Jabra has a horse in nearly every race when it comes to consumer audio, and the Jabra Elite 45h is a great addition to the company’s portfolio. This pair of lightweight on-ear headphones is meant to accompany you anywhere, and does just about everything well enough. Microphone quality is very good and battery life is the best we’ve tested, but some users may find it hard to justify full-fledged headphones when plenty of excellent true wireless earbuds exist.
Editor’s note: this Jabra Elite 45h review was updated on October 12, 2021, to update scoring, address the Jabra Elite 3 as a portable alternative, and expand upon technical information.
Who should get the Jabra Elite 45h?
- General consumers will appreciate these reasonably priced headphones. For less than $100 USD, you get great microphone quality, long battery life, and a portable design.
- Commuters may want to get the Jabra Elite 45h for its unobtrusive design, and long battery life.
- Remote workers whose days are filled with conference calls will get a lot of mileage out of this headset.
Editor’s note: our Jabra Elite 45h review unit was temporarily provided by Jabra and operated with firmware version 2.3.9 during testing.
What’s it like to use the Jabra Elite 45h?
Jabra’s on-ear headset is for the everyday listener, and the design reflects that: this is easy to transport. The Jabra Elite 45h is covered under a two-year warranty, which includes dust and water protection. While you may not want to do multiple intensive workouts while wearing the Elite 45h, you can skate by with some light exercise.
Start here: Ultimate headphone buying guide
To stow the headphones in a bag, swivel the ear cups and insert the flattened headset into the neoprene pouch. Although the pouch isn’t protective against hard drops, it does protect the headphones from scuffs. The all-plastic construction may be unappealing to some, but it keeps the headphones lightweight and more affordable than alternatives with premium construction.
Synthetic leather wraps the memory foam ear pads, which are labeled with an “L” and “R” for easy identification. Jabra used a soft-touch rubberized material for the headband cushion, which is moderately comfortable. Despite the featherweight design, it takes just over an hour for throbbing ear and head pain to kick in—this happens whether or not I wore glasses.
Learn more: What makes a good set of wireless headphones?
Rather than use touch controls, the right headphones houses buttons. Nestled near the headband, the buttons allow users to control playback, volume, and call interactions. A front-facing button on the other side of the ear cup lets you access your smart assistant of choice, be it Siri, Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa. Pressing this during a call mutes your microphone. A final toggle at the base of the ear cup, near the USB-C input, may be pushed forward to manually initiate pairing mode or switched to power the Jabra Elite 45h on and off.
The Jabra Elite 45h doesn’t have a headphone jack for wired playback.
Although I generally prefer tactile buttons to touch controls, the layout of the Jabra Elite 45h buttons makes it hard to distinguish between the volume buttons that flank the multifunction button.
Should you get the Jabra Sound+ app?
The app also lets you customize your call settings by introducing sidetone functionality, which makes it easier for you to hear your own voice during a call. If none of these features interest you, the Jabra Sound+ is worth a periodic download because it’s required in order to receive firmware updates to your headset. It’s available across devices, and all features are supported on iOS and Android.
Does the Jabra Elite 45h stay connected?
The Jabra Elite 45h uses Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and maintains a reliable, stable connection so long as you remain within the 10-meter wireless range. Connection errors only occur when I use Bluetooth multipoint, which never works properly. When I play music on my laptop while the Elite 45h is connected to my phone, music playback never pauses to alert me about an incoming text or email. It does alert me to incoming calls though.
Learn more: Bluetooth codecs 101
AAC is the only high-quality Bluetooth codec you’ll find here, which is a shame for us Android users. Android and AAC mix poorly, and AAC streaming is inconsistent across Android devices. The headset lacks a 3.5mm input, so high-resolution playback isn’t possible with the Elite 45h.
Minimal audio-visual lag is present when using the Jabra Elite 45h with an Android device. My eyes and ears quickly adjust to the half-second delay during YouTube videos, so the lag isn’t offensive by any means.
How long does the Jabra Elite 45h battery last?
Jabra makes bold claims about the Elite 45h battery life, championing 50 hours of music playback on a single charge. Under our standard testing conditions, a constant 75dB(SPL) output until battery depletion, the Elite 45h lasts over 54 hours on a single charge. This is insane and as impressive as it is unnecessary for most users.
The Jabra Elite 85h have the best battery life on the market.
Fast charging the headset is a breeze and proves efficient relative to other headsets with a quick charge feature. All you have to do is set aside 15 minutes to connect the USB-C cable, and you’re rewarded with 10 hours of battery life. Fully charging the headset takes just 90 minutes, which means you can quickly top up the headset between meetings or classes.
How well does the Jabra Elite 45h block out noise?
Isolation isn’t very good with the Jabra Elite 45h, but that’s to be expected with on-ear headphones. The headphones don’t place your head in a vice grip every time you wear them, so plenty of external noise will make it into your ears. This design can be a letdown and degrades sound quality. A lot of notes can easily get masked by outside noise, or sound quieter than they should.
Walking around town with the Elite 45h, I can hear almost everything around me. This can be good for safety reasons, but if you’re looking for a travel headset, the Elite 45h isn’t it.
How does the Jabra Elite 45h sound?
The Jabra Elite 45h accurately reproduces audio across the range of audible frequencies, but what this chart can’t show is that clarity is okay at best. Each ear cup houses a large 40mm dynamic driver which reproduces vocals louder than some bass notes. Listeners who enjoy vocal-heavy music or whose libraries lack bass-heavy tracks will appreciate Jabra’s neutral-leaning frequency response.
The accurate sub-bass and bass reproduction may sound like it lacks the oomph you’re accustomed to hearing from your favorite tracks. This is because many consumer earbuds and headphones amplify bass notes to sound anywhere from 50-200% louder than mids. If you prefer the standard bass-heavy sound, you can create a custom EQ or pick from any of Jabra’s presets in the Sound+ app.
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Lows, mids, and highs
In Good Morning Baltimore sung by Nikki Blonsky, the opening kick drum is heard but doesn’t have the anticipated loudness and, well, kick typically experienced during the song. Cymbal hits and clashes are relayed more clearly than the bass notes, and even remain audible during the first verse of the theatrical ballad.
Though the frequency response is relatively accurate, the audio quality is only okay.
Blonsky’s vocals sound quite accurate throughout, rarely masked by the low-frequency elements of the song. Her vibrato at 2:24 doesn’t sound great through the headset, because distortion is audible at louder outputs. The background chorus is heard clearly throughout the song, even during the last 30 seconds when it becomes the most instrumentally busy. The headset reproduces an array of music genres well, but no matter what style of music you enjoy, you’ll likely notice a lack of clarity.
Can you use the Jabra Elite 45h for phone calls?
The Jabra Elite 45h microphone quality is above average, and it does a good job of attenuating background noise. When there are high winds, the person on the other end of the call will hear audio clipping, but this is unfortunately normal in sub-optimal conditions.
As you can hear in the demo below, my voice sounds clear even as I stand near a tower fan at its highest setting. Jabra is a trusted company when it comes to conference call audio products and professional headsets, so it’s no surprise that the Elite 45h mic system transmits accurate audio.
Jabra Elite 45h microphone demo:
As of October 12, 2021, 942 readers have rated the above mic sample as somewhere between “good” and “perfect.” This is an exemplary result for wireless headsets, and at the upper end of what you should expect to get out of any products of this type.
Jabra Elite 85h vs Jabra Elite 45h
The Jabra Elite 85h may be within the same Jabra Elite family, but it’s a wholly different set of headphones from the Elite 45h. For one, the Jabra Elite 85h has an over-ear design with noise cancelling. This larger build may be unappealing to some, but it’s key to a good pair of noise cancelling headphones. The Elite 85h ear cups completely encompass the ears and effectively block out background noise. The Elite 85h is also more flexible than the Elite 45h: the ear cups can rotate to lay flat and fold up towards the headband to fit in the more protective zippered case.
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The Elite 85h battery lasts nearly 35 hours which is very good but doesn’t touch the rated 50-hour battery life from the Jabra Elite 45h. Both headsets support fast charging: 15 minutes connected to the USB-C cable grants the Elite 85h 5 hours of playtime, which is half as efficient as the Elite 45h fast charging performance.
Neither headset supports aptX for reliable, high-quality streaming on Android; however, the Jabra Elite 85h houses a headphones jack for wired playback. Both of Jabra’s headphones support Bluetooth multipoint, but it was more reliable with the over-ear headset.
Should you buy the Jabra Elite 45h?
The Jabra Elite 45h is a great pair of on-ear headphones for casual listeners, and among the best on-ear headphones under $100. It isn’t perfect, but that’s true for any headset. If you prioritize portability and microphone quality over all else, this is the pick for you.
What if you don’t want the Elite 45h?
Listeners who don’t want to commit to headphones should consider the Jabra Elite 75t true wireless earbuds, which have very good microphone quality, solid battery life, and a stylish design. Athletes may want to spring for the Jabra Elite Active 75t since it has a more durable IP57 build. The Elite 75t series have noise cancellation, though it’s not very good. Want to stay within the same budget as the Elite 45h? Check out the Jabra Elite 3, the company’s most affordable pair of true wireless earbuds that still include premium features.
Those who still want on-ear headphones but aren’t in love with the Elite 45h, might consider the AKG N60NC. This headset is old but its design and noise cancelling hold up today. You also get accurate sound quality and a host of onboard controls, but it charges via microUSB which is a pain.
Learn more: What makes a good set of wireless headphones?
Another alternative pair of on-ears to consider is the Sony WH-CH510. For less than $40, this is a pretty good deal—featuring Bluetooth 5.0 with support for SBC and AAC codecs. It also has a battery that should provide you with roughly 35 hours of playtime. The headset charges via USB-C and offers quick charging, where 10 minutes of charging gives you 90 minutes of playback.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Jabra Elite 45h replaced the Jabra Move Wireless and Jabra Move Style Edition. If you don't care about Bluetooth 5 or best-in-class battery life, the Jabra Move might be worth checking out, especially since you can find it significantly discounted from its original retail price.
No, the Jabra Elite 45h does not feature water-resistant nano-coating. That feature is reserved for Jabra's more expensive headphones: the Elite 85h. However, the Elite 45h does come with a two year warranty that covers damage from water and dust.