I review very of true wireless headphones, so I’m always curious to know what the next trends will be when companies offer their annual update for new products. In recent years, smaller sizes, better battery life, and hands-free features have become the norm, but there’s a lot to do in such a small device.
In 2021, Jabra set the new standard for affordable wireless headphones with . At $80, it covers the basics pretty well. Now, the company is enhancing its midrange option with . It’s a more workout-focused model, complete with active noise cancellation (ANC) and enough moisture protection for the sweatiest of sessions. As it did last year, Jabra is looking to not only make its true wireless range attractive in terms of features and performance, but also make it more competitively priced. Tyour $120 model offers a lot of options that we normally see in headphones that cost $150 to $180.
- Affordable price
- Comfortable fit
- Solid sound quality
- customizable ANC
- Noise canceling is just fine
- complicated controls
- no automatic pause
- no wireless charging
The Elite 4 Active features the new Jabra design that debuted on the Elite 3, Elite 7 Active and Elite 7 Pro last year. Instead of a mostly circular headset with an elbow that holds the mics, the company has switched to a rounded triangle shape that offers a cleaner look. Most importantly, all of Jabra’s latest headphones are significantly smaller than their predecessors and the Elite 4 Active continues that trend. Not only does the smaller size mean these buds don’t stick out from your ears as much, they’re also lighter and more comfortable.
I wouldn’t blame him for confusing the Elite 4 Active with the Elite 3. Aesthetically, the main difference is that the outer bezel on the 3 is a large button, whereas that area on the 4 Active is perfect. The button is there, but it’s sealed. Jabra has increased the water resistance to IP57 for this model, and the on-board controls are one area where it has had to increase protection. Of course, Jabra has always designed its headphones with the Active label for workouts. Better sweat protection is often part of this formula.
The lack of a defined panel or button proved to be a problem for me when accessing the controls. I had to train myself to remember to press in the middle of the earpiece, as getting too far at the top or bottom wouldn’t register my actions. The outer surface of the Elite 4 Active is completely smooth, without a raised dot to indicate you are in the right place. Over time, I can get used to this, but after a few weeks of testing, I’m still not getting it consistently right.
Like all other Jabra models, you can customize the Elite 4 Active to your needs via the company’s Sound+ app. As this set is Jabra’s mid-range option, you get more features than the entry-level Elite 3, but not as much as the Elite 7 Pro or Elite 7 Active. First, there’s ANC and it’s customizable. Notice I didn’t say adjustable. Specifically, the app lets you set a noise canceling level during initial setup. You can also adjust the balance if you need more on one side than the other. Jabra will let you repeat this process if you need to, but there’s no easily accessible slider like the Elite 7 models.
The company’s transparency mode, HearThrough, can be controlled in the app via a slider. In fact, you can even set what the built-in control for sound mode does (press once on the left side). You can cycle between HearThrough and ANC, HearThrough and off, or HearThrough, ANC and off. The app also lets you toggle Sidetone on and off, which lets you hear your voice when you’re on a call. Unlike some Jabra models, it’s not adjustable – just all or nothing. Still, being able to hear yourself so you’re a little less yelling at Zoom is better for everyone. The company’s own Find My feature also returns, helping you locate a misplaced headset if you’re willing to grant the proper permissions. And on Android, you can opt for one-tap access to Spotify if that’s your streaming service of choice.
For a $120 set of headphones, I wouldn’t blame him for not expecting much in the sound department. However, Jabra has a solid audio track record across its true wireless lineup. With the Elite 4 Active, the company maintains its reputation for buttons that sound good but don’t look great. There’s decent clarity and good detail, but they don’t have the wider soundstage and pricier models for depth of taste and offering.
The Elite 4 Active has a pretty good sonic range, but 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 keeping your energy up during workouts with hip hop, EDM, or not is an issue. It’s just that, overall, the songs don’t have the dimensional impact you might find with a bigger investment. At $120, though, the Elite 4 Active gets the job done in most cases.
If you want to adjust the EQ, you can do so in the Sound+ app via a set of sliders. If one-touch audio changes are more your style, Jabra also offers a collection of presets for quick customization. It’s not the most robust set of options for dialing in sound, but it’s more than what you get in the ultra-affordable Elite 3.
One advantage the Elite 4 Active has over the Elite 3 is active noise cancellation. As I mentioned, you can customize the feature to some degree, but it’s not as powerful as what’s in the Jabra headphones. Still, the ANC here will help block out some distractions, but don’t expect it to do too much heavy lifting.
The Elite 4 Active has four microphones for calls. Jabra says they’re covered with a “special mesh” to reduce wind noise when you’re outdoors. Typically, mileage varies greatly in call quality with true wireless headphones. Most of the time, you end up sounding like you’re on speakerphone. With the Elite 4 Active, the call quality is a little better, but still not as good as if you had a microphone closer to your mouth – or even pointed more towards your face. Background noise is reduced when you’re talking, but any ambient noise is distracting when you’re not.
Gallery: Jabra Elite 4 Active Review | 7 photos
Gallery: 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 whether or not it has ANC on, but in my tests I got seven and a half hours with active noise cancellation. It’s by no means the best battery life you’ll find in true wireless headphones, but it’s certainly enough to get you through a work day if you take a break or two. If you run out of juice before heading out, a fast-charging feature gives you an hour of use in 10 minutes.
for $120, Jabra is offering solid mid-range specs for the same price as some companies’ budget models. Also, most of them don’t offer ANC, let alone a customizable transparency or sound mode. Samsung has put noise cancellation inside its cheaper true wireless model with the . These earbuds are small and comfortable and wireless charging is included, but the ANC performance is good. Also, the Galaxy Buds 2 are only IPX2 rated, so you have to be careful how wet you get them. Full price they’re $150 but we’ve seen them.
If you want to maximize your dollars, I suggest looking at Anker’s Soundcore lineup. You can find a lot of value and resources there. In addition, the company’s top-of-the-line ANC model, the , is only $170. And if you’re good with passive noise isolation, you can get the job done. for $60.
If Jabra’s new mission is to deliver the same overall quality as its previous headphones at more affordable prices, then I’m here for it. With the Elite 4 Active, as it did with the Elite 3, the company was able to offer an attractive set of features at a great price. He didn’t cut corners for this, improving details like design and fit while maintaining his standard of sound quality. There are a few omissions, but all the basics are covered and, for the most part, well done. Once again, we have more evidence that you don’t have to spend more than $150 to get a set of good, true wireless headphones.
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