Fresh after my review of the Sony LinkBuds S, a pair of earbuds I genuinely enjoyed, I was asked to give my take on the new Jabra Elite 5 in-ears. Jabra boasts that the Elite 5s have Hybrid Active Noise Cancellation, up to 7 hours of battery, and a discreet, comfortable and durable design.
It seems like a pretty good description of what you want to look for in earphones. Did they live up to the expectation? And what sets them apart from other earphones?
It’s giving “fashionista”
The first thing that struck me about the Jabra Elite 5s are that they’re… kind of skin-coloured. The colour I received was a “Gold Beige”, but it’s more similar to what a pale foundation can look like if you’ve ever bought make-up.
Both the earbuds themselves, and the case it comes with, are similar-coloured. Even though they don’t exactly match my own slightly darker skin-tone, they remind me of the general look of the Kim Kardashian Beats by Dre earbuds.
The Kardashian’s take on the in-ears is that something we wear almost every day should also be able to blend in with your look. Having Jabra produce something similar means that you’re able to wear earphones that look almost invisible on you as you walk around—and you don’t have to pay nearly RM900 like you would for the Beats.
Granted, the pale skin colour of the Elite 5 definitely isn’t made for every skin-tone—but Jabra likely did not intend to make earphones to match skin tones anyway. Still, if you’re not keen on the “Gold Beige”, the Jabra’s also come in “Titanium Black”.
As for its exterior as a whole, its case is shaped and built like a lot of in-ears cases—big, wide, and thick. If you compare it to an AirPods Pro case, the Jabra’s case is just a little bit bigger, wider, and thicker. It also is able to stand by itself because of its flat top and bottom, kind of like with some of Sony’s in-ear cases.
The size and weight (40g) of the Jabra’s case aren’t too much of a hassle, as the AirPods Pro with the case weight about the same thing. They can still easily fit in my pockets, too.
But if you’re used to the AirPods case’s shiny and sturdier feel, you’d probably be a little disappointed touching the Jabra’s case matte plastic finish. It’s not worse, but it just doesn’t feel as premium.
Opening up the case reveals the quirky-shaped earbuds with “Jabra” written on each of them. Even though I personally prefer the classic look of the regular AirPods, I think the Jabra’s look pretty good.
The buds, which weigh 10g, are pretty light to hold. And they give you three different options for silicon tips—which is highly appreciated as I much prefer wearing the smallest size of tips.
I was also impressed with how comfortable I thought the Elite 5s are.
Putting them on
One of the subtle highlights of the Jabra Elite 5 earbuds is their incredible lightness, even when you wear them on your ears for long periods of time. And its three different sizes for tips can also affect how comfortable you think the earbuds are—you’d just need to play around with them to find the right one.
The wide and flat design at the head of each earbud also double as buttons. Pressing on the left one will switch you between ANC mode and Hear-Through mode, and pressing on the right one will play and pause a song or sound you’re listening to.
I actually prefer the buttons to something like the intuitive touch controls that other in-ears have. They’re still comfortable even when I press the buttons, and it’s also more satisfying to press them when you need to use the functions. Because for intuitive touch controls, sometimes I’d need to control the pressure of my taps and it makes the function less convenient.
Enticed by the gorgeous colour and comfortable in-ear buds, I was excited to enjoy the Elite 5s while I zoned out. But I faced a some issues that made me second-guess using them exclusively.
The ANC is weak
In general, I quite enjoyed how it delivered sound. Its default setting lets me enjoy bass-heavy tunes without them straining my ears. But if I’m feeling bolder and I wanted some more of that oomph in my earphones, I could use Jabra’s own Sound+ app (iOS, Android) for free and tweak the sound how I wanted.
But my problem with the earphones lies in their ANC Mode—or the lack of it. Compared to the Sony Linkbuds S that I previously reviewed, the ANC Mode for the Jabra Elite 5 earphones seemed weaker. The mode still lets a lot of sound pass through.
Its ANC isn’t completely terrible, and I was able to use the feature to concentrate on work. But it didn’t give me the full ANC experience I needed on something like a plane, while someone is vacuuming, or even when someone is talking near me. It only stifled some of the background noise.
But even though the Elite 5s lacked in muffling a lot of the sound around me, its Ambient Mode was pretty good at amplifying sound when I needed it. Even when I’m playing my tunes on Ambient Mode, I was able to be aware of my surroundings a lot more than when using the Sony Linkbuds S.
Still, it’s disappointing that a luxurious-looking pair of earphones have such a lacklustre ANC Mode, and it would be a big turn-off for audiophiles looking to buy a new pair. Additionally, its microphone abilities also disappointed me—as they were overhyped by Jabra themselves.
Their “six microphones” are pretty basic
Jabra says that the Elite 5s have “6-mic technology”—which… basically means it has a total of six internal microphones. And these microphones, as excessive as it sounds, would apparently help you sound better on calls.
“The external microphones are active on all your calls, but the really special part is the internal bonus ones, tucked away on the inside of the buds. They magically activate when it’s windy, so you’ll never have to say “sorry, I’ll call you back” ever again (well, unless you want to),” wrote Jabra.
This all sounds incredible, but I’m not sure if I found a huge difference recording audio with the Jabra Elite 5 and with AirPods or the Linkbuds S. In fact, I think the Elite 5’s quality even sounds a bit worse.
Listening back to recordings, I heard my voice mixed with a lot of white noise when I used the Elite 5. My voice even sounded softer than when I recorded with the Linkbuds S or my AirPods.
I haven’t, however, tested them on windy days outside—that is when Jabra claims the earphones’ 6-mic technology worked best in. But I really doubt that you’re looking for something like it here in Malaysia. Windy days aren’t really the norm over here.
The Elite 5s definitely lacked a few things, but at least they won’t likely die on you so soon due to their decent battery life.
They can last a pretty long time in one charge
Charging the Jabra Elite 5 with the case with the USB-C cable it comes with takes around 3 hours for a full charge. And with that, I was about to use them for almost a whole weekend from Friday to Sunday with no worries.
During the weekend, I used them on short flights and waiting around in airports mostly—which meant that I spend about 4 to 5 hours using the earphones, switching around between ANC and Ambient Mode. At the end of my 3-day trip, I still had about 30% of battery left in the case.
Compared to regular AirPods, the Jabras didn’t give me as much battery life anxiety, which I appreciated. But according to a few users who are accustomed to earphones with great battery life, these Jabras’ battery life might just be a bit basic, too. Additionally, you’re able to charge the Elite 5s with a wireless charger. Jabra claims that it will take you around the same time as if you charge with USB-C—which could mean their USB-C port is not fast charging.
Should you get the Jabra Elite 5?
I honestly have trouble recommending these earphones to you purely because of its poor ANC. Sure, it might look amazing on you, they’re one of the most comfortable in-ears I’ve tried on, and they have a decent battery life.
But the only reason why I would be okay with sticking earphones way deep in my ear holes is due to how they usually will block out ambient sounds when I want them to. The fact that they don’t make wearing these types of earphones a bit pointless.
Its price range, however, is a bit cheaper than other in-ears I would recommend. For example, the Sony Linkbuds S cost RM929, and the 2nd-gen AirPods Pro cost RM1,099.
The Jabras, on the other hand, retail at RM699—and you can even get them for cheaper during sales. So, if you really don’t mind the weak ANC, you might be okay with spending less money on earphones.