Jabra may have done too good a job with its workout headphones. We've spent more time not working out while using them than actually breaking a sweat but since they perform equally well in both scenarios, that's nothing to complain about. It's a wonder we haven't showered yet while wearing the Elite 8 Actives, an operation they're designed to survive.
As surely as one number follows another, Jabra was bound to release another contender in its Elite Active range. The Elite 8 Active is the direct successor to the company’s Elite 7 Active (told you). The new ‘buds keep the overall design of its immediate predecessor but have made improvements both inside and out. We’re not going to call them unkillable but Jabra goes to great lengths to punt their durability.
We’ve spent a couple of weeks with these R3,500 in-ears and the brand might well make Samsung and Sony nervous with its combination of (relative) affordability, features, and audio quality. The fact that these are designed to withstand a human body moving, sweating, and swearing is almost a bonus. We switched to the Elite 8 Active ‘buds as everyday headphones thanks to their performance but they’re really intended for the gym.
An unusual case
Which, if you get right up close, is an obvious place for them to be. The Elite 8 Active’s two headphones weigh just five grams apiece and are entirely sheathed in the textured silicone covering Jabra likes to call ShakeGrip, a term that’s usually presented with a ™ at the end. The buds themselves are similar in design to previous outings, right down to the company’s budget lineup. The deep fit might be essential for keeping them in place but if you’ve got even a hint of ear issues they quickly become uncomfortable. A selection of different tips in the box provides for whatever shape your earhole happens to be.
Jabra’s changed up the case for the Elite 8 Active, correcting one annoyance we had but introducing another. The case’s lid feels more secure and less like it’ll be torn off but the increased size and design alteration makes it less convenient to handle. The case itself is now almost palm-sized and the base, where the charge port lives, has been rounded so that it no longer stands on its own. It’s only a minor inconvenience and many users will probably accept it in exchange for the extra couple of hours of charge time it offers.
Sounds like it’ll work out
Normally we’d dive into the various durability features that would protect the Jabra Elite 8 Active when in use but, for a change, the audio performance is more important than its other skills. Expect a detailed soundscape with a decent bass punch even without resorting to Jabra’s Sound+ app.
We stuck to the standard equaliser setting throughout, though we did fiddle. The presets do what they claim to but we wouldn’t say they improved anything we were listening to. You’ve probably got your own ideal EQ curve so start with that. Stock clarity was enough to convince us that a few favourite albums had been remastered (in one case that was actually the case) and, generally, whatever you’re listening to won’t trip over itself. If something sounds muddy, it’s the artist and not the hardware. Usually.
Unless you’ve chosen to activate the Spatial Audio option inside Jabra’s companion app. In that case, the earbuds will do their best but unless you’re working with a service or presentation designed for it, it’ll sound like you’re listening to musicians doing their thing at the end of a very long metal pipe. It’s more suited for media consumption.
Podcasts and movies benefit but those designed with spatial audio in mind will obviously leave the greatest impression. Take some advice, though. Watch an older Arnie movie on your phone with the Elite 8 Active connected. It’s not the greatest feature — your results will vary — but it’s certainly worth a listen. It’s also not bad for something that’s handled between the buds and the app.
Highs and lows
Beyond audio, there’s loads to like. There are also a few aspects that could be better. The fit is secure and comfortable and the buds themselves are grippy enough that we had no issues during workouts. The eight hours of battery life per charge isn’t an exaggeration. Nor is the additional 24 hours in the case for a total of 32 hours before you’ll charge the whole lot again. We wound up using these Jabras for so long that that length seemed shorter than usual but you’ll finish out a work day without taking them out.
The buds have an IP68 rating and the case is rated IP54. In other words, our constant desire to shower with the Elite 8 Active buds in would be fine as long as we left the case in another room. Bluetooth 5.3 makes for speedy connections and represents a substantial improvement over less capable models. Voice calls take advantage of the six internal mics for decent clarity. Those same mics are responsible for the Adaptive Hybrid ANC (another ™ feature that’s just ‘active noise cancellation made by Jabra’) and the HearThrough (ditto) features.
Active cancelling is more than good enough but we found that, at the volume we listen to music, passive cancelling and HearThrough was enough to silence the office while leaving just enough room for emergencies to get through. Wearing the buds without anything playing and HearThrough active seemed to amplify some background noise. That was more pronounced when the noise is constant — rainfall or a large truck idling somewhere — but the effect is entirely muted when ANC is turned on, so there’s that.
Jabra Elite 8 Active verdict
Great workout headphones are essential if you’re lifting more for the effect than to silence the noise of your own inner demons. In that case, you’ll want to drown out your inner child with something that sounds great and which will also survive the bodily fluids you’ll extrude while moving lumps of metal from one spot to another and back again. Jabra’s Elite 8 Active are expressly designed for this, able to last through a marathon in a rainstorm with enough battery left for you to listen to some tunes in the doctor’s waiting room afterwards. The incremental price increase over the last model isn’t unexpected and you should give these a chance before Samsung or Sony’s efforts if you’re planning on sweating in them extensively. Just don’t be surprised if they follow you out of the gym and into the office.