Deep, customizable features
Respectable battery life
Audio quality has flaws
ANC doesn’t match the competition
About the Jabra Elite 5
- Price: $150
- Battery life: Up to 7 hours with ANC (9 without), up to 28 hours with charging case (36 without ANC)
- Fast charging: 10 minutes charging for 1 hour of playtime
- Colors: Titanium Black, Gold Beige
- Ambient sound modes: Hybrid Active Noise Canceling (ANC), Adjustable Transparency mode
- Speakers: 6mm drivers
- Microphones: 6 MEMS microphones total
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
- Audio codecs: AAC, aptX, SBC
- Dust/water resistance: IP55
- Weight: 5g per earbud, 40g for charging case
- Extras: Bluetooth Multipoint, Google Fast Pair, Spotify Tap, Voice Assistant (Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant with Android), wireless charging, auto-pause
- Warranty: 2-year warranty
The Elite 5 comes in the familiar curved rectangular flip-top case Jabra has used the past few years and supports wireless charging. It’s compact enough to fit into a pocket with a small status LED on the front and USB-C charging port on the back. The packaging it comes in, which is sustainable and recyclable, also contains two additional earbud sizes and a USB-C to USB-A charging cable. Our sample came in an attractive light gold beige color.
What we like
Jabra’s excellent collection of features
The Jabra Sound+ app is one of the best around for its combination of available features, clean organization, and ease of use. The main page shows power percentages of each earbud and the case and has four widgets—sound modes (ANC and transparency control), a 5-band EQ, music presets, and soundscapes—that can be reordered or hidden. Further adjustments can be made within the settings menu.
In the main page sound modes widget, there’s a 5-point slider that changes the intensity of the ANC, letting in more low-end and midrange as the intensity decreases. Additional fine-tuning can be done by navigating to the Active Noise Cancelation submenu in the “Personalize your headset” setting. A 9-point slider allows you to dial in the best noise suppression for your hearing if you find yourself sensitive to the in-ear pressure that can result from ANC. It also allows you to balance it between your two ears if they react differently to the ANC.
Jabra added Bluetooth multipoint to the previous iteration of its earbuds, and it’s present here, too, supporting up to six devices. Jabra has also included auto-pause, which is a welcome addition that works when you remove either the right or left earbud. The music won’t begin again when you put the earbud back in, though. You’ll need to press the unpause button on the right earbud.
Instead of continuing to play, audio can be set to mute when you turn on transparency mode (called HearThrough in the app). I would prefer it paused so I didn’t miss any of my music after re-engaging ANC. There’s also an auto-mute microphone option when you’re on a call and remove an earbud.
The soundscape widget includes 12 different sound loops ranging from pink noise to ocean waves to a crowd that can act as an alternative to music to separate from the world around you. I found the rain and occasional thunder from the “Perfect storm” sound a relaxing respite while taking a short break from work. It’s a nice touch.
While these aren’t a member of Jabra’s workout-focused Active line, the Elite 5 still have gymrat in their DNA. The earbuds are IP55 rated, which is enough to easily handle a workout, and better than other earbuds at or above this price including the Sony Linkbuds S, Beats Fit Pro, and LG Tone Free T90Q. I felt the need to adjust them once during some activity, but they never fell out.
The gold standard for controls
Other companies, take note: Jabra does controls right. The Elite 5 have tactile buttons that have a satisfying click without having to press them too hard and subsequently drive them further into your ear. A light touch is all it takes.
The button controls can be customized within the Sound+ app depending on function—listening to media, accepting incoming calls, and while you’re on a call—although I never felt the need to further customize the default settings. Everything I needed was already at my fingertips.
Volume controls are always accessible by pressing and holding the right or left button to raise and lower the volume, respectively. The only shared control is for Spotify Tap, which will deactivate your chosen Voice Assistant. For me, that’s an acceptable tradeoff.
Respectable battery life
Jabra lists the Elite 5’s battery life with ANC on at seven hours and in our testing, they came in just a little below that. It’s not the most battery life you can find—Sony’s WF-1000XM4 got a full eight in our testing—but it’s more than the aging Apple AirPods Pro and the new Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 Pro that both get less than five hours.
Seven hours with ANC is more than enough to get through the day, and even if you manage to approach the limit, ten minutes in the case will get you another hour of listening time in a pinch.
Good call quality
My voice on calls sounded clear without too many audio artifacts regardless of whether I was inside at my desk or walking down the street with light traffic going by. The mics applied noise compression well to deal with the cars, only occasionally causing a brief cupping sound to happen (as if I put my hands around my mouth to shout) when I quickly changed my orientation. But even then, the change in timbre wasn’t distracting and I was still intelligible.
What we don’t like
Sound profiles and EQ have flaws
There are six music presets and you can save up to 10 custom EQ curves by adjusting the 5-band EQ, hitting save, and assigning a name. With all of those options I was hoping to be able to dial in the sound, but the EQ isn’t targeted enough to address two key issues.
Vocals have a tendency to get buried by the surrounding frequencies on tracks with a rich midrange. As powerful as Zack de la Rocha’s vocals can be, when Rage Against the Machine's “Sleep Now In The Fire” hits its chorus, he’s no match for Tom Morello’s guitar. Robert Plant has a similar fate in Led Zeppelin’s “Sick Again.” Even though the track isn’t as in your face, his soaring vocals take a back seat as the arrangement gets thicker.
The two midrange adjustments on the EQ—one at 1 kHz and the other at 4 kHz—primarily affect the frequencies around the vocals, which helps take away some of the extra presence of surrounding guitars and strings. But bringing those bands down also brings the vocals down a touch. There’s no way to target the vocals and make sure they soar at all times.
There’s some shushiness in the high end, too, that’s most apparent with cymbals. It’s not so much that listening for extended periods fatigues my ears, but it pulls my attention at times and can’t be fixed with the treble adjustment.
ANC hasn’t advanced enough
Jabra’s noise canceling has always ranged from good to solid performance, especially for the price. A year ago I would have said the same about the Elite 5, but ANC performance from Jabra’s competitors has improved more than it has here, and extended into cheaper options. The Sony Linkbuds S addresses midrange and, to an extent, high-end suppression better than the Elite 5 for $50 more. And the Anker Soundcore Space A40 has slightly better low-end performance than the Elite 5 for $50 less.
That isn’t to say the Elite 5 doesn’t do the job. Their low-end cancelation is decent, but an airplane drone is still perceptible. The conversation also breaks through and they have a subtle but distinct high-level hiss.
Should you buy the Jabra Elite 5?
Yes, if you value the features over the audio flaws
The Jabra Elite 5 are feature-laden earbuds that aim to be the go-to for multiple applications, and to an extent, they succeed. If you accept their average audio performance, they serve well as an all-around pair of earbuds thanks to their feature customization, above-average IP rating, good call performance, and long battery life.
There are definitely earbuds that excel where the Elite 5 stumble. The Sony Linkbuds S retail for $50 more (although it can be regularly found for the same price as the Elite 5) but have better ANC performance and the Sony Headphones app allow you to really dial in excellent sound quality. And the new Anker Soundcore Space A40 comes in at just under $100 and equal the ANC performance of the Jabra.
If you’re looking for customizable earbuds that can transition from taking calls at the office to a quick workout at the gym before a walk home, the Jabra Elite 5 has got you covered.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Editor, Electronics & Audio/Video@johntmhiggins
John is the A/V Editor for Reviewed. He is an ISF Level III-certified calibrator with bylines at ProjectorCentral, Wirecutter, IGN, Home Theater Review, T3, Sound & Vision, and Home Theater Magazine. When away from the Reviewed office, he is a sound editor for film and musician, and loves to play games with his son.
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