Jabra’s affordable, smartly designed, and feature-packed Elite 5 ANC earbuds will appeal to a wide range of casual listeners, but audiophiles purely interested in the best sound should look elsewhere.
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Owned since 2020 by GN Audio, a Danish audio company with a history dating back to the telegraph, Jabra has long enjoyed a strong reputation in the earbud and wireless headphone field. The manufacturer now sells six different pairs of true wireless earbuds at retail list prices ranging from $79.99 all the way up to $229.99.
The $150 Jabra Elite 5 true wireless headphones sit squarely in the middle of the product range, and they’re well designed earbuds with an array of features that will appeal to casual listeners. Are there better-sounding ANC earbuds on the market? Sure (the second-generation AirPods Pro spring to mind), but few that can match the Jabra 5’s balance of convenience, performance, and price.
This review is part of TechHive’s in-depth coverage of the best noise-cancelling headphones.
When you take the buds out of the case and put them in your ears, a musical tone tells you they’re active, and then a recorded human voice announces whether they’re connected.
The faceplate of each earbud is a large, impossible-to-miss control button. The left earbud switches between active noise cancellation and transparency mode (or HearThrough, as Jabra calls it) and, again, an actual human voice announces which setting you’re using. The right earbud controls play and pause.
How much battery life do the Jabra Elite 5 earbuds get?
The beige gold Jabra Elite 5 earbuds that I tested needed a charge out of the box. A full charge takes about 3 hours, and the earbuds offer 7 hours playback, or up to 28 hours if you include charges from the case.
When opening the charging case lid, lights on each earbud reveal battery status with a green, yellow, or red light. A 10-minute fast charge in the case will deliver an hour of playback time if the case has at least a 30-percent charge left.
The case itself is Qi charging pad-compatible but can also be charged via the USB-C port on the back of the case using the included USB-C to USB-A cable.
What’s included with the Jabra Elite 5?
In addition to the earbuds, case, and cable (you must supply your own power adapter), the Jabra Elite 5 comes with three pairs of the company’s Eargels tips in small, medium, and large sizes.
The medium tips come preinstalled on the earbuds.
Which version of Bluetooth does the Jabra Elite 5 support?
Each Elite 5 earbud has 6-mm drivers and supports Bluetooth 5.2, allowing for connection to two devices at the same time. The earbuds support the SBC, AAC and Qualcomm aptX codecs, allowing for higher-quality streaming from both Apple and Android devices.
Playback automatically pauses when you take out the left earbud, but not the right one. The music doesn’t automatically restart when you put the left earbud back in, either. That’s not how other earbuds with this feature work, but playback restarts with a tap of the right earbud.
You can use a single earbud at a time if you’re in a situation where you need to better hear your surroundings or if you’re just looking to keep the music going when you’re low on a battery charge.
The Jabra Elite 5 supports both Microsoft Swift Pair and Google Fast pair, but iOS users will have to open Bluetooth settings to make the first connection.
How do you adjust the volume and skip tracks on the Jabra Elite 5?
The tactile experience of the physical button action with each faceplate is superior. In addition to the controls described above, pressing and holding the right earbud will raise the volume, while pressing and holding the left earbud will lower it.
A double press of the right earbud will skip to the next track, while a triple press will restart the current track. Triple-press again to skip to the previous track. A double press of the left earbud will activate your device’s default voice assistant.
How does the Jabra Elite 5 perform with phone calls?
The Jabra Elite 5 delivers excellent call quality with its 6-mic call technology, including dedicated microphones to reduce wind noise. Unlike most other ANC earbuds, Jabra’s call technology seems to be incompatible with noise cancellation. If you’re listening with ANC turned on and take a phone call, the noise cancellation turns off, returning only after you end the call and resume your music, podcast, or audiobook.
After using the earbuds for a few weeks, the lack of ANC during calls seemed like much less of an issue. Calls sound great, so that particular quirk isn’t such big a deal.
Does the Jabra Elite 5 come with an app?
Jabra’s Sound+ app for iOS and Android offers clear and intuitive control over the earbuds. You can go online to download the full device manual, but everything you’ll need to know is presented in the app.
The device home screen displays battery levels for each earbud and the case. In the Sound Modes control, you can adjust the level of ANC and HearThrough to your personal taste. There’s a music equalizer to customize the sound as well as six EQ presets, including Neutral, Speech, Bass boost, Treble boost, Smooth and Energize. If you create an EQ setting that you want to keep, you can save it and give it a name.
There is also a series of built-in soundscapes designed to mask the noise around you or provide a relaxing audio backdrop, including nature sounds plus pink or white noise. These background noises are electronically generated, and thus they’re not quite as pleasing as the real-life field recordings in an app like Environments. Still, Jabra’s artificial soundscapes are much better than what you’ll get from most bedside noise generators.
The Jabra Elite 5 is also compatible with Spotify Tap playback. If you’re a subscriber and enable the function in the Sound+ app settings, a double tap on the left earbud will resume the last song you were playing on Spotify if the app isn’t currently open, or play a Spotify recommended track if the app is active.
How do the Jabra Elite 5 earbuds sound?
The Jabra Elite 5 headphone has a very flat tuning that the app even identifies as “neutral.” There’s also none of the digital signal processing that artificially adds depth and widens the soundstage. Rather than the spatial audio ambitions of Apple, Bose, Sony, and Soundcore, Jabra simply offers a nice (if narrower) stereo image.
Streaming The B-52’s 1979 self-titled album via Apple Music was enlightening. With the Jabra Elite 5, “Rock Lobster” sounds a lot like it did when I first heard it played on a stereo system at my local record store. Listening to the same track with my second-generation AirPods Pro, there’s more detail in each instrument and a wider soundstage.
Do the AirPods Pro have more appeal for a serious music listener? Definitely, but the Apple headphone also lists for $100 more than the Jabra Elite 5. Jabra has put a lot of effort into the total experience with the Elite 5, with audio quality being just one factor in the overall equation.
Are the Jabra Elite 5 earbuds worth the cash?
The Jabra Elite 5 offers a wealth of features given the price point, and it’s those features that are the most compelling reason to buy them. The controls are fantastic. The ANC function is strong and effective without creating the disorienting sense of being in a vacuum. The HearThrough function is one of the best implementations of that feature in the market. The app is easy to use, the battery life is good, and the call quality is excellent.
While the Jabra Elite 5 headphone performs well across a wide range of scenarios, such as listening to podcasts or audiobooks, taking phone calls, and streaming tunes, they’re not aimed at the high-end audio market.
That’s not a knock, to be clear. Yes, you can find other in-ear headphones that sound better than good or even great for music, but they won’t necessarily have all the other features Jabra offers, and they’ll probably cost a lot more.
Bottom line? If you’re a casual listener and the Jabra Elite 5’s feature set sounds appealing, this headphone is an excellent choice.