$170 For Great Sound But No Fast Pairing
Jabra Elite 65t Review: Powerful Wireless Earbuds With AirPod-Esque Features
Jabra has three sets of truly wireless earbuds. The Elite Sport ($173), released in 2016, are ideal for running and working out, with an IP67-rating and a built-in heart-rate sensor. The Jabra Elite Active 65t ($190), which are expected to be released this April, are smaller sports-focused headphones (IP56) with better sound quality for listening to music and taking calls. They are also compatible with Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant.
Third is the Jabra Elite 65t ($170), available now. They are very similar to the Elite Active 65t, but lack some workout-focused features, like a special extra-grippy coating and an integrated accelerometer. The Elite 65t is more affordable than the Elite Active 65t, and are only slightly more expensive than Apple’s AirPods ($159). They’re also loaded with way more features than AirPods (even if fast pairing isn’t one of them).
Fun fact: the “65” represents the highest number and therefore the most premium earbuds in Jabra’s Elite line. The “t” stands for truly wireless. The “e” in last year’s Elite 45e stands for earbuds since they are technically wireless neckbuds, connected by a wire.
The Good: The Elite 65t sounds as good as any truly wireless earbud I’ve tested, and that’s including the more expensive Bose SoundSport Free ($200) and Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay E8 ($299). The bass tones are decent, but the mids and highs are where these earbuds really excel. The Sound+ app allows you to tweak the EQ if you want, too, but it’s really best for customizing settings (like turning on the hear-through or if you want the music to auto pause when you remove an earbud). Part of what provides the Elite 65t’s excellent audio quality is the terrific noise isolation — these earbuds fit very snugly in your ears. Calls are super clear and the buttons on the earbuds are easy to use without disrupting the seal.
Who’s It For: Any iOS or Android user who wants great, truly wireless, earbuds. If AirPods don’t fit in your ears, these probably will. They’re great for everyday use, listening to music and talking on the phone — although you probably shouldn’t work out or run with them (they aren’t sweatproof).
Watch Out For: The charging case isn’t anything to write home about. It’s small, which is good, but the earbuds don’t fit too well in the case. Also, the case charges via micro-USB (instead of the newer USB-C standard). The noise isolation on the Elite 65t is great, but if you’re super sensitive it can feel a little like swimming underwater. Support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant isn’t available yet, so I wasn’t able to test that feature. Siri isn’t always listening like on your HomePod — you have to hold the button on the right earbud to initiate. You can workout with these, but they aren’t designed for it (just like AirPods aren’t, either).
Alternatives: AirPods are a great alternative if you want fast-pairing with iOS devices. The price difference between the two isn’t huge, either. The Bose SoundSport Free ($200) is a good alternative if you like the sound and fit of Bose in-ear headphones. Anker’s Zolo Liberty ($99) is a more affordable alternative.
Verdict: Before leaving my own AirPods in a hotel room in California — very sad — I had been switching between them and the Jabra Elite 65t. I loved my AirPods — Apple has probably never made a better first-gen product, which is why most wireless earbuds are compared to AirPods — but these Elite 65t earbuds come a close second. They fit differently than AirPods, granted, which could be good or bad depending on your preference. But I also found that they were way more secure than traditional earbuds that need to fit snug in your ear canal, like the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 ($299).
They won’t pair as quickly with your iOS device and the magnetic case isn’t as refined as its Apple competitor, but the Elite 65t earbuds offer a lot of features that work well. The pass-through hearing works as well as any other earbud with similar technology, allowing you to hear ambient noise when biking or when walking along New York streets. Thanks to a four-mic array (two in each earbud), talking on the phone is very clear. There are even tap controls on the side of the earbuds. And you can customize if you want your music to stop playing whenever you take an earbud out, essentially allowing them to work like AirPods. Jabra (and many other companies) will market the heck out of the virtual assistant features — access Siri, and soon Alexa, with the touch of a button — but I’m not totally convinced by them. It’s nice to say “Call John” without taking out your phone, but I just whip out my phone by habit.
The best compliment I can give these earbuds is that they’re the best AirPod alternative I’ve tested so far. Are they that much better than the Bose and Bang & Olufsen alternatives? I don’t think so, but where price and quality meet, these are the best option. Bottom line: If AirPods don’t fit in your ears, or you don’t have an iOS device, Jabra’s Elite 65t is pretty fantastic.
What Others Are Saying
• “I thought the Elite 65t sounded a little better than the AirPods and they’re clearly superior in noisier environments (like the streets of New York). Even in their “flat” default mode, there’s a little bit of presence boost, also known as treble boost, but I thought they sounded slightly richer and more immediate than the AirPods. They also had a little more bass, though not as much bass as Bose’s SoundSport Free, which arguably have the best sound in the category.” — David Carnoy, CNET
Battery: 5-hour per earbud, 10 hours from the charging case
Support: Siri, Amazon Alexa (soon), Google Assistant (soon)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Water Resistance: IP55
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