The Jabra Elite 5 earphones set the bar for mid-range truly wireless ANC, delivering sound quality amidst value. Are they your next pair?
Picking between a pair of inexpensive earphones isn’t always easy, partly because there are just so many choices, but if you know what you want — if you have features you can match to a price point — the whole thing can get a little easier.
Some features command a hefty price tag, but that’s beginning to change, as sound makers work on democratising feature sets and getting them down in price in a way that works for consumer choice.
In Jabra’s latest pair, that very much seems to be the case, as the sound specialist delivers a pair of truly wireless noise cancelling earphones for a little over two hundred dollars that comes packing the features. Sporting active noise cancellation, wireless charging, and a solid battery life, the Jabra Elite 5 could be the mid-range ANC benchmark you’ve been looking for.
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Design and features
It’s been a year since we saw Jabra make a shift in style, flattening its often bulbous design that has been growing ever more lean as time goes on.
We recall the Jabra Elite Sport fondly in 2017, one of the first pairs of compact truly wireless earphones with water resistance, and my how time has flown. In the space of five years, Jabra has not only improved the tech inside, but put its earphones on a diet, managing to make them smaller every year.
In the Elite 5, the template is similar to what we saw earlier when we reviewed the Elite 4 Active, and before it, other models in the Elite range.
We’ve seen so many, it can be hard to keep count, but the idea is typically this: truly wireless earphones that nestle in the ear nicely and offer one large button, plus microphones to let you capture the world, listen to it on transparency, and then charge them up in a compact case. That’s the idea, and that’s largely what Jabra has delivered each time.
The Elite 5 keeps that up, offering 6mm speakers, three mics per ear, and a relatively small design not unlike the other Elite models, with 7 hours of charge for the earphones and up to 28 hours of battery life all up in the case, which can be charged over either Type C USB or Qi wireless charging.
There’s support for dust and water resistance, something Jabra has been known to support for quite a while now, with IP55 protection, meaning it should survive more than a decent run in a rain storm, just don’t expect to go swimming with it.
Other features included for the ride are support for Bluetooth Multipoint, a Jabra earphone-tweaking app, and fast pairing or “swift pairing”, depending on if you have Android or Windows, though the Elite 5 will also pair with anything from the Apple camp, as well.
With a similar design to existing Jabra models, you probably won’t be surprised to see the same style of controls.
There’s one button on each side with main controls preset for the right ear offering media controls — for play and pause on one press, while two gets you to skip a track and three goes back one — while the left ray is sound modes for ANC and HearThrough’s transparency mode plus voice assistant. The good news is you can switch them around however you want, because there’s an app.
Yes, that’s one of the better things about Jabra’s earphones, because there’s an app, and quite a well-developed one, at that.
Jabra’s Sound+ on the Elite 5 offers control tweaks, semi-personalised active noise cancellation, a shortcut for Spotify, preset equaliser settings, and something budget models have missed so far: a built-in white noise generator inside the app.
That’s a feature we love, because it means you may not need to spend on any other calming app, and can just use what comes with your earphones.
They’re also fairly comfortable, something Jabra has clearly spent some time on over the years and has working nicely. You’ll find a few ear tip choices in the box, and the design is pretty simple: insert and twist.
The Elite 5 aren’t like Sony’s WF-1000XM4 which is very hit and miss in terms of comfort. Rather, these are simple. You simply find the tip size you like per ear, and you’ll find they should fit quite well.
Next is how they sound, which is understandably the most important aspect of picking any earphones. As usual, we’re running this test with Pickr’s Sound Test, which you can listen to for yourself.
That starts with the electronic sounds from Tycho and Daft Punk, delivering a nice balanced sound that’s mostly skewed to the mids and highs, though the bass hasn’t been left out, and you’ll hear the percussion and bass quite well, too.
We found the bottom end a touch restrained, almost like the original Jabra Sport, which for us meant the lows could be improved slightly in EQ if you needed to, something Jabra’s app definitely supports.
It’s a similar feeling with the pop sounds of Carly Rae Jepsen and Maroon 5 or the R&B from Ariana Grande and Mark Ronson: the sound is easy to listen to and mostly balanced, with the bass a touch lacking, but easy to listen to. Those of you with hefty needs for bass will yearn for more, but most will be fine with what Jabra is putting out.
And that was the case with most of what we heard. Listening to the rock from the Deftones, Beatles, Muse, Paul Simon, David Bowie, and Rage Against the Machine, it’s clear the bass could be doing a little more to excite, but the overall result is pleasing. There’s a decent sound stage on offer in the Jabra Elite 5, and while the bass could have more impact and occasional fall a little flat, most won’t care.
To most ears, the Elite 5 will sound great, and they’ll even give you a slight bubble of sound to listen to your tunes.
The noise cancellation isn’t the best in the business here, and you’re definitely getting a mid-range choice. These will cancel out much of the repeatable noise of traffic you might pass by, but it’s not quite on the level of the adaptive tech we’ve seen from the high-end.
To Jabra’s credit, the transparency mode was quite solid, using the same microphone on tech we saw in the less expensive Elite 3 and providing a clear picture of what’s going on outside without an excessively loud volume. While the ANC could be better, the transparency HearThrough mode to let you listen to the world outside is very good, and makes it feel just like you’re listening without earphones. That’s a win for us.
Battery is also a winner for us, with the up to 28 hours on offer from the Elite 5 more or less exactly where we’d want a $219 pair of noise cancelling earphones to be pitched.
That’s more or less on par with some of the best noise cancelling earphones you can find today, and these are closer to half the price of the $400+ models about the place earning those accolades.
Factor in the support for Qi wireless charging, and you’ll find a winner for the battery side of things here.
Priced around $40 more than the already pretty solid Jabra Elite 4 Active, the $219 Elite 5 nail value really well. We need more audio companies to take stock of what Jabra is doing, because across the range, each Jabra earphone feels well suited to its target price point, and the Elite 5 is no exception.
Except for that it is also an exception because value isn’t always perfect in noise cancelling earphones, and the Elite 5 hits it out of the park here.
Much of what’s on offer in the Elite 5 gives the Elite 7 a run for its money, and that’s already a great entry. This is another excellent pair of in-ears for not much at all. That’s as straightforward as it gets.
What needs work?
While we love the value, we can now see where things separate between the Elite 5 and 7 just that little bit more clearly.
For instance, as good as Elite 5 are, the noise cancellation reads as a little basic, with no app to let you tweak what’s going on, and none of that extra neat capability for bone conduction, either. There’s already a difference in tech, so if you’re wondering what the roughly extra $100 gets you between the Jabra Elite 5 and Elite 7 Pro, that’s a pretty strong indication right there.
The bass could also be a little more impactful on the Elite 5, with the bass fantastically thumping on the Elite 7 Pro, but a little less so on the 5. It’s not enough to tarnish the experience, and folks less enthused by meaty bass won’t be bothered in the slightest.
Jabra’s Elite 5 delivers enough of a balanced sound that pretty much anything you throw into them should sound great, we’re just wanting a little more out of this.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
Despite the less impactful bass, the Jabra Elite 5 is a winner, updating what worked so well in the Elite 4 Active, adding a few bucks, and feeling like a better value overall.
At their price, the Elite 5 are a genuine steal. These earphones make sense for anyone looking to upgrade to ANC without needing to spend a lot of money. They set the pace for noise cancelling earphones competing for value this year. Recommended.