Hands on: Jabra Elite 4 Active review

The Jabra Elite 4 Active were announced just ahead of CES 2022, and complete (for now) the company’s latest lineup of workout-friendly true wireless earbuds.

While they aren’t the most exciting earbuds we’ve seen from the tech expo, they’re certainly among the highest-spec wireless buds at a relatively low price, coming with active noise cancellation, a good battery life, and a design that makes them ideal for use while working out.

While we’ll need to test them for a little longer before we can make a definitive decision on whether the Elite 4 Active are worth your money, read on for our initial thoughts on Jabra’s latest in-ear headphones.

The Jabra Elite 4 Active are available to buy now for $119 / £119 / AU$179, putting them at the lower end of the true wireless earbuds price scale.

They’re cheaper than the brand’s flagship model, the Jabra Elite 7 Active, which cost $179 / £169 / AU$279, and pricier than Jabra’s budget version, the Elite 3, which come in at $79.99 / £79.99 / AU$119.

For comparison, the best true wireless earbuds you can buy today, the Sony WF-1000XM4, cost $279 / £250 / AU$449.

Design

Coming in black, navy, and a fetching mint green color, the Jabra Elite 4 Active are as functional and well-built as any Jabra earbuds we’ve tested so far.

Their smooth-feeling housings don’t come with any wingtips to keep them secure in your ears while working out, but the Elite 4 Active feel very snug nonetheless, and they come with a range of differently-sized eartips so you can find the perfect fit.

Unlike the Jabra Elite 7 Active, they don’t feature the sticky ShakeGrip coating, but as long as you’re using the correct tips for your ears, you should find that the Elite 4 Active stay in place while working out.

Another workout friendly design feature is the Elite 4 Active’s IP57 dust and water resistance rating, which means you can use them while exercising without having to worry about sweat or a spot of rain breaking them.

Each housing features a physical button that you can press to control your music playback, adjust the volume, accept, reject, and end calls, and summon your device’s voice assistant. It’s great to see that Jabra has included on-ear volume control; it saves you from digging your phone out of your pocket, and it’s a feature that’s often overlooked by earbud manufacturers.

A small LED on each housing lets you know the battery status of the buds, as well as when they’re in pairing mode, powering off, or updating the firmware.

You’ll also find an LED on the front of the charging case, which also gives you an indication of how much battery life you have left. The case itself is made from plastic with a flip-top lid, and a USB-C charging port on the back. The plastic construction means it does feel a little flimsy, but that’s to be expected at this price.

Audio performance

Inside the Jabra Elite 4 Active are 6mm drivers and a customizable equalizer via the Jabra Sound+ app, allowing you to adjust the sound to your tastes.

Listening to We Don’t Talk About Bruno from Disney’s Encanto, the percussion sounds nicely detailed and voices are clear and resonant, even as the harmonies build in complexity. The bass sounds rich and well-controlled, and there’s a good level of clarity in the trebles — though they can sound a little harsh at higher volumes.

Moving on to Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot, the electric guitars jump right to the front of the mix with tons of energy and dynamism. Benatar’s vocal is front and center, too, while the rhythm section sounds neat and tight.

Playing with the EQ settings means you can really dig into what kind of sound you like best — for us, boosted bass and slightly rolled-off trebles did the trick and took the edge off those harsh high frequencies. There are also a number of EQ presets to choose from, including Neutral, Speech, Bass boost, Treble boost, Smooth, and Energize.

It’s a shame there’s no auto-pause function when you remove the buds from your ears — but that’s a small bugbear rather than a dealbreaker.

The active noise cancellation is pretty good, blocking out a decent amount of ambient sound, allowing you to listen to your music in relative peace. There’s also a HearThrough mode, which lets you hear your surroundings without removing the earbuds — you can also use a slider in the app to choose just how much sound passes through the buds.

We found this feature to be less successful — we could hear a dog barking for example, but we missed a knock at the door.

Battery life and connectivity

Jabra says that the Elite 4 Active will last for up to 28 hours with the charging case, with seven hours of playback provided by the earbuds themselves.

While we haven’t had a chance to test this fully, we’ll be sure to interrogate those numbers in our full review. That battery life is longer than what you get with the Apple AirPods 3 and the Sony WF-1000XM4 — though far less than the Lypertek PurePlay Z3 2.0, which offer a whopping 80 hours of playback. Saying that, Lypertek’s buds don’t come with active noise cancellation, which can be a big drain on battery life.

Connectivity comes courtesy of Bluetooth 5.2, and pairing them with our iPhone 13 mini was a breeze. To set them up, you’ll need to download the Jabra Sound+ app, where you’ll be able to choose your EQ settings, adjust the HearThrough levels, and update the firmware when needed.

Early verdict

The Jabra Elite 4 Active may not be the most innovative earbuds to come out of CES, but they’re certainly among the highest-spec for the price.

It’s unusual to find active noise cancellation, good water resistance, and a decent battery life at this price, and the audio performance is excellent based on our initial tests.

There are better-sounding earbuds on the market, but few below $150 / £150 / AU$200, and while it’s a shame that the HearThrough feature isn’t as effective as we’d hoped, the Elite 4 Active are still very impressive.

Originally published at techradar.com on January 7, 2022.

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Tech Trends: Read the latest reviews on mobile phone, smartwatches, latest gadgets, smartphones, camera, monitor, headphone. Catch all the latest tech reviews.

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