US economy

Jabra's Elite 4 Active are the value-packed sports buds to beat


Pros

  • Snug, weatherproof design

  • Active noise canceling

  • Great features and battery

Cons

  • No auto-pause

  • Sluggish app connection

Jabra’s Elite 4 Active break the mold with tons of features in an affordable, sports-ready package.

About the Jabra Elite 4 Active

Here’s a look at the Elite 4 Active’s notable specs:

  • Price: $119.99
  • Battery life: Up to 7 hours (a bit less with ANC), up to 28 hours with charging case
  • Fast charging: 10 minutes of charging for an hour of playback
  • Colors: Black, Navy, Mint (direct from Jabra only)
  • Ambient sound modes: Active Noise Canceling (ANC), adjustable transparency mode
  • Speakers: 6mm drivers
  • Calling: 4 MEMs microphones total, noise reduction tech
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
  • Audio codecs: aptX, SBC (no AAC)
  • Dust/water resistance: IP57
  • Fit: Three ear tip sizes
  • Weight: 5 grams per earbud, 37.5 grams charging case
  • Android extras: Google Fast Pair* Spotify Tap Playback*, Alexa built-in (*requires Android 6.0 or higher)

The Elite 4 Active’s $120 cost (likely to settle around $100 eventually) gives them a leg-up on pricier middle-class favorites like Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 and the Beats Studio Buds, offering very similar features and overall performance. They also compete surprisingly well with Jabra’s next tier up, the $199 Elite 7 Pro and Elite 7 Active.

Like the Elite 7, the Elite 4’s healthy feature set, snug fit, and rugged design make them exceptionally versatile. Jabra calls them “athleisure” buds, ready for everything from workouts and gardening to business travel.

The buds are packaged in a strikingly familiar, oval-shaped case pulled from previous Jabra iterations, alongside three sets of ear tips, setup instructions, and a small USB-C charging cable.

What we like

A stable, stylish, and weatherproof design

The interior of a navy earbud sits in a hand in front of a grassy backdrop.

Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

The Elite 4 Active aren’t quite as nimble as the Elite 7, but they’re still plenty small and just as rugged.

The characters “IP57” may not mean much to the average shopper, but they’re the gold standard for rugged wireless earbuds right now, signifying good dust resistance and the ability to withstand being dropped in a meter of water for 30 minutes (i.e. you can rinse them in the sink). Along with their proficient exterior armor, the buds are sleek and relatively small—not quite as micro-sized as the pricier Elite 7, but small enough for good comfort and aesthetics.

Their five-gram weight also matches our favorite feather-weight buds, like the AirPods Pro, making them relatively comfortable for long-term listening. Their snug fit was a little intrusive for my ears at first but they seemed to settle in, getting comfier over time rather than the inverse. Their grippy exterior also helps them stay put under duress, though the trade-off for their secure fit is they make your ears feel more plugged than open-ear buds like the AirPods Pro or Jabra’s own Elite 85t.

Competitive ANC for the money

The Elite 4 Active’s noise canceling is what I’d call “Class 2” quality. It doesn’t offer the kind of tranquility provided by flagship options like the Elite 85t (and definitely not Sony’s WF-1000XM4), but it’s enough to quell a fair bit of airplane drone noise for a more relaxing ride on your next flight. The buds also effectively squashed the din of traffic from the thoroughfare near my local park, aided by solid passive noise isolation. They won’t be the sonic saviors from your house of chaos, but they provide solid relief from the noisy world around you, especially with light music playing.

A navy earbud sits in the ear of a man with brown and grey hair with trees and grass in the background.

Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

The Elite 4 Active offer mid-tier noise canceling and adjustable transparency mode to go with a balanced sound signature.

When compared to similarly priced competitors, like the Galaxy Buds 2 and the Beats Studio Buds mentioned above, the Elite 4 sit somewhere in the middle, with the Studio Buds at the higher end.

Way more features than you’d expect

While you won’t get everything from Jabra’s feature buffet, the Elite 4 Active serve up a very ample plate, especially considering their price. Many of the features are accessed from within Jabra’s Sound+ app, including favorites like an adjustable (and saveable) five-band EQ and presets, easy-access firmware updates, and a “find my Jabra” function.

There’s also multiple levels of transparency mode to filter how much sound you let in (ANC is fixed), the ability to turn on/off “sidetone” for calls (which affects whether you hear your voice in the earbuds), as well as some useful Android-only features like Google Fast Pair and single-tap Spotify playback (for Android 6.0 or higher).

An ample plate of features from Jabra’s buffet.

As for physical features, you can use either bud for mono playback (the Elite 85t only allow this for the right earbud), while the buttons on their exterior allow you to quickly tap your way through ANC and playback functions, including separate volume commands. If I can muster one teensy complaint there, the covered buttons are slightly tougher to press than previous Jabra buds, but they also wear in a bit over time. It’s also worth noting that, unlike some buds from Jabra and others, you can’t reconfigure the controls for the most part, but you shouldn’t need to as every major feature is at your fingertips.

There are a few modern feature omissions—after all, these are essentially budget buds. Those include a lack of auto-pause when you take the earbuds out (it’s just not an option currently) and no wireless charging for the case. Curiously, there’s also no AAC codec here for improved audio with iPhones, though the earbuds support Qualcomm’s high-quality aptX codec, a sign that the Elite 4 Active tend to slightly favor Android users. The buds will still work great for either device type, but it is something to be aware of.

Respectable battery life

An oval shaped, navy earbuds case is held before a grassy background

Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

The case will charge the buds for an hour of playback in 10 minutes, with up to 28 hours total battery playback.

While we’ve come to expect around 7 hours of battery playback or more from Jabra buds of late, it’s worth pointing out that this is still far from the norm, even for some earbuds priced much higher. Buds like Sony’s WF-1000XM4 pile in up to 12 hours per charge, but Apple’s AirPods Pro and the new Beats Fit Pro top out at 5 and 6 hours respectively, and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Pro and the cheaper Galaxy Buds 2 offer only 5 hours with ANC (though they get a solid boost without it).

I couldn’t quite squeeze the full 7 hours from the Elite 4 with ANC engaged, but you should be able to push them to somewhere around 6-6.5 hours at medium volume before you start hearing the click of their “charge me now” tone, which starts at around 10% battery life. Frankly, anything over 5 hours at this price is gravy.

Accessible sound

The Elite 4 Active’s sound performance won’t be courting audiophiles, but it’s perfectly pleasant for most genres, offering some healthy punch in the bass coupled with a crisp and relatively clear upper register.

Details don’t pop like they do in Jabra’s Elite 85t, or even the Elite 7, but in some ways I actually prefer the Elite 4 to the latter. The Elite 4’s sound is a tad sanded down in the midrange, smearing some of the depth and dimension of the most carefully cultivated recordings. But, although both pairs can get a little snappy in the treble, the cheaper pair offers smoother sound overall, with less sharpness up top. And while the bass is strong and full, it rarely overpowers the soundstage like the aging Elite 75t. You can also adjust the sound to taste thanks to that multi-band EQ, though I was mostly just content to stick with the default.

An earbud sits in the ear of a man with brown and white hair in a park with trees and grass.

Credit: Reviewed/Ryan Waniata

The Elite 4 Active provide balanced, accessible sound with a taste of Jabra’s powerful bass.

You can do better, even at mid-tier pricing. Samsung’s Galaxy Buds 2 offer more vibrancy, increased instrumental texture, and enhanced clarity. Still, there are some nice moments to enjoy with the Elite 4 Active, from the rusty guitar resonance of the final solo in The War on Drugs’ “Thinking of a Place” to the smooth and wooly bass guitar in The Shins’ “Saint Simon.”

When it comes to call quality, again the Elite 4 are far from the best I’ve tried. Voices sound a little more detached and dulled down than what you’ll get from favorites like the AirPods Pro, but most folks should be satisfied if you keep your expectations in check.

What we don’t like

Sluggish app connection and battery readout

I really have very few complaints about the Elite 4 Active. Their price point and heap of extras make them feel like an “under promise, over deliver” situation. However, I did find myself waiting on them to connect to the app more than I would have liked when pulling it up during playback. More annoying, when I was testing the battery, the app was rarely accurate, requiring I close the app and re-open it for a proper reading.

For example, when I was almost at the end of my battery test, the earbuds started giving me an annoying clunking tone to tell me the battery was dying, but it was still reading at a full 25% in the app. Relaunching showed me they were just at 10%—which is also a little early to be trumpeting the “time’s up” tone, in my book.

Auto-pause and wireless charging would be nice

It feels greedy to complain about a lack of features in this package, but if there’s a will there’s a way. I expect Jabra had financial reasons to hold back auto-pause, but I’m hoping there’s a chance it could be added in a firmware update (the Elite 85t do it with earbuds proximity, rather than sensors). A wireless charging case is simply one you’ll have to give up on for these, but even the $200 Beats Fit Pro skip this feature, so it’s really just a point of note.

Should you buy them?

Yes, they’re a killer choice for affordable sports buds

Jabra’s Elite 4 Active offer everything from ANC to top-flight water resistance, alongside solid sound, steady and polished performance, and a comfy-yet-stable fit. If you’re looking for a great, affordable sports-plus package—or, as Jabra puts it, “athleisure”—get your credit card handy.

If you’re not as interested in a pair that braves the elements with gusto, or if you want a slightly comfier, more laid-back fit, the oft-mentioned Galaxy Buds 2 are a great alternative. They offer better sound, a similar feature set, and more avant-garde styling. That said, they don’t stay in place as well for workouts, and they’re not nearly as water-resistant.

Apple’s Beats Studio Buds are another solid option, with slightly better noise canceling and some excellent Apple-ecosystem features as well, though again they’re not nearly as workout ready. Both pairs will cost more at full price, too.

At $120 the Elite 4 Active are tough to pass up. They’re a more polished package than 1:1 competitors like the value-packed Amazon Echo Buds 2, and stand tall with plenty of pricier buds. While some may opt to shell out extra cash for earbuds with better sound quality and calling, more potent ANC, or other flagship features, the Elite 4 Active keep bringing me back to a shoe-store slogan from my youth: “You could pay more, but why?”

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

Meet the tester

Ryan Waniata

Ryan Waniata

Managing Editor – Electronics


@ryanwaniata

Hailing originally from Montana, Ryan parlayed his time working as a musician and audio engineer into a career in digital media in 2013. Since then he’s had extensive experience as a writer and editor, including everything from op-eds and features to reviews on TVs, audio gear, smart home devices, and more.


See all of Ryan Waniata’s reviews

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