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Jabra Elite 3 review

Entry level buds with high-quality sound

Jabra Elite 3 review
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Regan Coule/Future)

Our Verdict

The Jabra Elite 3 undercuts the competition with versatile audio, great call quality, and select features for just $79.

For

  • Powerful, customizable sound
  • Superb call quality
  • Ample battery life
  • Jabra Sound+ support
  • Bluetooth 5.2 and Google Fast Pair

Against

  • Love it or hate it design
  • Lacks other modes available on more premium Jabra models
  • No wireless charging or multipoint technology

Laptop Mag Verdict

The Jabra Elite 3 undercuts the competition with versatile audio, great call quality, and select features for just $79.

Pros

  • + Powerful, customizable sound
  • + Superb call quality
  • + Ample battery life
  • + Jabra Sound+ support
  • + Bluetooth 5.2 and Google Fast Pair

Cons

  • - Love it or hate it design
  • - Lacks other modes available on more premium Jabra models
  • - No wireless charging or multipoint technology

Every one of Jabra’s true wireless releases has been universally praised, from the introductory Elite 65t to the noise-cancelling Elite 85t. In fact, several of them even outperform the AirPods and AirPods Pro in key categories (e.g., battery life, fit, sound). Expanding their presence in the true wireless market, the brand has overhauled their lineup and announced not one, but three new models: the Elite 7 Pro, Elite 7 Active, and the Elite 3.

Up first is the $79 Elite 3, the cheapest wireless earbuds that Jabra has ever released. These newbies are similar in style to previous Elite models, but with a more distinctive look, while also bearing an impressive spec sheet for the price. Notables include ambient listening, Bluetooth 5.2, Google Fast Pair, rainproof protection, and customized sound via a companion app.

Some big features are missing that keep it from being the complete package, but the Jabra Elite 3 still offers enough to be considered the best wireless earbuds value out there.

Jabra Elite 3 review: Availability and price

The Jabra Elite 3 is currently sold for $79 and is available at major online retailers, including Amazon and Best Buy, or directly from Jabra. You can purchase it in four colors: Dark Grey, Light Grey, Lilac, and Navy. Bundled with the purchase are a charging case, USB-C charging cable, three sets of different-sized EarGels tips, and a warranty.

With such a low MSRP, the Elite 3 undercuts numerous rivals at different price points. Some that come to mind are inexpensive offerings like the Anker Soundcore LibertyAir 2 Pro (currently on sale for $84 at Best Buy), mid-tier gems like the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 ($149), and heavyweights like the AirPods Pro ($249) and Sony WF-1000XM4 ($279). Furthermore, these wireless earbuds can be had for less than some of Jabra’s more popular models: the Elite Active 75t ($149) and Elite 85t ($179).

Jabra Elite 3 review: Design and comfort

While previous Elite wireless earbuds featured an oval shape, the Elite 3 has a more abstract appearance with a triangular design that’s both eye-catching and conflicting. It’s won’t appeal to everyone. Either way, these buds are as well built as their predecessors. The sturdy plastic casing can sustain beatings and won’t shatter if you drop them from a considerable height. An IP55 rating means the buds can survive sweat, rain, and dust ingress.

Jabra Elite 3 review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Jabra’s signature style cues haven’t been forgotten either. Peep the airbrushed logo on the front, matte finish, flush buttons, and bold color options.

The charging case is kept compact and portable-friendly, another staple of the Elite series. You can store it in any denim pocket or carry-on bag without feeling weighed down. Build quality isn’t as fancy as older models, settling for a thinner plastic frame versus the premium plastic chassis found on the Elite Active 75t. The lid is also flimsy, though the magnet is strong enough to keep the case shut when on the move.

Jabra Elite 3 review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Jabra refers to the Elite 3’s in-ear design as “noise-isolating,” and that’s pretty accurate. The angled sound port seamlessly inserts into the canal and the patented EarGels tips produce a tight seal for optimal fit.

Jabra Elite 3 review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Comfort is fine with the buds resting gently on the concha for long stretches. I wore them moderately throughout the day, sometimes up to 3 hours straight before feeling the slightest soreness. Those with a high pain threshold likely won’t feel anything.

Jabra Elite 3 review: Controls and digital assistant

An updated design should warrant updated controls. Right? Guess again. Jabra keeps it old school with multifunctional buttons that support a full suite of media controls and input methods. I’m talking playback, call management, volume, digital assistance, one-touch Spotify playback, and listening mode activation, which can all be enabled through tap/hold gestures. The buttons respond well to engagement and produce nice tactility with every press.

I’m not sure why Jabra chose to exclude MyControls from the features list. This would have given users the ability to map out the controls on each bud to their liking. Another missing feature is on-ear detection to auto-pause when removing the buds from your ears. 

Jabra Elite 3 review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Google Assistant, Alexa, Siri, and Bixby are all compatible with the Elite 3. The four-mic array demonstrates great speech recognition and is intelligible, recognizing every syllable and voice command, while each AI bot responds quickly to inquiries. The app lets you swap out the digital assistant function for Spotify activation; performing a double press on the left earbud will enter and play music from the streaming service.

Jabra Elite 3 review: Audio quality

One would assume that a cheaper price would compromise audio quality. The Elite 3 proves that theory wrong. Jabra’s tiny 6mm speakers pump out dynamic, clear sound with punchy bass that doesn’t become too overwhelming, even when vibing out to boom-heavy soundtracks.

The thumping drum break at the start of NaS’ “N.Y. State of Mind” remains constant throughout the track, blending beautifully with the sulking piano bass for one mean head-nodding session. Taking the low end up a notch, I blasted the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Around the World” and was met with Flea’s gnarly distorted bass intro, which was reproduced surprisingly well, along with the funkified drums and thrilling guitar riffs near the end.

I must admit that the detailing on these buds is what caught my attention the most. Have you ever listened to a song multiple times, then suddenly noticed a detail that you never heard before? Yea, that was me with a couple of tracks. To hear the adlibbing on the hook of A Tribe Called Quest’s “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” was trippy, but really satisfying, especially since I had never caught it when testing several other sub-$100 wireless earbuds.

Jabra Elite 3 review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Mids and highs are also given proper representation. You can put on any Jazz classic and get a feel for them. My selection was Duke Ellington & John Coltrane’s “In A Sentimental Mood,” which fed my ears melodic piano chords, sultry horns, and steady, prominent hi-hats.

The low end is more powerful on other Jabra buds, but you have the option to increase it in the Jabra Sound+ app, where there are six different EQs to choose from: Neutral (the default), Bass Boost, Speech, Treble Boost, Smooth, and Energize. The option to manually adjust frequencies and create your own sound profile is exclusive to higher-priced Elite models. Luckily, all these EQs work well when paired with the right music genre or content. Speech improves vocal clarity on videos and podcasts, whereas Smooth and Treble Boost add more depth to orchestral tracks. Bass Boost is a bit aggressive, but will please hard rock and hip-hop lovers, and Energize has EDM written all over it.

Despite the lack of active noise cancellation, the Elite 3 does a formidable job of isolating external noises from entering the soundscape. Listening to music around the house, I managed to block out my infant’s cries and any adult conversations taking place in the same room. Outside was just as rewarding with wind interference kept to a minimum.

Jabra Elite 3 review: App and special features

I’m a huge advocate of Jabra Sound+, mainly because it was one of the first companion apps to introduce what were originally considered game-changing features like an ambient listening mode (HearThrough) and the aforementioned EQ. Not many brands are willing to grant app access for their entry-level buds, so tip your hat to Jabra for their generosity. 

HearThrough is available right out of the box and can be enabled directly on the buds or in the app. For those unfamiliar with the feature, this opens the mics to pipe in more exterior sounds and increase your awareness of surroundings. It’s useful in multiple scenarios such as eavesdropping on conversations, hearing traffic or keeping tabs on your baby when in his playpen just a few feet away, which was how I managed to multitask most of the time.

Jabra Elite 3 review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Call Experience returns and optimizes call quality by increasing how loud and deep your voice sounds on calls. You’ll find it hidden in the Headset settings. One other feature you’ll have to go searching for in the back end is Video Conference. Apparently, this allows you to use the Sound+ app as a remote control for a Jabra video conferencing device. I’m still waiting on confirmation from Jabra on whether this feature is compatible with their wireless earbuds. 

There is also a find my buds function to help locate misplaced buds, along with a battery level indicator and firmware updates.

Jabra Elite 3 review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

This is an adequate number of features to have at your disposal. It’s just that Jabra has several other perks available that would have taken functionality to the next level. Was I expecting advanced features like ANC or MySound to create a sound profile that’s tailored to my hearing? Not for $79. On the other hand, features like MyControls and Soundscapes to mask ambient noise with nature sounds seemed ideal for inclusion.

Jabra Elite 3 review: Battery life and charging case

Jabra rates battery life at 7 hours on a single charge. Factor in high volume, ambient listening, and heavy streaming, playtime drops by about 30 to 45 minutes. Do the math and you’ll see the Elite 3 lasts longer than either the AirPods (5 hours) or AirPods Pro (5 hours with ANC off), but also runs shorter than the Galaxy Buds 2 (7.5 hours with ANC off) and a handful of other rivals. This is still sufficient and equates to about 4 days of moderate use daily (1.5 hours) before tossing into the charging case.

Jabra Elite 3 review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Speaking of which, the charging case holds up to 28 hours, giving you 4 extra charges on the go. Fast charging is strong with a 10-minute charge generating 1 hour of playback. I just wish that Jabra would have added wireless charging, especially since there are several Amazon darlings out there that come with the feature that are offered for the same price (check out the Anker Soundcore Life P3).

Jabra Elite 3 review: Call quality and connectivity

The Elite 3 upholds Jabra’s credibility as one of the premier calling headset makers out there. Several people complimented how loud and clear I sounded on phone calls, both indoors and outdoors. Ambient noises such as crying babies and whisking cars are audible, but my wife stated that they weren’t distracting, as her attention remained on the conversation at hand.  

Jabra also designed the Elite 3 to be used in either stereo or mono mode, meaning you can use one bud for calls or music listening while the other charges.

Jabra Elite 3 review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Future)

Bluetooth 5.2 does a solid job of maintaining a strong and reliable connection. I got to enjoy about 40 feet of wireless listening, walking from room to room without any dropout or stutter. Google Fast Pair expedited the pairing process with all my Android devices. My MacBook Pro and my wife’s iPhone 12 picked up the Bluetooth signal to connect instantly as well.

The buds can be paired with up to six devices. To be clear, I don’t mean at the same time. That would suggest that the Elite 3 comes with multipoint technology, which it doesn’t. The Elite 3 does have some of the fastest auto-connect capabilities I’ve tested on a pair of wireless earbuds. When disconnecting from a recognized device, it will connect to the next available recognized device without delay.

Jabra Elite 3 review: Verdict

The Elite 3 is a fantastic bargain for those who want something cheaper from the brand, but just as good as some of their older models. It’s also a suitable AirPods alternative. Sound is satisfying with vibrant, loud sonics blasting through the tiny speakers. The ability to personalize whatever you hear through well-engineered presets is a sweet bonus. HearThrough is one of the better transparency modes out there and it’s nice to see that Jabra hasn’t tampered with it. Battery life is also plentiful and call quality is remarkable.

Of course, a premium is usually required to bask in all of Jabra’s perks, and the Elite 3 is the odd man out. Proprietary modes were left off to accommodate the lower price point. In addition, the absence of other modern features (e.g., multipoint technology, wireless charging) seemed like missed opportunities for the Elite 3 to obliterate other inexpensive competitors, some of which offer said features and cost less.

But to invest in the Elite 3 is to invest in the brand experience, and though it isn’t fully present, it’s still superior to what’s out there in the cheap wireless earbuds market.