Because audio products are the most reviewed item on this site, it’s easy for me to get jaded about doing yet another review for yet another pair of headphones, or yet another set of earbuds that claim to be truly wireless, because deep down on the inside I know that I’m going to find some fatal flaw that causes me to shelve these brand new products. My current collection of speakers, headphones and earbuds is growing at rapid rate, at least partially because I haven’t yet found what I think is the best product (for me) in that market space. So, as in with any other review, another contender enters the arena.
I recently reviewed a set of wireless on-ear headphones from Plantronics, a company better known for their office phone headset presence, not so much their products in the personal audio space. Nonetheless, I thought that those headphones were worth a look because of my overwhelmingly positive experience with Plantronics products in the past, as well as their reputation. So too was my approach with this new product, the Jabra Elite 65t True Wireless Earbuds. My experience with Jabra, similar to Plantronics, was more along the lines of professional use, not personal audio—and although the lines between the two are blurred, I haven’t seen much from Jabra strictly in the personal audio market.
For starters, the packaging was simple and it took very little time for me to get my hands on the earbuds. My first impression of the buds themselves were that they looked big, but otherwise the design was sleek and modern. The included charging/carrying case is also relatively small, larger than the AirPods case, but not by much (I’d put it around the size of a slightly wider-than-usual Tic Tac container). The charging case has two leads per bud which need to be in contact with the buds in order to charge, but there are no magnets that hold the buds into the case—so, be careful when you’re opening it.
Before we get into audio quality, there are a few other “goodies” that need to be called out, the first of which is Bluetooth 5.0. The 65t’s are among the few products in the truly wireless earbud space with it, which helps with wireless range and battery performance.
And speaking of battery performance, the battery on the buds is rated at 5 hours of life before needing a recharge, but this number may be different for you based upon your listening habits; high volumes, excessive bass, etc., will drop the average listening time down. I personally found that the 5-hour estimate is fair, and some review sites have found up to 6 or more hours on a single charge. The charging case will recharge your buds twice before it needs to be charged, so a light-to-moderate user will probably need a charge one or two times per week. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when it came to battery life. And, no, the case does NOT have a USB type C connector, however it does support quick charge which is a plus.
From a durability perspective, the 65t’s carry an IP55 rating, which means that sweat and dust shouldn’t be a problem if you’re using these at the gym.
I remarked earlier in the review that my first impression of the buds themselves were that they seemed large—however, once I put them in my ears my opinion changed immediately. These are probably among the best-fitting and most stable earbuds I’ve ever tried, and that comparison includes Bose’s ear tips which are my current favorite for earbuds. The 65t’s are an ear-canal style bud, and there are multiple sizes of ear tips in the retail packaging. I was a bit concerned at first that there were no fins to keep these seemingly large buds in my ears, but the body of the buds is almost perfectly designed for my ear and is held in place snugly; attempting to “shake” them out of my ears is not an easy thing to do. That said, my wife who has smaller ears didn’t like the fit at all and they were a little large for her, so your individual ear size may “make or break” this purchase for you.
The onboard buttons allow for play/pause, answering and hanging up calls, volume up/down and track skipping—all standard stuff.
On to sound performance: the ear-canal style bud makes for great passive noise reduction, and the fit for me was such that almost all outside noise was eliminated when I put these in (I’ll cover the app later, but it is worth noting that the buds allow you to “pipe in” outside noises if you’re in an environment where that is preferred).
The sound profile of these buds was relatively flat—which is a nice change for newer products which [in my experience] tend to favor lows. A flat profile allows for maximum sound customization, which is allowed by the Jabra app which I’ll cover shortly. Listening at the default settings, lows, mids and highs all came across clear even at higher volumes, and there was very little sound leaking heard by those around me up to 70-80% volume.
These buds also had a familiar feature: the automatic pausing of music when one earbud is removed. This is achieved via a proximity sensor between the two buds, so slightly different from Apple’s AirPods, but nonetheless a plus when it comes to features.
Another quick note—truly wireless earbuds sometimes have audio/video syncing issues when it comes to using them to watch Netflix or Youtube; in my experience, that delay in audio does not exist for the 65t’s, making them a good all around earbud (and not just for music).
Call performance was as expected from a name like Jabra: called parties were able to hear me clearly without much background noise being picked up in quieter environments, however, as with most Bluetooth headsets, noisier environments are not ideal as background noise usually comes through more readily to called parties.
The sound and call performance both are enhanced by what I consider to be among the best audio companion apps that I’ve used. The flat sound profile, although default, can be modified with a decent equalizer, and the response to those adjustments are easy to hear compared to some of the competition. Also in the app, Elite’s “HearThrough” feature can be enabled, which passes outside audio into music or calls; the app also allows customization of your own voice to be passed through in a feature called “Sidetone,” which is just a monitor function built into the earbuds. And finally, the app allows you to chose your voice assistant; currently Google’s voice assistant and Siri are available, and Alexa will be available in the future.
The gold standard for true wireless earbuds right now, if such a thing exists, is undoubtedly Apple’s AirPods—and whether or not they are the best audio performer, they do a great job at a few things which put them ahead of the competition. It is well known, though, that they are not the greatest choice for audiophiles, as their fit and overall design don’t allow for a great audio experience.
The 65t’s, in contrast, do provide a really good audio experience, and they do so at $169, which is only $10 more than Apple’s AirPods. And, they have a better app experience, more customization, arguably a better fit (although that’s subjective just like everything else), and similar features—all while being cross-platform (technically, I recognize the AirPods are also cross-platform, but not in the truest sense since some features are lost when you use AirPods with Android).
I think it also stands to reason that the 65t’s will be available on sale more frequently and at higher amounts that the AirPods, meaning you will probably be able to get your hands on them at or below the cost of AirPods.
AirPods aside, a great design, excellent battery life, really good audio performance and customization all make this a great buy for the price, especially considering they are available at a price lower than many of their direct competitors.