Although the wireless audio space is very diverse with plenty of brands across price segments, older names such as Jabra still command plenty of respect. Among the most established brands in wireless audio, Jabra has typically stuck to the premium category when it comes to true wireless earphones, with the Rs. 17,999 Jabra Elite 85t offering a flagship-level experience with features such as active noise cancellation and a six-microphone setup for better performance on calls. The company's more recent products indicate a shift in strategy, to better serve the affordable true wireless space.
The Jabra Elite 3 is among the company's latest true wireless headsets, and is priced at Rs. 5,999 in India. It's also unique for Jabra, in that it has certain features that make it particularly suitable for use with Android smartphones, unlike earlier true wireless headsets which have typically been device-agnostic. Is this new true wireless headset from Jabra worth the price? Find out in this review.
The Jabra Elite 3 true wireless earpieces are IP55-rated for dust and water resistance
Qualcomm aptX codec support on the Jabra Elite 3
Jabra's Elite range of true wireless earphones has seen a considerable redesign with its more recent products, including the Elite 3. The new design is a bit sharper and quite unlike the industrial styling of the 85t and its predecessors, and the lower price of this headset does reflect a bit in the materials used. The earphones don't feel as premium as the Elite 85t, but look and feel pretty good for the price.
The earpieces have a proper in-canal fit, with a total of three pairs of silicone ear tips in different sizes included in the box. The controls are through a physical button on each earpiece. I found the fit of the Jabra Elite 3 quite tight, but not entirely uncomfortable for a couple of hours at a time. Passive noise isolation on the earphones is very good thanks to the snug fit, and the earpieces are IP55 rated for dust and water resistance. The charging case is simple but functional, with a magnetic lid, indicator light at the front, and USB Type-C port for charging.
The controls on the earpieces aren't customisable, but cover all important functions. You can control the hear-through mode, invoke the default voice assistant on your smartphone, adjust volume, control playback, and answer or reject calls on the earpieces directly. Although it took me a while to learn the various button-based controls, I was quite happy with the fact that I didn't have to use my smartphone for much once the headset was paired and music was playing.
The Jabra Sound+ app can be used to customise some features of the Elite 3, including activating the hear-through mode and choosing an equaliser preset. You can also refer to the user manual and a quick guide to the controls, update the firmware, and choose whether you want to use the double-press gesture on the left earpiece to activate your voice assistant or open Spotify. Although the app doesn't do a lot, it covers the basics of the headset.
Key features that make the Jabra Elite 3 more suited for use with Android devices are Google Fast Pair, which links the headset to your Google account, and support for the Qualcomm aptX Bluetooth codec which promises better sound quality. Support for the AAC codec, which Apple uses on iOS devices, is notably absent.
There is also the ability to open and play music through Spotify with a quick gesture on Android, enhanced Amazon Alexa integration which links the headset to your Alexa app and account, and hands-free voice commands when the Alexa app is open and running on the smartphone. The Jabra Elite 3 uses Bluetooth 5.2 for connectivity, and supports the SBC codec in addition to aptX. It has a 6mm dynamic driver and two microphones in each earpiece.
The battery case is simple but functional, and has a USB Type-C port for charging
Battery life on the Jabra Elite 3 is decent, with the earpieces running for a little over five hours per charge with my use, and the charging case adding three full charges to the earpieces. This made for a total battery life of around 21 hours per charge cycle, which can be improved a bit depending on your usage patterns. There is also fast charging for the earpieces, which are said to run for one hour with 10 minutes of charging inside the case. Although not exceptional, these figures are good enough for the price and feature set of the Jabra Elite 3.
Punchy, enjoyable sound on the Jabra Elite 3
The pairing process on my Android smartphone was convenient, with the Jabra Elite 3 using Google Fast Pair to link to my Google account, display visual battery prompts, and more. Importantly, the aptX codec was selected by default, making for stable audio streaming and clean sound. This properly brought out the characteristics of the tuning on the Jabra Elite 3.
Starting with Hold On (Sub Focus Remix) by Rusko and Amber Coffman, the Jabra Elite 3 made for an energetic, attacking sound. The punchy lows of this drum-and-bass-meets-dubstep track sounded rich and full, making for a fun listen regardless of the volume level. Despite the aggression in the sub-bass frequencies, there was refinement and cohesiveness to be heard even in the mid-range and highs.
The tuning of the Jabra Elite 3 is careful and deliberate, and engineered to maximise performance with the Qualcomm aptX codec. There was plenty of detail to be heard despite a definite bias towards the lows, with the earphones ably reproducing the continuously changing samples of If I Were A Folkstar by The Avalanches. Faint elements, carefully put in place by the artistes to set the mood of this sample-based number, sounded clean and rich, even while the catchy beat kept the flow of the track at the centre of my attention.
Passive noise isolation on the Jabra Elite 3 is excellent, and the hear-through mode works well enough
I found the soundstage to be a bit dull and unimpressive in the soft and gentle first half of Jaago by Lifafa, but a lot more involving and enjoyable in the more aggressive second half. Individual instrumental elements felt alive and kicking, backed up nicely by the punchy bass and quick percussion.
I had the same feeling while listening to the soft and slow-progressing Truth by Kamasi Washington; the Jabra Elite 3 is at its best with speed and attack, and doesn't quite provide as engaging and lively a listening experience with slower and more careful tracks, even if there's enough detail to be heard.
Although there's no active noise cancellation, there is a hear-through mode on the Jabra Elite 3, which I found useful given that the passive noise isolation was so effective. It works as expected, but I found the sound a bit awkward. I usually preferred to just take the earphones off to be able to properly hear my surroundings at home, but it definitely came in handy outdoors, allowing me to have some awareness of traffic and my surroundings even with music playing.
Call quality on the Jabra Elite 3 isn't particularly impressive. Although there are two microphones on each earpiece and performance is decent enough, there isn't any environmental noise cancellation to reduce background noise. I found the headset adequate for calls in quiet indoor environments, but not quite as good as similarly priced options such as the Nothing Ear 1.
Jabra is known for its premium true wireless headsets, but the Elite 3 proves that the company is capable of making more affordable options as well. Priced at Rs. 5,999 in India, the Jabra Elite 3 is tailored around Android smartphones, and works with them well. Sound quality is very good thanks to support for the Qualcomm aptX Bluetooth codec and good tuning. That plus the excellent passive noise isolating design and battery life make this a capable headset for the price.
Call quality wasn't quite as good, and the lack of support for the AAC Bluetooth codec makes this headset less suitable for use with iOS devices. Still, the Jabra Elite 3 should be on your list of options if you have a budget of around Rs. 6,000. It's a capable headset when it comes to sound quality, and features such as Spotify and Alexa integration could be very useful to some.
Many similarly priced options do feature active noise cancellation, so it might be worth looking at competition such as the Nothing Ear 1. You could also consider the more affordable Redmi Earbuds 3 Pro which offers a similar set of specifications and features, but the Jabra Elite 3 sounds better than the Redmi headset.
Can Nothing Ear 1 — the first product from OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei's new outfit — be an AirPods killer? We discussed this and more on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.