There’s been something rather likeable about Jabra’s recent run of wireless earbuds. Rarely have the Danish brand’s buds quite managed to attain the full five stars, but thanks to their usual combination of pleasing designs coupled with well-performing features at competitive prices, this feels like a brand moving in the right direction.
The Elite 10 aren’t here merely to be likeable, though. Jabra has its sights aimed squarely at the premium end of the wireless earbud market, a place where titans such as the superb Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds and the Award-winning Sony WF-1000XM5 dwell. If Jabra wants to compete with the best, it’s going to have to bring its A-game and then some to tempt users away from such fierce beasts.
Retailing at £230 / $249 / AU$379, the Jabra Elite 10 are certainly competitively priced. Jabra’s ploy seems to be to offer a slightly more affordable alternative to its major competitors, with the Elite 10 sitting below the Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds (tested at £300 / $299 / AU$450), the Award-winning Sony WF-1000XM5 (tested at £259 / $299 / AU419) and Apple’s flagship AirPods Pro 2 (£229 / $249 / AU$399).
Of this particular quartet, the Jabras are clearly the cheapest, a factor that could well work in their favour, especially when you consider how frequently Jabra seems to discount even its most expensive or high-end models.
Comfort & build
Jabra has made a clear effort with the design of the Elite 10, and while at first glance they look similar to their stablemates in terms of shape and form, extra flourishes and some added finesse help to mark them out as a properly premium pair. Place the Elite 10 side-by-side with the XM5, especially when the latter is daubed in what we’ve uncharitably branded its “hearing aid beige” colourway, and you’ll likely be convinced that Jabra’s effort is the more luxurious of the two.
Codec Support LDAC, SBC
Battery Life Up to 8 hours from earbuds (ANC off); total 27 hours (with charging case, ANC off)
Finishes x 5 (Cream, Cocoa, Titanium Black, Gloss Black, Matte Black)
Weight 5.7g (each)
Yes, the plastic case is just a little cheap and unremarkable feeling, but that’s probably the worst you could say on the design front. The buds themselves benefit from a slightly textured matte finish that feels nice in the hand, while the button-control panel on the unit’s exterior shines and gleams courtesy of a reflective, glossy finish. The overall effect of contrasting tones and shades just gives the buds a bit of extra visual interest, and we’re certainly fond of the look of our handsome, cream-coloured test pair.
At this level, you’d expect a decent variety of ear tips, with Jabra furnishing you with four sizes – small, medium, large and extra-large – to keep most bases covered. They fit well, too, with the angled-in stem combining with a slightly squashed, tapered tip to ensure that, in our experience at least, the silicone buds stay firmly in place.
Even with that rather attractive design, the new Jabra buds feel rugged and robust. There’s a solidity and weight to them in the hand, while an IP57 rating ensures they’ll survive submergence in water for 30 minutes to a depth of 3ft. We test that theory out in the office kitchen sink and, after a brisk towelling, find Jabra to be true to its word.
The spec sheet here is certainly impressive. The strategy with the Elite 10 seems to be to combine attention-grabbing features – such as Dolby Atmos spatial audio and Bluetooth Multipoint – with a price that, especially when discounted, significantly undercuts its esteemed rivals.
Jabra’s “most advanced earbuds for work and life” live up to the billing in this arena. We give their noise cancelling capabilities a try, and while the outstanding Bose QC Ultra Earbuds and the Sony XM5 have them licked for complete sonic isolation, this underdog effort is admirable. Pure ANC works well to damp down the general hum and buzz of office life, even if voices and the occasional sneeze pop through, while HearThrough mode, tested on the London Underground, admits key announcements and voices with clarity. Neither is perfect, though, and we wish that both modes worked just a little better to really create the desired effect of either complete isolation or truly selective cancellation.
Jabra has made quite a big deal of the buds’ Dolby-boosted spatial audio capabilities, and in fairness, those cheques can be pretty confidently cashed. Head tracking, which sticks your audio source to a single point in the soundscape rather than having the audio follow you around as your skull moves, works pretty well, anchoring sound to a stuck point no matter how much you bend and turn. Dolby Atmos spatial audio is also effective, and there’s a clear difference between the spacing of the instruments within the soundstage when we play two versions of Gorillaz’s Cracker Island via Tidal – one with spatial audio and one without.
Those are the real premium features designed to lure you in, but how do the Elite 10 fare elsewhere? Battery life is a very respectable six hours from the buds (with ANC) and a further 27 with the case, although that isn’t quite enough to oust the XM5’s eight and 24 hours respectively. That does beat the Bose Ultra’s figures of six (buds) and eighteen (case), though.
As is often the case with wireless earbuds, the Elite 10’s sonic style is easy to define right off the bat, and while turning on ANC adds a little more robustness and authenticity, these buds are immediately easy to get a handle on. The presentation style of the Elite 10 is one of solidity and composure, with instruments feeling well-organised, substantial and carrying a bedrock of weight behind them. The premium Jabras act as an anchor weight to the music played, tethering tones and rhythms down so that nothing becomes overly shrill or ill-ordered. Everything feels powerful, meaty and compact, a bit like a burly prop forward if you’re into your rugby union similes.
That certainly offers tracks a pleasing amount of solidity and structure. When Tom Petty’s Love Is A Long Road kicks into gear with bold guitar strums and forceful snare hits, you certainly get a lot of force coming through to your ears, lending proceedings a hard, compact edge. What you’ll also find, though, is that the Jabras don’t do instrumental timbres quite as well as you’d ideally like, and that compact sound can feel constrictive after a time. Those snare hits, for instance, should really resonate as the skin of the drum vibrates, but they just feel a tad clipped and curtailed through the Jabras.
The Elite 10 can also be bested for vivacity and dynamics. Once again we compare them to Sony’s flagship buds and find that a recording of Lana Del Rey’s Off To The Races has substantially more rhythmical drive and nuance through the XM5. Because of the Elite 10’s taut, slightly boxed-in style, they can’t manage to keep up with Del Rey’s ever-changing vocal delivery and the peaks and troughs the track itself presents. It’s not bad, but it’s not attention-grabbingly good, either.
Dig out a bit of Noisettes’ Never Forget You and you’ll see what we mean about dynamics. Those opening bass plucks don’t sink to the depths with the hearty fullness of the Bose QC Ultra Earbuds, while the track’s soulful vocals don’t quite rise above the rest of the ensemble with sufficient soul and passion to truly be memorable. It’s all very nicely controlled and curated, but just a little lacking in genuine verve.
Still, the overall sonic impression left on us by the Jabras is broadly positive. Tracks come through laden with plenty of muscle and weight, even if they lack that extra drive and propulsion to truly thrill. If you were lent a pair and told they’d be accompanying you on your next hour-long commute, your heart certainly wouldn’t sink at the prospect, even if it didn’t quite start racing in anticipation, either.
There’s a lot to like about the Jabra Elite 10. Not only do they look like a premium pair of buds, but they’re also packed with well-performing features that almost make you feel spoiled for the price paid.
Sonically, though, the Elite aren’t quite up to par with the best in class, and while their sound is detailed, robust and well-organised, there’s just a lack of rhythmic interest that prevents them from truly taking flight.
- Sound 4
- Features 5
- Comfort 5
Read our review of the Sony WF-1000XM5
Also consider the Apple AirPods Pro 2
Read our Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds review