Typical wireless workout earbuds make potential hazards difficult to detect, but the Jabra Elite Active 45e keeps you safe while keeping you entertained. The ear tips allow external noise in, so you’re constantly aware of what’s going on around you while facilitating better sound quality than bone conduction headphones.
Editor’s note: this review was updated on March 24, 2020, to address the Beats Powerbeats as a viable alternative.
Who is the Jabra Elite Active 45e for?
Athletes will get the most out of the Jabra Elite Active 45e. These wireless earbuds maintain a snug fit due to the ear hook design. What’s more, they’re IP67-certified, making them some of the most earbuds on the market. The ear tips are deliberately designed to allow outside noise in, keeping you safe and aware of your surroundings. While this is at the expense of audio quality, it’s well worth it for outdoor athletes.
What’s it like to use the Jabra Elite Active 45e?
Operation is simple: each earbud houses a set of buttons. The right side is for power, call, playback, and Bluetooth pairing controls, while the left allows for voice assistant access and the option to mute the microphone. Having the volume toggles on the housing’s underbelly makes it convenient to adjust while running.
Wireless earbud cables can be a nuisance because they leave excess material flopping about, requiring a cinching mechanism like the Jaybird X4. However, the Jabra Elite Active 45e avoid this altogether by using a 298mm TPE neckband joining the earbuds, which is long enough to accommodate most head sizes.
I’m not comfortable with how bulky these are, but I trust the ear hooks to maintain a stable fit. I ran, cycled, and rock climbed with these and they never fell out. This stability requires you to take a moment and properly fit the hooks to your ears. To do so, straighten out the hook, place the earbuds in your ear, and mold the hook to the back of your ear. Aside from the secure fit, the IP67 dust- and water-resistance is invaluable and makes cleaning the earbuds simple. If damage occurs, Jabra provides a two-year warranty for you to take advantage of.
The ear hooks take only seconds to fit to your ear and maintain a stable fit during vigorous activity.
As with the company’s other wireless products, you can download the free Jabra Sound+ app to choose your voice assistant, track battery life, and set custom EQs. It’s one of few headphone applications that’s actually worth downloading.
How long does the battery last?
Our battery testing yielded 9 hours, 1 minute of playback. These earbuds can easily get you through a week of workouts, if not more. Like many workout headphones, the Elite Active 45e supports quick charging. Just 15 minutes of charging with the included microUSB cable grants an hour of battery life. For a complete charge cycle of the 500mAh battery, you’ll need to set aside two hours.
These earbuds use Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and can be paired to eight devices while connected with two simultaneously. You’re afforded a 10-meter wireless range, which is stable regardless of the environment. There aren’t any high-quality Bluetooth codecs supported, so audio-visual lag is present when watching videos. The same goes for making any kind of command with the onboard controls.
What do Jabra Elite Active 45e sound like?
These don’t sound great, but they’re not supposed to. Although the scoring is low for sound quality, it’s a feature of these earbuds. The ear tips are purposefully engineered to allow external noise in. This keeps you aware of your surroundings while providing better audio quality than bone conduction headphones. This would be blasphemous for a pair of studio IEMs, but is a necessity for outdoor runners.
The frequency response looks strange but, again, it’s because the ear tips don’t fully seal to the ear. The boosted response from 60-300Hz is needed in order to hear vocals and bass notes. The de-emphasis beginning at 2kHz makes it difficult to hear any resounding details from string instruments or cymbal hits. The trade off, however, is that it’s easier to hear external noise since those highly resonant frequencies aren’t being channeled down the ear canal.
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Lows, mids, and highs
Vampire Weekend’s song This Life opens with simultaneous picking of the B and G strings on the fourteenth fret. It sounds clear but becomes difficult to hear once the bass guitar enters at 0:13. Another guitar and intermittent claps also contribute to the song at this point. While everything is audible, nothing is particularly clear save for Ezra Koenig’s vocals. That said, the song is relayed well enough to keep you distracted from exercise-induced exhaustion.
The microphone sounds better than the scoring indicates. Its low rating can be attributed to the massive spike in vocal harmonics from 500-3500Hz. That said, most voices’ fundamental frequencies register below the 500Hz-mark. Since the response is close to the ideal (+/-0dB SPL) prior to 500Hz, voices actually sound surprisingly accurate with some echo which can be heard in the demo below.
Jabra Elite Active 45e microphone demo:
If you’re outside, the dual-microphone array doesn’t do a great job at reducing wind noise. The shape of the earbuds and how they rest against the ear canal creates a micro-wind tunnel that relays whooshing noises during calls. If you must take a call on a windy day, best to use your smartphone.
How does the Jabra Elite Active 45e compare to other workout earbuds?
These earbuds are made for a specific type of athlete, namely the outdoor athlete. If you’re regularly removing an earbud to hear what’s going on around you, the Jabra Elite Active 45e earbuds are a great option because you can constantly hear what’s going on. This precludes them from being a versatile pair of earbuds, though. For instance, the Jaybird Vista true wireless earbuds are intended for working out but also serve as a fine pair of daily earbuds because they seal to the ear. When you do need to remain aware, you can listen in mono mode with a single Vista earbud.
Alternatively, the Jaybird Tarah and Jaybird X4 wireless workout earbuds are similar to the Jabra Elite 45e but aren’t quite as durable (IPX7 compared to IP67) and don’t have the same ear hook fit. They’re significantly lighter and feature smaller earbud housings, though, making them a viable option for office listening as well as gym listening.
Enjoy almost 18 hours of constant playback with the Beats Powerbeats workout headphones.
Another great standard wireless workout earbud options is the Beats Powerbeats headset. This uses an ear hook fit to keep the earbuds in place and affords almost all the same benefits as the Powerbeats Pro for $100 less. iOS devices still benefit from immediate device switching and hands-free Siri compatibility due to the H1 chip; and everyone benefits from the nearly 18-hour playtime on a single charge.
Stay within the Jabra family and get the Elite Active 75t
The Jabra Elite Active 75t has a different design philosophy than the Elite Active 45e. For one, the 75t model includes true wireless earbuds that also happen to completely seal to the ear, preventing the ingress of external noise. Athletes who keep their workouts to the gym may want to pick these up instead in order to keep other gym-goers’ grunts out of their ears. You can also take the Active 75t to the streets as the earbuds support ambient noise mode whereby external noises are amplified through the headset.
The true wireless ‘buds are nearly as durable as the Elite Active 45e and are presented in a much smaller package. These true wireless earbuds provide welcome upgrades from the older Elite Active 65t, including improved battery life. The Elite Active 75t lasted 7 hours, 14 minutes when subjected to our standard battery testing. You’re also afforded great quick charging performance: 15 minutes in the USB-C case yields one hour of playtime. If you’re ready to cut the cord, the Jabra Elite Active 75t are a smart, rugged investment.
Should you buy the Jabra Elite Active 45e?
If you spend most of your workouts outside, yes, these earbuds are worth it. They put safety and connection strength above all else. If you’re looking for a comparable build with better sound quality, the Jaybird Tarah earbuds are similarly priced. Overall, the more I used the Jabra Elite Active 45e, the more I enjoyed them. Even when I wasn’t exercising but going for a walk around my apartment complex, it was reassuring to hear what was going on around me.
Frequently Asked Questions
Both the Jabra Elite Active 45e and Jaybird X4 are great wireless workout earbuds that happen to fulfill slightly different use-cases. Since Jabra's earphones don't seal to the ear canal, they're a great option for outdoor athletes (e.g. runners and hikers). The Jaybird X4 earphones are also good for running, but they isolate you from the environment. This means, if you're going to exercise outside, you should make sure you're in a safe environment away from traffic. What's more, the Jabra Elite 45e headset is IP67-rated, so it's a great option for beach-goers and rock-climbers, while the X4 is IPX7-rated only. It boils down to your priorities, but the Jaybird X4 is the more versatile headset while the Jabra Elite Active 45e is more durable.