Published on February 15th, 2022 | by Chris O'Connor
Jabra Elite 4 Active Review
We’ve come along way since boomboxes, walkmans with those foam overear headphones with the thin metal sliding bands to adjust the length. Now everything, from our internet to general communications, is wireless and so too are our listening options.
Jabra Elite 4 Active (in ear) earphones seem to be marketed squarely at the fitness crowd, which makes sense as it’s a realm in which wireless audio can really prevent a lot of distraction and potential dangers. That fitness focus is cemented by the fact that these earbuds boast IP57-rated durability… essentially meaning they should be able to take all the sweat you can drip on them and still keep on pumping out the tunes. If you want to make sure your focus is purely on your workout… they also state they are noise cancelling with an option to switch to “HearThrough” mode if, say, your trainer has some tips for you that you need to hear. There are three sets of EarGels in the set so if one doesn’t fit your ear you can try another… for me the default set seemed fine.
Setup is quite easy, simply download the app and pop the earbuds in your ears and as long as all things are good, you will be paired with ease. The app then gives you access to some of the extra features of the earbuds such as equalizer and other settings. Once you have everything set you can then do a lot of your adjustments via the buds themselves which have controls on each (they are separate controls though so the left earbud controls one set of commands while the right side controls a different set of commands). It can take a bit of getting used to… but it is handy to be able to make your adjustments without having to grab your phone.
The little case the earbuds comes in is quite nice too… it feels sturdy enough to protect them, compact enough to take wherever you go and convenient enough to pop them into when you aren’t using them so they can charge (the little case has a USB C port on the back for charging). The earbuds are said to be able to provide up to 7 hours of use which should cover at least a few workout sessions before needing a fresh charge and the case can provide an extra boost when needed too).
But what are they really like? Well I was pleased with the ease of setup… but then drastically underwhelmed by the audio quality. But I need to put a little caveat there, the sound did seem a little better… if I pushed the ear bud further into my ear and held it there (ie if I didn’t hold it there it would return to it’s “default” position). My ear canal is apparently oriented slightly different to the average (if memory serves a doctor once explained it that mine “drain” the opposite way)… so maybe that is the issue, but the result for me is the sound lacks vitality… it kind of sounds like listening to things through a sheet… as if some of the warmth has been drained out of it.
The obvious thing in this situation is to jump into the app and have a look at the Equalizer… well I did that and the first problem I had there was that any adjustments seemed to take a while to register in the audio but they also seemed to make little to no difference. The same can be said for the noise cancelling. Again these things could be more related to my ear shape than the ear buds themselves as I do suspect that if your ear happens to conform to a shape compatible with the apparent 62,000 ears that were scanned to engineer the earbuds then your results might be better. But for me… I was left wondering why other people’s views that I’ve seen about these earbuds seem to be talking about the audio quality as if it was pretty decent… not great… but not bad. I’d lean more on the not horrible… but not good end of the scale.
But, they do seem to fit nicely enough, they don’t feel like they will fall out. They are easy to set up and the ability to control them via the ear buds themselves is a great feature. If you aren’t fussed about the “character” of the audio quality (or you can find somewhere to try them and find that your ear shape helps provide better sound) then perhaps these are a great option. Certainly their IP57 rating is a strong reason to favour them if you are prone to long sweaty workouts.
Bottom line… if overall sound quality is less important to you than convenience of use then these are worth a look. If you are an audiophile you’d probably be best looking elsewhere.