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Jabra Elite 3 review: Keeping the basics intact for less

Jabra does right by these budget earbuds, even if a couple things aren't there.

Jabra doesn't have as much to prove as other brands do when it comes to making good wireless earbuds. Its pedigree in this arena has already been evidenced by the Elite line that competes against pricier rivals. Up to now, Jabra's budget options would usually be the older versions of their Elite earbuds, much like the Elite 75t currently are right now.

The Elite 3 take a more dedicated approach because they're more affordable earbuds off the bat — not because they've been replaced by something else. That makes for an interesting situation, especially considering how many other good earbuds are already available from other brands for less than $100.

Jabra Elite 3

Bottom line: Jabra tries to find the right mix of fit, comfort, and sound quality at a price you can afford with the Elite 3, the company's first real attempt to make budget true wireless earbuds. You don't get every feature competitors offer for the same price, but it's hard to complain about how these buds feel.

The Good

  • Good sound quality
  • Lightweight build and comfy fit
  • Alexa and Spotify integration
  • Decent durability
  • OK battery life
  • Nice colors

The Bad

  • No noise cancelation
  • No access to Sound+ EQ
  • No dual connectivity
  • No auto-pause

$80 at Amazon $80 at Best Buy

Jabra Elite 3: Price and availability

Jabra launched the Elite 3 in August 2021 and priced them at $80 to start. You will often find temporary price drops for Jabra earbuds, except that was usually for more expensive models. It remains to be seen if the company will do that with a budget pair like these.

They come in dark gray, navy, light beige, and lilac.

Jabra Elite 3: What's good

For those familiar with Jabra's earbuds, the Elite 3 will have a certain familiarity to them. The company sculpted these in such a way to fit a wide variance of ears, and to almost forget you're wearing them. That's because of their feathery build, which removes any cumbersome feeling while keeping them on over longer periods. It's pretty clear that the Elite 75t influenced their design, easily the best all-around earbuds the company has made to date.

But they aren't total carbon copies, especially with what's going on underneath. The overall design is different enough to make these arguably the most comfortable earbuds Jabra crafted thus far. You get three sizes of ear tips, and the case, which was clearly molded after the Elite 75t case, is more compact because of how much shorter it is. The magnets inside also keep the earbuds firmly planted.

They also borrow the same water resistance courtesy of an IP55 rating — good enough to work out in, just not for submerging in water. To keep things just as simple, the Elite 3 have similar drivers to the 75t, though there are differences in audio output to consider. First, the bass response isn't quite as pronounced as some competitors in the same price range can manage. Not that it's bad, just that it's balanced to sound in line with the highs and mids. If you are looking for a sound profile that tries to treat every musical genre equally, the Elite 3 endeavor to do just that.

Were these other Jabra earbuds, the company's Sound+ app would ramp things up through its custom equalizer. Except there is no custom part to it, only six presets to adjust the profile. One of them is a bass booster, so there is that, whereas others can hike up the treble or reduce lows and mids, like the speech preset does. It's hard to understand why Jabra chose this path at launch, but there is some recourse, as the company confirmed it will open up the custom EQ with an upcoming firmware update.

That custom EQ would figure more prominently because of what you have to sacrifice when you wear the Elite 3. There is no active noise cancelation (ANC), so the passive isolation coming from the snug fit is a huge help to delivering the best sound these can muster. The company's HearThrough ambient mode does use the mics to pipe in background noise, letting you stay aware of your surroundings.

It's easy enough to enable that feature, along with the others, because the side buttons are physical, not touch-sensitive. And they're consistently good and responsive, which is a big plus for any pair of earbuds. The Elite 3 use a pretty straightforward arrangement. Press the right earbud once to play/pause. Double-click to skip a track, triple-click to repeat it. Hold it down to increase volume. Press the left once to toggle HearThrough on or off, double-click to wake your phone's voice assistant, or hold it to lower volume. Unlike other Jabra earbuds, you have no way to customize these controls.

If you are looking for a sound profile that tries to treat every musical genre equally, the Elite 3 endeavor to do just that.

The voice assistant part of the equation has its own options, which you can choose from. Basically, you can stick to Google Assistant (or Bixby on a Samsung device, if you're so inclined), or you can enable Alexa instead. You'll find this option under the settings, and once enabled, you can ask Alexa just about anything. The cool part is that you can control your Spotify Premium account that way, too. For instance, I told it what to play on my phone with ease, though I did find that the Elite 3 would mess up what I said if the environment around me was louder.

The Spotify integration is actually different from that. Should you choose that instead of a voice assistant (you have to, there's no choice), double-clicking the left earbud will automatically start playing the last song you were listening to on Spotify. Do it again while music is playing, and it will reach into the streaming music app's discover engine and start playing recommended tracks.

Since Jabra did put good mics on the Elite 3, phone calls sound good on both ends. In fact, they do better than some earbuds double the price. Wind reduction isn't exceptional, so you may find callers have a tougher time hearing you if you're walking outside on a blustery day, but for most situations, call quality is going to be sublime. If need be, you can turn on Sidetone to better hear your own voice, or click the left earbud's button to mute the Elite 3 mics during a call in case you need a moment.

Jabra rates the Elite 3 at up to seven hours per charge, which is about right if you leave HearThrough off. Even at 60% volume, you should easily crack 6-6.5 hours. The case doesn't support wireless charging, but it does offer a fast 10-minute charge for up to an hour's playback. There are three extra full charges in the case for a total of 28 hours.

Jabra Elite 3: What's not good

To bring the Elite 3 down for both size and price, Jabra cut more than just corners to get there. For one, there is no auto-pause when you remove either earbud. If you want the music to stop, you either have to do it manually by pressing the right earbud, do it on the paired device, or ask Alexa to do it. You also can't use the Elite 3 with two devices simultaneously, like if you were listening to music on a computer, yet also paired with your phone to take any incoming calls.

I already mentioned the lack of ANC, so you won't be able to block out noise beyond the comfort afforded you by the fit. That's a disappointment, if only because it's fast becoming available on more sub-$100 earbuds, even if the quality of the feature isn't going to come close to what the best pairs in the business can deliver.

To bring the Elite 3 down for both size and price, Jabra cut more than just corners to get there.

I also pointed out how the Sound+ app left out a custom EQ, but that's not all that's missing. There's no Sleep mode to conserve battery life when the earbuds aren't playing anything after a certain amount of time. Oddly, the app also only notes how much battery life the earbuds have left, but not the case, so you're left guessing.

It's also unfortunate it doesn't support wireless charging, which was a flaw of the Elite 75t that Jabra corrected with the Elite 85t. While it might seem like nitpicking for a pair of budget earbuds, competitors clearly aren't seeing it that way, as more and more of them are adding what were otherwise premium features to this level.

Jabra Elite 3: Competition

Jabra released the Elite 3 in the thick of a race to zero. The best cheap wireless earbuds have plenty to choose from, and amongst that group, you will find features like those missing from these earbuds. Jabra's own Elite Active 75t are certainly pricier by comparison, but are great alternatives if you want some of those extra features, with some more durability thrown in. The Elite 85t are also good, though they will cost you even more.

That leaves Jabra's competitors. The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 are an excellent choice, even if their phone call quality won't match the Elite 3. The Creative Outlier Air V3 are a compelling alternative that square off well against Jabra's budget buds. If you're not sure about the fit and want some extra support, the JLab Epic Air Sport ANC can handle that, along with additional ear tips and more durability. You just have to accept mediocre call quality.

Jabra Elite 3: Should you buy it?

You should buy this if...

  • You are on a tighter budget
  • You want balanced sound
  • You want reliable battery life
  • You care about fit and comfort

You shouldn't buy this if...

  • You want something with a custom EQ
  • You want better active noise cancelation
  • You prefer to connect to two devices simultaneously
  • You're able to spend more

Despite the score I'm giving them, I'm also hedging a little. The firmware that would bring the custom EQ to the Elite 3 would be a massive step towards solidifying the current rating. Jabra already confirmed it's coming, though no exact date is yet known. Before the end of the year seems likely, if I were a betting man. While I could very easily recommend these earbuds, I also do it with the caveat that there are compelling options if you're turned off by what's missing here.

4 out of 5

Still, it's hard to argue with earbuds that fit this well. Not to mention how effective the onboard controls are and how reliable the battery life is. They do sound good, too; they only need the extra help an EQ would provide. They're also one of those rare affordable pairs that actually work with Alexa.

Costing less

Jabra strikes a balance on the audio side with the Elite 3 that needs some manual intervention, but you won't need to fiddle with them when you feel how comfortable they are. Making up for other missing features, Jabra delivers solid controls, good battery life, and a compact case.

$80 at Amazon $80 at Best Buy

Source: androidcentral

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