Jabra’s new sports buds are the Beats Fit Pro killer I’ve been waiting for

 Jabra Elite 8 Active in black held in hand of reviewer
Jabra Elite 8 Active in black held in hand of reviewer

Jabra Elite 8 Active: Specs

Price: $199 / £199 / AU$329
Colors: Black, caramel, dark grey, navy
Battery life (rated): 8 hours (ANC on); 14 hours (ANC off); 32 hours (ANC on w/charging case), 56 hours (ANC off w/charging case)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.3 (codec support: SBC, AAC)
Water resistance: Yes (IP68 – earbuds, IP54 – charging case)
Size: 0.8 x 0.8 x 1.1 inches (per bud); 1 x 1.8 x 2.6 inches (charging case)
Weight: 0.2 ounces (per bud); 1.6 ounces (charging case)

Jabra’s revamped Elite lineup might not be the commercial smash they anticipated, but it has brought to market some well-received sporty models like the Elite 7 Active and Elite Active 4. The all-new Elite 8 Active — on sale now from the Jabra website — not only take over the reins as Jabra’s true sporty flagship, but they set new standards for the sub-category.

Upgraded with military-standard materials for unbreakable protection, along with adaptive active noise cancellation, spatial audio, and some of the longest battery life available, the Elite 8 Active are easily a top contender for best sports headphones.

Jabra’s control scheme hasn’t changed, plus there are some notable features missing (e.g., headtracking, MySound). Even so, the Elite Active 8 terrifies the class-leading Beats Fit Pro, with excellent performance across multiple verticals.

Jabra Elite 8 Active: Energetic sound with plenty of customizable settings

Jabra Elite 8 Active worn by Alex Bracetti
Jabra Elite 8 Active worn by Alex Bracetti

Powerful, bass-heavy sonics came out of the Elite 8 Active’s 6mm dynamic drivers. Lows dominated the frequency curve, but there were still some nice sounding mids and highs to digest. Listening with ANC on tightened bass response. I could also tweak sound in the companion app by creating my own EQ via Music Equalizer or selecting from six well-engineered presets that complement their respective categories.

I played Dead Prez’s “Hip Hop” to boost my adrenaline before a 5K run. The record’s monstrous bassline and pounding kick and snare rhythm were reproduced superbly, fueling my energy tank through the first quarter mile. I felt that same energy from Eminem’s “Till I Collapse.” The rapper’s fiery rhymes remained prominent over the intensified wave of echoing claps and pummeling kick drums. This showed me Jabra’s commitment to fine-tuning their midrange.

Jabra Elite 8 Active earbuds held in hand with a green hedge in the background
Jabra Elite 8 Active earbuds held in hand with a green hedge in the background

Jazz records were perfect for cooling down. The smooth horn and piano play on Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight” kept my body relaxed, though it was small details like the veiled double bass and hi-hat that captured my attention; both instruments were more accentuated on the Elite 8 Active than most sport buds.

It's shocking that Jabra didn’t include their proprietary MySound feature that automatically creates a sound profile tailored to one’s hearing, but this could arrive in a firmware update in the future. I prefer it over the custom EQ and Jabra’s default sound profile, granted you can’t go wrong with any of these options. Much of my listening time was spent on lossless streaming platforms including Apple Music and Tidal, which deliver CD-quality streams at the full bitrate. Spotify tracks were mostly satisfying.

The Elite 8 Active support Jabra’s new 3D audio format powered by Dolby Atmos: Spatial Sound. It’s not as impressive as Apple’s or Sony’s spatial audio technologies, but it’s a noteworthy first step. Enabling the feature adds arena-like acoustics to the soundstage. Some tracks sounded like I was hearing live performances from several seats behind front row, which was fine. Bass-heavy recordings added more boom than I would have liked. Spatial Sound is handled better on these buds than the flagship Elite 10 (full review coming soon), but the latter comes with exceptional headtracking technology that creates a more immersive listening environment.

Jabra Elite 8 Active: Intuitively powerful ANC

Testing out ANC on Jabra Elite 8 Active earbuds
Testing out ANC on Jabra Elite 8 Active earbuds

Jabra’s adaptive ANC provides 1.6x more noise cancelation than the company’s standard version. It’s superior to what previous Elite entries delivered, including the Elite 7 Pro and Elite 85t.

Turning it on completely blocked out the construction noises occurring outside of my window. There weren’t any disruptions when passing by a street fair. High-frequency sounds like sirens were subdued and didn’t pull me away from workout tracks. Using the feature indoors was just as rewarding. My son’s electronic toys and loud TV programs went unnoticed. His cries penetrated through the soundstage, but they weren’t bothersome. ANC works best during voice and video calls. I received positive remarks about clarity and loudness and zero complaints about background noise.

HearThrough mode seems to have been enhanced as well. Vocal capture is stronger to hear conversations from across the street. The inter-city railroad caught my attention a few times when walking home from the grocery store. Ambient listening was most clutch during late night strolls, keeping my ears open to oncoming traffic and other moving obstacles in dark settings.

Jabra Elite 8 Active: Longevity is the game

Jabra Elite 8 Active in their charging case placed on a wet bench
Jabra Elite 8 Active in their charging case placed on a wet bench

The Elite 8 Active may look and feel like previous entries, but they’re more indestructible. Jabra put them through military testing to establish an IP68 certification for dust- and waterproof protection. They can survive huge dust clouds, as well as 1-meter drops and 1.5-meter submersion. A 2-year warranty is guaranteed against failure from dust and water.

The charging case comes IP54-rated for dust and water resistance. Compared to other Jabra cases, this one is larger, but slimmer, and has a sleek, curved rectangle design. It weighs nothing at 1.6 ounces and slides into denim pockets.

Jabra’s ShakeGrip technology also factors into the Elite 8 Active’s appearance and sustainability. A “liquid silicone sock” is wrapped around the buds to prevent corrosion and produce a comfy and secure fit. Never once did they fall out or require adjusting on runs. I also didn’t experience any fatigue when wearing them for 4-hour stretches daily. The silicone material also staves off scratches better than the plastic used on standard Elite models.

Adding to their endurance is battery life, which is longer than the AirPods Pro 2 (5.5 to 7 hours) and Beats Fit Pro (6 to 7 hours). A full charge translates to 8 to 14 hours of listening time, depending how you use the buds. ANC sucks up the most juice and using spatial audio knocks off 2 hours. The wireless charging case holds up to 56 hours. A 5-minute quick charge generates 1 hour of listening time.

Jabra Elite 8 Active: Stuck in their old functional ways

Jabra Elite 8 Active testing touch controls worn by Alex Bracetti
Jabra Elite 8 Active testing touch controls worn by Alex Bracetti

Jabra will switch to touch controls the day that Apple releases the AirPods in a new color. According to them, consumers prefer the multifunctional button on their buds. I don’t, nor have I since the Elite Active 75t.

It’s not that the input method is poorly executed. Single-, multi-, and long-press gestures are responsive, and tactility feels fluid. The problem, which has been longstanding, is that pressing the buttons pushes the buds further into your ears. This becomes frustrating and painful after several attempts. One way to limit using them is assigning your most used functions to the one-press gesture or using voice activation for playback, call management, or volume. Google Assistant demonstrated flawless speech recognition (saying “Hey Google” instantly turned on the AI bot) and executed commands accurately. Siri performed well, but you can only access it manually.

It’s amazing that Jabra finally got onboard the Dolby Atmos train. Why they continue to bypass the hi-res codec station is unknown. The Elite 8 Active are stuck with SBC and AAC, two codecs that stream music acceptably well, but lack the resolution and speed transmission of advanced codecs like aptX and LDAC.

Jabra Elite 8 Active: Verdict

The Elite 8 Active serve exceptionally well for fitness and casual listening. Jabra’s warm sound signature will jumpstart workouts the moment you press play. Noise cancelation does a fantastic job of reducing unwanted sounds, be it on runs or during video chats. These buds are also built like tanks to give you long-lasting use.

Jabra’s infatuation with physical buttons is holding the Elite series back from perfection. No headtracking and the absence of signature features like MySound also doesn’t sit well considering the moderately high price tag ($199).

All faults are forgiven once you spend a workout with the Elite 8 Active. Brand enthusiasts and fitness buffs will find the buds’ versatile sound and noise cancelation as good as, if not better than, the Beats Fit Pro.

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