Jabra updates ‘the world’s toughest earbuds’ after less than a year, but the biggest change isn’t on the buds themselves

Jabra's new LE Audio smart case in action
(Image credit: Jabra)

In September 2023, Jabra released the “world’s toughest earbuds” – the Jabra Elite 8 Active. Less than a year later, the brand has launched an upgrade in the shape of the  Jabra Elite 8 Active Gen 2 – so what’s new?  

The buds’ robustness remains, but Jabra has added an LE Audio smart case and improved active noise cancellation (ANC) into the mix. The earbuds, which are priced at $229.99 / £229.99 / AU$TBC, also boast enhanced Dolby Audio spatial sound, and a new Natural HearThrough setting.

The “world’s first LE Audio smart case” is the most interesting addition. A Bluetooth LE audio chip built into the case allows you to plug it into a range of devices via the charging cable (it’s compatible with USB-C and a 3.5mm jack) then stream sound directly from the case to your earbuds.

This promises less lag than a straight Bluetooth connection with the earbuds, offering better video syncing. It also means no more messing around while trying to pair with a new device – just tap a button and start listening, whether you’re linking to a new smart treadmill at the gym or looking to immerse yourself in some in-flight entertainment. 

The new buds also offer enhanced spatial sound powered by Dolby Audio, improved call performance thanks to AI call algorithms which prioritize people’s voices while drowning out background noise, and upgraded ANC. This last feature promises to “block up to twice as much noise as previous generations” through stronger mid- and low-frequency noise cancellation.

Beyond this, the addition of a new Natural HearThrough listening option could be a response to the ever-increasing stock of the best bone conduction headphones

Bone conduction headphones allow runners, cyclists and the like to soundtrack their workouts without clogging up their ears, so they can stay aware of their surroundings. Jabra hopes its Natural HearThrough (basically a transparency mode) will offer similar increased “situational awareness” while you're listening, although you’ll still have a bud lodged in each ear. 

Is it worth upgrading? 

I wear my Jabra Elite 7 Active earbuds for most workouts, and I haven’t considered a replacement since I started using them. They’re lightweight, sound good, and stay securely in place during dynamic exercises without the need for an uncomfortably stiff silicone wing. You can also now pick a pair up for closer to $100 / £100 or even less, whereas you'll need to double that, and a bit more, for a new set of Elite 8 Active Gen 2s.  

But the enhanced ANC in the Jabra Elite 8 Active did catch my eye. When I’m wearing these earbuds for work and need to focus, the ANC falls short of rivals’ empty room-esque experiences by allowing background sounds to bleed in. So, I’d be intrigued to see if this new pair offers a noticeable improvement. 

The smart case also piqued my interest. At first I didn’t see the appeal for exercise, but then I remembered how long I’d spent pairing earbuds to various treadmills, exercise bikes and rowing machines in recent years. 

Overall, if you’re looking for a premium pair of new workout buds, the Jabra Elite 8 Active Gen 2 could well be worth the (admittedly, considerable) $200-plus investment. They’re long-lasting, resilient and (most importantly) won’t tumble out of your ears during burpees. But, if you have an older Jabra model, consider sticking with what you have for now.  

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Harry Bullmore
Fitness & Wearables writer

Harry is a huge fan of picking things up, putting them down again and writing about it, which uniquely qualifies him for the position of fitness and wearables writer with TechRadar. 

He’s an NCTJ-qualified journalist with a degree in English and journalism and several years’ experience covering the health and fitness beat. This has involved writing for the likes of Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Fit&Well, Live Science and Coach. 

Harry is passionate about all things exercise-related, having spent more than a decade experimenting with a wide range of training styles. He's used strength training, bodybuilding, Pilates, powerlifting, gymnastics, rowing, yoga, running, calisthenics, CrossFit and more to build a fit, functional body (and have fun while doing it). 

When he’s not writing or training, he can usually be found racing his dog Archie up scenic hills in the south west of England or working to complete his NASM-certified personal trainer qualification.