Jabra Elite 4 Active review

The Jabra Elite 4 Active packs a lot of potential at $120

Jabra Elite 4 Active review
Editor's Choice
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Laptop Mag Verdict

The Jabra Elite 4 Active wireless earbuds offer great sound quality, an impressive set of features and strong durability at an affordable price.

Pros

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    Good battery life

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    Comfortable

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    Responsive touch controls

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    Value for sound quality

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    Extensive customization…

Cons

  • -

    …that you need to turn that bass down

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    No wireless charging

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    Lacks ear detection

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Jabra is a name that regularly appears on our best wireless earbuds list. With the Jabra Elite 4 Active, the company hopes to continue this pedigree at an affordable price.

These fitness-focussed buds bring a range of features to the table including active noise cancellation, Bluetooth 5.2 and a lightweight, secure-fitting design that’s also impressively durable with an IP57 waterproof rating.

All of that and a powerful sound stage should make for a pretty unbeatable package at a price like this, but does Jabra stick the landing? Let’s find out.

Jabra Elite 4 Active availability and price

You can order a pair of Jabra Elite 4 Active in Black, Vanilla or Navy. Prices are set at $120 USD and £120 GBP, respectively.

That’s $50 less than the Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro and a $60 savings compared to AirPods 3, but $20 more than the Nothing ear (1). This is pretty aggressive mid-range pricing.

Jabra Elite 4 Active design

Fitness is the name of the game and Jabra’s Elite 4 Active sport a secure fit ready for any use case. There is no real visual flair in its design, but utilitarianism wins the day here.

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The “Active” in the name gives away its exercise credentials — further bolstered by its IP57-rated durability, small dimensions (0.8 x 0.8 x 1 inches) and 0.2 ounce weight. This compares favourably to the Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro (0.7 x 1.1 x 1.1 inches, 0.3 ounces), and just about matches the AirPods Pro (1.2 x 0.8 x 0.9 inches, 0.2 ounces) and Nothing ear (1) (1.1 x 0.8 x 0.9 inches, 0.2 ounces). 

Moving on to the case, at 2.5 x 1.1 x 1.5 inches with a weight of 1.3 ounces, this holds up well against the competition. It is a lot smaller and lighter than Nothing ear (1)’s giant container (2.3 x 2.3 x 0.9 inches, 2 ounces), is more pocket-friendly than the Liberty 3 Pro (2.8 x 2.2 x 1.1, 1.6 ounces), and comes in lighter than the AirPods Pro (2.4 x 1.8 x 0.8 inches, 1.6 inches).

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Looking beyond all the numbers, the ergonomically compact design sits snugly in your ear, ensuring an isolating fit that is comfortable over long periods of time. And these take up minimal space in any skinny jeans pocket. That and the smooth rubberized plastic on the buds makes them nice to handle and a great choice for any occasion, be it a trip to the shops or a full HIIT routine.

Jabra Elite 4 Active controls and digital assistant

Much like 99% of earbuds out there, the Jabra Elite 4 Actives are controlled by taps and holds that can be customized. I’m more of a fan of buttons on the likes of Master & Dynamic’s MW08 or the stem pinches of AirPods, as they’re not as finicky or prone to unintended inputs as touch surfaces.

However, Jabra has bucked the trend here. The 4 Actives hide buttons underneath that soft touch plastic surface and, thanks to the integration of Spotify Tap, are extra user friendly by playing nicely with the most popular music streaming service.

Moving onto digital assistants, a press and hold activates Siri or Google Assistant and the mics do a good job picking up any requests you throw at them. But going one step further, Jabra’s packed Alexa support in too, which means you can send commands to the rest of your smart home devices as well.

Jabra Elite 4 Active active noise cancellation and ambient listening

Jabra brings customizable Active Noise Cancellation to the party, which uses four on-board microphones to neutralize background distractions and immerse you in whatever you’re listening to.

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Pair this with a snug fit, thanks to the range of different tip sizes, and the end result is an effective isolation that does just as well against ambient noise as loud as rush hour traffic or a pub at peak time.

Contrary to this, the transparency mode turns up your surroundings and pipes in the noises around you, in order to avoid any unnecessary removal of your buds. In my rather basic test of having my partner talk to me from 20 feet away, I picked up low-level conversation with ease in this mode. This is particularly valuable for fitness-focused earbuds that may be used for walking, jogging or biking outside.

Jabra Elite 4 Active audio quality

Jabra’s pedigree in superb-sounding earbuds is well documented and the 6mm drivers in the Elite 4 Active almost live up to those expectations with a spacious sound stage that is full of detail. The “almost” comes in the form of bass that is tuned to be just a little too heavy at times.

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Depending on your listening habits you may not notice it. When I tapped into my new obsession, Sleep Token’s latest album “This Will Become Your Tomb:” a sonically tricky album to get right thanks to the band’s tendency to flip from thunderous breakdowns to gorgeously minimal melodies at the drop of a hat, these buds had absolutely no problem keeping up and adding some real drama to the whole affair with some thumping bass.

This continued in my regular test track: “A Day in the Life” by The Beatles, giving each of the hundred instruments in the cacophonic orchestral uprising section plenty of room to breathe and express itself. On the flat EQ, there were the tiniest hints of bass distortion in the lower octave instruments, but nothing too notable.

However, the fixable problem became apparent when I put these to the test with Mac Miller’s “2009.” This is a super nuanced composition with sharp stings of the 808 bass. In the bits where no bass notes were played, I could detect details that I normally only hear in buds twice the price, such as the tiny amount of reverb on Mac’s voice. But once that bass came knocking, the warmth overwhelmed and caused the other parts of this track to distort.

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Squaring them off against the competition, the Jabra Elite 4 Active provided a little more emphasis on the finer details than Nothing ear (1), without sacrificing the bigger scope of some tracks. They’re more evenly matched across the board than the Soundcore Liberty 3 Pros and Jabra’s overly warm sound profile is its one downfall in comparison to the AirPods Pro, which are tuned to give a better balanced sound.

Luckily, as I hinted at before, this can be fixed. You’re going to want to turn that bass down in the custom EQ app settings, but it is a surprise as Jabra typically nails its tuning right out of the box. 

Not enough of a surprise to say these sound bad though, in fact at the price point, the only thing that will astonish you is how good they can be, once you tone down the bass.

Jabra Elite 4 Active app and special features

The free Jabra Sound+ app is a great companion to your Elite 4 Active. It includes a fully customizable EQ, Find My Jabra makes it easier to spot lost earbuds, and you can customize the touch controls too.

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Not only this, but you can tune the strength of ANC too, not just overall but in each ear individually to set up a custom profile. This is beneficial for not creating too much uncomfortable cancellation pressure and getting the levels just right for the hearing strength of each ear. The difference is subtle, but it does make them more comfortable over longer listening sessions.

As for additional special features, these are just some straightforward buds. Wireless charging is nowhere to be seen and they lack wearing detection too. To see these missing in a pair of buds at this price stings a little, as you can find them in far cheaper options.

Jabra Elite 4 Active battery life

This category could be so simple if companies weren’t as vague about battery life promises! Jabra keeps it broad with a claim of up to 7 hours listening time, extended to 28 with the case.

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In reality, this is pretty bang on if you turn off noise cancellation, but let’s be honest, most of you are going to have that feature turned on at all times, which drops the listening time to just under 6 hours.

Personally, this length of time is fine for me and any average working day, provided you plan a lunchtime recharge of the buds.

Jabra Elite 4 Active call quality and connectivity

Jabra’s Elite 4 Active earbuds pack Bluetooth 5.2 with Google Fast Pair, which ensures a fast, pain-free pairing experience and pretty much guarantees a strong connection. In fact, audio playback remained smooth and uninterrupted anywhere up to 30 feet away from the iPhone 13 Pro I used for my testing. 

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As for call quality, the four on-board mics do a decent job of picking up my voice and isolating it from background noise of passing cars and gusty winds. Some of your surroundings will still leak into the call and at their loudest (when I walked next to rush hour traffic for example), you will become hard to hear. 

In the majority of cases, you come through loud and clear — clearer than Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro and virtually identical to Nothing ear (1), but AirPods Pro are slightly stronger in this regard.

Jabra Elite 4 Active verdict

With the Elite 4 Active, Jabra has made some of the best mid-range earbuds you can buy, at a price that puts Apple on notice and even makes the likes of Soundcore sweat.

They look great, feel nice to wear, sound impressive, take calls really well and the battery life is competitive at this cost. I would have loved to see wireless charging and automatic pausing when I took them out, but these are easily forgiven when you take into account the rest of what you get.

Just make sure you tinker with the EQ, to reduce that bass-heavy tone and you’ll do great!

Jason England
Staff Writer

Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.