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Jabra Elite 4 review: More money, more problems

Our Rating :
$119.99 from
£99.99 from
Price when reviewed : £100
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The Jabra Elite 4 sound great but the rest of the package falls short of the elite tier


  • Impressive audio performance
  • Lightweight and comfortable
  • Reasonable overall battery life


  • No AAC codec for Apple users
  • Mediocre noise cancellation
  • Still no control customisation

The Jabra Elite 4 are the Danish brand’s latest true wireless earbuds and replace the now-discontinued Elite 3 as its entry-level option. They cost slightly more than their predecessors but come with a couple of new features, namely active noise cancellation and Bluetooth multipoint support.

While new features are always welcome, the ANC is disappointing and outclassed by many of the Elite 4’s similarly priced rivals. Sound quality is great and comfort levels high, but if you’re looking for more than that, your money will be better spent elsewhere.

Jabra Elite 4 review: What do you get for the money?

The Jabra Elite 4 retail for £100, which is £20 more than the Elite 3 they replace. They operate over Bluetooth 5.2 and support multipoint pairing, meaning you can maintain a connection to two output devices simultaneously and easily switch between them when required. Codec options remain unchanged from the Elite 3, with support for SBC and aptX but not AAC, which is a shame if you use an iPhone.

Like the Elite 3 and Elite 5, the Elite 4 are rated IP55 for dust and water resistance, and they look very similar, too. The moulded drums still conform nicely to the contours of your ear, with three sets of silicone tips included to help you achieve a comfortable fit. There are four colours on offer: Dark Grey, Lilac, Light Beige and the Navy reviewed here.

The case is rectangular with rounded edges and similar to the Elite 5’s, but shorter and a little lighter at just 33.4g. Total battery life is down slightly to 22 hours, with the buds able to provide around five-and-a-half hours of use per charge. Switch ANC off and in-ear battery life increases to seven hours, with total playtime clocking in at a respectable 28 hours. Wireless charging isn’t supported, but you can get an hour of listening from a 10-minute fast charge.

ANC can be toggled via the built-in controls, which take the form of physical buttons on the outside of each bud, rather than touch-sensitive panels. Unlike the Elite 5, the Elite 4’s controls can’t be personalised in the Jabra Sound+ app, with the only option being whether or not the ANC toggle cycles through the off setting as well as ANC and hear-through.

That’s not to say that you don’t get any customisation whatsoever. In our review of the Jabra Elite 3, we pulled them up on the lack of a customisable equaliser, but Jabra has thankfully added this to the Sound+ app since then. The other in-app option worth mentioning is Spotify Tap, which allows you to quickly jump back into your last-played track with the touch of a button – in this case, a double-tap on the left earbud. Frustratingly, that function is also the home to the voice assistant, and since there’s no option to reassign controls, you have to choose which function you’d prefer to have in the app settings.

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Jabra Elite 4 review: What do we like about them?

I enjoyed the way the Elite 4 sounded, particularly in the Neutral sound mode, which offers the best balance of the various presets. Treble reproduction was particularly impressive, with the higher trumpet and piano notes in “Four” by the Miles Davis Quartet all articulated very cleanly. Equally, the fluttering strings in Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons – Spring” proved well defined and distortion-free, even at higher volumes.

The soundstage isn’t the deepest but has reasonable width, so individual elements of songs have a decent amount of space to shine. Madonna’s “4 Minutes” – a densely layered track – managed to avoid sounding overcrowded, with the drums and cowbell feeling distinctly separate from the heavy brass, and contrasting male and female vocals. The Elite 4’s stereo separation was also effective, with Madonna’s tick-tocking passing clearly from left to right.

The addition of a graphic equaliser in the Sound+ app is a welcome one. It’s only a simple five-band specimen, but it gets the job done, and you still get six presets to quickly switch between: Neutral, Speech, Bass Boost, Treble Boost, Smooth and Energize. I’d recommend using the graphic equaliser over the Bass and Treble Boost presets, however, as those modes do what they say on the tin in a rather over-zealous manner. For more nuanced tuning, it pays to tweak the EQ yourself and bump the desired frequencies up or down a notch or two.

I’m always pleased to see Spotify Tap functionality included on wireless earbuds and my favourite aspect of it – tapping while the app is open to explore music suggested by the algorithm – worked perfectly. The first few taps took the safe option and launched some of my recent playlists, but soon enough I was enjoying original suggestions. The results weren’t all to my taste, but I put that down to the variety of genres I use to test earbuds, rather than a problem with the function itself.

Unfortunately, the arguably more important functionality – tapping to open Spotify and resume the last-played audio – never actually worked for me, which was frustrating. Assuming this is a wider issue, I imagine it’s something Jabra will iron out quickly, at which point Spotify Tap will be a purely positive inclusion.

Jabra Elite 4 review: What could be improved?

Considering that active noise cancellation is one of two new features that have contributed to the Elite 4 costing £20 more than the Elite 3, it really should be better than this. Flicking it on did cut out some of the low-frequency droning on my train journey, but there was still a noticeable rumble making its way through, and I could clearly hear people talking in the next carriage.

Ironically, I had the opposite problem with the hear-through function. I could hear enough ambient sound without it that it didn’t ever feel like a necessary inclusion, and when I tried to have a conversation with the buds in, I had to crank the volume down to around 40% before I could clearly make out what was being said to me.

The rest of my issues with the Elite 4 are a frustrating collection of gripes that shouldn’t be cropping up in the triple-digit price bracket. Most glaring is the lack of AAC codec support, which isn’t the biggest surprise, given that the Elite 3 didn’t support the format either, but it still feels bafflingly against the grain when the majority of other earbuds consider AAC as fundamental as SBC.

Equally, plenty of cheaper models allow users to customise controls to a far greater degree. The Creative Outlier Air V3, for instance, are less than half the price of the Jabra Elite 4, but still offer full customisation of the control scheme. The Elite 4 don’t necessarily have to go that far with it, but the option to reassign a few basic commands would really go a long way. At the very least, the option to reassign either the voice assistant or Spotify Tap is desperately needed, because you shouldn’t be forced to choose between the two of them.

Finally, the Elite 4 would benefit from the incorporation of wear detection to automatically pause audio when a bud is removed and resume it again when the bud is put back in. Our current favourite budget earbuds – the 1MORE PistonBuds Pro – offer successfully implemented wear detection and more effective ANC for just £60.

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Jabra Elite 4 review: Should you buy them?

Part of the Elite 3’s charm was that they were simple, no-frills earbuds. Instead of building on what worked, or amending what didn’t, Jabra has instead chosen to add frills to the same formula. Bluetooth multipoint is welcome and works well, but noise cancellation – the more significant new addition – just isn’t up to scratch.

With plenty of capable competitors offering more for less, the Elite 4 find themselves in a tough spot. They’re lightweight, comfortable and sound good, but I’d expect more from earbuds costing £100. For better noise cancellation you could opt for the EarFun Free Pro 2, which retail for £70 but can often be picked up for £50. Otherwise, the 1MORE PistonBuds Pro are superb value and outperform the Jabra Elite 4 in a couple of key areas.

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