I will freely admit, there has been such a crescendo of excitement in the true wireless earbuds space over the past few months, that the good old headphones had somewhat fallen off the radar. It is not to say that some good ones haven’t come along in all this while, but the earbuds have just successfully been seeking out more of our attention. All it needed was the Jabra Elite 45h to shake me out of it, happily enough. But you may, and rightly so, question the very need for a headphone when earbuds are so good. For the most part, you are right. That being said, there is of course the small matter of comfort. The in-ear earbuds aren’t always the most comfortable if you are looking at a usage scenario which involves you wearing these for long stretches. Maybe a bunch of video meetings these days. Or perhaps to drown out the noise around you in an attempt to get work done. Or when you are traveling and that may involve a fairly long aircraft travel.
The thing is, the Jabra Elite 45h are priced at Rs 8,999 and in a way, go up against the Sony WH-XB700 (around Rs 9,990). Both are on-ear headphones, which means they do have a slightly smaller footprint than the larger over-ear headphones. The biggest advantage of on-ear headphones, therefore, is that the weight can be in check. And that is great for traveling. Or carrying these around with minimal bulk. And even if you aren’t exactly comfortable about in-ear wireless earphones or earbuds, these aren’t at all limited by that subjective trait. Plus, they are robust enough to not need to be mollycoddled. Try being rough with wireless earbuds, or premium headphones for that matter, and it will come back to bite you. Rather quickly.
Design: Love At First Sight
To be very honest, I have never been a huge fan of on-ear headphones. At least the many that I have tried over the years. Many reasons for that. But primarily, there has been the general sense that these headphones push inwards on the ears and that became uncomfortable after a while. Pleasantly, that is changing though—I’m sure there was enough feedback for headphone makers to work with. Good then, because the winds of change make the Jabra Elite 45h very comfortable to wear. I got through as much as 2 hours and 30 minutes of wearing these continuously and even when I did finally put them down, I was tired of the screen time and didn’t want to listen to music anymore. Not because my ears were paining. Or felt uncomfortably warm.
What you get with the Jabra Elite 45h is a very lightweight design. These tip the scales at 160 grams, which is much lighter than the smartphone that you use. And it is a nice mix of materials that are in use. There is anodized aluminum, there is the leatherette and there is silicon rubber, to name some of them, as the Jabra Elite 45h comes together. The ear cushion padding material is memory foam, and it’ll remember the contours of your ear soon enough.
It is light, yet it feels very well built. Good padding on the ears and curving around the headband. The earcups can be adjusted as you’d like them to sit on your ears, and the headband allows further fit customization. That being said, you must be prepared for a significant amount of ambient noise to come trickling in—the on-ear fit isn’t exactly, by definition, designed to really offer a lot of ruckus isolation. But well, that will most likely never be a problem at home, in an office, in a flight or even in an Uber ride home.
The matte black finish, what Jabra calls Titanium Black, instantly captures your attention. There is that certain refinement, a very large dose of finesse and a class that make these otherwise unassuming headphones quite the looker. There is the option of the blue colour too, but somehow, for once, I’d have my vote cast firmly for the black option. Jabra has managed to make black colour on a gadget look cool—that takes some doing.
The fact that the Jabra Elite 45h are light, means you can pretty well leave these hanging about just about anywhere. On your iMac, on your desk lamp, propped up against your water bottle or next to your laptop. Jabra hasn’t compromised on the build quality at all. There is no squeak as you swivel the earcups around, or a scratchy sound as you readjust the headband. Everything just comes together in a very fine way, something that becomes even more remarkable considering the price tag. Look at its alternatives, and it is hard to shrug off the very plasticky feeling that betray, from the very first look.
Jabra hasn’t messed around with touch-based controls for the Jabra Elite 45h. what you get are simple physical keys for power and volume control, for instance.
Performance: Fantastic Companion App Leads The Way To Soothing Sound
And you thought this weight reduction must have some compromise coming in. Actually, it is the other way around. In each ear are 40mm audio drivers. Yes, that’s larger than the 30mm audio drivers that the Sony WH-XB700 pack in. It is important to pair these with your phone or tablet and actually tune the sound with the Jabra Sound+ app (free for Android and iOS). You actually get something called the MySound feature, which lets you train the headphones for the sounds that your ear can hear, and what it cannot, at specific volume. It takes a few minutes, and I know you are eager to take the new cans for an audio spin, but this is totally worth your time. Basically, the MySound tuning asks you for your gener and ear of birth, and then runs you through a series of tests in which you have to hear for sounds at different frequencies and volume levels and respond in affirmative when you hear a sound. You do have the option of taking this test again or turning this off at any point of time.
As I set out taking the Jabra Elite 45h through your musical preferences and playlists, it doesn’t take long to appreciate the neutral standpoint from which these headphones build. The app lets you tweak everything, including the EQ and how powerful you want the bass to be—and boy, it can be mighty powerful, if that’s what you want. In a way, the sound from the Jabra Elite 45h never sounds anything that you could categorize as harsh, sharp, or even artificially boosted. In fact, I quite like how soothing the Jabra Elite 45h sounded, across a variety of music genres and use cases. There is absolutely no roughness at any point, even at high volumes. Vocals come through nicely and the lower frequencies hold their ground without toppling over the mids. That means you get good detailing too.
However, there are times when it seems that perhaps the physical limitations of the size and design mean that you don’t always find yourself immersed in the music as you might otherwise want. Also, I did notice that certain lower frequencies are a tad limited in the sort of range they are able to reproduce.
Even though the soundstage isn’t as wide as what you would expect, these 40mm audio drivers do well to reproduce the finer details well enough. It would be wrong to expect these cans to reproduce the sort of detailing that headphones which cost twice as much are able to pump out. Yet, the clear vocals, good bass and an overall sophistication in the sound signature mean that you will find yourself returning to these headphones quite often. I sure did, even though there were some cool earbuds around.
From time to time, your music listening will be interrupted by phone calls. With the dual microphones doing duties for voice calls, the clarity is indeed very good. At both ends of the phone call. I haven’t been able to test this out in a noisy place yet, however, to see if the ambient noise filters through to the other party in a call—mind you, a lot of that also has to do with the network and the phone that you use.
Battery: Charge It Once, And Wait A Long Time
The Jabra Elite 45h is more of those fill it, unplug it, forget it type of headphones. Jabra claims 50 hours of battery life on a single charge. In the real world, particularly indoors during the pandemic time and listening to music at controlled volumes, I have still not had to plug in the Elite 45h just yet during this review period, and the battery indicator still shows me more than 50% battery remaining. If that isn’t a testament to the amazing battery stamina, nothing is. There is the fast charge option too—15 minutes of charging for 10 hours of music listening. To be honest, I didn’t splash and dash either, because I really had nowhere to go in a hurry these days. But when you do start hearing out or going to work, this will be more than handy.
The Final Word: Why Would You Even Bother About An Alternative Option?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. There is something instantly likeable about the Jabra Elite 45h headphones. It is the very nice matte black finish? Is it the darker personality which doesn’t have any shiny elements? Is it the comfort level? Is it the sound that comes across as something you’d expect from headphones that cost 2x this? Or is it the incredibly long battery life? And I haven’t even mentioned, again, the fantastic companion app which lets you really tune the sound as you want it. With a price tag of Rs 8,999 for the Jabra Elite 45h, you really don’t need to look for a second option if headphones are what you want, this side of the Rs 10,000 price point.