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Hands on: Jabra Elite 45h review

On-ear headphones for less than $100 / £100

What is a hands on review?
jabra elite 45h
(Image: © TechRadar)

Early Verdict

These on-ear wireless headphones are certainly cheap – and unfortunately, it shows in the sound quality (which is apparently still to be finalized). However, an exceedingly comfortable fit and good connectivity could make the Jabra Elite 45h a good buy for commuters who don't want to spend lots of money on their next pair of headphones.

For

  • Very comfortable
  • Support for Bluetooth 5.0
  • Budget-friendly

Against

  • Harsh treble frequencies
  • Overall sound isn't great

Jabra is well-known for its budget-friendly audio products, and its latest pair of on-ear headphones, the Jabra Elite 45h, are no different, coming in at less than $100 / £100. 

Launched at CES 2020 alongside the Jabra Elite 75t true wireless earbuds, these on-ear wireless headphones are dubbed "best in-class"... by the brand itself. 

We had the chance to briefly test the new budget headphones at the Las Vegas tech show, and so far, we're not convinced they quite live up to that lofty title.

Price and availability

The Jabra Elite 45h will be available to buy from March 2020 for $99 / £89; this works out at around AU$140 based on current conversion rates, although we're waiting on official pricing in this territory. 

For comparison, our current favorite on-ear headphones, the Grado SR60i, also come in at under $100 (or under £80 / AU$150) – that’s not to say that this style of headphones inherently come cheap, though. 

For example, we most recently reviewed the Bowers & Wilkins PX5 Wireless On-Ear Headphones, which cost $299.99 / £269.99 (around AU$440).

Jabra Elite 45h

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Design

At just 170g, the Jabra Elite 45h are incredibly lightweight, and we were struck by how comfortable they felt when we tested them; we'll need to put them through a longer listening session to give a definitive verdict, but so far, we're very impressed by the way they feel. 

As on-ear headphones, the ear-cushions sit (you guessed it) on, rather than over your ears, as a compact alternative to over-ear headphones. This form factor can occasionally lead to a clamping feeling on your ears, however, the Elite 45's soft earcups prevent this from happening.

As well as being lightweight, these on-ear headphones are extremely flexible; you can actually twist the headband without breaking it, and they can fold flat for easy storage in your bag. In short, they're totally commuter-friendly.

The controls are very simple – at the bottom of the earcups, you'll find a button to pair via Bluetooth, and a USB-C charging port. There's also a dedicated button to summon your voice assistant of choice, whether that's Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant.

The overall design is pretty minimalist... some might even say boring. You don't get the premium look of a pair of Bowers & Wilkins or Sony headphones with the Jabra Elite 45h, but that's to be expected at this price. 

jabra elite 45h

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Features and performance

The Jabra Elite 45h boast a very solid 40-hour battery life, and thanks to a quick charge feature, 15 minutes of charging will give you eight hours of playback time. 

Connectivity should be pretty good, with support for Bluetooth 5.0, which usually provides a stable connection to your device.

With two microphones built-into the headphones, voice calls should be fairly clear, although that does pale in comparison to the four microphones included in the Jabra Elite 75t. 

Like their true wireless counterpart, the 45h work with the Jabra Sound+ app to assess your hearing quality. A test composed of a series of beeps calibrates the headphones based on your hearing profile; while we weren't able to test this feature at CES 2020, it does offer a level of personalization that headphones three times the cost don't provide.

Where these headphones fall down is the sound quality. A Jabra spokesperson told us that the sound profile isn't quite finalized at this stage, but with the headphones hitting the shelves in March, we can't imagine it changing substantially. Still, it's worth bearing in mind that our initial experience with the Jabra Elite 45h might not be a completely accurate representation of the final product. 

With that said, we weren't particularly impressed with the audio on offer here. Listening to Venus As A Boy by Björk, we found that the overall presentation was skewed heavily towards the treble frequencies, which meant that we were missing some richness in the bass, particularly in those sweeping string flourishes that flood the track. 

That treble-heavy sound also led to some harshness at the top end – we can imagine that becoming quite fatiguing after a long listening session. That being said, the 40mm drivers worked to provide a pleasant warmth in the mid-frequencies, and Björk's voice sounded as resonant as ever, if not as detailed as we would have liked. 

jabra elite 45h

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Early verdict

The fact that Jabra says that the sound profile of the Elite 45h isn't finalized makes it difficult to come to a definitive verdict at this stage, but the brief time we spent with the new on-ear headphones has given us an idea of what to expect. 

Audiophiles should absolutely look elsewhere, as the sound quality is unlikely to change drastically; that being said, we'll need to spend more time with these headphones before we can make a true assessment of the sound. 

As it is, the audio quality on offer here is passable; what makes these headphones a potentially savvy buy, particularly for commuters, is their lightweight, comfortable design, support for Bluetooth 5.0, and budget-friendly price.

  • Check out all of TechRadar's CES 2020 coverage. We're live in Las Vegas to bring you all the breaking tech news and launches, plus hands-on reviews of everything from 8K TVs and foldable displays to new phones, laptops and smart home gadgets.

What is a hands on review?

Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.