Jabra, the price-to-performance champion in the true wireless headphones and earbuds market, has begun refreshing its entry-level range with the Jabra Elite 45h. These tiny on-ear wireless headphones retail for an attractive price point of £89.99, and might come with their fair share of flaws or compromises, but there is one saving grace - an amazing battery life that runs up to 50 hours before requiring a recharge!
- 50-hour battery life
- Affordable price
- Strong bass with decent audio
- Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity
- Sound+ application that works great
- The design is too compact
- Poor passive noise insulation
- No ANC support
- No HD audio codec support
Who are the Jabra Elite 45h for?
Jabra happens to be a serious player in the ever-expanding audio market. Its Elite range of true wireless headphones and wireless headsets that were launched in 2016 did set some great benchmarks. The 100% wireless Jabra Elite 65t followed by the 75t earphones that were launched last year, in addition to the sporty variants of the Elite Active range, deliver what I think is the best value on the market when it comes to high-end in-ear headphones.
The Bluetooth headphones with ANC that are the Jabra Elite 85h, which was launched in May 2019, also proved to be a great entry into a market dominated by the likes of Sony, Bose, and Sennheiser. However, these products have not yet been reviewed by NextPit, and they are rarely looked into by online review sites - especially when it comes to high-end model comparisons.
Jabra doesn't deliver sound like Bose or Sony. However, the Danish manufacturer has nevertheless proved that it has amassed a vast amount of know-how, where its products are often more competitively priced compared to the other market leaders.
The Jabra Elite 45h on-ear wireless headphones are yet another example of the brand's philosophy of doing a good job without ever having to worry about it. The price point of less than £100 is attractive, but that does not mean the Jabra Elite 45h are perfect. There is no ANC capability with support for only the SBC audio codec.
If you are looking for perfection, you will have to fork out a far higher price. In this price range, Jabra has perhaps delivered one of the best models ever, and certainly the best benchmark device in terms of battery - taking into consideration all of the different options.
What I like about the Jabra Elite 45h...
We tend to forget about it, and some people don't share my opinion, but that is OK. The price of any device is an integral part of the user experience, at least in my opinion. The value-for-money feeling is a criterion that must be taken into account in the review itself, even if its evaluation can obviously vary from one user to another, depending on the purchasing power of each individual.
But for me, the sticker price happens to be one of the two best selling points of the Jabra Elite 45h. If your budget is limited to just 100 bucks and you would want a pair of on-ear wireless headphones this year and not an aging model from the 2018 flagship range, then the Jabra Elite 45h is a great choice.
It does come with its fair share of shortcomings which I will talk about below. However, in terms of compromise, the Jabra Elite 45h happens to carry the least issues at this price range. This is especially true as this price segment does not contain too many decent pairs of Bluetooth headphones, and that is a fact.
If I had to cite the best benchmarks in the world of headphones today, I would start by mentioning the Sennheiser 350 BT, which can be found for about the same price on Amazon, and has the advantage of offering a far wider range of audio codecs with support for Qualcomm's aptX and aptX Low Latency. Augmenting that would be great audio at a reasonable volume, passive isolation of the design, 30 hours of battery life, and micro-USB charging, and you end up with an excellent choice at a more than affordable price.
- Also read: Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 2 review
If you want ANC support for less than £100, the Plantronics BackBeat Go 810 are also a good choice and will retail for approximately the same. The sound quality is rather average, but if active noise reduction happens to be a must-have, then then it is a good choice at this price range.
Between these two models, the Jabra Elite 45h happens to bed in comfortably right smack in-between. It does have it limits on the audio performance than its Plantronics rival, sacrificing the ANC feature, and offers better battery life than the Sennheiser, although there isn't much that can be done when it comes to HD audio codecs.
The 45 hours of battery life
This is the second key point of this helmet. Jabra announced that this model comes with 50-hour battery life. I have been using it for over two weeks (since Thursday, September 10th) at the office as well as at home for listening or streaming video purposes. I spend an average of 8 or 9 hours at the office, inclusive of a lunch break in order to provide some context on my usage.
These days, I used the headset for approximately 5 hours on average. Once at home (which would be around 7 pm), I use it for at least 2-3 more hours to enjoy my films/series. I cannot say much about the two weekends in my review period, where I have to disconnect it at some point in time. From now on, we are looking at rather a low average usage period (this is an approximation for sure) of 7 hours daily without taking the weekends into consideration.
Over the time of 10 working days, that's amounts to approximately 70 hours of usage. All in all, at the time of writing, I have only had to recharge the Jabra Elite 45h only twice in a fortnight. So I never really actually achieved the promised round number of 50 hours of battery life, but I definitely exceeded the 45 hours.
This is a stratospheric figure compared to any other on-ear wireless headphones in the market, even in the high-end segment, which is mainly explained by the absence of ANC capability. And I used the Jabra Elite 45h quite extensively. For a more regular usage pattern of 2-3 hours a day, it will be able to easily last a week or more before it requires a trip to the nearest power outlet via a USB-C charger.
Recharging time also happens to be quite fast, where you will be able to enjoy close to 8 hours of battery life after leaving the headset plugged in for just 15 minutes. On this point alone, it is a total success for the Jabra Elite 45h which bears its name well (45 hours, badum-tsh!).
The Sound+ application
As always with Jabra products, the Jabra Sound+ companion application is a great way to personalize your listening experience.
When you connect the Jabra Elite 45h to the app, the app will immediately offer you the opportunity to test your hearing in order to have yourself adapt the sound of the headset. This MySound feature will also request for personal information such as your age and gender (I didn't know those factors impacted one's hearing drastically).
Then the application plays sounds on the low frequencies and then high frequencies by crescendoing up the decibels to calculate your hearing range (the set of frequencies you are able to hear).
For the rest, there's a 5-band graphic equalizer with the ability to choose from a selection of presets or to create your own equalization profiles and save them for later use. It's really a great asset in terms of customizing the entire listening experience.
The microphones for calls
If I had to cite one big flaw that all wireless headsets and headphones have in common, it's the quality of the microphones during calls, which is average at best, but generally poor.
Jabra happens to fall under the above-average category. The manufacturer boasts of its two microphone technology which supposedly filters out surrounding noise and isolating your voice in the process. Jabra does not dare to make use of the words "active noise reduction" like what Bose was able to offer on its Bose NCH 700, so I cannot comment on the effectiveness of this noise filtering.
But what's for sure is that my voice is far clearer when I make calls with the Jabra Elite 45h than with the £300 true wireless headphones that I currently use. My voice doesn't "pop" when I say "don't panic" to my boss who is wondering when I will finally finish my review. Nor does it "bop" when I say "hello" at the beginning of a call on Google Meet.
Neither do I sound like an evil wizard who speaks with Parseltongue, hissing out "S" and "F" sounds from my mouth. This good management of plosives (bop and pop) and whistles (s and f) unfortunately doesn't apply to wind noise, which is part of where the headphones have trouble filtering.
The low and precise sound signatures
Traditionally, Jabra headphones have always sounded far more bass-oriented. The frequency range happens to fall under the classic 20 to 20,000 Hz segments.
But the 40mm drivers deliver (via the unique SBC codec that is supported) generous, deep bass that punches and wakes you up with a bang as opposed to purring shyly.
On the other hand, I did notice a few shrill tones, a few unsettling shrills in the high frequencies, but the overall result is still surprisingly accurate. What do I mean by that? Even when the audio is packed with bass sounds (which is what I normally listen to) the bass doesn't drown out the rest of the music.
Vocals remain clearly identifiable as well as the instruments (the mediums), which brings a little warmth to the audio signature, without flattering these mediums too much in the process. The percussive rhythm of the bass will not be interrupted by the vocals, which still have enough space to express themselves.
The only real black spot would be the treble, which squeaks by especially when you turn up the decibels. So that's a good point for the Jabra Elite 45h... although there is a big BUT.
What I don't like about Jabra Elite 45h...
It has poor passive insulation
While the audio is far from entry-level, when using the Jabra Elite 45h, the premium illusion quickly fades away. The headphones take on an over-the-ear design, meaning that each earpiece rests on the ear's cartilage without fully encompassing your ear, unlike a circum-aural headset.
Hence passive noise insulation, which is based on the materials and ergonomics used to make the headphones, takes a serious blow to its performance. The on-ear headphones do a relatively good job to stick to your ears enough in order to protect you from huge gusts of wind, but it simply doesn't filter out outside noise sufficiently.
When you are out on the street or riding in the subway, the sound signature that I praised above suffers a lot. So you are forced to turn up the volume, which logically, spoils the entire listening experience. The defect related to the screaming highs that I mentioned above is therefore aggravated further.
You'll tell me that these are not headphones meant for audiophiles, and an audiophile is not going to listen to his or her favorite songs in a noisy environment anyway. But apart from the sound quality, it's really the lack of sound insulation from the outside that bothered me the most. You can hear almost everything and that is simply too bad.
The neat design but I look terrible wearing it
For the price, we should not expect to find high-end materials or a very sophisticated design. The Jabra Elite 45h is covered in plastic in a purely Scandinavian manner, i.e. very neutral, without any fuss and in a monotonous matte shade of beige.
Disclaimer: I find the design of the Jabra Elite 45h to be especially neat, even classy. While it doesn't fold up, it is compact enough to be used without much fuss. The case, which is just a velvet pouch, doesn't really make you drool over it either, but that's not the deciding factor.
The use of faux leather to cover the ear pads and silicone for the headband do add a touch of class. The hinges of the earcups do have a metal look and can swivel 90 degrees. But I found the form factor to be simply too compact.
Yes, it's time to shout it loud and clear, I HAVE A BIG HEAD. Who'd have thought it? Me? A big head? On a more serious note, if this physical particularity is not at all indicative of my ego (I see you typing in the comments already), it particularly bothered me during my review.
I look like an idiot with a tiny helmet perched on my gigantic skull. And the earpieces, which happen to be held lightly by the arch at the edge, compress my ear's cartilage, making long sessions unpleasant. Of course, I exaggerate a bit and you should be used to my hyperbole by now.
But the Jabra Elite 45h does happen to stand out on my head, like the nightclub shirt I wore when I was 20 years old, which no longer fits me but I still keep in my closet hoping to find my Adonis body of yesteryear.
The vocal assistant's voice
It is not a real defect, so don't take that into consideration. However, I was so exasperated by this flaw that I simply had to talk about it. As on every wireless audio device, we are entitled to a robotic voice to guide us in the use of the product. I'm not talking about voice assistants such as Siri, Google Assitant, or Alexa, which the headset does supports, by the way.
Thankfully, Jabra is proposing to replace this voice with simple signals or even to disable all kinds of audio signage.
This is because the voice of the Jabra Elite 45h is simply unbearable!!!!!! "To connect, go to the Bluetooth settings of your mobile device and add the Jabra product to the list" This sentence has haunted me so much ever since I heard it throughout the entire two weeks of my review.
The Jabra Elite 45h offers Bluetooth 5.0 multipoint connectivity to connect up to two devices simultaneously (8 devices in total separately). But if you have the misfortune to require more than 5 seconds to pair it, the headset will spam you audibly in order to hook it up to a device.
I understand I need to have a decent pair of headphones. I do not need to have sound whistling in my ears like the alarm of a badly fastened seatbelt in the car. As I said, it's not an actual defect since you can disable the voice prompts. But what good does it do to talk about it here?
As you will have noticed, two of the three main flaws that I have listed here should not be prohibitive to anyone when it comes to a purchase decision for almost all consumers. The only black spot would be the form factor of the earpieces which are quite peculiar, and this is clearly not the most common grouse in terms of available headphones on the market. It is the poor passive isolation that makes the headphones a poor recommendation when it comes to outdoor listening.
As for the rest points when it comes to a price point, the Jabra Elite 45h fulfills on its promise on its key arguments: value-for-money and battery life. If you want a simple, unpretentious, and highly affordable on-ear wireless headphones that you can use all week long at the office and only recharge it during the weekend, then this is a product that I would recommend.
It will obviously not work miracles given the concessions that the manufacturer has made to keep the price affordable (no ANC, no HD codec), but Jabra does rather well for the rest of its features on offer that makes it a decent alternative.
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