Reviews

Jabra Elite 3 reviewed: these really deliver

There’s no shortage of truly wireless earphones, but at $119, the Jabra Elite 3 has the potential to bring the company’s expertise to true value.

A little bit different from the design we’ve seen on the previous Elite models — and arriving with a different name at that — Jabra’s Elite 3 takes its truly wireless earphones in a new direction: focusing on budgets.

With the world of truly wireless earphones opened up with price points ranging from cheap-as-chips to a luxury twelve course degustation, it’s not surprising to see Jabra expand from what is typically a focus on the high-end.

You’ll have seen them over the years in the Elite range, originally in the Elite Sport, but now in a numerical Elite range, with the Elite 65t, Elite 75t, and more recently the Elite 85t. This year, we’re jumping into a different set of numbers, with the Elite 7 inbound in the high-end, but also something in the low.

At the low-end part of the market, Jabra is borrowing the case, reinventing the style, and bringing a low price to the $119 Elite 3, a more value-driven take on wireless earphones.

Design and features

Design-wise, the button is bigger and more triangular, while the earphones look like they’ve been squeezed slightly sporting a marginally more compact look than other Elite models.

Inside, there’s a 6mm driver on each side, as well as two microphones for each earphone, Bluetooth 5.2, and support for one-touch Spotify control on Android using the Jabra app, which is also supported here.

The Elite 3 earphones also come with IP55 water and dust resistance, making them ideal for sweat and going for a run in the rain, and sport a rechargeable case with support for as much as 28 hours, plugging into a USB Type C cable to recharge. The earphones themselves sport as much as seven hours of life, though that may be dependent on how often you listen to music and how often you take calls.

In-use

Using the Jabra Elite 3 is pretty easy, and aside for pairing it with your phone, a prerequisite of any wireless earphone, you’ll find Jabra’s app offers some help.

Granted, the Elite 3 are budget-focused earphones, and so miss out on some of the extra stuff Jabra earphones come with, such as soothing rain sounds and white noise. However, you do get six equaliser presets and a “HearThrough” mode you can switch on that fires up the on-board microphones to pipe through the outside world and slightly amplify it.

Controls are fairly standard here, with the left earphone’s button seeing a single press to turn HearThrough on and off, a second press to fire up your virtual assistant, and held down to turn the volume down bit by bit. On the right side, Jabra has set the button to pause and play the music with a single push (and to answer calls), while a double press and triple press sees the track going forward and backward respectively. If you need to turn the volume up, you can hold the right button down to have it move up a little bit.

All up, it’s fairly standard, though Android users will see support to trigger Spotify from a single button, something iPhone users miss out on.

From here, all that’s left is to try the Elite 3 earphones and see how they stack up.

Performance

Tested with Pickr’s Sound Test, which you can experience for yourself on Apple Music and Spotify, the Elite 3 provide a fairly strong approach to balance, minus as much of an impact of bass.

Take how they sound in electronics, with a mostly balanced sound in Tycho’s “Glider” and Daft Punk’s “Contact”, save for a heavy punch of bass which isn’t there. There’s more than enough detail and the bass does make an impact, but it’s not an altogether detailed low-end and won’t rival more expensive earphones.

That may well be the point, though: below $150, we typically wouldn’t expect a detailed performance to rival pricier in-ears.

And yet Jabra still fares well.

There’s a vibrant sense in pop, and the balance is more noticeable in Ariana Grande’s “Into You”, getting a bass that doesn’t drive too hard, but gives you enough of what you need. It’s much the same in Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk”, where the bottom end snaps nicely as you listen, though can feel restrained at times.

It’s much the same in rock where the sound is cool and comfortable, reminiscent of another pair of two we’ve heard from Jabra in the past.

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If we had to guess the inspiration, Jabra’s Elite 65t is a dead ringer for the sound profile, which itself was a decent pair of earphones back in the day. We’re also reminded of the Elite 75t, as the Elite 3 offer a fairly capable balance that’s easy to admire, and great for folks who love listening to their sounds clearly.

Jabra Elite 3 (left) versus the Jabra Elite 75t (right).

Battery

Alongside solid performance is an equally solid battery, able to deliver up to seven hours per charge, and getting not far off that in our tests.

We found around seven was possible, though we while reviewing the Elite 3, rarely left them in our ears for longer than six hours. If you’re anything like us, you’ll keep them in for a few hours at a time, throwing them back in the charging case for a little more life as the day wears on.

The charge case achieves roughly 28 hours before needing to be plugged into a Type C USB cable, which these days isn’t a bad effort at all. While it by no means matches the 180 hours possible from the Ag TWS04K, 30 hours isn’t a bad effort at all from such a small case.

Granted, you don’t get a battery case that can charge on a Qi wireless charge pad, but at this price, who really cares.

Value

And at $119, that price is one of the standout features that sees Jabra really smashing these out of the park.

At a hair under $120, the Jabra Elite 3 are comfy earphones with comfy sound. While you miss out on active noise cancellation, you get some passive cancellation and a couple of microphones that will help amp up the world and let you hear through them if need be.

More importantly, the Elite 3 sound very good for the price, all while bundling in a smidge more water resistance than earphones at this price point typically do, not to mention support EQ profiles over Jabra’s app.

What needs work?

In fact with that Australian $119 price tag, Jabra has managed to make a cost-effective approach to truly wireless earphones that limits the impact to the budget.

Obviously, truly wireless earphones vary in price wildly, though options in the low-end tend to come with reasons why, with sound quality and feature set sitting at the top.

In the Jabra Elite 3, the features have seen the most impact, largely because of what’s not included.

The Jabra Elite 3 earphone design (left) versus the Elite 75t earphone design (right).

Unlike the Jabra Elite 75t and Elite 85t, there is no support for noise cancellation in the Elite 3. In the Elite 85t, that technology came built-in, but in the Elite 75t, it was added in afterwards. You won’t find it at all in the Elite 3, however. Clearly something had to be dropped from the package for the price.

It’s a similar situation for wireless charging, with Qi cases supported in new generations of the Elite 75t and found in all Elite 85t, but not here at all in the Elite 3. That’s not a major surprise given the price tag, but worth noting all the same, especially if you glance at these earphones and think they’re more of the same, but just less expensive.

Final thoughts (TLDR)

With fewer phones arriving with earphones, there’s a pretty solid case for grabbing a pair after you buy a new phone. After all, you could probably just as easily use your old pair, but then you have a new phone, so why go with the old?

There’s also a good reason to stick with the old: it’s cheap. There is nothing quite like your own hand me down, sticking with something tried and trusted and true because you also don’t need to spend up big to get a replacement.

And that’s where Jabra’s Elite 3 makes an interesting case for itself. Arriving as a budget pair of earphones, the Elite 3 makes the case for spending a little bit of money and still getting something good.

In a world where value and quality are typically mutually exclusive, Jabra bucks the trend. The Elite 3 deliver solid value and strong quality, two things we don’t typically see.

You will miss out on the more premium features, with noise cancellation and wireless charging missing in action, but you may not care. For just under $120, Jabra has delivered on the most important aspect of a pair of earphones — the sound — and done so with some sweat and water resistance, as well.

Simply put, if you’re looking for a pair of earphones that won’t break the budget and yet hits the nail on the head value, these really deliver. Jabra has nailed it in the Elite 3. Recommended.

Jabra Elite 3
Design
Features
Performance
Ease of use
Battery
Value
The good
Pretty decent sound
Great value
Capable battery life
Water resistance (IP55)
The not-so-good
No noise cancellation
No wireless charging
4.3
Leigh :) Stark

A technology journalist working out of Sydney, Australia, Leigh has written for publications including The Australian Financial Review, GadgetGuy, Popular Science, APC, PC & Tech Authority, as well as for radio and TV since 2007.

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Leigh :) Stark

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