 on a good pair of true wireless earbuds.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *