Jabra Elite 5 review: Nearly flawless wireless earbuds

jabra elite 5 held in hand.

The Jabra Elite 5 earbuds are essentially flawless

MSRP $150.00

“For their price, they offer an unbeatable set of features.”

Pros

  • Small and comfy
  • Very good sound quality
  • Very good ANC/transparency
  • Custom controls and EQ
  • Hands-free voice assistants
  • Excellent call quality
  • Very good battery life

Cons

  • Not the best sound for this price

It’s no secret that we are big fans of Jabra’s wireless earbuds. Each new flagship model that has been released over the years has spent considerable time on our list of the best wireless earbuds and, more recently, the best noise-canceling wireless earbuds. But it has also been diligently filling out its product line to offer wireless earbuds at a variety of prices.

Its latest addition is the $150 Elite 5, a set of active noise canceling earbuds that sit in the middle — below the $230 Elite 85t, the $200 Elite 7 Pro, and the $180 Elite 7 Active, but above the $140 Elite 4 Active, and $80 Elite 3.

That’s a lot of earbuds, and a lot of prices. The question is, has Jabra differentiated the Elite 5 enough for them to make sense at $150, or should you spend a bit less (or a bit more)? Let’s check them out.

What’s in the box?

jabra elite 5 with accessories.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The Elite 5 follow Jabra’s history of clean and simple packaging that is almost entirely plastic-free and highly recyclable. Inside the compact box, you’ll find the earbuds in their charging case, three extra sizes of silicone eartips (the earbuds come with the mediums installed), and a short, color-matched USB-A to USB-C charging cable.

What you won’t find is any kind of a quick-start guide or detailed instructions. Jabra wants you to download its mobile app for Android or iOS, which then guides you through all of the Elite 5’s various features, controls, and settings. There’s also a link to a full manual in the app.

Design

jabra elite 5 seen in close-up.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

The Elite 5 look virtually identical to all of Jabra’s newest models — the single-digit named earbuds — with a simple, small, and elegant teardrop-shaped outer surface that doubles as the physical buttons, and a very sculpted, ergonomic shape for the inner portion. The body of the buds uses a smooth plastic that has a faintly grippy quality to it. It hasn’t been designed for sport use per se, but it’s clear that Jabra has tried to make them fit securely.

Stick ‘em in your ears and they seem to naturally find their way into the best position.

Our review model sports the gold/beige color combo, but you can also get them in a more traditional titanium/black. Jabra has given the Elite 5 an IP55 rating for water and dust resistance, which is more than enough protection for workouts, but not quite enough that you can afford to be cavalier about getting them wet, and definitely don’t submerge them the way you can with the Elite 7 Active, 7 Pro, and 4 Active.

The charging case, which supports wireless charging too, uses the same tried-and-true wide, flip-top lid design that Jabra has been using for years. The earbuds pop in and out of their charging sockets with a very satisfying and secure set of magnets.

Comfort, controls, and connections

man wearing jabra elite 5.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

I’ve always found Jabra earbuds incredibly comfortable, and the Elite 5 are no exception. Stick ’em in your ears and they seem to naturally find their way into the best position. Once they’re in, they rarely need adjustment save for the occasional yawn or chewing of food.

Want to take them to the gym or for an extended run? They should handle that kind of activity with no problems at all.

I much prefer physical buttons to touch controls on wireless earbuds, and Jabra’s buttons are the best. The Elite 5’s controls are easy to find (it’s basically the whole earbud), easy to press, and they have excellent tactile feedback — you know when you’ve pressed them correctly because they have a distinct click that you can feel.

Transparency mode is excellent. You’ll hear everything clearly if that’s what you want.

Those buttons control everything you need, including play/pause, track skip forward/back, volume up/down, call answer/end, ANC mode changes, and voice assistant access too (more on that in a moment). By default, these are assigned to specific click gestures on each earbud, but if you don’t like them, Jabra’s excellent Sound+ app lets you configure them pretty much any way you want. I love this feature and it’s one of the ways the Elite 5 improves on the Elite 3 and Elite 4 Active, neither of which let you do this.

Spotify listeners will appreciate that you can enable Spotify Tap as an optional double-click gesture. Do it once and it immediately starts playback. Do it again and it picks a new selection for you.

Another great feature over those less expensive models is the inclusion of wear sensors. These automatically pause your tunes when you remove an earbud — handy for conversations. They won’t auto-resume the tunes when you re-insert them, the way some earbuds do, but that’s not a big deal — a single button press starts your music up again.

You can use both earbuds or just one at a time and this works for both calls and music, though you won’t get as many control options when you do this.

The Elite 5 are excellent for calls, both indoors and outside where your voice will compete with other sounds.

With Bluetooth 5.2, pairing with iOS devices is fast and easy, but even faster on Android handsets thanks to Google Fast Pair. I had no stability issues during my time with them, and their wireless range was more or less what you can expect from most earbuds — around 20 feet indoors and up to 40 feet when outside, in clear line-of-site to your phone.

The Elite 5 are also the least expensive set of Jabras to support Bluetooth Multipoint, the tech that lets you connect the earbuds to two devices at once, so if a call comes in on your phone while you’re listening to music on your laptop, just answer the call and the audio automatically switches. For years, Jabra was one of the only companies to offer multipoint on wireless earbuds and it’s still a master at it — switching between devices was utterly seamless.

Sound quality

jabra elite 5 seen in close-up.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Like other Jabra earbuds, the Elite 5 deliver clear and balanced sound, which works with a wide variety of genres. Unlike the workout-oriented Elite 4 Active, which has a more bass-forward signature, the default tuning on the Elite 5 is decidedly neutral or “flat,” as some audiophiles like to say. Which is not to say that the Elite 5 lack bass — they don’t — but you’ll need to dive into the Sound+ app’s EQ settings if you want to really crank up the low end.

This emphasis on balance goes beyond mere tuning — it can also be used to describe the earbuds’ soundstage, which leans toward a narrower presentation. If you like your music with traditional stereo sound, free from the so-called 3D immersion that is becoming increasingly popular, you’ll appreciate what the Elite 5 are all about.

In comparing them with the Elite 7 Pro, it’s remarkable how close the two are. I find both models very satisfying for daily listening, whether it’s podcasts or pop. The Elite 5 might even have an edge: they feature Qualcomm’s aptX in addition to AAC and SBC codecs, whereas the 7 Pro only have the last two.

But if you’re after something with a more critical listening slant, I recommend the Technics EAH-AZ40 and Final Audio ZE3000. They’re a better listen for the same price as the Elite 5, but you’ll need to accept some missing features like wireless charging and wear sensors, or in some cases, ANC.

Noise cancellation and transparency

jabra elite 5 seen in close-up.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

Keeping annoying noises at bay is easy with the Elite 5. Their hybrid ANC system works to suppress a wide range of irksome sounds, from loud chatter in a coffee shop to the droning of airplane or city transit engines. Despite not being as advanced as the ANC system on the Elite 7 Pro, I felt it performed just as well, and unlike some ANC earbuds, the Elite 5 handled wind very effectively.

Transparency mode, which you can adjust to let in a little or a lot of outside sound, is excellent. You’ll hear everything clearly if that’s what you want. Your own voice is still a tad muffled, but that tends to happen with most transparency systems.

Best of all, you can flip between the two modes quickly with just a click, and the Sound+ app gives you a choice over ANC, transparency, and off options, letting you cycle through all three, or any two.

Call quality

With six mics in use for calling (more than any other Jabra model), the Elite 5 are excellent for calls, both indoors and outside where your voice will compete with other sounds. I found that even with loud traffic right beside me, only the faintest background sounds came through.

All the while, my voice sounded full and natural — never compressed or tinny.

Jabra gives you a side-tone adjustment, which lets in more of your own voice during a call, but if you find it’s not enough, you can always turn on full transparency mode too.

Voice assistants

Jabra has been pretty good about giving us access to our phone’s assistants, or even third party assistants, like Amazon Alexa. But the Elite 5 go further, with the option to summon either Alexa or Google Assistant hands-free, with just their respective wake-word.

It’s really convenient, but turning it on limits some of the controls you have access to (volume control seems to get disabled) and if you’re using an iPhone, your only hands-free option is Alexa.

Battery life

jabra elite 5 charging case bottom, qi logo visible.
Simon Cohen / Digital Trends

With ANC turned on, you get a very acceptable 7 hours of listening time per charge, and up to 28 hours total when you include the charging case’s capacity. That handily beats the AirPods Pro at 5/25 respectively. But it gets even better if you use the Elite 5 without ANC: 9/36 hours, which should be enough for even the longest listening sessions.

Should they tap out before you’re finished, a fast-charge system will give you an extra hour for 10 minutes of time in the charging case.

With such an impressive constellation of features, great comfort, and tons of customization, the Elite 5 not only justify their price premium over the Elite 4 Active, but also seriously raise the question of whether you should spend up to $50 more for the Elite 7 Active or 7 Pro.

If you need the extra protection of their IP57 rating, or perhaps the 7 Pro’s even better call quality, it might be worth it, but for most people, I think the Elite 5 sit in the true wireless sweet spot.

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