All products featured are independently chosen by us. However, SoundGuys may receive a commission on orders placed through its retail links. See our ethics statement.
Jabra Elite 4 Active
January 4, 2022
Original: $119.99 USD
20.85 x 20.49 x 27.3mm (earbud)
28.4 x 38.9 x 64mm (case)
Workout earbuds can be expensive, and it’s hard to know what features are worth your money and what features to go without. The latest entry to Jabra’s extensive true wireless earbud lineup brings active noise canceling (ANC) and a durable build for just under $100. Porting over the key performance characteristics from the more expensive Elite 7 Active, the Jabra Elite 4 Active cuts the frills by stripping out a lot of features the company considers non-essential.
Without many of the fancy bells and whistles that the competition offers, is the Jabra Elite 4 Active worth the money?
Editor’s note: this Jabra Elite 4 Active review was updated on June 23, 2023 to add information about the Jabra Elite 4, and to include the Beats Studio Buds Plus in the Alternatives section.
Athletes should pick up these durable true wireless earbuds for workouts in any environment. Students or anyone on a budget will like these earbuds for the relatively low cost, good battery life, and some noise canceling.
What is it like to use the Jabra Elite 4 Active?
Overall build quality of the Jabra Elite 4 Active is slightly less premium than the Jabra Elite 7 Active or Elite 7 Pro. Still, the all-plastic construction is typical compared to similarly priced true wireless earbuds. There are no ear wings and you don’t get a grippy coating to secure the earbuds in place, but Jabra includes three sizes of silicone ear tips in the box.
The shape of the earbuds inserts the ear tips deep into the ear canal, creating a secure fit in most people’s ears. The earbuds feel secure in my ears, but your experience may vary depending on your ear shape.
The charging case is slightly larger than other Jabra earbud models, but still small enough to fit in most pockets. You can listen in mono mode to a single earbud while the other earbud remains inside the case to charge. Wireless charging is absent from the Jabra Elite 4 Active, as is Bluetooth multipoint for connecting to multiple devices.
How do you control the Jabra Elite 4 Active?
The outside housing of each earbud functions as a button to control music playback. Unfortunately, the buttons require a lot of force to press, which shoves the earbuds into the ear canal, causing some pain or discomfort. Buttons along the top like on the Master & Dynamic series, or a touchpad might be a more elegant solution. There’s no in-ear detection to auto-pause your music when you take an earbud out. The Elite 4 Active doesn’t have any voice indicating pairing mode or listening modes—have fun memorizing what all the different beeping noises mean.
One of the more “budget” aspects of the Elite 4 Active shows in that you can’t customize the controls. Here’s what all the different combinations of button presses do:
|PRESS||DOUBLE PRESS||TRIPLE PRESS||HOLD|
Switch noise canceling mode, answer call, mute microphone
Activate voice assistant, end call, play Spotify recommended song
Play/pause, answer call, mute microphone
Next track or end call
Restart track / Previous track
Should you download the Jabra Sound+ app?
Jabra often adds features to its true wireless earbuds after launch, so it is important to download the Sound+ app to stay up to date with the latest firmware. Beyond installing firmware updates, the app also has a number of useful features and customization options.
From the home screen, you can toggle ANC or HearThrough (also known as transparency) listening modes, create a custom EQ, and see battery indicators. Digging further into the app settings opens up options to adjust the amount of noise reduction on the active noise canceling mode, or the amount of noise boosted on the HearThrough mode. There’s an option to adjust sidetone voice volume on calls, as well as the Find My Jabra functionality to locate the last location your earbuds were connected to your device.
Sidetone pipes in a bit of your voice through the headset during calls, which is good as it allows you to better hear how loudly or quietly your speaking. It’s also an easy way to check if your headset’s mic is working.
How long does the battery last on the Jabra Elite 4 Active?
In our battery testing of continuous playback at 75dB(SPL) with ANC turned on, the Jabra Elite 4 Active lasted 7 hours and 17 minutes. This is above average among true wireless earbuds, especially at this price. One upside of a longer battery life is that fewer recharges extends the overall life of a product. The charging case provides an additional three charges for up to 28 hours of total playback.
There’s no wireless charging support, so you have to plug in the charging case via USB-C to power up. Fast charging the earbuds provides 60 minutes of playback time from 10 minutes of charging inside the case.
What Bluetooth codecs does the Jabra Elite 4 Active support?
The Jabra Elite 4 Active supports Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX and SBC. This varies slightly from some of Jabra’s other true wireless earbud offerings, which often have AAC instead of aptX. In general, AAC offers better streaming quality on Apple devices, while aptX provides high-quality streaming on Android devices. SBC still works fine with an iPhone and I don’t experience any connection problems, but it seems the Elite 4 Active is targeted at Android users primarily.
Google Fast Pair instantly pairs the earbuds to an Android phone. Since there’s no Bluetooth multipoint support, you’ll have to manually connect your earbuds each time you switch devices.
How well does the Jabra Elite 4 Active cancel out noise?
ANC performance is okay for earbuds in this price category. Sure, the Jabra Elite 4 Active doesn’t block out noise as well as the Sony WF-1000XM4 or Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, but these earbuds still provide a noticeable amount of attenuation to surrounding noise. What’s unusual is that the ANC targets noises between 100Hz and 4kHz, with not terribly much below 100Hz. Typically ANC works on low frequency noises, so those really bassy drones will receive little attenuation here. On the other hand, some of the more midrange and high pitched noises will gain adequate filtering out.
Since the ear tips insert deep into the ear canal, a tight seal passively blocks out a lot of ambient noise. Even without turning on ANC, most noise will sound about one-half to one-quarter as loud. Enabling ANC provides an average of an additional 5-10dB of attenuation from 100Hz-3kHz on top of the attenuation from passive isolation.
To contrast this, you get HearThrough mode, which pumps external noise into the earbuds so you are aware of your surroundings. The amount of noise added is adjustable from within the app, and you can also select whether or not activating this mode will pause your music. This feature is great for outdoorsy athletes, while the ANC is great for commuting. Both ANC and HearThrough allow you to adjust the intensity or volume (in the case of HearThrough) which is handy for times when you want a little, but not a lot of either.
How does the Jabra Elite 4 Active sound?
Out of the box, the Jabra Elite 4 Active has a similar sound to many other consumer earbuds. There’s no significant under or over-emphasis of frequencies across the audible range, and the frequency response roughly follows our target consumer curve. You ought to hear the majority of your music very well and without exaggerations. If you don’t like the sound of the earbuds, it’s easy enough to change the EQ preset or make your own using the custom five-band equalizer in the Sound+ app.
Lows, mids, and highs
In the chart above, the frequency response starts to taper off below 50Hz; this is at the very edge of the human hearing range and likely won’t be noticeable to most people. From 50-100Hz there’s a slight emphasis in sub-bass notes (relative to the other frequencies), which gives extra intensity to the 808 bass line in Cigarettes by Juice WRLD.
The earbuds under-emphasize mid-range frequencies from 200-700Hz by a couple of decibels. This is where the fundamental frequencies of most musical notes live, so vocals in tracks such as Kiss Me More by Doja Cat sound a bit quieter than they should.
The custom EQ allows you to adjust the sound of the earbuds to your liking
While high frequencies sound slightly more emphasized than mids, it’s not overbearing or painful to listen to at high volumes. The hi-hats in Toxic by BoyWithUke don’t sound out much louder than the vocals and backing ukulele.
How good is the microphone on the Jabra Elite 4 Active?
Microphone quality on the Jabra Elite 4 Active is adequate for taking calls, though you shouldn’t expect studio mic quality from these affordable earbuds (or any affordable earbuds, for that matter). As you can hear in the second microphone demo below, the earbuds struggle to attenuate background noise in a simulated office environment. People may fail to hear you on the other end of the line when you find yourself in noisy environments. Still, vocal reproduction is fine. For the frequent caller, the sidetone function will be especially useful to offset the oddness of hearing your muffled voice with isolating buds in.
As of August 25, 2022, 53% of readers rate the Elite 4 Active microphone as “good.” An additional 27% and 14% rate it as “okay” and “perfect,” which is slightly above average for true wireless earbuds.
Jabra Elite 4 Active microphone demo (Ideal):
Jabra Elite 4 Active microphone demo (Office):
How does the mic sound to you?
Should you buy the Jabra Elite 4 Active?
While these earbuds may not have flashy stand-out features, the Jabra Elite 4 Active delivers where it matters most. Good isolation and decent noise canceling, along with a pleasant frequency response ensure you will enjoy how your music sounds in any environment.
At this price point, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any other true wireless earbuds that offer the level of durability and customization of the Jabra Elite 4 Active. Athletes and the physically disinclined alike will appreciate the all-around performance of these earbuds.
Depending on your ears, you may experience some comfort issues, especially when using the onboard earbud controls. You also don’t get some quality of life features like wireless charging or auto-pause, though at this price beggars can’t be choosers.
If you care about durability, sound quality, and blocking out all the distractions around you, go ahead and pick up the Jabra Elite 4 Active; the performance at this price is worth the money.
Jabra’s true wireless earbud offerings are getting quite crowded, so let us try to quickly break it down for you. If you don’t need noise canceling, the Jabra Elite 3 is a great value option for $59 at Amazon. There are not many bells and whistles here, but the earbuds work well and sound great.
The Jabra Elite 5 isn’t as durable as the Elite 4 Active, with an IP55 rating, rather than IP57. However, these earbuds bring considerably better ANC performance and wireless charging. There’s also AAC support along with aptX, which makes it a more Apple-friendly product. It’s a little more expensive ($132 at Amazon), but if those are the features you’re looking for, it’s probably worth the jump.
If you have the funds ($179 at Amazon), go for the Jabra Elite 7 Active. These earbuds come in a portable package and feature a ShakeGrip coating to keep the earbuds locked in your ears during the sweatiest of workouts. They also add in some convenient extras such as wireless charging, in-ear detection, and Bluetooth multipoint.
Underwhelmed by the microphone quality of these sportier Jabra models? Check out the Jabra Elite 7 Pro. Utilizing a voice-pickup (VPU) bone conduction sensor, these earbuds have quality microphones, though it will cost you $199 at Amazon.
What are some alternatives to the Jabra Elite 4 Active?
If for some reason you want something besides the many choices Jabra produces, you have some options.
The Beats Studio Buds Plus ($169 at Amazon) offer good sound in a small, lightweight, and comfortable package. Noise canceling performance sees an improvement over the original Beats Studio Buds. Unlike most other Beats, these buds are also OS agnostic, working just as well with Android as with Apple.
You might consider the Anker Soundcore Space A40, one of the best lower priced ($79 at Amazon) wireless earbuds with legitimately good ANC. These boast nearly 8 hours of battery life, good app support, and a fairly subdued default frequency response.
For music oriented folks, the Sony WF-C500 are not necessarily exciting visually, but it sounds very good. Its battery case is slim and the buds last an impressive 9 hours and 46 minutes to a single charge. As a straight forward experience, the WF-C500 is a great choice for a reasonable $98 at Amazon. However, it does not have any ANC.
To achieve a more secure fit and noise canceling, you can try the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC. Selling for ($89 at Amazon) around the same price as the Jabra Elite 4 Active, it features an over-ear hook design to keep the buds in. It also has AAC or SBC codecs, pleasing iPhone users. Rather than buttons, JLab uses touch controls (though they are imperfect) and it’s similarly durable with an IP66 rating.
What are some frequently asked questions about the Jabra Elite 4 Active?
Jabra Elite 4 Active supports Spotify Tap on Android devices. Place the earbuds in your ears, and double-tapping the left earbud will jump you back into your most recent song on Spotify, or start a Spotify recommended playlist. We’ve seen this on other earbuds like the Skullcandy Grind Fuel, Samsung Galaxy Buds 2, and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds.
The Apple AirPods (3rd generation) comes with advanced features for iOS device users such as Spatial Audio head tracking and instant pairing. However, the AirPods don’t create a tight seal in the ear, and don’t feature any noise canceling to block out external noise.
The earbuds charge up by magnetically snapping into place in the charging case. There’s no wireless charging support for the case, so you’ll have to plug it in via USB-C to charge. Lithium batteries don’t last forever, so unfortunately battery life will degrade with time.