Jabra Elite 4 review: budget true wireless earbuds that covers all the bases

In a game of compromises, Jabra has chosen quite wisely.

by Justin Choo

The Jabra Elite 4 sports all essential true wireless earbuds features at a reasonable price. Unlike the Elite 3, the Elite 4 has a built-in active noise cancelling (ANC) circuit and is the most affordable ANC, true wireless earbuds in the Jabra lineup.

It checks all the basic boxes that one looks for when looking for a pair: Bluetooth Multipoint, ANC with hear-through, reasonable battery life, and sound quality that’s decent enough for the price. The Elite 4 is also dust and water-resistant (IP55) and supports fast charging (10 minutes for roughly an hour’s use). For $160 (and eventual discounts), that’s not too bad at all.

As you would expect for the price, the housings for both earbuds are aesthetically understated, though they do come in a palette of safe colours–Dark Gray, Navy, Lilac and Light Beige. The Elite 4 eschews popular touch-enabled controls for traditional buttons–two of them–which are enough, really. 

The design is simple but its list of features isn’t.

Elite 4 supports Fast Pair and Swift Pair, which makes pairing to Android and Windows devices a no-brainer. As mentioned, these earbuds support multipoint so you can switch between devices, such as your PC and your phone. So you can use them to listen to music off your laptop or switch to a call on your phone whilst on Zoom.

One of Jabra’s strengths is that their earbuds are pretty comfortable to wear–I’ve only ever known one person who has an issue with its shape. And thanks to the no-frills, largely plastic design, the ensemble is pretty lightweight and comfortable enough to wear all day. The noise isolation itself is pretty good and I don’t really need noise-cancelling if I’m not on public transport. Jabra also provides two additional pairs of gel ear cushions of differing sizes to ensure that you can get an optimum ear seal. So, if comfort is a priority, then keep Jabra’s offerings in mind. 

There is, however, one potential downside regarding the snug fit: imagine the sound of your footsteps constantly reverberating in your ears. Running with them is even worse. In my case, I used a smaller-sized ear gel (included), which helped significantly.

The battery life is pretty modest and I managed around five hours on average with the ANC on. With ANC off I can get at least 6 hours thereabouts. With the charging case, you can get close to three additional charges, which is more or less in line with the specifications.

The settings for ANC and EQ are found on Jabra’s easy-to-use Sound+ app. By default, Jabra sets the ANC level right in the Goldilocks zone. Maxing out the noise-cancelling isn’t always the best outcome–I found the default setting struck a nice balance between effective noise cancellation and ear comfort.

For an entry-level pair of ANC earbuds, you actually can neutralise a fair bit of annoying background sounds, and the hear-through comes close enough to the natural environment sound that you can have a conversation quite comfortably with the earbuds on. In my opinion, hear-through is one of the most important features these days if you want to avoid getting skewered by cyclists coming from behind.

Navy Blue is always a safe bet.

The ANC tech is built on the foundation of a 4-mic setup, which also delivers respectable call quality. Background noise generally gets muted but the mics still pick up voices and music in the background. The ANC does a fair enough job of minimising wind noise, which is great. Overall, the call experience is quite pleasant if you can find an environment that’s not crazy noisy. Sidetone, which lets you hear yourself while on a call, is arguably one of the underrated features found in Jabra earbuds and headsets, especially when the noise isolation of your earbuds is effective, to begin with. It’s not a feature you always see being offered, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t seek this out earlier.

The Elite 4 uses regular 6mm drivers and is voiced to deliver a soft V-shaped signature that bass lovers will surely love. And on the treble end of things, you’re not assaulted by piercing highs; kind of un-exciting, but at the same time, it’s never off-putting. The Elite 4 earbuds are not exactly the most detailed of earbuds but the sound signature is pretty likeable. Jabra isn’t a name that comes to mind when one mentions sound quality and to be fair, they have never been interested in pursuing audiophiles. Just to be clear, they’re not bad sounding; far from it. “Safe pair of hands’ feels like a more appropriate description.

The Elite 4’s codec support is cursory–SBC and aptX codec–which is somewhat amusing when the competition is even supporting LDAC for cheaper prices. But don’t let that deter you. SBC may well be a dinosaur by this point, but its compatibility is unquestionable. Despite the negative connotations, the audio presentation on the Elite 4 while listening is surprisingly decent for what it is, so much so that I didn’t realise it was transmitted over SBC at first. The difference between aptX and SBC in this case is most apparent in the level of detail. However, iPhone users can only choose between SBC and SBC, so do take note.

And regardless of iOS or Android, there’s something the Elite 4 doesn’t do–there are no sensors in the earbuds that can sense you removing or wearing the earbuds, therefore whenever you remove them while the music is playing, the track will continue to play. I can see this being annoying for some people, but these are considered ‘budget’ earbuds for the ANC category after all. On the upside, the Elite 4 automatically turns on and off the moment you insert or remove the earbuds from the case, and I think everyone can agree that this feature has got to be a non-negotiable inclusion.

Jabra’s Elite 4 isn’t quite the cheapest of the cheap (or you can always look out for eventual discounts), but when you consider it from a quality-of-life standpoint in terms of features and ease of use, there is precious little to gripe about–even the lack of support for high-resolution codecs isn’t a big deal in this context. Factor in a two-year warranty and you have pretty much a winning combination.

  • 7.5/10
    Jabra Elite 4 - 7.5/10

Jabra Elite 4

No frills here; just all the essentials along with Jabra’s everyday workhorse, quality-of-life experience. Best described as a relatively affordable ol’ reliable.

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