Why the noise-cancelling Jabra Elite Active 75t is the best AirPods alternative

Jabra Elite Active 75t
(Image credit: Reagan Coule/Tom's Guide)

When it came to choosing the best Apple AirPods alternatives, only one pair of true wireless buds has the top spot. The Jabra Elite Active 75t has been a class-leader ever since it launched in 2020, and can currently count itself among the best wireless earbuds and even the best headphones overall.

As such, it’s more than a match for Apple’s permanently popular buds. The Elite Active 75t is a little more expensive than the basic AirPods, but not by much considering how much more you get for your money, and it undercuts the more advanced AirPods Pro for good measure.

With never rivals like the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro and Master& Dynamic MW08 showing up, it’s worth checking in on how more established champions are still stacking up. With that said, here’s why the Jabra Elite 75t is the best AirPods alternative, even well into 2021.

Active noise cancellation makes the difference

Jabra Elite Active 75t

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

The single most significant reason to choose the Elite Active 75t over the AirPods wasn’t even part of Jabra’s earbuds at launch. Active noise cancellation (ANC) was instead added though a later firmware update, granting the Elite Active 75t a massive advantage over the ANC-deprived AirPods overnight.

Jabra’s ANC isn’t on par with the sound-silencing mastery of the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, but then few noise-cancelling earbuds can compete there either — including the AirPods Pro. If you want a pair of noise-cancelling earbuds for well under $200, the Elite Active 75t will do the job comfortably.

The majority of sound is blocked out by the Elite Active 75t’s four microphones, leaving you to enjoy your music with fewer interruptions. Jabra’s HearThrough transparency mode also turns this around, repurposing the mics to let sound through at your command for easier conversations or just some extra spatial awareness in busy areas.

By contrast, the AirPods has neither ANC nor a transparency mode. Its passive noise isolation won’t even be as good as the Elite Active 75t’s because its sound ports don’t form a tight seal within your ear canal, unlike Jabra’s buds which come with customizable in-ear tips.

A secure fit that stays dry

Jabra Elite Active 75t

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

Being able to adjust the fit isn’t the only reason the Elite Active 75t beats the AirPods on design. Apple’s buds are comfortable, but Jabra’s just seem much more thoroughly sculpted to maintain the most secure fit possible. As such, each of the Elite Active 75t’s earbuds deliver some of the best stability on the market; you won’t need to worry about them falling out, even when exercising, so they’re a worthy entrant on our list of the best sport headphones.

Aesthetically, the Elite Active 75t’s more rounded shape is far less ostentacious than the AirPods’ long, dangling stems. The former also offers a range of color options, as opposed to the latter’s sole white design.

The Elite Active 75t is also one of very few pairs of headphones to reach the IP57 certification for dust resistance and waterproofing. For sporty earbuds we always look for at least some level of water resistance, as this usually means the buds are sweatproof, but the Elite Active 75t goes much further on protection: it can survive being fully submerged in water for up to 30 minutes, at depths up to 1 meter.

The AirPods won’t shut down if it rains, but the fact remains that it lacks any kind of IP-rated water protection. Even the AirPods Pro only manage a so-so IPX4 rating, so this is something Apple should look to improve on for the AirPods 3.

Good sounds, good vibes

Jabra Elite Active 75t review

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

Even before ANC arrived, the Elite Active 75t seriously impressed us with its audio quality. The preceding Jabra Elite 75t suffered from overpowering bass but the newer model fixes this issue, producing a sound signature that’s balanced, detailed and vibrant all at once.

You also get the same level of sound performance regardless of whether ANC is enabled or not, so if you’re somewhere quiet you can turn it off to save battery — and your music won’t take a hit.

In fairness, the AirPods is no slouch in this area, and in more general audio terms its has one advantage: microphone quality. Phone calls on the Jabra buds are complicated by the mics’ tendency to pick up background noise, whereas the AirPods is one of the best headphones with a mic for voice and video calls. Still, the Elite Active 75t’s wide soundstage and finely-tuned sound easily outweigh its calling hiccups.

Better battery

Jabra Elite Active 75t

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

The AirPods’ underwhelming battery life remains a sore point well after its 2019 launch. We got a little under 5 hours of mixed use from the Apple buds, and again, that’s without the added drain of ANC. On the AirPods Pro, uptime drops to 4.5 hours.

The Elite Active 75t can keep going for around 7 hours — that difference could translate into a couple of extra days’ light use compared to the AirPods. Granted, that’s without noise cancellation, but even with ANC permanently running, you can still expect about 5.5 hours of music playback.

It’s yet another way in which the Jabra Elite Active 75t is a more practical pair of earbuds, and another reason why it remains the best AirPods alternative you can buy today.

James Archer

James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.