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Gadget of the Week

Gadget of the Week: Jabra earbuds
among the elite

The new Jabra Elite 10 earbuds give the rest of the elite brands a run for their money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

What is it?

Jabra has consistently been at the forefront of innovation in wireless audio, and the Elite branding that it adds to its flagship earbuds states its ambition clearly: to be counted among the elite. 

While the buds are not cheap, they are a cost-effective alternative to some of the industry’s more renowned competitors, like Apple and Sony. The Jabra Elite 10 is set apart, however, for its ability to offer top-tier features to both Android and iPhone users, making it a more  versatile choice. 

Jabra has a well-established reputation for both user comfort and for excellent audio in demanding environments, from call centres to fitness activity. The Elite 10 earbuds cement this reputation, with a lightweight design that reduces the sensation of plugged up ears. Oval-shaped silicone ear tips offer both a snug and secure fit, meaning they provide ongoing comfort during extended use. They come with three extra sizes of ear tips to fine-tune one’s comfort.

For the fitness and outdoor user, these earbuds stand out for their IP57 water-resistance, which means they can withstand splashes and even falling into a bath or pool.

The Elite 10 earbuds provide a comprehensive range of connectivity options, but not as comprehensive as one would hope from a flagship device. With Bluetooth 5.3, they support Google and Microsoft fast pairing, supporting the SBC codec or format for basic sound quality and AAC, an audio standard used by Apple devices. 

Jabra has promised to add the low-energy LC3 audio format support in the near future – but it is surprising that this fairly common standard, launched in  2020, is not already built in. It also does not support the higher bitrate – which translates into audio quality – of the aptX codec.

For the typical user, however, it will be barely noticeable what format is being used. The Elite 10 earbuds adapt to a wide range of devices, in a hassle-free user experience. They are able to connect to two devices simultaneously, a convenient feature for anyone who juggles calls and video streaming. Call quality is great, thanks to six microphones in each bud and an excellent “HearThrough” mode that allows ambient sounds while maintaining clear communication. That becomes important when, for example, driving or walking in a city and needing to be aware of noises in one’s surroundings.

While listening to music, the earbuds deliver a well-rounded, easy-listening experience, with robust bass, powerful mids, and crisp highs. Jabra has provided a full equalizer, accessible through the Jabra Sound+ app, which allows one to fine tune the audio experience. It’s not going to match large over-ear headphones, but it offers a satisfying and  wide soundstage that handles tone separation effectively.

A defining feature of the Elite 10 buds is their support for Dolby Atmos spatial audio, which generates a virtual surround sound experience, including head tracking. This enhances immersion in movies and music, transcending conventional audio. The feature is compatible with both Android and iOS devices, further adding to the earbuds’ versatility and value.

The buds each sport a button that handles fully customisable controls, with single, double, triple and press-and-hold actions controlling the likes of answering calls, playback control, volume, and noise cancellation. It includes support for hands-free Google Assistant voice control.

The Elite 10 earbuds provide up to six hours of playback with active noise-cancelling (ANC) on, which is not exactly best in class. However, the compact charging case that comes with the buds provides an additional 21 hours of battery life, making for a total of 27 playback hours. Jabra says the batteries will last at full capacity for more than 500 full-charge cycles, at which time they will retain at least 80% of their original capacity. That’s just as well, as the batteries are not replaceable.

Finally, they catch up with Apple with their Find My Jabra feature, which tells you their location when they were last connected to your device.

What does it cost?

The Jabra Elite 10 earbuds have a recommended retail price in South Africa of R4,999.

Why does it matter?

Aside from cementing Jabra’s positioning among the leading earphone makers in the world, the Elite 10 earbuds also represent an eco-conscious approach to manufacturer. Approximately 75.7% of the earbuds’ components are constructed from recycled plastic, aligning with the increasing importance of sustainable and environmentally friendly products.

What are the biggest negatives?

  • Non-replaceable batteries mean that, despite their long life, these are not earbuds for life.
  • It does not support higher-quality audio formats like aptX, and will only add LC3 later – although most users won’t notice this gap.
  • The earbuds are not repairable, although the case is.

What are the biggest positives?

  • Good voice and music quality with customisable options via the Jabra Sound+ app.
  • Dolby Atmos spatial audio support for Android and iOS.
  • Multipoint Bluetooth connectivity for multitasking and connecting more than one device.
  • Among the most comfortable earbuds on the market, beating Apple AirPods hands-down.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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