Jabra Elite 3 review: All of the basics on a budget
“Jabra’s Elite 3 are a good set of basic buds that leave us wanting a few more features.”
- Super-comfortable fit
- Excellent controls
- Excellent call quality
- Fewer features than the competition
- No AAC codec support
For years, Jabra’s Elite family of true wireless earbuds have been some of the best you can buy. But they’ve never been especially affordable, with regular prices that often start at $180. So the thought of a set of Jabra earbuds that retain the brand’s reputation for great sound, great fit, and great features while coming in at a price that’s well under $100 is super-appealing. That’s the premise behind the new $80 Jabra Elite 3.
The price is certainly right, but has Jabra nixed too many of the Elite’s signature features to achieve such cost savings? Let’s check ‘em out.
Jabra has been doing an exemplary job of reducing its product packaging, and the Elite 3 are further proof that you don’t need to use plastic and foam to protect your product. The cardboard box is 100% recyclable, and the only hint of plastic (which is also of the easily recyclable PET variety) is the small protective enclosure for the two sets of optional eartips. (You get three sizes in total.) Inside, you’ll find the Elite 3 earbuds, their charging case, a short USB-A to USB-C charging cable, and a printed warranty pamphlet.
If it ain’t broke, the saying goes, don’t fix it. And Jabra has clearly followed this cliché with the Elite 3. The earbuds are very similar in design to both the Elite 75t and Elite 85t in that they preserve the ultra-comfortable ergonomics of those more expensive buds. But the Elite 3 also improve on those designs by enlarging the multifunction physical buttons and tipping the scales at a slightly lower weight.
The charging case also is a near-perfect carbon copy of the 75t, though slightly shorter, and it places the LED indicator on the front instead of the back. Jabra introduced this on the 85t and it’s great to see it’s been retained for the Elite 3.
They fit my ears perfectly — almost as though they had been custom-made just for me.
The case lid opens and shuts easily, with a small notch in the hinge swing to keep it open while you’re removing or replacing the earbuds. There’s no chance of having an earbud accidentally work its way loose once in the case — a strong set of magnets practically grab the earbuds as they get close to their charging sockets and keep them firmly in place. Thanks to the shape of the buds, they’re surprisingly easy to remove despite the power of the magnets.
Jabra also has given the Elite 3 the same IP55 water and dust resistance of the Elite 75t, which should keep them from harm as long as you don’t submerge them in water.
Jabra’s earbuds have always been among the most comfortable you can buy, and the Elite 3 continue that tradition. They fit my ears perfectly — almost as though they had been custom-made just for me. There were no pressure points, and once inserted, they stayed securely seated. Thanks to their small size and light weight, they’re hardly noticeable. You should have no problem using them during your walks, runs, or any other activities.
The Elite 3’s buttons are Jabra’s best so far.
Jabra’s physical button controls are also some of the best in the true wireless world, and the Elite 3’s buttons are the company’s best so far. Because they occupy the full outer surface of the bud, it’s impossible to miss them, and their precision click response means you always get that tactile feedback every time you press them.
The click patterns (single, double, triple, and click-and-hold) give you access to playback, call management, track skipping, volume, and voice assistant, plus a one-click ability to engage transparency mode (which Jabra calls HearThrough). I like the patterns Jabra has chosen for these controls, and that you can use either earbud solo if you want. But I do miss the MyControls option that exists for the Elite 75t and 85t buds, which gives you the ability to reassign which button clicks perform these actions.
Another feature that’s missing in action is auto-pause. Jabra’s more expensive buds use in-ear detection to pause and resume audio when you remove or reinsert them, but the Elite 3 lack this ability.
Getting the Elite 3 paired is a snap. especially if you’re an Android user, thanks to the inclusion of Google’s Fast Pair tech. Once connected, the Bluetooth signal remained strong and stable. I was able to put 30 feet of distance between the buds and my phone before I noticed any break up in the connection.
It’s a bit disappointing that they don’t sound better than the competition.
The Android-only features don’t stop there. You can also choose to use Amazon Alexa instead of Google Assistant, plus Jabra lets Android users swap the voice assistant control for double-tap access to Spotify. Use this option and your Spotify tunes will play immediately.
Unfortunately, Jabra has chosen to drop one of its signature features with the Elite 3: Unlike other Jabra earbuds and headphones, you can’t connect the Elite 3 to more than one device (like a smartphone and a computer) simultaneously. It’s a super-handy feature, especially for folks who switch between voice calls and video calls on a regular basis.
For casual listening, the Elite 3 are good performers. The factory sound signature is well-balanced, favoring neither highs nor lows, and there’s decent detail and separation of the midrange. It’s the kind of tuning that works well with nearly every genre of music, from hip-hop to classical, while not really excelling at any of them.
Bass response is satisfying, though I don’t think it quite lives up to Jabra’s promise of “powerful bass.” It’s definitely strong enough to let you feel the beat — my go-to test track, Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, had plenty of oomph — but if truly big bass is your passion, you may want to look elsewhere.
However, in comparing the Elite 3 to other earbuds in this price range — like the Soundcore Life P3, Wyze Buds Pro, and Earfun Air Pro, and Air Pro 2 — the Elites definitely feel like they’re missing some energy.
Jabra’s tuning almost feels conservative when compared to these other models, with a high end that isn’t as clear, and a soundstage that stays relatively narrow. It’s not dramatic, but when you consider how many features Jabra chose to omit to get these buds to their $80 price, it’s a bit disappointing that they don’t sound better than the competition.
Thinking this might be the result of the Elite 3’s lack of AAC Bluetooth codec support, I switched from my iPhone 11 to a Google Pixel 5 so that I could try the Qualcomm aptX codec. Warmth and detail did improve slightly, but clarity in the highs, especially around female vocals, remained soft.
Jabra gives you several EQ presets to play with in the Sound+ app — like Bass Boost, Treble Boost, and Energize — but none of them helped with overall quality as much as I’d hoped. And for now, there’s no way to do your own custom EQ (Jabra says this is coming with a firmware update).
Jabra claims you can get 7 hours per charge from the Elite 3. If anything, that number might be on the conservative side. With HearThrough turned off and volume set at 50%, I ended up getting 7.5 hours before the batteries gave out.
A fast-charge option will extend your listening time by an additional hour with just 10 minutes of charging time, and the case holds three full charges for a total of 28 hours before you need to find a USB charger.
Jabra’s HearThrough mode has always been one of my favorite features of the Elite series. They do a great job of passive noise isolation, so being able to pipe in the outside world for conversations or just general awareness is really valuable. Switching HearThrough on and off is almost instant, and the Elite 3 won’t harass you with verbal feedback the way some other earbuds do — instead of a message like “HearThrough On,” you get a quick and discrete tone to let you know the mode has changed.
As for the quality of the transparency, it’s not quite as good as Apple’s AirPods Pro or Jabra’s Elite 85t — your own voice will still sound a tad muffled — but it’s fine for hearing most external sounds.
Getting decent call quality from a set of true wireless earbuds can be a tall order. Even buds that cost more than three times what Jabra charges for the Elite 3 — like the $299 Klipsch T5 II ANC — can end up providing less than stellar results.
And yet, the Elite 3 are superb for calls. Not only do they do an admirable job of blocking out background noise, but they also deliver excellent voice reproduction. There’s none of the usual wobbliness or compression that tend to plague these devices, and when you’re in a quiet area, your callers will be treated to a pleasingly warm tonality that might even sound better than the mic that’s built into your phone.
With sidetone turned on, you can also hear yourself more clearly while talking. All of this makes the Elite 3 a great accessory for those who do a lot of voice calls.
At this price, it may not be reasonable to expect a brand like Jabra to include all of the features found on its higher-end models, but there’s no denying that the competition is doing just that. The, , and are all $80 or less and include features like wireless charging and active noise cancellation (ANC). The Earfun and Wyze models also have auto-pause.
But I’m more surprised by the absence of app-based features the Jabra typically offers, like Sleep Mode (which lets you turn off the earbuds after a preset amount of time), Soundscape (a collection of sounds like rain, ocean waves, songbirds, etc.), the ability to see how much battery life is left in the charging case, and the ability to auto-mute your audio when HearThrough mode is selected.
With the Elite 3, Jabra plays to its strengths with top-notch design, comfort and fit, controls, and call quality. But given what the competition is offering at the same price or less, they’re not quite as easy to recommend as the company’s pricier models.
Is there a better alternative?
For call quality and comfort, I don’t think you’ll find a better set of earbuds at any price, but considering the Elite 3’s lack of advanced features, these models should definitely be considered:
- : Better sound quality, ANC, customizable controls, customizable EQ, longer battery life, wireless charging, low-latency gaming mode, and Find My earbuds.
- : Better sound quality, ANC, Amazon Alexa compatibility, auto-pause, and wireless charging.
- : Better sound quality, ANC, longer battery life, wireless charging, and auto-pause.
How long will they last?
Jabra’s products are very well-built and use high-quality materials. With an IP55 rating against water and dust, the Elite 3 should prove quite hardy, and Jabra backs that water/dust protection with a two-year warranty, which gives great peace of mind.
Should you buy them?
Yes. They may not knock it out of the park in terms of features, but theare still an excellent set of true wireless earbuds that are especially well-suited for those who have trouble getting a comfortable fit and/or who make a lot of voice calls.