Jabra Elite 4 Active vs Jabra Elite 7 Active: Sports buds showdown
Is it worth spending up, or can you get value and performance?
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After years of success in the fully wireless earbuds game, Jabra has completely revamped its lineup with multiple new models (and a semi-confusing switch in its naming convention). Replacing the popular Elite 75t and Elite Active 75t are the new Elite 7 Pro and Elite 7 Active, the latter of which is designed to push you through your toughest workouts, and much more.
While the Elite 7 line is close to the top shelf of Jabra’s offerings (save for the illustrious Elite 85t), Jabra has also unveiled some value-packed new models at more affordable prices. Most notable is the Elite 4 Active, which stand up surprisingly well to the Elite 7 Active at a considerably lower cost. So which pair is right for you? Follow below as we break it down.
This is the simplest category, even if massive discounts can make things a bit murkier. But discount or no, the Elite 4 Active are going to cost you a lot less than the Elite 7 Active for the foreseeable future. When talking brass tacks, the MSRP is a whopping $60 difference.
With recent sales on the slightly older Elite 7 line (which includes the pricier Elite 7 Pro), you may only save $40 or $50 at time of publishing, but that’s still a nice chunk of change for a pair of earbuds. Advantage, Elite 4 Active.
Our pick: Elite 4 Active
Design and fit
Both the Elite 7 Active and the Elite 4 Active are built for nearly anything you throw at them, including your favorite sweaty activities. To that end, each pair offers a very good IP rating (a common standard for measuring electronics weatherproofing), listed at IP57. This means they offer good resistance against particle ingress, as well as water resistance that allows them to be dunked for up to 30 minutes in one meter of water. In other words, both pairs are dust ready and dunkable.
Both pairs also offer a grippy exterior, though the Elite 7 Active advertises a fancy “ShakeGrip” coating aimed at keeping them in place no matter what. I’ve had no issue keeping either pair in place, thanks in part to their deep fit that’s a bit more intrusive than many Jabra buds before them. They both got comfier as I got used to them, but for my ears, the Elite 4 Active are the easiest to wear long-term.
Each pair is also relatively micro-sized, and weighs near 5 grams per bud (the Elite 7 are slightly heftier at 5.5 grams). Perhaps the biggest aesthetic difference lies in the shape of their respective charging cases: The Elite 4 Active offers a tall case borrowed from previous generations, while the Elite 7 Active’s case is flatter, rounder, and a bit easier to pocket.
While I personally prefer the Elite 4 Active’s fit, there’s not a lot of separation in this category.
Our pick: Draw
Features and controls
As is Jabra’s way, both of these pairs of earbuds are loaded with features, many of which are accessible via Jabra’s excellent Sound+ app. Unlike AirPods—which primarily cater to iPhone users—the majority of these features are designed to work equally well with either side of the mobile battlefield, and both pairs offer adjustable, comprehensive controls (including onboard volume control) via physical buttons.
You’ll get great baseline features in both pairs, like an earbuds finder, a multi-band EQ, and even an available personalized sound signature. Each offers the same, stable Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity, rapid charging, as well as the ability to use one bud (left or right) at a time. Both also offer Active Noise Canceling and Transparency Mode to block out or let in your aural environment respectively.
Here’s where things begin to differ a bit, though. While both pairs offer multiple levels of Transparency Mode, only the Elite 7 Active lets you adjust active noise canceling. This may or may not be important to you, depending on your use case. The Elite 7 Active also offers wireless charging for their case as well as auto-pause when you pull a bud out—the Elite 4 Active notably omits this handy feature, which you’ll find in all of Apple’s AirPods models.
Finally, after a firmware update, the Elite 7 Active added multipoint pairing, letting you sync them with a computer and mobile device at the same time. For those who do a ton of calling and sharing between devices, this is a big get.
Our pick: Elite 7 Active
Battery life between the two pairs is also similar, but there are some notable distinctions. The Elite 7 Active offers up to 8 hours of battery life per charge, while the Elite Active 4 offers 7 hours. In practice, I got a bit less with either pair when using ANC, measuring around 7.5 hours and 6.5 hours for the Elite 7 and Elite 4 respectively. That extends to as much as 35 hours with the charging case for the Elite 7, and up to 28 hours for the Elite 4.
The Elite 7 Active also charges faster, offering 60 minutes of playback on 5 minutes charge—it takes their siblings 10 minutes for the same result. Any way you slice it, those are solid numbers for earbuds in each pair’s respective price range, but the Elite 7 Active take the win.
Our pick: Elite 7 Active
This one’s an interesting category. The Elite 7 Active has the advantage in calling (it was overall a bit clearer in our testing) and ANC, which is a bit more powerful than what’s offered in the Elite 4 Active. Part of that is likely due to the Elite 7 Active’s 6 microphones in total—two more than you’ll get with the cheaper pair.
On the subject of sound quality, though, I’m a bigger fan of the Elite 4 Active. While they may not serve up quite as much clarity or detail as the pricier pair, their sound signature is, to my ears anyway, more accessible and balanced. The Elite 7's sound can come off a little pinched, lacking body in the upper register, but there’s really none of that in the Elite 4’s sound. Neither of these pairs is designed for picky listeners, and certainly not for audiophiles, but I’ll take the Elite 4 Active on your average day in this category.
For those interested in audio codecs (hello, fellow audio nerds), Jabra has made an interesting decision. Both earbuds offer the basic SBC codec, of course, but otherwise, things diverge intriguingly along Android and iPhone lines: the Elite 4 Active offer Qualcomm’s aptX codec for higher quality streaming from supported Android phones, while the Elite 7 Active offer the more common AAC codec for iPhones.
I frankly don’t think either addition or omission will be enough to sway the ears of most folks, but the lack of parity on both ends of this one is surprising. Overall, while the Elite 7 has some notable advantages, I reach for the Elite 4 more often. As such, this one’s too close to call.
Our pick: Draw
And the winner is …
This is a tough call, and it would be even tougher if the price points were a little closer together. While the Elite 7 Active may offer a better overall package, the significance of what they deliver falls short when compared to the striking value of the Elite 4 Active. As noted in our review, the Elite 4 Active provides a well-rounded package at a surprisingly great price. That makes them the best choice for most buyers.
That said, if budget is less of a concern, the Elite 7 Active present a tempting choice as well. They’re objectively superior in some key categories, and for those who value multipoint pairing, they’re the obvious winner. They also have a slight edge for iPhone users thanks to AAC support.
The good news is, you’ll do well with either of these fine Jabra earbud options, whether you’re looking for a pair of jogging buds, something to block out the world while you work, or just about anything in between. All you need to do now is weigh your biggest pain points—and your budget—and pull the trigger.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.