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Jabra Elite 4
64 x 29 x 35 mm (case)
4.6g (per bud)
The Jabra Elite 4 fills in another gap in the already rather full roster. Keen observers will note that Jabra seemingly has a lot of overlap between products, which really gives you options for finding just the right product. Coming in at a competitive price with an interesting feature set, including active noise canceling (ANC) and a capable app, let’s see if the Jabra Elite 4 strikes the right balance between performance and value.
Editor’s note: this review was updated September 12, 2023, to mention the Jabra Elite 8 Active and Jabra Elite 10, and to update formatting.
If you don’t want to go into debt to get some decent true wireless earbuds, the Elite 4 is a solid middle ground pick. People looking for a functional set of earbuds that reliably work will enjoy the predictable nature of the Jabra Elite 4. Those who want noise attenuation, regardless of whether it comes from isolation or ANC, will like how well this performs.
What’s it like to use Jabra Elite 4?
Jabra has a dizzying array of earbuds, and the Elite 4 lands in that in-between spot for consumers unwilling to pay out for flagships, or settle for super cheap earbuds with all their foibles. The Elite 4 does not belong to the exercise oriented series, labeled as Elite Active ordinarily, and it’s not from the Evolve2 series aimed at office workers with deep pockets either. However, it can switch hit and go to the gym (thanks to the IP55 rating), or play nice with a work call. It’s truly an everyday true wireless design.
You get four colorways to choose from: Dark Gray, Lilac, Light Beige, and Navy (which we’re reviewing). The Elite 4 comes with three ear tip sizes (10mm, 12mm, and 14mm) and a 200mm USB-A to USB-C charging cable. Larger ears may need to get third party ear tips, as my ears tend to fit on the average to smaller side, and I wear one 12mm and one 14mm ear tip. The buds feel pretty comfortable, though occasionally, the right one partially inches its way out and requires adjusting. The Elite 4’s fit isn’t as loose as the Nothing Ear (2) and is more traditionally in ears. Jabra uses a plastic that feels a bit cheap with obvious seams, but it doesn’t feel too bad or especially noticeable while worn.
You can listen in mono with either earbud, but the onboard controls don’t change to accommodate how you might use a mono earbud. For example, if you use the left earbud, a single button press won’t control playback, but instead continues to control listening modes as it does in stereo mode. This is rather surprising and runs contrary to the user manual. Otherwise, the buttons give satisfying, tactile feedback and don’t require too much force.
Meanwhile, the charging case is surprisingly small. It’s entirely plastic, and the lid closes with a reassuring magnetic snap, only a little flex, and no lateral hinge play.
How do you control Jabra Elite 4?
First of all, you can’t really alter most of the controls of the Jabra Elite 4. This is where some of the budget-conscious aspects of this set show. The listening modes work, but there’s definitely a second or so of delay when switching. Pleasingly, you won’t get stuck with many misfires on the Elite 4. Part of the appeal here is that the Elite 4 controls work pretty reliably.
|ACTION||Left earbud||Right earbud|
ANC / HearThrough
Answer phone call
Play / pause
Answer phone call
End/reject phone call
Resume last played Spotify track
Play recommended Spotify track when Spotify app open
End/reject phone call
Skip to previous track
One press and hold
Press and hold for three seconds
Spotify Tap has to be toggled on in the app and is only available with Android. By default, the listening modes cycle between HearThrough and ANC, but you can add standard listening mode in the app to the cycle. That sums up the extent to which you can customize commands.
A minor quibble is that press and hold to adjust volume does not consistently respond with predictable results. It’s tricky to know when to let go. If you let go too soon, it might register the command as a single press, and simply pause playback instead. Through continued use, one can adapt to the nuances of the Elite 4 volume control’s quirks.
Should you use the Sound+ for the Jabra Elite 4?
During the testing period alone the Elite 4 had two updates, which is to say: you’ll want the app. Occasionally, the app won’t register that the buds are already connected, and requires closing and re-opening. That can get tiresome, especially if you want to make a fast adjustment.
With the Jabra Sound+ app you can access such features as the five-band equalizer, which has presets or make your own. It’s a bit vague, using merely “Bass,” “Mid-range,” and “Treble” as descriptors until you tap to see the dedicated EQ page. There you see 60Hz, 250Hz, 1kHz, 4kHz, and 7.6kHz. You can save multiple settings, which is great.
Jabra Sound+ also gives you access to HearThrough (transparency mode) and ANC. There’s a Personalized ANC mode as well, which utilizes a couple of sliders — without labels — to hone in your settings by ear. This feels a bit like stumbling around without a map.
Control customization options are pretty minimal. Even though you can’t change the commands, it would be helpful if the app showed the commands the app. Considering it does not ship with a manual, you have to consult the PDF online (or SoundGuys.com)
While connected to your device, you can check the Sound+ app to see if there’s an update waiting in the wings for the Jabra Elite 4. Generally, an alert appears on the home page, but you can always check by tapping the cog icon and then selecting “Headset firmware.” Here you’ll see which version you’re running and if you need an update. From there, follow the directions, such as keeping the buds out of the case and nearby, and not in use. Wait for the pink flashing lights on the Elite 4 buds to stop before replacing the buds in the case. Some updates can take up to a half hour, while others take only a few minutes. For this reason, ensure your battery is juiced up.
If you’ve already connected your earbuds via Bluetooth settings on your device, the Sound+ app ought to recognize the earbuds after a moment when you open the app.
Firstly to troubleshoot, ensure you have the most recent version of the app. If it’s still not recognizing your buds, close the app and re-open it. Next, if that doesn’t work, disconnect your earbuds from Bluetooth and reconnect, and then immediately open the Sound+ app. Usually, one of these three methods forces the app to find your Jabra buds. Unfortunately, the Sound+ app behaves finicky from time to time, with a delay in noticing your Jabra earbuds are connected.
If you have an Android device, you can sometimes bypass this issue by connecting initially through the Sound+ app instead of through Bluetooth settings. This isn’t an option for iOS users.
How does the Jabra Elite 4 connect?
One of the oddities present with select Jabra earbuds is that a few lack AAC Bluetooth codec compatibility, which is the ideal codec for iOS. The Jabra Elite 4 continues this trend by supporting aptX and SBC codecs only, despite using Bluetooth 5.2. For Android users that’s wonderful, given that aptX rates as one of the better codecs, supplying a better noise floor than SBC and lower latency. Apple owners will make do with the lowest common denominator SBC codec, which is a bit unfortunate, but on an iPhone you’re unlikely to notice any latency while streaming video.
Surprisingly, given the price, the Elite 4 supports Bluetooth multipoint. It connects with Google Fast Pair or Microsoft Swift Pair where available as well. Even with an iPhone it reconnects quickly and subsequently stays connected.
Initially pairing the Jabra Elite 4 is pretty simple, and this method works with virtually any device, and regardless of whether you use the Sound+ app.
- Enable Bluetooth on your device.
- Remove the earbuds from the case.
- Press and hold the buttons on both earbuds for three seconds until the lights flash blue.
- Select the Jabra Elite 4 on your Bluetooth settings. Now you’ve connected.
- Optionally, open the Jabra Sound+ app to finish the setup.
How long does the Jabra Elite 4 battery last?
Following our standardized testing, the Jabra Elite 4 reached 5 hours, 5 minutes on a single charge with ANC turned on. This falls a little short of Jabra’s estimate. You can extend the battery life by turning off ANC. It takes up to 3.5 hours to fully charge the Jabra Elite 4 from empty.
You lose out on some of the more premium features, such as wireless charging pad compatibility, but lots of people don’t use that feature anyhow.
Yes, the Jabra Elite 4 supplies roughly an hour of charge for 10 minutes of charging.
How well does the Jabra Elite 4 cancel noise?
While ANC usually performs most of the low-end attenuation on noise canceling earbuds, the isolation on the Jabra Elite 4 is impressive by itself. Unusually, the isolation blocks quite a lot of low pitched environmental noise in addition to the more expected high pitched noise attenuation. Of course, the strength of isolation always depends on your in-ear fit. Most of the time this standard listening mode’s isolation blocks enough noise on its own, whereas the Elite 4’s ANC is not always very noticeable.
ANC on the Elite 4 makes the most difference around 1000Hz to roughly 1500Hz. It also reduces lower pitched noises too, but to a lesser extent, up to 7dB of additional cancellation at 250Hz. Except for noisy public spaces like the bus, leaving the ANC off seems to block enough noise for working from home while extending the battery life of the Elite 4.
How does the Jabra Elite 4 sound?
Compared to our headphone preference curve, the Jabra Elite 4 fares well. Its frequency response shows that it boosts low end slightly more than our ideal at roughly 150Hz and below. Low mids are 3dB to 5dB quieter than our target. Besides 1kHz to 2kHz and at a peak at 10kHz, the Elite 4 under emphasizes treble. The reduced output above 10kHz shows itself more in overtone details, rather than specific instruments. Basically, it sounds good for most listeners.
Lows, mids, highs
Testing the Elite 4 with Spinning Away by Brian Eno and John Cale, most of the song sounds about right. The higher registers of the bass notes come through a little quieter than expected relative to the compressed clean rhythm guitar. Bass is still audible, however, and the lower notes come through with a bit more volume. Brian Eno and John Cale’s voices play back clearly. Cale’s viola plays with the right amount of volume, except for the lower notes, if you want to nitpick.
The only truly notable issue is the bassy to midrange mono synthesizer is barely audible once the other instruments come in during the verse. Lastly, the drum machine’s percussion sounds good, without edging into the territory of too much in the treble, but that seems more like a personal preference with the song in question.
Upping the 250Hz EQ band a bit (in Sound+) helps in filling out the bass oomph and the synth. Turning up the 7.6kHz slider adds more high detail to the hi-hats (although, I like the 7.6kHz left flat on this track.)
Can you use the Jabra Elite 4 for phone calls?
By and large, the mic on the Jabra Elite 4 sounds reasonably good in ideal conditions. Occasionally, you’ll hear the slightly piercing exaggeration of sibilance (ssss and shhh) due to the mic’s frequency response having some peaks in the treble, but it’s relatively controlled. After all, these aren’t professional mics. You also have access to an optional sidetone for phone calls, which is handy.
In an office setting the sounds of clatter and keyboards are transmitted by the Elite 4 and its four microphones, however, your voice still comes through with decent clarity. Meanwhile, when subjected to wind the Elite 4 mostly manages to convey your voice, however, it’s definitely much quieter and a little different than in real life. The person on the other end will also hear a light haze of wind, but not the usual gust sound that can hurt your ears. Nevertheless, it performs decently in an area that’s often a weakness in true wireless earbuds.
Jabra Elite 4 microphone demo (Ideal conditions):
Jabra Elite 4 microphone demo (Office conditions):
Jabra Elite 4 microphone demo (Windy conditions):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Should you buy the Jabra Elite 4?
At just shy of $100 the Jabra Elite 4 is priced about right for what it does and offers. For Android users, you get the aptX codec, Spotify Tap, and Google Fast Pair. Fortunately, these aren’t deal breakers for iPhones, as you get the same app and a solid connection, albeit no AAC codec. No need to concern yourself too much with compatibility if you get a new phone with the app, which is nice.
One of the standout features of the Jabra Elite 4 is the isolation, which works even on low pitched noises. Plus, you can use the ANC to help filter some noises, but the ANC is not the strength of the Elite 4, and you can prolong the 5 hours and 5 minutes of battery life by turning ANC off. For most people, the sound is pleasant, without too much exaggeration in any frequency. Plus, you can use the equalizer in the app if you want more (or less) of a given frequency. The onboard mics don’t sound too shabby either, even if they can’t filter out all noise.
Like a lot of Jabra offerings, the buds retain the signature Jabra shape and if other Jabra buds have fit you before, these will as well. Although the buds lack stabilizers, the IP55 rating safeguards them from most daily abuse or workouts. You might notice some limitations in customizing controls on the Elite 4, but you maintain direct access to most commands through the buds such as listening modes, playback, volume, and track skipping. In all, it’s a very sensible set of buds, if not as elite as the name suggests.
What should you get instead of the Jabra Elite 4?
The most obvious alternatives to the Jabra Elite 4 are other Jabra earbuds. They all share nearly the same shaped earbuds. If the fit works, you can cherry pick the feature set you want by going through the specs of each.
Exercise buffs might want to look into the Jabra Elite 7 Active, which plays nice with iPhones and Android alike, with AAC and SBC codecs. You’ll miss out on the aptX present on the Elite 4, but if you primarily exercise with your buds, you probably aren’t watching a lot of videos. The frequency response mirrors our target rather well, and you get more waterproofing with an IP57 rating. In addition, the battery lasts about two extra hours too. Prices fluctuate but can be had for $179 at Amazon.
Now, suppose you don’t care if you get Jabra, but you do want better ANC at a budget price. Check out the Anker Soundcore Space A40 for $79 at Amazon. It doesn’t have aptX, but it does have LDAC for Android and AAC for iOS. Like the Elite 4 it has Bluetooth multipoint and an equalizer in the app. Its frequency response is more subdued, but tweakable. Where it truly outperforms the Elite 4 is in its ANC. The A40 attenuates about 20dB more low pitched noises than the Elite 4. If durability is a high priority, the IPX4 rating is not as robust as the IP55 rating on the Elite 4, however.
Since the Jabra Elite 4 came out, Jabra introduced the Jabra Elite 8 Active ($199 at Jabra) with more robust dustproofing, waterproofing, and MIL-STD-810h approved. There’s also the Jabra Elite 10 ($249 at Jabra), the top-of-the-line option for the moment with head tracking for spatial audio.
Frequently asked questions
You can use Siri and Google Assistant with the Jabra Elite 4.
If overall noise canceling is your main focus, the Jabra Elite 4 does a better job than the Jabra Elite 5, especially with low rumbling noise. iPhone owners may prefer the Elite 5 for its AAC codec, but unless noise attenuation is truly not important to you, settling for SBC on the Elite 4 might be better for the noise attenuation. Otherwise, you also get aptX and SBC as on the Elite 4.
In addition, the Elite 5 favors a flatter studio style frequency response through the bass and sub bass frequencies, and a strong treble bump. You can always turn the bass up and the treble down in the Sound+ app. Most listeners will prefer the Elite 4 sound by default.
With ANC on you gain an additional 91 minutes out of the Jabra Elite 5, which isn’t nothing, but the ANC itself is not super impressive. Otherwise, you’re dealing with the same IP55 rating on both. For most folks, the Jabra Elite 4 wins out and typically sells for fewer dollars.
For the person who wants some of the most durable earbuds, the Jabra Elite 4 Active ups the IP rating to IP57, as opposed to IP55 on the Elite 4. Both sets of earbuds retain the unusual Bluetooth 5.2 with aptX and SBC codecs formula. Missing from the exercise oriented Elite 4 Active is Bluetooth multipoint found on the Elite 4.
You gain more than 2 extra hours of playback with the Elite 4 Active with ANC on. Although, it’s noteworthy that the Elite 4 filters much more noise at 100Hz and below, as well as in the high pitched noises (such as at 7kHz.)
The tuning of the Elite 4 Active has a little less bass, although still an acceptable amount, and a little more treble than the Elite 4. Broadly, they follow the same curve, and you can adjust the EQ in the app to approximate either. Otherwise, the Sound+ app works largely the same with the Elite 4 Active as with the Elite 4.
If overall noise canceling does not matter much to you (though, it should), and you prioritize battery life and durability, the Elite 4 Active is the better choice. However, the better overall noise canceling and Bluetooth multipoint convenience on the Jabra Elite 4 might make it your best pick. Jabra really forces us to split hairs here.