Great Battery Life
Excellent for voice calls over Bluetooth
Functional design but not foolproof
Audio gear makers have long promised wireless audio transmission as the next big thing in the industry. Once seen as a luxury, wireless audio has suddenly turned into the need of the hour. With the disappearing headphone jack on smartphones from leading brands and the mobile phones becoming the primary source of audio, it is clear that wireless audio is set to become commonplace.
Wireless audio – Bluetooth headsets per se – is not a new thing and it has been around for sometime now. However, the experience has been limited and the best wireless audio devices have been expensive putting it out of reach for most consumers. But the dynamics around quality and affordability of Bluetooth headsets has changed dramatically in the past year mainly led by companies like Audio Technica, SoundMagic, and other lesser known names.
Jabra, in particular, has pioneered this space with its mono Bluetooth headset range called Pulse, which have been examples of company’s innovative approach to the market and ability to deliver on what matters. With its Elite series, Jabra is aiming for an audience that engages itself on music primarily through mobile devices and will consider calling functionality as a key factor in their purchase decision. We have the Jabra Elite 25e for review; let’s find out how it fares on those metrics.
Design and Build Quality
There isn’t much opportunity for a company to innovate while designing an in-ear Bluetooth headset. The Jabra Elite 25e is an in-ear headset that relies on neckband-style design, which is now standard in this segment. The neckband is made of a metal that seems to have been fused with other alloys to reduce the overall weight. Jabra says the headset weighs around 48 grams but honestly, you barely feel it when you wear around the neck.
The headset loops around your neck as a U-shaped accessory and the two earbuds are displaced from the clasps of the headset. The earbuds themselves offer great fit with decent level of passive noise isolation and both the earbuds magnetically latch onto each other when not in use. In simple words, it is a functional design but it has its own shortcomings which are hard to ignore. Since most of the weight is on the neckband part, I found it falls from behind forcing the earbuds to stick to your neck. The weight distribution is uneven and this issue is primarily caused by that excess weight at the back. I often tucked the neckband around the collar of my polo shirt to ensure better fit. It is rather uneasy and not limited to the shape of my neck.
I have used the Samsung Level U Bluetooth headset in the past which also has a neckband-style design, uses cheaper materials but doesn’t suffer from this issue. Apart from this issue, the overall design is quite appealing and seems well thought out. The Elite 25e uses two-tone design with gray and black exterior and the interior painted only in black. The volume rocker and multi-function button is placed on the right side while a dedicated voice button (more on that later) is placed on the left side. The interior of the left portion also accommodates an LED light to indicate the mode and connectivity of the headset. It is simple and functional to say the least.
Audio and Call Performance
I had very little expectations from Elite 25e even before I started testing them for this review. Jabra is not really a household name for audio prowess but where it trumps peers is in the calling department. The calls on Jabra Elite 25e sounded excellent with balanced sound and little issues in the form of Bluetooth connectivity. Jabra, a company known for supplying headphones to call centers, has really tweaked the performance of the headphones while making or receiving calls.
The headset gently vibrates around your neck during an incoming call and you can accept the call by simply pressing the play/pause button on the right hand side of the headset. The calls sound good even when the volume is set to 50 percent and it excels when compared to other headphones.
In terms of soundstage, the Jabra Elite 25e tends to favor midrange even though it is advertised to offer rich bass. If you are like me, and you play a lot of music centred around vocals then you will not have any issue. Rise Up by Andra Day has a vocal range that hits different a sound spectrum and while the Elite 25e justifies the sound, it isn’t as exceptional as other brands that are more geared towards a musical sound.
I really liked the way it does justice to mid-range and balances treble. If you are listening to Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven then be assured that your ears won’t hurt during that extended guitar section. To sum things up, there isn’t much one can ask from a headphone with 10mm drivers but yes calls on this one are way superior to music.
Connectivity and Battery Life
I want to say this: Bluetooth is still not the most reliable form of wireless audio transmission. During my time using this as my primary audio playback device, I often ended up seeing dead zones where the audio kept playing from source but the headphone failed to relay them back. It is a notorious issue that Bluetooth headphones are known for and Elite 25e has fallen prey to it. I also had issues pairing the device with my work computer which connected with other pair of headphones easily.
The Jabra Elite 25e seems to compensate for its flaws such as patchy audio experience with its exceptional battery life. Jabra claims 18 hours of battery life and I went weeks without charging the headset in practical use. I can safely say that Jabra’s estimation is pretty right and the Elite 25e can easily last around 15 hours with mixed use of music and phone calls. For its price, the Elite 25e delivers exceptional battery life.
The Jabra Elite 25e can be charged from zero to full in around 2 hours and it uses a microUSB port for charging. Jabra should have taken a technological leap here by switching to USB Type-C port which would have enabled fast charging and made it easier to carry just one cable for charging both your modern smartphone and headphones in the future.
If CES 2018 is anything to go by then it is pretty clear that voice assistants are going to power every consumer electronics device one can imagine. Bose and JBL already offer headphones with Google Assistant built-in and Jabra is taking a similar approach by adding a dedicated button to trigger the Assistant.
It works with both Assistant on Android phones and Siri on Apple iPhone. Since the headphones have dynamic microphones, the Assistant/Siri easily catches the question and I found it quite intuitive to interact with the voice assistant through this method.
If you recently bought a smartphone with no headphone jack then you already know that you are in the market for a Bluetooth headset. There are not many options that deliver on features and quality audio at a budget price. The Elite 25e is exceptional for voice calling and it even does justice to certain kind of music, especially ones with vocals and mid-range. You also get some level of noise isolation and protection from water spillage with its IP54 rating.
The Bluetooth connection itself is not the most versatile but that has more to do with the wireless standard than Jabra. If you are looking for a Bluetooth headset from a well-known brand with voice-calling as one key factor, the Elite 25e fits the bill and at Rs 3,899, it definitely does not cost a bomb.