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Forget AirPods: Jabra Elite 4 earbuds are budget-friendly and feature-rich

The Jabra Elite 4 earbuds have active noise cancellation, multipoint connectivity, a sweet $99 price tag, and much more.
Written by Christina Darby, Associate Editor
Reviewed by Kerry Wan
Jabra Elite 4 on a laptop.
Christina Darby/ZDNET

Quality earbuds don't have to be expensive. We found out firsthand back in 2021 when ZDNET tested the Jabra Elite 3, $80 wireless earbuds that competed with AirPods' audio quality at a fraction of the cost. 

Today, Jabra is back with the new Elite 4, a successor that continues to carry out its more-for-less mission, but now for $99. It's more expensive than its predecessor, but with the addition of ANC, Qualcomm aptX support for lossless audio, multipoint connection, and up to 28 hours of battery life, the new buds are arguably just as disruptive to the premium audio market as the last.

The Jabra Elite 4 keeps the same ergonomic design as the Elite 3, requiring a twist-and-lock mechanism to ensure a snug fit. That's fantastic if you plan on using them during high-movement tasks like workouts and running. While I find earbuds with longer stems more comfortable to wear -- they don't build up as much pressure in the ears, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't have the urge to remove the Elite 4 even after four hours of non-stop wear.

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The charging case's lightweight build is another stand-out feature of the Elite 4; it not only slips into my front pocket with ease but doesn't feel like a burden to carry around. It charges via USB-C port, with the buds rated at 5.5 hours of playtime per cycle and up to 28 hours in total. I applaud Jabra for the improvement in overall in-case battery life, though wireless charging would've taken it up a notch.

Jabra Elite 4 in the charging case.

The Jabra Elite 4 keep the ergonomic design of their predecessor.

Christina Darby/ZDNET

The new Jabra Elite 4 now come with active noise cancellation (ANC), and it performs fairly well. More manufacturers are continuing to adopt the noise-canceling function which, in and of itself, is a plus. With them on, I can't hear the jingle-jangle of my puppy's collar as he trots around or the lawnmower in the backyard. It's all about the music playing in your ears.

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My only quibble with the new sound modes has to do with the inconsistency in overall sound quality. My testing of transparency mode, which included the twangy harmonium of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain", sounded clear and vibrant. However, with ANC turned on, there was a subtle yet noticeable underwater-like filter that made the song feel softer than usual. So, while I usually use ANC as a sound enhancer, the Elite 4's transparency mode is the star of the two. 

Jabra Elite 4 earbuds and case with phone playing music next to them.

The Jabra Elite 4 ANC blocks out ancillary noise and lets me lock into my music. The buds also deliver top-tier music quality while in transparency mode. 

Christina Darby/ZDNET

Jabra has equipped the Elite 4 with four microphones and 6mm speakers, giving the earbuds a marginal improvement in call quality -- a feature I think is often overlooked. 

In the modern age of hybrid work, plenty of earbuds boast "clear call quality," but few actually deliver. In my testing, the Jabra Elite 4 not only fulfilled that promise but takes the cake. I can hear my calls perfectly and even my mom commented on how clear my voice sounded during our daily catch-up. The best part is that the Elite 4 now supports Bluetooth multipoint, making it easy to swap from one connected device to another.

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While I'm still waiting for Jabra to incorporate wireless charging and in-ear play and pause detection into its budget-friendly line of earbuds, there's no doubt the Elite 4 make for a solid investment at $99 -- especially for working professionals who need a solid mic -- without compromising on quality. You can snag a pair for yourself starting today in four colors: dark gray, navy, lilac, and light beige.

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