True wireless earbuds are the latest boom in audio technology, with countless manufacturers rushing to offer their own spin on this burgeoning category. Count Bluetooth audio pioneer Jabra amongst the crowd of companies jostling for a spot at the top of the true wireless heap. Unlike many of the upstarts charging headfirst into wireless sound, Jabra has been carefully refining their Bluetooth headsets and related audio products for nearly 20 years. In many ways the work Jabra has done over the past two decades has been leading up to this moment, when the mass market demands the kind of wire-free lightweight headset design Jabra has been refining for years. The results are the Jabra Elite 65t and Jabra Elite Active 65t, and as I would come to discover through testing them out, they’re quite possibly the best true wireless earbuds you can get.
Truly Wireless, Truly Impressive Hardware
Before diving into these two sets of true wireless earbuds in earnest, let’s clarify the differences between the two, which are slight. The Active variant employs a higher level of water resistance (IP56 vs the IP55 protection offered by the standard 65t) to protect against sweat, a non-slip coating to keep your earbuds from falling out as you work out, and motion sensors to measure your steps. Sound quality — and every other spec and feature mentioned in this article — is identical on both variants of the Elite 65t, so if you think you’d ever want to take your headphones with you for a workouts, then I’d recommend springing for the slightly higher-priced Active variant.
On the surface, the Elite 65t looks a lot like other true wireless earbuds. They connect via Bluetooth 5.0 for optimal efficiency, they feature a built-in microphone, and they come with a charging case for refilling their batteries when you’re on the move. According to Jabra, the earbuds themselves offer five hours of battery life and the case offers ten extra hours of charging time, for a total battery life of fifteen hours for the whole package. When it’s time to charge your earbuds back up, the Elite 65t makes the most cheerful dead battery sound I’ve ever heard in a set of headphones. Multiple LEDs serve as battery life indicators on each piece of the system: each earbud sports its own LED, while the charging case sports two — one under the lid and one at the bottom of the case — to illustrate the battery status of the earbuds when charging and of the case itself, respectively.
Before I lavish praise on these headphones, let me get my biggest quibble out of the way: Jabra made the charging case a chore to open. The lid of the the case clicks down in order to stay closed, and stay closed it does; Jabra did a little too good of a job securing the lid, because once you shut it, it wants to stay that way. When I unboxed the first pair of Elite 65ts I received and struggled to open the case, I thought maybe I just got a particularly stubborn unit, but when I opened up the other pair, I realized it was just the way the case was designed. Further searching around the web revealed that I wasn’t the only one to have a tough time with the case. Having said all that, opening the charging case isn’t akin to opening a pickle jar or something like that, but considering these earbuds are designed to be frequently taken in and out of the case throughout the day, it’s a tad disappointing that the case works to impede that. At the very least, the lid sports a tab for placing your thumb when opening the case, which mitigates some of the issue. Still, I hope Jabra addresses this troublesome design in a future revision.
For the optimal listening experience, you need to check out Jabra’s Sound+ app, which offers such features as EQ settings, activity tracking information (only with the Active model), and a location tracking feature called Find My Jabra. Regarding that last feature, the Sound+ app taps into your phone’s location data to record the area your earbuds were last disconnected. Best of all, you can pin some of your most-used features to the app’s homescreen as a widget, giving you quick access to settings.
Of course, you’ll probably not want to have to run to the app every time you want to tweak a setting. Jabra took this into account and placed a multi-function button on the right earbud. With this button, you can play and pause music, answer and end calls, activate a compatible voice assistant (Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa are all supported), and toggle the HearThrough mode on or off (more on that in the next section). On the left earbud, you’ll find another button, this one for controlling the volume and track skipping. Each of the buttons are easy to use and are well-engineered enough to have never registered any inadvertent presses if I grazed them while working out.
Both variants of the Elite 65t include phenomenal noise cancellation, but if you’d prefer to let in more sound from your surroundings, you can engage the HearThrough mode with a double-press of the multi-function button, or by enabling it through the Sound+ app. With this mode, the Elite’s speakers filter in sounds from around you, letting giving you better situational awareness while you’re jamming out to your music. Even better is how subtly the earbuds mix external audio with whatever you’re listening to — the external noise is just loud enough to hear things like someone trying to talk to you, a car beeping, or whatever else you may need to be alerted to. Softer sounds, like the clacking of keystrokes throughout the Newegg offices, are rendered softly enough to only be audible in quiet parts of songs or between tracks, so much so that I didn’t realize the mics were picking them up.
I found both versions of the Elite 65t to be comfortable to wear for long stretches of listening and working out.The earbuds fit snugly in your ears, with little to no jittering even when moving around. They feel a bit heavier than the AirPods, but after a few minutes you forget they’re in your ear. Better yet, their snug fit and low-profile design means they’re inconspicuous to wear.
The Elite 65ts comes with three sets of interchangeable tips to swap between, so you’re able to experiment with whatever is the best fit for you. I was pleased to find the tips exceptionally easy to switch between, which isn’t always the case on other wireless buds. The tips are soft and feel comfortable inside your ear. In my time testing each pair of 65ts, I never experienced any pain or discomfort from them. I hesitate to call anything a perfect fit, but these come close.
The Best True Wireless Sound Yet
This is the point, as in so many of my articles, where I profess my sycophantic devotion to Apple. This unabashed fanboyism means that of course I own a pair of AirPods. As much I’d like to ignore it, it’s tough to talk about true wireless earbuds without discussing Apple’s offering, since they’re the dominant force on the market at the moment. I’m also bringing them up because I think they’ve finally met their match. You can expect big sound from the Jabra Elite 65t’s tiny speakers: at 6mm in size, these speakers produce shockingly loud and crisp audio that, forgive me Tim Cook, I’d dare say is a notch above what I get from my AirPods. From thumping dance music, to airy acoustic ballads, and even spoken word, the Elite 65ts shocked me with their full sound and clarity.
One other area where the Jabras unquestionably beat the AirPods and any other true wireless earbuds I’ve used is noise cancellation. The Elite 65t’s noise cancellation is so good, in fact, that I had to double-check spec sheets across the web to confirm that the Elite 65ts didn’t feature active noise cancellation. Instead, the snug fit of the 65ts seal off the ears well enough to block out a lot of ambient noise. It’s the best passive noise cancellation I’ve ever experienced. This noise cancellation works well with the Jabra Sound+ app’s 12 different ambient soundscapes to help you relax or keep focused; options include nature sounds and white noise. Conveniently enough, I found the waterfall soundscape to be of great help when focusing on finishing this article, as it worked well at drowning out the din of the busy Newegg offices.
As a longstanding leader in the world of Bluetooth headsets, a major part of Jabra’s expertise is in phone communications, and Jabra has applied that expertise to the Elite 65s, equipping them with small microphones that do little to portray their excellent performance. As much as I love my AirPods, my experience with using them for phone calls has been poor, to say the least. Oftentimes, the microphone doesn’t seem to pick up my voice at all, even after I adjust its position. Now, I’ve been conditioned to yanking out my earbuds whenever I get an incoming call.
In stark contrast to my AirPod frustrations, I had nothing but positive experiences making phone calls with the Elite 65t. When I gave friends and family a blind test between the Jabra mic and my phone’s built-in mic, all of them favorably responded more to the 65t. And better yet, I never had to fiddle around with the 65t’s position in order for it to pick up my voice.
Rounding out the impressive phone call features are the audio options in the Sound+ app, which lets you create separate sound profiles for music and phone calls. After all, your bass-heavy hip-hop/EDM playlist settings may not be the best for a breezy afternoon chat with mom. Tweaking EQ settings in the Sound+ app is simple and intuitive, making it easy for anyone to fine-tune their personal listening experience.
Staying Fit with the Elite Active 65t
I think I’ve sung my fair share of praises about the shared feature set of both Elite 65t models, but there’s one more point we need to look at: the unique capabilities of the Elite Active 65t. I took the Jabra Elite Active 65t with me for a few trips to the gym to get a grasp on their much-touted sweat resistance and activity tracking capabilities. As I would learn, the Active earbuds’ strong noise cancellation were just as great at tuning out the noise of raucous dance classes and grunting gym rats as they were at the sound of a day at the office. As someone who gets easily distracted by nearby disruptions while working out, the Elite Actives were the perfect antidote, keeping me in the zone.
As mentioned earlier, the Elite Active 65t also features motion sensors to track steps per minute, total steps, and elapsed time during your workouts. When you engage activity tracking in the Sound+ app, the 65t switches over to HearThrough mode, useful for staying alert while working out, though I feel it should be optional if you want to track treadmill activity instead of outdoor walks and runs. Regardless, I found the measurements on the Elite Actives to be just about in line with the results I picked up on my Apple Watch (I told you I was a fanboy), so I’m confident in the reliability of Jabra’s sensors. Even better for Apple users like me, the Jabra Sound+ app can send your workout information to Apple Health for easier fitness and overall health monitoring. These earbuds won’t replace a smartwatch or dedicated fitness watch, but the step tracking is a welcome feature regardless, especially if you don’t already own another type of activity tracker.
When I take earbuds along for a workout, I frequently run into the issue of them slipping out of my ears with even a moderate amount of sweat. The Elite Active 65ts, like most other true wireless earbuds, don’t feature any sort of earhooks, but they are covered in a non-slip coating to help them stay in your ears through sweaty workouts. In practice, the coating worked well; I never noticed the earbuds slipping from my ears during a weight training session, though one did fall out during a long run on the treadmill. Regardless, they still stayed in my ears better than any other buds I’ve used for working out, and felt totally natural to exercise with.
Jabra’s Elite 65t Set a New Standard for True Wireless Earbuds
Jabra’s Elite 65t earbuds are the best contenders for capturing the true wireless crown of any that I’ve ever tested. Their excellent sound quality and noise cancellation, comfortably snug fit, and rich app integration combine to deliver a set of earbuds perfect for audiophiles and — if you spring for the Active model — fitness enthusiasts alike. In fact, I can’t think of anyone I wouldn’t recommend these earbuds to. Let me put it this way: before trying out the Elite 65ts, I couldn’t imagine another pair of true wireless earbuds taking the placethe AirPods occupied in my heart, but Jabra has gone and done exactly that. And for me, there’s no higher praise.
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Note, all prices and products are accurate at the time of article publication, although some may have changed or are no longer available.