Jabra has a horse in nearly every race when it comes to consumer audio, and the Jabra Elite 45h is a great addition to the company’s portfolio. These lightweight on-ear headphones are meant to accompany you anywhere, and do just about everything well enough. Microphone quality is very good and battery life is the best we’ve tested, but some users may find it hard to justify full-fledged headphones when plenty of excellent true wireless earbuds exist.
Editor’s note: this Jabra Elite 45h review was updated on April 1, 2021, to include information about the Jabra Elite 85t and expand the list of buying options.
Who should get the Jabra Elite 45h?
- General consumers will appreciate these reasonably priced headphones. For less than $100, you’re afforded great microphone quality, long battery life, and a portable design.
- Commuters may want to get the Jabra Elite 45h for its unobtrusive design, and long battery life.
- Remote workers whose days are filled with conference calls will get a lot of mileage out of this headset, because the complex microphone system does a great job of transmitting clear audio.
Editor’s note: our Jabra Elite 45h review unit was temporarily provided by Jabra and operated with firmware version 2.3.9 during testing.
What’s it like to use the Jabra Elite 45h?
Jabra’s headphones are made for the everyday listener, and the design reflects that: this compact on-ear headset is easy to transport for on-the-go listening. The Jabra Elite 45h are covered under a two-year warranty, which includes dust and water protection. While you may not want to do multiple intensive workouts while wearing the Elite 45h, you can certainly skate by with some light exercise.
Start here: Ultimate headphone buying guide
To stow the headphones in a bag, swivel the ear cups and insert the flattened headset into the neoprene pouch. Although the pouch isn’t protective against hard drops, it does a good job of protecting the headphones from scuffs. The all-plastic construction may be unappealing to some, but it keeps the headphones lightweight and more affordable than alternatives with premium construction.
Synthetic leather wraps the memory foam ear pads, which are labeled with an “L” and “R” for easy identification. Jabra used a soft-touch rubberized material for the headband cushion, which is moderately comfortable. Despite the featherweight design, it took just over an hour for throbbing ear and head pain to kick in; this happened regardless of whether or not I wore glasses.
Rather than use touch controls, Jabra’s on-ear headphones house buttons on the edge of the right ear cup. Nestled near the headband, the buttons allow users to control playback, volume, and call interactions. A front-facing button on the other side of the ear cup lets you access your smart assistant of choice be it Siri, Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa. It can also be used to mute your microphone during a call. A final toggle at the base of the ear cup, near the USB-C input, may be pushed forward to manually initiate pairing mode or switched to power the Jabra Elite 45h on and off.
The Jabra Elite 45h doesn’t have a headphone jack for wired playback.
Although I generally prefer tactile buttons to touch controls, the layout of the Jabra Elite 45h buttons made it hard to distinguish between the volume buttons that flank the multifunction button. What’s more, the controls deviate from the norm and the volume buttons double as playback controls, while the multifunction button is meant just for pause/resume and call functionality.
Should you get the Jabra Sound+ app?
The app also lets you customize your call settings by introducing sidetone functionality, which makes it easier for you to hear your own voice during a call. If none of these features interest you, the Jabra Sound+ is worth a periodic download because it’s required in order to receive firmware updates to your headset. It’s available across devices, and all features are supported on iOS and Android.
Bluetooth connectivity is stable
The Jabra Elite 45h use Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and maintain a reliable, stable connection so long as you remain within the 10-meter wireless range. During my review period, connection errors only occurred when I was using Bluetooth multipoint, which never worked properly. If I was playing music on my laptop, and had the headset connected to my phone for incoming text notifications, music playback never paused to alert me to an incoming text or email. I was, however, alerted to an incoming call.
Learn more: Bluetooth codecs 101
AAC is the only high-quality Bluetooth codec supported by the Jabra Elite 45h, which is a shame for us Android users. Android and AAC mix poorly, and high-quality AAC streaming qualities are inconsistent across Android devices. The headset lacks a 3.5mm input, so high-resolution playback isn’t possible with the Elite 45h.
Minimal audio-visual lag is present when using the Jabra Elite 45h with an Android device, and this was true when I tested it with both a Google Pixel 3 and Samsung Galaxy S10e. My eyes and ears adjusted to the half-second delay during a 10-minute YouTube video, so the lag isn’t offensive by any means.
How long does the battery last?
Jabra makes bold claims with the Elite 45h battery life, championing 50 hours of music playback on a single charge. We subjected the headphones to a constant 75dB(SPL) output, and they lasted over 54 hours on a single charge. This is insane and as impressive as it is unnecessary for most users.
The Jabra Elite 85h have the best battery life on the market.
Fast charging the headset is a breeze, and proves efficient relative to other headsets with a quick charge feature. All you have to do is set aside 15 minutes to connect the USB-C cable, and you’re rewarded with 10 hours of battery life. Fully charging the headset takes just 1.5 hours, which means you can quickly top-up the headset between meetings or classes.
How do the Jabra Elite 45h sound?
The Jabra Elite 45h accurately reproduce audio across the range of audible frequencies, but what this chart can’t show is that clarity is okay at best. Each ear cup houses a large 40mm dynamic driver which reproduces vocals louder than some bass notes. Listeners who enjoy vocal-heavy music or whose libraries lack bass-heavy tracks will appreciate Jabra’s neutral-leaning sound signature.
The accurate sub-bass and bass reproduction may sound like it lacks the oomph you might be accustomed to hearing from your favorite tracks. This is because many consumer earbuds and headphones amplify bass notes to sound anywhere from 50-200% louder than mids. If you prefer the standard bass-heavy sound, you can create a custom EQ or pick from any of Jabra’s presets in the Sound+ app.
However, the on-ear design lets the headphones down in a number of ways relating to how tough it is to get a good seal. For example, a lot of notes can easily get masked by outside noise, or sound quieter than they should.
Isolation isn’t very good with the Jabra Elite 45h, but that’s to be expected with on-ear headphones. The headphones don’t place your head in a vice grip every time you wear them, so plenty of external noise will make it into your ears. Walking around town with the Elite 45h, I can hear almost everything around me. This can be good for safety reasons, but if you’re looking for a travel headset, the Elite 45h isn’t it.
Lows, mids, and highs
In Good Morning Baltimore sung by Nikki Blonsky, the opening kick drum is heard but doesn’t have the anticipated loudness and, well, kick typically experienced during the song. Cymbal hits and clashes are relayed more clearly than the bass notes, and even remain audible during the first verse of the theatrical ballad.
Though the frequency response is relatively accurate, the audio quality is only okay.
Blonsky’s vocals sound quite accurate throughout, rarely masked by the low-frequency elements of the song. Her vibrato at 2:24 doesn’t sound great through the headset, because harmonic distortion is audible. The background chorus is heard clearly throughout the song, even during the last 30 seconds when it becomes the most instrumentally busy. The headset reproduces an array of music genres well, but no matter what style of music you enjoy, you’ll likely notice a lack of clarity.
Can I use the Jabra Elite 45h for phone calls?
The Jabra Elite 45h microphone quality is above average, and it does a good job of attenuating background noise. When there are high winds, the person on the other end of the call will hear audio clipping, but this is unfortunately normal in sub-optimal conditions.
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As you can hear in the demo below, my voice sounds clear even as I stand near a tower fan at its highest setting. Jabra is a trusted company when it comes to conference call audio products and professional headsets, so it’s no surprise that the Elite 45h mic system transmits clear, accurate audio.
Jabra Elite 45h microphone demo:
Jabra Elite 85h vs. Jabra Elite 45h
The Jabra Elite 85h may be within the same Jabra Elite family, but are wholly different headphones from the Elite 45h. For one, the Jabra Elite 85h are over-ear headphones with noise cancelling technology. This larger build may be unappealing to some, but it’s key to a good pair of noise cancelling headphones. The Elite 85h ear cups completely encompass the ears and effectively block out background noise. The Elite 85h are also more flexible than the Elite 45h: the ear cups can rotate to lie flat and fold up towards the headband to fit in the more protective zippered case.
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The Elite 85h battery lasted nearly 35 hours on a single charge which is very good but doesn’t touch the rated 50-hour battery life from the Jabra Elite 45h. Both headsets support fast charging: 15 minutes connected to the USB-C cable grants the Elite 85h five hours of playtime, which is half as efficient as the Elite 45h fast charging performance.
Neither headset supports aptX for reliable, high-quality streaming on Android; however, the Jabra Elite 85h houses a headphones jack for wired playback. Both of Jabra’s headphones support Bluetooth multipoint, but it was more reliable with the over-ear headset.
Should you buy the Jabra Elite 45h?
The Jabra Elite 45h are a great pair of on-ear headphones for casual listeners, and are some of the best on-ear headphones under $100. They aren’t perfect, but no headphones are. If you prioritize portability and microphone quality over all else, this is the headset for you.
What if you don’t want the Elite 45h?
Listeners who don’t want to commit to headphones should consider the Jabra Elite 75t true wireless earbuds, which boast very good microphone quality, solid battery life, and a stylish design that doesn’t protrude from the ears. If you’re willing to spend some extra cash, the Jabra Elite Active 75t boasts a more durable IP57 waterproof build than the Elite 75t, plus active noise cancellation via a free firmware update. Better yet, make the leap to true wirless noise cancelling earbuds and invest in the Jabra Elite 85t, which compare favorably to the likes of Samsung and Apple.
If you still want on-ear headphones but you aren’t in love with the Elite 45h, consider a pair of renewed Bose SoundLink On-Ear Wireless headphones. These are the most comfortable on-ear headphones I’ve tested, and boast better sound quality and an equally good microphone system. Although the SoundLink On-Ear Wireless has an outdated microUSB input, it has many of the same features of the Elite 45h including a dedicated virtual assistant button.
Learn more: What makes a good set of wireless headphones?
Another alternative pair of on-ears to consider is the Sony WH-CH510. For less than $40, these cans are a pretty good deal—featuring Bluetooth 5.0 with support for SBC and AAC codecs. It also has a battery that should provide you with roughly 35 hours of playtime. The headphone charges via USB-C and offers quick-charging, where 10 minutes of charging gives you 90 minutes of playback.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, the Jabra Elite 45h does not feature water-resistant nano-coating. That feature is reserved for Jabra's more expensive headphones: the Elite 85h. However, the Elite 45h does come with a two year warranty that covers damage from water and dust.