Good, punchy sound
Great battery life
Case feels flimsy
Of course, Jabra has made some concessions to keep the price so low. The buds themselves still reflect Jabra’s reliable design metrics, but the charging case feels cheap and isn’t Qi-compatible for wireless charging. While you do get a few good features here, you’re not getting noise cancellation, and HearThrough (Jabra’s ambient mode that lets you hear the world around you) has been pared down so much that it’s considerably less useful.
However, where these buds make no concession is in sound quality and battery life—key areas for true wireless buds of all stripes, and feathers that make the Elite 3’s $80 cap look all the more valuable. If you’ve been hunting for a set of true wireless earbuds under $100 that won’t skimp on sound or run out of battery halfway through your day, the Jabra Elite 3 are the new value buds to beat.
About the Jabra Elite 3
Here are the specs you’ll want to know about:
- Price: $79.99
- Battery life: Up to 7 hours, 28 hours total with charging case
- Rapid charging: 10 minutes charge for 1 hour playback
- Wireless charging: No
- Voice assistant compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant
- Colors: Light Beige, Dark Grey, Lilac, Navy
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
- Audio codecs: aptX, SBC
- Water resistance: IP55
- Ear tips: EarGel tips in small, medium, and large
- Weight: 4.6 grams (each bud), 33.4 grams (charging case)
- Warranty: 2 year warranty against failure from dust and water with Jabra Sound+ app registration
- Other features: Google Fast Pair, instant Alexa activation, one-touch Spotify (Android only), Mono Mode, HearThrough
The Elite 3 bring a lot to the table for their relatively modest price tag. However, it’s also worth taking stock of the features you’re not getting: alongside their lack of noise canceling there’s also no customizable EQ, both features we heartily enjoyed on the flagship Elite 85t buds and cheaper Elite 75t.
These are forgivable omissions in this price range, but if you’re looking for something with ANC, you should check out our list of the best noise canceling headphones for plenty of great options.
We received a navy version of the Elite 3 on loan from Jabra. In the box, you’ll find the buds, three sets of EarGels silicone tips, the charging case, and a (very short) USB-C to USB-A charging cable.
What we like
Design that ain’t broke
We’ve all heard the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and that applies to the Elite 3’s design. If you’ve used Jabra’s Elite 85t or Elite/Elite Active 75t, you’ll be immediately familiar with the Elite 3’s bud and case design. Like those older, pricier models, the Elite 3 buds are tiny and compact, hidden within a pocketable little case.
The major design difference comes in the form of the materials used. The Elite 3’s buds and case are lighter than the flagship 85t, partly due to the removal of noise canceling components, but they also use lighter-grade plastics in general. While light weight is almost always preferable for portable products, it does come at some cost to the Elite 3’s overall vibe.
For example, while the buds themselves feel durable enough to the touch, the charging case feels a bit on the cheap side, especially the way the lid snaps open and closed. If I didn’t know any better and someone handed me the case for the Elite 3, I might think it was from a no-name set of true wireless buds. Most folks won’t mind the lack of premium feel at this price range, but it’s worth being aware of.
That said, both the buds and the case still feel durable enough to withstand regular time jostling around in a pocket or pocketbook. And, thanks to their IP55 Ingress Protection rating, the buds are fairly well protected from dust and water damage too.
For controls, there’s Jabra’s familiar single multi-function button on the exterior of each bud—simple as can be. Press the right button once to play/pause, twice to skip to the next track, and three times to reverse tracks; press and hold to raise volume. For the left button, press it to toggle HearThrough mode, double-press to activate your voice assistant (or instant Spotify), or press and hold to lower volume. You can tap either button to answer incoming calls and double-press to reject incoming calls.
In my experience, memorizing the controls for the Elite 3 may take you just a little time, but it’s ultimately a well-tooled method of controlling everything, making it easy to execute functions with a button tap or two.
The only issue that may come up for some users is if you tend to adjust your earbuds in your ears a lot. Obviously, with a large button serving as the backside of each bud, it’s pretty easy to press them accidentally while re-securing the buds in your ears. Fortunately, though there are only three sizes of EarGel tips included, we didn’t have any trouble finding a good fit.
In fact, as far as comfort goes, the Elite 3 make for a dreamy companion. Between their airy weight of under five grams and a comfortable fit and seal (with the right tips), it’s easy to listen to music or podcasts all day without complaint. They’re not the most luxurious-feeling buds I’ve ever used, but they’re plenty comfortable for all but the pickiest ears.
Surprisingly good sound for the price
Especially for a pair of $80, the Elite 3 sound great. I wasn’t expecting them to sound nearly as good as something like the Sony WF-1000XM4, and they don't, but they’re definitely on par with the older Samsung Galaxy Buds+. Considering the latter were originally $150, that’s saying something.
In fact, I vastly prefer the Elite 3’s sound to the recently released Google Pixel Buds A Series, which needs bass boost toggled on to compete with the Elite 3 in terms of overall aural impact and robustness. The A-Series offer some features that the Elite 3 don’t, but if you’re all about sound quality, the Elite 3 win that comparison.
Picky listeners should be aware that the Elite 3 don’t offer a totally flat frequency response. Instead, they push forward bass and midrange frequencies a bit, conforming to what is often called a “consumer-friendly” sound. This is good news for everyone (except maybe audio engineers). Music sounds robust and punchy enough to knock the socks off most true wireless buds in this price range.
The lush synth pads, percussive ‘80s drum pads, and twinkling, ethereal vocals featured in my favorite Spotify Synthwave playlist sounded especially good on the Elite 3’s “Smooth” EQ preset. For harder rock or metal, “Energize” did the trick nicely. You’ll want to download Jabra’s Sound+ app to access these settings and more—I’ll go over the app in more detail in the next section.
My only complaint about the EQ presets is that they’re only so effective. Presets like “Bass boost” and “Treble boost” don’t do much to move away from the Elite 3’s already bass-forward sound, for example, and between the six EQ presets, there’s not a ton of differentiation in general. This wouldn’t matter so much if you could customize the Elite 3’s EQ, but unfortunately, you can’t.
Still, that’s a minor complaint, especially for buds that cost $80. Especially if you like a solid, bass-friendly kind of sound, the Elite 3 are champs.
Last but not least, the Elite 3 are a solid choice if you prefer to make or take calls using your earbuds instead of your phone. While the embedded microphones in each bud aren’t as powerful as on higher-end Jabra offerings, call quality was still clear and reliable for me.
Decent features and extras
As one might expect, the Elite 3 aren’t nearly as feature-rich as some pricier headsets. You’re skipping noise canceling, a customizable EQ, programmable buttons, auto-off functions, or full waterproofing. But for the price, the Elite 3—combined with Jabra’s Sound+ app—still offer plenty of fixings.
While it’s possible to use the Elite 3 without downloading Sound+ for your smartphone of choice, it makes your time with the Elite 3 an easier, richer experience. In the app, you can quickly monitor battery levels, toggle HearThrough on or off, use Find My Jabra (a great addition at this price), and select from the solid array of EQ presets mentioned above. Sound+ will also net you some less exciting, more “clerical” features, such as warranty registration, firmware updates, and a helpful illustrated product tour.
While the majority of the Elite 3’s features will function identically across Android and iOS devices, there are also a few useful actions that are Android only: Google Fast Pair, instant Alexa, and one-touch Spotify.
Mono Mode is another simple but enjoyable addition to the package. Just like it sounds, with Mono Mode, you can listen to one earbud at a time simply by leaving the other in the charging case, which is great for podcasts and taking calls, as well as listening to music on occasion when you want your wits about you.
While none of these features are particular standouts for the overall wireless earbuds market, the kit is certainly robust for the money.
Awesome battery life
Jabra claims you can get 7 hours of continuous listening out of the Elite 3, and a total of 28 hours with the charging case. These numbers already outpace the recently released (and pricier) Google Pixel Buds A Series—and either version of Apple's AirPods—and in my personal experience the Elite 3 get even more battery life than that.
After first fully charging them, I got around 9 hours out of the Elite 3 before they hit 10% battery remaining. Without any ANC to drain the battery, the Elite 3 can get you at least a full workday’s listening before you need to pop them in the charging case. Depending on how often you call upon voice assistants or tinker with EQ presets, you can count on anywhere from 7 to 9+ hours of battery life on a single charge. That’s nothing short of stellar in this price range.
What we don’t like
HearThrough? Where art thou, HearThrough?
HearThrough is Jabra’s dedicated ambient/transparency mode: turning it on is meant to make ambient sounds around you easier to hear. This feature is one area where the downgrade from pricier Jabra buds is obvious. Not only do the Elite 3 exclude the multiple levels of HearThrough you get with pricier Jabra buds, but the effect is so subtle as to be almost negligible.
I walked around my apartment with loud footfalls, snapping my fingers and making nonsense sounds while turning HearThrough on and off and could barely tell the difference. It definitely lets some sounds through more easily: While it’s on, I can clearly hear the sharp clicks of my keyboard as I type this sentence. But I don’t think I would rely on it to alert me to the nuances of traffic.
It’s a shame, because HearThrough has traditionally been a solid feature on Jabra’s pricier buds, especially because it is usually multi-tiered, allowing you to jump between sub-modes that provide more or less ambient awareness. The bottom line is that HearThrough feels like a meretricious inclusion this time around.
Should you buy it?
Yes, they're a premium pair of buds at a discount price
In some ways, Jabra’s Elite 3 are a testament to the progression of true wireless earbuds over the last several years. If any tech reviewer had tried out the Elite 3 circa 2018 and been told they only cost $80, they probably wouldn’t have believed it. It’s exciting to see true wireless buds that work this well and sound this good for so little money.
That said, while you’re unlikely to find a better pure value than the Elite 3, there may be other products you should consider before hitting that buy button. For example, if you don’t mind paying a bit more to get seriously snazzy design and Google-powered, hands-free operation, the $99 Google Pixel Buds A Series might be worth a look.
You can also find the respectably versatile Samsung Galaxy Buds+ for $99 online. Just keep in mind that the Buds+ will soon be replaced by the Galaxy Buds 2, which are an even better option (but will cost you almost twice as much as the Elite 3 right now, though they do net you ANC at that price).
Alternatives aside, Jabra deserves kudos for delivering such stellar sound, impressive battery life, and intuitive controls at this price point. The few mild drawbacks—namely poor HearThrough performance and a chintzy case—are highly forgivable in a value-facing product, and ultimately, the Elite 3 grant you the performance of a more premium set of buds at a knockout price. You’re unlikely to find anything much better under $100.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Editor, Home Theater@Koanshark
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
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