By all means, secure yourself a set of Jabra's Elite 5 in-ears if they happen to fit your budget. You won't be sorry about the purchase at all. But if you're an audio snob or really need the silence, you should wait until you can drop at least R1,500 more on a set of in-ears. You'll be happier that way.
Jabra makes a lot of in-ear headphones. Seriously. A whole lot of in-ear headphones. Eventually, statistics dictate, you wind up repeating yourself. That’s the case with the Jabra Elite 5 in-ear buds. Were these released in isolation, they’d be a fantastic set of affordable in-ears.
But right now? We’ve seen most of what they can do before this. But at R2,500, they’re relatively affordable and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the tech they’re packing. But they don’t have to be here. The Jabra Elite 2 will cost you R1,300. The Elite 4 Active is R2,200. The Elite 7 Active? R3,600. We’re just not convinced another stop along the price point road was essential.
The Jabra Elite 5 buds arrive in a fairly nondescript box that contains a fairly nondescript case. If you’ve ever seen a set of Jabra in-ears, these will look very familiar. They’re compact, made from the same durable plastics as the case they live in, and the Jabra logo on each bud is also a button.
The case has a single USB-C port as well as an indicator light for battery levels. Green, obviously, is good. Yellow and red, not so much. The buds have charge contacts and there are a set of interchangeable silicon tips in the box. The side buttons on the buds have short- and long-press functions. On the left side, a quick press activates toggles between active noise cancelling and hear-through. A long press lowers the volume. Double press and you’ll wake up a voice assistant (if it’s set up). On the right, a quick press handles Play/Pause. Long press — volume up. Double-tap to skip tracks. Standard, boring stuff.
If the Jabra Elite 5 buds are conventionally styled, they’re also impressively capable. Just remember, though, that ‘capable’ doesn’t mean ‘unique’. Noise cancellation is handled by a so-called hybrid system that includes microphones inside your ear. This allows these buds to more accurately mute noise around you. In practice, sitting in an office with ANC enabled and no tunes playing, it’s a little like sitting in a graveyard at midnight. The only noises you’ll hear are those loud enough or close enough. And by then it’s too late (to avoid your boss asking you inconvenient questions).
The battery is also a high point. The buds offer up to seven hours of playback with ANC enabled on a single charge. We were unable to run them flat in a single session, because… well, we didn’t need to wear them for seven hours solid. Popping them back into the case brings them up to full rapidly enough that we struggled to dent the buds’ runtime at all. The rather large case serves up another 21 hours for a total of 28 hours before you need to connect the charging case to a wire. Or place it on a Qi-enabled charging pad, since wireless charging is thrown in.
These in-ears excel in two more areas. First, an IP55 rating makes them durable enough to function as fitness headphones. They’re not completely waterproof, so no getting into the shower with them on, but you’ll complete a gym session without drowning them in sweat. Yes, even if you’re taking a Tabata class.
The second factor helps cement the Jabra Elite 5 buds’ role as fitness assistants. Each bud weighs in at just 5 grams and the fit, at least for us, was comfortable enough that inserting them was enough for them to disappear from memory. It’s just a running playlist and the pavement for an hour or so without any slippage or adjustment at all. The buds’ outer surface grips even sweaty lugholes neatly, holding them in place throughout a workout.
Pair this with the seven-hour battery and you could probably complete a marathon on a single charge. You could. You’d just have to bring the charging case along.
The only letdown, if we can even use the term, is that the audio isn’t up to the skills displayed elsewhere. Make no mistake, quality is decent across the board but that’s where it ends. Music lacks the warmth you might get from a more expressive set of headphones. Sony’s XM4s, for example, throw a little extra magic at your tracks. With the Jabra Elite 5 buds, the music is doing all the work.
Jabra Elite 5 verdict
But it’s worth remembering that all of these aspects are available at lesser (and higher) price points from Jabra. The build and design are more or less constant across the range. Heck, even the super-affordable Jabra Elite 2 buds feature an IP55 rating. You’re paying for a better battery, better (but not the best) noise cancelling, and a very slight improvement in audio quality. If the Jabra Elite 5 buds suit your budget, you won’t be disappointed. Unless you’re an audio snob. But audio snobs have standards that mere mortal headphones will never, ever attain, so don’t take that supposed ‘drawback’ too seriously if you just have regular human ears.