Here’s the thing about exercise outside: Sometimes, you need to be aware of your surroundings, but seconds later you might want to block out the annoying heavy breathing of another runner coming up behind you. The $179 Jabra Elite 7 Active earbuds offer the best of both worlds with a single, gentle tap of a button — because no one wants to dig out their phone or fumble with a stem in the middle of a workout.
The Elite 7 Active earbuds aren’t the first to feature active noise cancellation and transparency modes; Sony has the $199 LinkBuds S, Apple has the $249 AirPods Pro, and EarFun has the $79 Air Pro 2. But Jabra’s wireless earbuds are by far the easiest to use and the most customizable to your lifestyle and hearing preferences. However, they do come with some caveats. Here are the pros and cons I’ve found after working out in Jabra’s latest buds.
With the Elite 7 Active earbuds, Jabra promises to immerse you in sound — and it succeeds, by a long shot. Even in HearThrough mode, the audio never veered towards tinny, which I’ve experienced with Shokz OpenRun Pro’s bone conduction technology and to a lesser extent in the open-ear JVC Nearphones. Instead, my favorite workout playlists practically boomed out of the 6-millimeter speakers; it’s a rare occasion for me when I’m not listening to volume at 90 percent or above, and I ended up turning these down several times.
To get the most out of the speakers, you’ll need to download Jabra’s Sound+ app. The app comes loaded with presets like “Bass boost” or “Energize” that will make you pumped to work out, or you can use the customizable equalizer to create your own presets depending on what type of music you’re playing. I tend to listen to bass-heavy music when I work out because I love to really hear the beat, so I opted for the “Bass boost” preset during most workouts; “Energize” didn’t prioritize the beat in quite the same way. (On calls, I would switch over the “Speech,” which drops the bass and ups the treble.) You can even create your own unique hearing profile under settings (based on age, gender, and a quick “tone test”) and the speakers will automatically adjust to that profile next time you press play.
The Elite 7 Active earbuds come with two important listening modes: Active Noise Cancellation, which blocks distracting background noise, and HearThrough technology, which uses the microphones in the earbuds to amplify sounds around you. Those features aren’t unique to Jabra, but what is is the fact that you can switch between modes with a simple press of the button on the left earbud. I found this especially helpful during outdoor activities: As I ran to and from a lake near my house, I enabled the HearThrough mode so I could stay alert to traffic on the streets; once I was safely off the streets and running laps on the lakeside path, I turned on ANC so I could get in the zone.
In Jabra’s Sound+ app, you can use adjustable sliders to customize the frequency levels of ANC and HearThrough to whatever fits your environment best. The difference between the five levels of sound are noticeable, too; as I played with the settings at my desk, I could easily hear the sound of my AC working overtime fade away while turning down HearThrough and activating ANC.
The key with earbuds — especially for working out — is that they stay put. Jabra re-engineered its sports earbuds using a special liquid silicone rubber compound that holds the buds more securely in the ear without the need for ear wings. The design is also 16 percent smaller than Jabra’s previous smallest earbuds, with a more tapered, rounded fit that molds to the shape of your ear. (They’re also a mere 5.5 grams each — just one-tenth of a gram heavier than Apple’s AirPods Pro, which feature similar noise cancellation and transparency technology.) And they do stay put! I didn’t register any slippage, even on a two-hour run.
Unfortunately, that rubber compound creates a pressurized feeling that’s so common with in-ear earbuds (TBH, there was such a solid seal I don’t know if I even needed the noise cancellation mode). The Elite 7 Active earbuds do have vent holes that aim to relieve pressure in your ears, but I found that plugged-up sensation to be super uncomfortable the longer I worked out; I even had to remove the earbuds during one long phone call. Maybe my ears are more sensitive than I realized, but this factor would lead me to choose open-ear headphones like the Shokz OpenRun Pro or the JVC Nearphones.
Considering the Jabra Elite 7 Active are meant for activity, call quality isn’t a top priority — but I found the experience jarring whenever I answered the phone. There are four microphones packed into the Elite 7 Active earbuds, and Jabra promises “outstanding call clarity.” But I found my own voice to be the loudest part of any call I took, and even playing with all the customizable settings couldn’t make for a more pleasant conversational experience (this was not, apparently, an issue on the other end; when I polled several people I called, they had no issues hearing my clearly).
As far as music quality and customizing sound profiles go, Jabra’s Elite 7 Active earbuds surpass all of my go-to workout headphones. I loved that I could customize my listening experiences and adjust the sound modes on the go.
I just wish my stamina for working out in these would last as long as the earbuds’ battery life, which promises eight hours of playback and an hour of power after a five-minute charge (I never fully drained them over the course of two weeks of testing, I just popped the buds back into the case after every use so I didn’t lose track of them). If, however, your ears are even slightly sensitive to that pressurized feeling earbuds can create, these won’t be the right fit for you and you’ll likely prefer an over-ear or open-ear option.
But for up to $70 less than dual-mode competitors from Sony and Apple, music fans will love the immersive listening experience Jabra creates with the Elite 7 Active earbuds.
|Weight||0.2 ounces per bud||0.19 ounces per bud||1.02 ounces||0.49 ounces per bud|
|Ambient noise||Yes (via Hearthrough mode)||Yes (via Transparency mode)||Yes (via open design)||Yes (via open design)|
|Active noise cancellation||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Battery life (rated)||Up to 8 hours||Up to 6 hours||Up to 10 hours||Up to 8 hours|
|Quick charging||1 hour from a 5-minute charge||1 hour from a 5-minute charge||1.5 hours from a 10-minute charge||3 hours from a 30-minute charge|
|Colors||Black, Mint, Navy||Black, White, Sage Gray, Stone Purple||Pink, Black, Blue, Beige||Black|