Laptop Mag Verdict
If you want great-sounding headphones with plenty of playtime and personalization for under $100, there’s no better value than the Jabra Elite 45h.
Superior call quality
Balanced and customizable sound
Jabra Sound+ app support
Slim, sleek design
No headphone port
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If you've ever gone shopping for a Bluetooth headset, then the name Jabra should ring a bell. The company has become one of the hottest brands in the audio space, riding on the success of its stellar Elite headphone series, which includes critically acclaimed releases in the noise-cancelling and true wireless categories. Now its sights are set on dominating the budget headphone market with the release of its CES 2020 darling, the Elite 45h.
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- …and our Sony WH-1000xM4 review
A scaled-down version of the popular Elite 85h headphones, these on-ear cans do not skimp on performance despite what their inexpensive price tag may suggest. They blend dynamic sound, intuitive features, monstrous battery life, and unbeatable call quality into an aesthetically pleasing design, making for one of the best work-from-home headphones out there, as well as a solid option for music lovers on a budget.
Jabra Elite 45h: Availability and price
The Jabra Elite 45h is available for $99.99 at major online retailers, including Amazon and Best Buy or directly from Jabra. The headphones are currently sold in five colors: Black, Copper Black, Gold Beige, Navy, and Titanium Black.
Jabra Elite 45h: Design
In terms of design, the Elite 45h is a total 180 from its more durable and premium sibling. Nonetheless, the end result is much better than you might expect from a pair of $100 headphones. The slim profile, bold colorways, and copper accents give the Elite 45h a chic, luxe appearance similar to the Harman Kardon Soho Wireless.
The lightweight (5.6 ounces) feel and mostly plastic construction may have you thinking these headphones are flimsy as hell. I won’t lie, they are, but nowhere near as bad as some of the market’s other cheapies.
Jabra does a reasonable job of reinforcing the exterior with a sturdy casing, while also creating the extenders out of anodized aluminum to reassure users the headphones won’t easily break. The flexible headband does seem like it will snap if stretched to the max, but it’s unlikely. That’s not to say I would leave it unattended around kids or a dog.
You should know these headphones can’t be folded to easily tuck away, but they’re pretty small and portable nonetheless. They will take up very little space in your travel bag or when worn around your neck. Jabra also limited the number of bundled accessories to two: a carrying pouch and a USB-C charging cable. The cable could have been a lot longer, but it’s still convenient for when you want to juice up on the go via a power bank.
Jabra Elite 45h: Comfort and fit
When it comes to comfort, the Elite 45h is pleasant to wear for about 2 to 3 hours. The insubstantial weight doesn’t make the headphones encumbering, nor does the headband’s rubber padding apply unwanted pressure on the skull. The leatherette covering on the earpads also feels gentle on the skin, though the “soft and moldable memory foam” isn’t very cushiony; there were times I noticed my ears pressing up against the dispersion plates.
People tend to experience slippage when wearing on- or over-ear headphones. The slightest head-nod can sometimes cause some pairs to slide around and fall off. I didn’t have that problem with the Elite 45h.
Jabra’s on-ear cans provided me a secure and stabilized fit whenever moving around the house or jamming out to my favorite Spotify playlists. The open-back design and porous earpads provided much-needed ventilation as well, which kept my ears sweat-free when binging YouTube videos.
Jabra Elite 45h: Controls and digital assistant
Jabra has a fondness for traditional control schemes, sticking with physical buttons over touch/swipe gestures. Pricing makes this a forgivable compromise, so does the intelligence and responsiveness of the buttons, which are all located on the right ear cup.
You’ll find a three-button setup on the top rear consisting of a play/pause button flanked between two volume buttons that also allow you to skip forward/back a song when pressed twice. A nice click sound when pressed provides reassurance when executing intended commands. At the bottom is a power/pairing toggle with firm recoil as well.
A solitary button for the digital assistant was cleverly placed near the top front of the right earcup. It’s conveniently accessible and pulls up Google Assistant, Alexa or Siri without a hitch. Most importantly, the feature works flawlessly. Jabra’s two-mic array is powerful and picks up vocals very well, even when background noise is present. There were times when I asked Google Assistant for basketball scores or to open my calendar while my wife was chatting on the phone, and the software picked up every vowel clearly. Google’s AI bot also shot back results in a jiffy.
Jabra Elite 45h: Sound quality
The Elite 45 isn’t going to blow you away with bass or pick up every subtle nuance in complex recordings. However, these headphones give you a bit of everything for clean and satisfying sound, or at least that’s what you’ll hear from the majority of records.
Lows are handled surprisingly well and give most bass-centric tracks the right amount of oomph without distorting or thinning the sound signature. The infectious horns and pounding drums on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Check the Rhime” were loud and energetic, which had me head-nodding right from the jump. I was surprised by how much room the soundstage afforded the rappers, as Q-Tip and Phife Dawg kicked their laidback rhymes without the heavy low end masking their presence.
I found the clarity and depth these headphones produced, which was noticeable when jamming out to jazz records, even more astounding. The rapidly paced composition of John Coltrane’s “Lover Come Back to Me” does make it difficult for listeners to keep up with the multiple instrument arrangements, but the Elite 45h has some amazing snap to it. This gives the impression of great speed and detail; the fast-and-steady hi-hats and spirited sax play are distinctive.
You’ll need to be selective with what you blast on the Elite 45h because it can only handle so much bass. Take a record like Dr. Dre’s “Kush,” which is searing in synths and booming effects, but also sounded harsh and drowned out Dre and Akon’s vocals. On the plus side, the headphones excelled at reproducing some of the song’s other sonic elements, like the cinematic piano riff.
If you’re the type that loves listening to music in peace, then the Elite 45h won’t be your cup of tea. Most on-ear headphones are designed to let in ambient noise and bleed sound at a high level. The Elite 45h is no different. Rowdy environments will distract and pull you away from what’s playing. And if you’re listening at a high volume, others around you will hear what’s blasting through the 40mm drivers.
We also must mention that the Elite 45h does not have a headphone jack. Not the news you want to hear if you’re still living the dongle life with an iPhone or Android device. Technically, the headphones should support a USB-C to 3.5mm aux cable, but Jabra confirmed with us that the port is only used for charging.
Jabra Elite 45h: App and special features
One of the Elite 45h’s biggest selling points is Jabra Sound+ app support. Being able to personalize your sound and have access to most of the features found on other Jabra headphones (and earbuds) is a major benefit. At the forefront is the music EQ that sits right on the homescreen; it can be customized to create and save your own sound profiles. You can also select from five well-engineered music presets: Bass Boost, Energize, Smooth, Speech, and Treble Boost.
Tap deeper into the settings and you’ll stumble upon some hidden gems, such as Call Experience, which allows the user to adjust how loud they want to sound on calls and set a call EQ for the speaker on the opposite end. This comes in handy when answering calls in noisy environments. There are other useful features here worth checking out, including a Sleep mode, Find My Headphones, and firmware updates.
It’s cool to see Soundscape make an appearance; it’s one of the newer features added over the past year that produces soothing sounds to relieve stress. I have used it on occasion to deal with my anxiety and noticed a difference after a week; 15 minutes a day was perfect. There are 12 unique sound settings to choose from, though you should know the feature is slightly buggy on the Elite 45h. If it acts up, just close and re-open the app and it should work fine.
Jabra Elite 45h: Battery life
The absence of active noise cancellation and an ambient listening mode opens the door for longer battery life. Jabra has the Elite 45h rated at 50 hours on a single charge, one of the longest playtimes we’ve seen in its class. Realistically, this translates to 48 hours when adding high volume, heavy streaming, and lots of video chatting into the equation. Still, that’s nearly double the playtime of the market’s best noise-cancelling headphones.
Over the course of a week, I tested these headphones for 4 hours daily and still had about 45% juice left in the tank. Others who use their headphones more sparingly will probably find themselves having to recharge once every three or four weeks. Speaking of charging, the Elite 45h has its own Fast Charge feature which gets you 10 hours of playtime on a 15-minute charge. Do the math and you’ll see the headphones fully charged in about 75 minutes. That’s pretty good.
Jabra Elite 45h: Call quality and connectivity
Mic performance and noise reduction on the Elite 45h are stalwart, keeping ambient sound to a minimum for clear-sounding conversations. Being outside, my wife could hear me exceptionally well and even complimented the volume and vocal clarity. She also didn’t detect any of the background noise around me, granted, there wasn’t anything deafening.
I also loved how the mics allowed me to hear the tiniest sounds in the backyard, from brisk winds to the baby lizards running across the pebble-encircled hammock. I can see how stronger winds might create extraneous noise, but I didn’t experience this. The Elite 45h works even better indoors, making for the ideal work-from-home headphones when jumping on Zoom calls in your PJs.
Wireless performance is just as reliable, with the Elite 85h granting strong connectivity across multiple devices. The spec sheet has these headphones supporting a range of up to 33 feet, but my testing saw them surpass that length by about 5 extra feet, which allowed for more movement around the house without dropping the connection.
Pairing was seamless too. But the real showstopper is Multi-Connect, the company’s own multipoint technology that lets you pair up to 8 devices and connects up to 2 devices simultaneously. It’s a feature we’re accustomed to seeing on high-priced models, and one that is greatly appreciated here, as you’ll witness firsthand when you switch media platforms from your iPhone 12 to your MacBook Pro and vice versa.
Jabra Elite 45h: Verdict
Expectations tend to be low for any pair of headphones priced under a Benjamin. But, man, Jabra really outdid themselves with the Elite 45h. Battery life and call quality alone are enough to draw your interest. The level of sound these headphones achieve is very impressive and being able to customize it via the Jabra Sound+ app is clutch. You’re also getting some sweet features and trustworthy connectivity out of these minimalist-looking cans.
At the same time, a low price means some sacrifices had to be made. The lack of extra accessories may not mean much, but for anyone who still walks around with an aux adapter attached to their smartphone, no headphone jack can be upsetting. The same can be said for those wanting some form of noise neutralization, which these headphones do not offer. However, the pros nearly outweigh the cons 3 to 1, making the Elite 45h not only one of the best on-ear models out there, but also one of the top headphones under $100.