Jabra’s added another piece to the puzzle. But is the piece too puzzling? Let’s talk about the Jabra Elite 5 Active.
So we’ll break this into three sections:
1. The full lowdown on what the Jabra 5 Active is
2. How does it stack up with Jabra’s other offerings?
3. Should you buy it?
The Full Lowdown on the Jabra Elite 5
Jabra buds always do well at the basics – build quality, calls, comfort and features. And the new Elite 5 continues in that tradition.
So let’s start with the build. Jabra at this point has two kinds of cases. The ones the Elite 7 series have and the ones for everything else. The Elite 5 falls clearly into the everything else category and we like it. It’s pocketable, compact and the case comes with wireless charging. It also carries 21 hours of charge in the case, whereas despite the tiny size of the buds, Jabra packs in 7 hours of battery life with ANC On. And that is a solid number for everyone but the most demanding of users. Jabra’s Sound+ app still has some of the best customisation you can ask for. Be it sound, calls, ANC or buttons – there is every single option you can possibly dream up. These are the same style of buds that Jabra’s new lineup has. Small, compact and they use buttons for control. The buttons feel pretty easy to touch and not as tough as the Elite 4 Active. And as is Jabra’s way – these buds are IP55 rated. So whether it be dust or light rain or your own sweat, you can use them without worries.
Extra Features Extra-vaganza
And Jabra continues its extra-vaganza of features. Fast Pair from Google is on board and that means you pair once on Android using your Google Account and it’s available on all your Android devices without having to pair with them. You can get the full Google Assistant experience too by replying to notifications or checking battery levels. However we could not get the more advanced commands like enabling noise cancellation to work. And then you have Alexa that you can enable on both Android and iOS. And if you are indeed looking beyond Android, you’re in luck. You get Microsoft Swift Pair. You thought we were going to say iOS weren’t you? Ok there’s that too. They have the Made For iPhone branding. And across all these platforms, these earbuds also offer Bluetooth multipoint – which means irrespective of your OS, you can stay connected to two devices at once. Not a surprise, since Jabra has done this before with many of their earbuds.
So let’s talk about the three sound-related things. Starting with lack of sound.
Great Transparency, Good ANC
Look – Jabra’s ANC in general is… fine. We tested these in a train – and it was fairly effective in cutting down the low end sounds a train produces. Voices, less so. But with music on – you can be relatively cut off from the world. Jabra states that the tech in these is hybrid ANC – which is actually better than their more expensive 7 series. Confusingly though, they say that overall the 7 series still perform better. Do with that info what you will. So – these are not the best ANC buds, but they do a decent job in real life conditions. The transparency mode on the other hand is very good. Again I thought something like 3 out of a scale of 5 felt close to natural volumes, so there’s plenty of amplification to go around. At higher transparency levels the white noise also gets ramped up quite a bit though.
How do the microphones on the Jabra Elite 5 sound?
Jabra prides itself in its microphones and in our limited testing we had no reason to think that the Elite 5 performed any better or worse than Jabra’s other offerings. In a call in a noisy train, the voices of other people around us were also picked up, but at no point was the speaker’s focus drowned out or inaudible. The 6 microphones on the Elite 5 are a solid pick although people have complained that the 7 series sometimes fall apart when there’s too much background noise. So that might be something to keep in mind. Also despite the number of microphones, the 5 Active does not have the jawbone sensor tech from the 7 Pro that helps isolate the voice. So that’s something Jabra has reserved for its flagship.
But let’s not forget – Jabra has easily some of the best controls on its earbuds. And our vakman hearts are happy. Auto answer calls, auto mute when you take your buds out of your ear, a 5 point side tone scale to hear your own voice, a quick access to call controls in the app best of all – you can change volume and mute phone calls right from the earbuds. And if that’s not enough, you can customise a triple press to do things like put a call on hold, resume calls and even turn on or off sidetone if you’re in an especially noisy environment. Easily the most full featured calling solution – and that makes sense since Jabra has a solid enterprise division that makes conference calling solutions. But enough of us talking – here’s a sample of us… talking using these earbuds. Let us know what you thought.
For microphone samples, check out the video above.
The Jabra Elite 5 Sounds Good – With a But
So how do these sound? Well – to start off with, despite having a Snapdragon chip on board, these earbuds do not support any codec except APTX Classic. It’s a strange choice, because the chip does give access to APTX HD and Adaptive, but Jabra has decided to not use those codecs. Which means the resolution is decent but never going to be excellent. Overall the tuning is going for a sound with good clarity. Out of the box I found the 6mm (?) drivers did a good job in the mids and treble. Acoustic guitars sound clear and you can hear the fingers sliding up the strings. Voices have a nice body and something like a fuzz guitar in Jack White’s Fear of the Dawn has a nice grit to it. However these earbuds lack some serious bass. At least in their default tuning. And we do think this is a driver limitation. Because even when we switched the EQ to give us more bass we somehow miss the thump of the mid bass. We always complain about buds being too bassy out of the box, but Jabra’s gone the other way so that may be a deal breaker for many of you.
How does the Jabra Elite 5 compare with the Elite 7 Pro, Elite 4 Active and Others?
So Jabra’s numbering system is beginning to make some sense – the models from cheaper to more expensive are numbered 2, 3 ,4, 5 and 7. So it might already be clear to you where the 5 Active falls here. <counts with hands> Between the 4 and the 7. Our insane math skills notwithstanding, the differences are a bit confusing once you delve into the details. So we’re gonna be super lazy and just paste some slides from Jabra’s presentations. Here you go.
The biggest differences between the 5 and the 7 seem to be in the microphone and noise cancelling tech and a lowered IP rating for fluids on the Elite 5 Active. You also get a personalized sound setting on the Elite 7 Pros with MySound. When compared with the Active 4 though, you get better microphones and something that’s not on this chart – we much prefer the 5 Active’s buttons over the 4 Active’s buttons though.
Of course, the prices are different too. But like we’ve come to expect from Jabra – those prices are far from static. So for the latest prices, check the links below.
Should you buy the Jabra Elite 5?
So – the money question – should you get it?
The Jabra Elite 5 is overall a solid offering. On paper, it checks everything you’d want from true wireless earbuds – portability, clear calls and a very usable active noise cancelling and transparency. Its sound is clean and enjoyable. And in true Jabra fashion it brings you all the toppings – multipoint, assistants, fast pairing, swift pairing and full customization through a killer app with all the options your tweaky heart could desire. However – at $150 Euros or dollars – can we recommend it? Well – yes and no. We like a lot of things about it – and you know for a vakman or a general user, these earbuds do everything you could want. Jabra’s been smart with its branding. You now have a range of earbuds from 2 right upto 7 with a hole for the 6 – which would be weird not to fill. But having said that – it’s kinda hard to recommend this for any one thing. Like we saw in the last video, the Samsung Buds 2 is a pretty solid choice under a $100 and Jabra’s own cheaper products start looking pretty attractive. Especially given the fact that these aren’t giving you real S tier sound. And while we appreciate Jabra’s efforts on sustainability, $150 is going to be a hard sell in a market where Samsung, SoundCore and 1More are pumping out solid earbuds almost every month it seems like. To be clear – while we don’t LOVE these earbuds, we do LIKE them. A lot. But at this price – that’s not enough for us to make that commitment, but we can clearly see it being the case for many many of you.
You’ve been finding love for wireless earbuds and we’ve been DHRME. Namaste!