Jabra Elite 7 Active vs. Apple AirPods (3rd Gen)

Jabra Elite 7 Active Angle
Jabra Elite 7 Active Angle (Image credit: Ted Kritsonis / Android Central)

Jabra Elite 7 Active

Jabra Elite 7 Active Loose Render

Jabra continues its run of making durable earbuds with the Elite 7 Active, a pair almost on par with the best the company currently offers. An excellent design works seamlessly with superb performance to make these viable whenever you want to listen to audio content, especially if such activity requires something that can take a beating.

Jabra Elite 7 Active

Ready to play

Excellent audio quality, including ANC
Great fit and comfort
Durable design
Reliable button controls
Excellent app support
Nicer color options
Don't submerge in water
No multipoint yet

Apple AirPods (3rd Gen)

Apple Airpods 3rd Gen Render

Apple reworked its entry-level earbuds with a new look and slightly improved treatments to make them a wee bit tougher, but the AirPods (3rd Gen) stick to an open-fit design that doesn't serve well when keeping music sealed in your ears. Not to mention you have to be careful while sweating in them.

Apple AirPods (3rd Gen)

Ready to try

Improved audio quality
Spatial audio support
Excellent call quality
Small charging case
No EQ options
Lightning for charging
Not as resistant to water and sweat

When it comes to alternatives to the AirPods, Jabra is consistently among the best wireless earbuds, and with good reason. The Elite 7 Active are one of the best options available from Jabra right now and easily one of the most ruggedized pairs you can find anywhere. The AirPods (3rd Gen) are neither for Apple, as the AirPods Pro are already firmly established as the company's best, while they were also never built to compete with rugged earbuds.

Jabra Elite 7 Active vs. Apple AirPods (3rd Gen): Staying apart

Admittedly, it may be unfair to pit these two against each other. The Jabra Elite 3 are budget earbuds with more in common with this generation of the AirPods, but Apple charges considerably more for its earbuds. Indeed, the AirPods (3rd Gen) pretty much match the Elite 7 Active dollar for dollar. It's just that you get very different results for every penny you fork over.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 Jabra Elite 7 ActiveApple AirPods (3rd Gen)
Bud battery lifeUp to 8 hoursUp to 6 hours
Charging case battery life30 hours (40 without ANC)30 hours (20 hours with Spatial Audio)
ConnectivityBluetooth 5.2Bluetooth 5.0
Digital assistant supportAlexa, Google Assistant, SiriSiri
Supported audio codecsSBC, AACSBC, AAC
Speaker size6mm drivers6mm drivers
Active noise cancelationYesNo

The specs tell part of the story. It's immediately obvious Jabra made the Elite 7 Active more durable and with longer battery life, not to mention a more current Bluetooth standard. However, where Siri gets obvious preferential treatment, Jabra tries catering to everyone by supporting Alexa and Google Assistant. And while they both have the same size drivers, sound quality is very different between them.

Apple continues to stick to a design forcing you to compromise. Where the AirPods Pro at least offer a tighter fit leading to good sound, the AirPods (3rd Gen) don't have enough flexibility to do the same. There are no ear tips, so it is a one-size-fits-all proposition in many ways. Since fit and comfort are vital to getting the best possible sound out of any pair, this kind of design doesn't address that in the same way.

Jabra Elite 7 Active vs. Apple AirPods (3rd Gen): Sounding just about right

Airpods 3 Buds

Source: Luke Filipowicz / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Luke Filipowicz / Android Central)

Apple can't claim to be more comfortable in this matchup because Jabra built its earbuds to feel natural. The Elite 7 Active are among the best fitting available, thanks in large part to improvements in where the buds sit in the inner ear. Despite all the features crammed inside, Jabra somehow managed to trim them down in size for a snugger fit for a wider variance of ears. They're also rubberized, in contrast to the Jabra Elite 7 Pro, which have the same water resistance, only without the same veneer.

On top of that, plenty is going on inside, too. The Elite 7 Active have active noise cancelation (ANC) and HearThrough ambient mode. Jabra's Sound+ app offers a fair degree of customization, including a manual equalizer (EQ) and the ability to change the layout for the onboard button controls. There's more, but the gist is that Jabra provides some tools to tailor both the sound and functionality however you see fit.

That's not the case with the AirPods (3rd Gen). Rather than a manual EQ, Apple uses its own Adaptive EQ to adjust sound based on how much noise is going on around you. You get no ANC, and because of the open-fit, ambient listening is passive since there's no real way to seal off the audio from background sounds.

Apple can't claim to be more comfortable in this matchup because Jabra built its earbuds to feel natural.

You can't understate the ability to drown out background noise, especially when it plays a more significant role in helping earbuds pump out the best sound they can. Jabra does this in a credible way, and it doesn't matter if the Elite 7 Active don't have the best ANC in the industry. It's more than good enough, as is, and it's good that you can adjust the effect to suit your hearing preferences. It's just a shame Apple didn't rethink how it approached these AirPods to do the same.

On the bright side, both companies have "Find My" capabilities to track lost or misplaced earbuds. And while AppleCare can cover the AirPods after the first year (at a cost), Jabra offers a two-year warranty out of the box for dust and sweat once you register them through the Sound+ app.

Jabra Elite 7 Active vs. Apple AirPods (3rd Gen): Making a sound difference

Jabra Elite 7 Active Wearing Close

Source: Ted Kritsonis / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ted Kritsonis / Android Central)

No matter what Apple could do with a design like this, the AirPods (3rd Gen) can't match the audio fidelity like the Elite 7 Active. Too many variables come together to get in the way, and it's evident from the start. The biggest giveaway is the way both earbuds handle bass. With any pair of earbuds, a tighter seal keeps more of the bass going into your ears instead of leaking out. That's a lot easier to manage with Jabra's earbuds because of how they fit so snugly.

It doesn't really matter what genres you like listening to; the issue is audible, regardless. While Jabra can't claim to have the best audio fidelity, it's still excellent and certainly competitive against others that sound better. The AirPods (3rd Gen) sound more like earbuds that should cost half as much, even though they improve upon their predecessors. How they sound the first time is pretty much how it's going to be all the time.

Apple prioritized Spatial Audio as an alternative audio feature, and you can listen that way under two settings called Fixed or Head Tracking. Either one delivers virtual surround sound that works best with content that was engineered or coded for it. Some music services offer it, including Apple Music, whereas others don't. Jabra has no such option in the Elite 7 Active.

The biggest giveaway is the way both earbuds handle bass.

But Jabra does know a thing or two about phone calls, and in that regard, these earbuds are excellent. They don't have the company's own MultiSensor Voice Technology in the Elite 7 Pro. Still, even without that, they're excellent for talking to people on the phone or via video. And frankly, so are the AirPods. Better microphones and other improvements work together to maintain Apple's reputation for letting people hear each other clearly on the phone.

The Elite 7 Active do have an inherent advantage with onboard controls because they're actual physical buttons, not capacitive touch surfaces. This vastly reduces any false positives or accidental taps, which are still possible while not always common with the AirPods.

What's bizarre is that Jabra launched these earbuds without multipoint support, meaning you can't pair with two devices simultaneously. The company confirmed an upcoming firmware update in January will add that, but for now, you can only use one device at a time. So until then, no pairing with a phone and computer/tablet all at once.

As for colors, the AirPods are in their classic white, whereas the Elite 7 Active come in black, navy, and mint.

Jabra Elite 7 Active vs. Apple AirPods (3rd Gen): Which should you choose?

Jabra Elite 7 Active Outside

Source: Ted Kritsonis / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Ted Kritsonis / Android Central)

The Elite 7 Active and AirPods (3rd Gen) are two distinct pairs of earbuds that really have little in common with each other. In practice, they're really not even in the same league, and on paper, their only real similarity is price. Beyond that, Jabra is considerably better in the ways that count, and that's why it's easy to make both a functional and budgetary case for the Elite 7 Active against Apple's latest earbuds.

Its value add also comes with Jabra's longer warranty coverage and the durability of the earbuds. The Sound+ app provides a lot of support to make the earbuds your own, and with firmware updates still to come, there are reasons to believe they can only get better.

Ted Kritsonis
Contributor, Audio Reviewer

Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.