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Jabra Elite 8 Active review: Tough cookies with added sprinkles

Our Rating :
£199.99 from
Price when reviewed : 200
inc. VAT

The Elite 8 Active are some of the best-protected buds around and offer impressive ANC, but there are better all-rounders for the money

Pros

  • Rugged yet very comfortable
  • Great noise cancellation
  • Improved sound quality

Cons

  • Poor microphone
  • Slow charge time
  • Some may find fit an issue

Dubbed “the world’s toughest earbuds” by their manufacturer, the Jabra Elite 8 Active are an undeniably hardy pair of headphones. Moving beyond previous Active series models designed for sports and active lifestyles, they’re extremely resilient buds offering top-notch noise cancellation, a comfortable fit and solid sound to boot. 

They may lag a little way behind the Jabra Elite 10 – the earbuds they were released alongside – and flagship options from some other brands, but for accident-prone individuals and adventurous types, the Elite 8 Active are among the best true wireless earbuds you can buy. 

READ NEXT: The best true wireless earbuds you can buy


Jabra Elite 8 Active review: What do you get for the money?

To live up to their billing, Jabra has equipped the Elite 8 Active – which come in four colours (Black, Navy Blue, Caramel or Dark Grey) and retail for £200 – with IP68-certified dust and water resistance, while their charging case is also protected from the elements thanks to its IP54 rating. 

This means the earbuds, which weigh 5g each, are dust tight and can be submerged in water up to a depth of 1.5m, although you’ll want to avoid dunking the 46g case as it’s only splashproof. Jabra says it’s performed further tests to ensure the buds can withstand “two hours in 40°C/104°F temperatures with 93% humidity”, a “15-minute splash test in salt water” and “15-minute 40°C/104°F heat drying tests” too. To solidify these claims, Jabra has also slapped a two-year warranty against damage, which includes sweat corrosion. 

This IP68 shell protects 8mm drivers that deliver audio over a Bluetooth 5.3 connection. Multipoint pairing is supported alongside the SBC and AAC codecs, with Bluetooth LE and the LC3/LC3+ support to come via over-the-air updates at a later date. Like the Jabra Elite 10, they also support Dolby Atmos Spatial audio, though there’s no Dolby head tracking found on that flagship model.

The Elite 8 Active can play audio for roughly eight hours straight with active noise cancelling engaged (or 14hrs with it off), while total battery life including the charging case amounts to around 32 hours with ANC on and 56 hours with it switched off. To charge up the case, you can use either the included USB-A to USB-C cable or a Qi wireless charger. It will take three hours to fully charge, which is a little on the slow side, though five minutes of juice will provide one hour of listening if you’re in a pinch.

The earbuds are compatible with the easy-to–use Jabra Sound+ app, and this allows you to adjust ANC and EQ levels, assign different controls to on-ear buttons or activate various other features such as Dolby Atmos and an auto sleep timer. You can utilise a voice assistant depending on your connected device too, as well as Spotify Tap or toggle auto-play/pause in-ear detection. Should a situation arise where you lose one or both of the earbuds but not the case, you can repurchase just the buds for £120.

Other true wireless earbuds with an IP68 rating, which don’t utilise offline storage as with many swimming headphones, are extremely scarce but another option would be the JBL Reflect Aero which retail for £120.

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Jabra Elite 8 Active review: What do we like about them?

The Jabra Elite Active 8’s big selling point is their toughness. Complete dust protection and the best-possible rating for water resistance available outside of industrial products is highly commendable. Their durability proved up to snuff during testing: I doused them in water and even chucked them in the washing machine, and found playback to be in perfect working order (after they dried out). The case being rated at IP54 means you can’t be completely careless with it but the buds themselves are remarkably well-shielded from the elements compared to the vast majority of their rivals.

There’s a lot more to them than ruggedness, however, starting with some surprisingly effective noise cancelling. ANC was a let down on the Elite 7 Active but low-end frequencies are particularly well-attenuated this time around, on a par with some of the best earbuds I’ve used, including the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Technics EAH-AZ80

The mid-range muffling of voices and higher frequency clatter isn’t handled quite so adeptly, but overall, the Elite 8 Active do a good job of separating you and your music from the outside world. There is a downside to how they go about drowning out external distractions, however – when noise cancellation is engaged, there’s an audible high frequency hiss. I was able to tune this out quickly enough, especially when I had audio playing, but it may prove bothersome for some. HearThrough mode is less impressive – voices could be a lot more distinct than they are – but still works well enough and can be finetuned via the Jabra app to determine how much of your environment you hear.

To get the most from the Elite 8 Active’s noise cancellation, I needed to switch out the default eartips to the largest ones. After securing the buds, they remained in place and didn’t budge during vigorous exercise. I found them very comfortable too, competing for the most comfortable earbuds I’ve used alongside the Jabra Elite 10. 

On the audio front, the Elite 8’s sonic delivery is, for want of a better word, activating. They supply weighty, albeit sometimes rather unrefined bass, sub-bass and lower-mids, and this was particularly noticeable on Unknown Moral Orchestra’s Nadja. The higher frequencies of guitar lines on Big Thief’s UFOF sounded pleasingly crisp by comparison, sitting forward in the mix and just above vocals, which were still prominent and clear. 

Depending on your genre preferences, this emphasis on treble may be a bit much; the sax and hi-hats on Roy Haynes’ jazzy Go ‘N’ Git It were almost jarringly bright. The in-app five-band graphic equaliser only goes up to 7.6kHz too, which negates its impact at this end of the frequency spectrum, but you can still forge something more preferable as it – and the other EQ settings (Neutral, Speech, Bass boost, Treble boost, Smooth and Energise) – are fairly effective.

Sound is further augmented by activating Dolby Spatial Sound, which transforms stereo content by adding virtual surround sound dimensionality. The result is a more expansive soundstage and a second listen to Roy Haynes’ track with it engaged proved more spacious and less piercing.

Apple’s spatial offering is more convincing, however, and you’ll want to avoid social media content like TikToks or Instagram Reels when Spatial Sound is on, as it makes things sound unnatural. Despite this limitation, Spatial Sound is a positive addition that doesn’t require you to be watching or listening to specific spatial-ready content like you do with Apple’s buds.

Another of their strengths is their easy-to-use depressable controls. By default, the right earbud looks after playback control, while the left can be used to cycle through ANC modes and activate your voice assistant or Spotify Tap. Volume can be increased or decreased by holding down the right and left buttons down, respectively, though you’re free to personalise most commands using the companion app. Pressing the buttons down pushes the buds into your ears more than the Elite 10 (and buds that implement touch controls) but it’s nice to be able to wear a pair of gloves and still be able to execute key actions. 

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Jabra Elite 8 Active review: What could be improved?

While I was able to achieve a decent fit, friends and colleagues who tested out the earbuds couldn’t create a perfect seal no matter their chosen eartips, and consequently found noise cancelling mediocre. As such, it’s a shame that there are only three sizes to choose from, unlike the flagship Elite 10, which come with four pairs of eartips, and the Technics EAH-AZ80, which provide seven different tip options to choose from.

Despite managing to secure the Elite 8 Active snugly in my ears, I had problems when running with them. Because of how they obstruct the ear canal, every step you take causes a significant thud from the vibrations. It’s very grating and a problem I experienced when testing the Elite 7 Active, too. 

Vocal clarity while on calls also proved disappointing and was nowhere near the bar set by the Technics EAH-AZ80. Background noise is controlled fairly well, including wind, but my voice wasn’t reproduced cleanly, with recordings sounding muffled and even worse while chatting on the phone. Things aren’t much better on the Jabra Elite 10 and while many competitors have average microphone quality, this seems to be a weak point for the manufacturer, which is surprising given its pedigree where Bluetooth headsets is concerned. 

I touched on it above, but it’s worth mentioning again – the Elite 8 Active take a long time to fully charge from empty. This isn’t a dealbreaker but the wait for them to be topped up was the longest I’ve experienced on any earbuds I’ve tested. 


Jabra Elite 8 Active review: Should you buy them?

For the outdoorsy types and accident prone among us, the Jabra Elite Active 8 may just be the best earbuds on the market right now. There are no clear competitors that offer as comprehensive a suite of features combined with such durability and elemental resistance.

My main qualm is a fundamental one, however, and that’s the Elite 8 Active’s price. There’s plenty of competition in this price bracket, including the Sony WF-1000XM4 (£199) and their successors the WF-1000XM5 (£259), both of which support high-resolution codecs, Apple’s AirPods Pro 2 (£229), the Technics EAH-AZ80 (£230) and even their Jabra Elite 10 (£230) siblings, all of which deliver better all-round performance.

That said, should the ability to withstand just about any environmental conditions be your priority, the Jabra Elite 8 Active are very capable earbuds that demonstrate an impressive balance between robustness and performance.

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