As a die-hard Jabra Elite Active 75t loyalist, I was extremely eager to get my hands on the new $79 Jabra Elite 3. These earbuds promise a whole lot for a very low price, but what would I be sacrificing coming from a pair that’s roughly twice as expensive? Not a whole lot, it turns out.
The Jabra Elite 3 deliver great sound, comfort and features for a pair of $80 earbuds, not to mention some truly stellar battery life that holds up to some of the best true wireless earbuds we’ve tested. But are they for you? Here’s how the Elite 3 have stacked up after nearly a week of heavy use.
The who, what and how
Who it’s for: The $79 Jabra Elite 3 are for anyone seeking an affordable pair of earbuds that make very few compromises when it comes to sound quality, comfort, features and especially battery life. They also work well on both iPhones and Android devices.
What you need to know: The Elite 3 are the most affordable member of Jabra’s current earbuds lineup, giving you very good sound quality within a comfortable and attractive design. The buds have a handy HearThrough mode that helps you stay aware of your surroundings, and sport some of the best battery life of any earbuds we’ve tested recently.
How it compares: In terms of sound quality, the Elite 3 are comparable to rivals such as the Google Pixel Buds A, and even outshine the base AirPods in some ways despite being a little light on bass. You won’t get active noise cancellation (ANC) like you will on other cheap buds like the TCL MoveAudio S600 and EarFun Air Pro, but you will get some of the best battery life you can find on a pair of wireless earbuds with the Elite 3.
A classic Jabra design with some really nice colors
Like their more expensive predecessors, the Jabra Elite 3 look pretty good and are exceptionally comfortable. The curvy, ergonomic design that’s become Jabra’s signature is back on these budget buds, but in a form that’s slightly more compact and minimalist than some of the company’s more premium options. There are four compelling color options here — our navy blue review unit looks pretty sleek and unassuming, though I was slightly gutted not to receive the gorgeous lilac variation. You can also get these earbuds in dark gray and light beige, rounding out a lineup that makes the white-only AirPods start to look especially dated.
The Elite 3 are some of the most comfortable earbuds I’ve worn lately, creating a secure, soft fit that’s largely comparable to the much more expensive Elite Active 75t that I use as my daily driver. As with most modern buds, you get three swappable sets of ear tips here — once I swapped in the largest option, I rarely had the urge to adjust or take out the Elite 3 during long days outside and at my desk.
I’ve long been a fan of Jabra’s button-based controls, and they remain a highlight on the company’s most affordable earbuds. While the Elite 3’s buttons aren’t quite as satisfyingly clicky as those of the 75t, they still allowed me to accurately control my music playback, adjust volume and toggle HearThrough mode with various taps and holds. It’s great to see controls this reliable at this price, as I often struggle with the sensitive touch-based options on more expensive earbuds like the Pixel Buds A and Galaxy Buds 2.
The Elite 3 have an IP55 durability rating, which means they’re built to withstand some basic dust and light sprinkles of water but aren’t necessarily made to survive being submerged. Our unit kept on ticking after I gave it a quick splash in the sink, so you shouldn’t have to worry about these getting damaged from light sweat or rain.
If there’s one part of the Elite 3’s design that feels considerably “budget,” it’s the charging case. While it has the same sleek build as other Jabra cases, it also feels very cheap and plasticky enough to make me worry about its long-term durability. And while I wouldn’t expect such a feature at this price, you can’t charge the case wirelessly.
Good sound quality and great features for the price
I’ve been using the Elite 3 as my main music earbuds for close to a week now, and haven’t been in a huge rush to go back to my 75t that are about twice the price. These things sound seriously impressive for a pair of $80 buds, though there are some small sacrifices you’ll make for the price.
Jabra’s earbuds were perfectly suitable for my daily listening habits, making everything from the chuggy pop-punk of New Found Glory to the intricate indie rock arrangements of Julien Baker sound crisp and lively. However, I found these buds to be lacking on the low end, as the bass tracks of most songs I listened to were either too quiet or too muddy for my liking.
The bass boost setting in the Jabra Sound+ app helped amplify things, but sometimes at the expense of making tracks sound overly buzzy and blown out. This wasn’t enough of an issue to keep me from happily bobbing along to my Spotify playlists for hours on end, but it was a pretty noticeable downgrade from the fuller sound I get on my usual 75t. On the flip side, I found the Elite 3 to offer much clearer overall sound than the more expensive AirPods.
The Elite 3 deliver an impressive amount of features for the price, borrowing some of the best things about Jabra’s more expensive buds within a more basic package. The Elite 3 work with Jabra’s Sound+ app for iOS and Android, which allows you to monitor their battery life, switch between a handful of music presets and activate HearThrough mode, the latter of which is really nice to have on a pair of buds this cheap.
Like Apple’s Transparency Mode or Samsung’s Ambient Noise, HearThrough mode uses the earbuds’ microphones to amplify the world around you so you can better hear nearby noises and voices. The feature worked nearly as well on the Elite 3 as it does on my more expensive Elite Active 75t, making it easy for me to hear cars approaching over my music while I walked my dog.
You also get Jabra’s usual mix of audio presets, which include Neutral, Speech, Bass boost, Treble boost, Smooth and Energize. I found the differences between these modes to be pretty subtle, with Bass boost and Treble boost making the most noticeable impact on how my music sounded. Still, having any form of sound customization on a pair of $80 buds is a nice extra. It’s worth noting that the Elite 3 do have some Android-specific perks, including the ability to summon either Google Assistant or Alexa for voice commands and open up Spotify with a single press. It’s a small difference, though it would be nice to be able to activate Siri using the buds alone.
Some of the fancier features of other Jabra earbuds are missing here, including ANC, a more robust audio equalizer and multiple levels of HearThrough mode. That’s all to be expected at this budget price, though ANC is starting to become more common on cheap earbuds like the $99 TCL MoveAudio S600 and $79 EarFun Air Pro for those who want to better block out the outside world.
The battery life is ridiculously good
The Jabra Elite 3’s battery life isn’t just good for the price — it’s some of the best of any earbuds we’ve tested. These affordable buds got me through an entire workday’s worth of continuous listening on a single charge, lasting close to nine hours of jamming out to music, taking calls and occasionally using HearThrough mode when I stepped outside. These things also lasted through days of mixed use before I had to plug in the charging case.
That’s seriously impressive, and slightly exceeds Jabra’s own rating of seven hours of continuous listening and 28 hours with the case. It also trumps the five hours of nonstop playback we got out of the Pixel Buds A, and holds up to the eight hours we got from the TCL MoveAudio S600. And both of those earbuds cost more than the Elite 3.
The Elite 3 also proved to be a great companion for calls. I never got any complaints during hours’ worth of phone calls and Slack huddles with family members and colleagues, and the voice recordings I captured with Jabra’s buds sounded impressively crisp. I also appreciate that the Elite 3 have a Sidetone feature that lets you hear your own voice while you talk, which can potentially keep you from talking too loud. And if you’d rather not have Sidetone, you can turn it off in the app.
If you’re looking for a great pair of wireless earbuds for a low price, it’s hard to do much better than the $79 Jabra Elite 3. These buds sound good, feel great and offer some pretty handy features, all while delivering enough battery life to get you through a full workday and then some.
So what are you giving up for such a low price? The Elite 3’s case feels kind of chintzy, and the buds can be a little lacking when it comes to bass. And unlike other cheap buds like the EarFun Air Pro and TCL MoveAudio S600, you won’t get ANC here. If you’re an Android user who cares about hands-free controls, the $99 Pixel Buds A are also worth considering, thanks to their very useful Google Assistant capabilities.
Still, the Jabra Elite 3 are an incredible value, and beg the question of why anyone needs to spend more than $100 on a basic pair of buds — including the $120 to $160 AirPods — unless they want ANC or are completely married to the Apple ecosystem.