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Bose SoundSport Free vs. Jabra Elite Active 65t: Face-Off

The wireless earbuds market is huge right now, and we’re starting to see subcategories being introduced, such as true wireless sports earbuds. Two of the best wireless earbuds in this category are the Bose SoundSport Free and the Jabra Elite Active 65t. Priced under $200, each offers incredible sound, premium craftsmanship and sporty features that make them convenient for exercising, without being tied down by wires.

Understanding how they work with your iOS or Android device, along with their overall performance, can help determine which earbuds best serve your fitness needs. Read on to find out which one is the better investment.

Bose SoundSport Free vs. Jabra Elite Active 65t: Specs Compared


Bose SoundSport Free
Jabra Elite Active 65t
Price
$199
$188.99
Colors
Black, Bright Orange, Midnight Blue, and UltravioletCopper Blue and Copper Black
What's in the Box
Charging case, two pairs of StayHear+ ear tips, and micro-USB cableCharging case, three pairs of EarGels tips, micro-USB cable
Battery Life (Estimated)
5 hours, 10 hours (charging case)5 hours, 10 hours (charging case)
Size
1.25 x 1 x 1.2 inches1.2 x 0.8 x 1.2 inches
Weight (Earbuds, Charging Case)
0.32 ounce, 2.8 ounces0.22 ounce, 2.3 ounces

Bose SoundSport FreeView Deal

Jabra Elite Active 65tView Deal

Design

Bose and Jabra's in-ear monitors are well-constructed and come with a handful of accessories to accommodate different ear types. However, the Elite Active 65t is the one that achieves the right combination of form, function and fashion.

Jabra Elite Active 65t

Jabra Elite Active 65t

Jabra's buds provide a stable, relaxed fit perfect for high-motion exercises, from burpees to running. When locked into your ears, the buds rest gently on the concha. Jabra bundled three sets of EarGels tips for extra comfort. You can rock these buds for an hour or two and not feel fatigued. They are made from durable ABS plastic with a copper inlay and IP56-rated coating to protect them from dust and water. The design is not the flashiest out there, but it still gives the Elite Active 65t a charming presence.

Bose applies its premium design pedigree to the SoundSport Free. The buds look gorgeous and feature a durable matte-black casing that sustains sweat and water damage. The rubberized finish on the control panel is a nice look. Two pairs of ear fins are included for personalized fitting as well. But a fancy design doesn't always mean quality comfort, and the SoundSport Free is a heavy and painful wear that hurt my ears after 30 minutes of use. The bulkier frame also makes the buds stick out, causing them to fall out if not properly secured.

MORE: Apple Airpods vs. Bose SoundSport Free

Each model comes in different colors.The SoundSport Free  is the more colorful of the two with four options: Black, Midnight Blue, Bright Orange and Ultraviolet. The Elite Active 65t is sold in copper black and copper blue; the latter is a consumer favorite.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Controls

It's been a challenge for most audio manufacturers to create practical and responsive controls for their true wireless models. Bose and Jabra are no different, as their control setups make calls and playback management arduous.

Bose SoundSport Free

Bose SoundSport Free

We commend Bose for squeezing several commands into one earbud. The right bud has two volume buttons and a multifunctional button to play/pause (tap 1x), enable the native digital assistant (hold down), skip forward (tap 2x), skip backward (tap 3x), fast forward (tap 2x and hold second press), and rewind (tap 3x and hold third press) a track. The left bud just has a power/pairing button. Still, the buttons are stiff and have poor tactility. You have to press down hard on them, therefore applying unwanted pressure to your ears.

Jabra's controls are more streamlined, but the button on the face of each bud isn't well-designed and forces users to push the buds into their ears. Pressing once on the right bud will answer/end or play/pause music, while a double press enables the digital assistant. The left bud has two protruding rockers on each side – the left lowers volume (one tap) and rewinds a track (hold) – the right raises volume (one tap) and skips a track (hold). The rockers are too small and hard to locate at times.

Neither control scheme is great for users and you'll want to manage calls and music directly from your smartphone.

Winner: Draw

Setup

The two models are easy to pair and share the same setup process. Remove the buds from the charging case to initiate pairing mode, search for them on the available list of devices, and select the product name.

Jabra Elite Active 65t

Jabra Elite Active 65t

The Elite Active 65t is faster at establishing first-time connections and re-pairing with devices, especially on Android phones. Toggling on the Bluetooth on my Google Pixel 3XL instantly linked them to my handset. There's also the option to pair the buds through its free accompanying mobile app (Android, iOS), although Bose's app makes it easier to do so. The SoundSport Free establishes connections more quickly with its companion app, but not as quickly as the Elite Active 65t.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Noise Isolation

Only one pair of buds successfully prevents outside noises from seeping into your ears: the Elite Active 65t. They form a tight seal and do a great job of silencing background sounds, while keeping music from bleeding out. You'll be able to block out conversations and car horns, but not ambulance horns or jackhammers. Still, that's impressive for a pair of wireless earbuds.

MORE: Best Wireless Earbuds: AirPods vs. AirPods Alternatives

The SoundSport Free's wing tips ensure a secure fit, but the ear tips don't create the best seal. This leaves room for environmental fracas to disrupt your listening sessions. And cranking the volume high won't fix the problem.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Sound Quality

Bose usually dominates this category. Although, to our surprise, Jabra's buds do pump out some amazing sonics. Testing both models across multiple music genres, the SoundSport Free checked off more boxes on our audio performance list.

Bose SoundSport Free

Bose SoundSport Free

Listening to Spotify playlists and YouTube clips is a joyous experience on the SoundSport Free. Vocals are crisp, and the bass is slightly emphasized to provide booming lows  that are forward but not overwhelming. Mids and highs are also well-represented, meaning you'll hear the smallest details in studio recordings; background instruments are more transparent on these buds. Podcasts and videos sound just as good.

Fidelity on the Elite Active 65t is the same as its predecessor, the Elite 65t, which is clean and sharp. Lows are powerful and will spark an adrenaline rush when hitting the weights. And much like the SoundSport Free, there's plenty of depth, which is noticeable when hearing live performances or film scores. You'll be able to identify unique instruments and effects on certain records.

As wonderful as both sound, slight differences in midrange and percussion give the SoundSport Free the upper hand here.    

Winner: Bose SoundSport Free

Apps

Both devices have companion apps (iOS, Android) available for download, but the Jabra Sound+ possesses more features than the Bose Connect app, including sound customization.

Jabra Elite Active 65t

Jabra Elite Active 65t

Jabra's music equalizer comes with multiple preset sound settings – Bass Boost, Smooth, Speech, Treble Boost, Energize and Default – and lets you tweak bass, midrange and treble to create your own sound profile. There is a HearThrough mode to hear your surroundings without removing the buds. The buds also capture activity data (step count) and connect to Apple Health or Google Fit. You can toggle between different voice assistants as well.

Bose Connect limits users to a standby timer, playback controls and a Find My Bud feature, which is clutch for locating misplacing buds. That's about it.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Digital Assistant Support

Siri or Google Assistant integration is a standard feature on most modern wireless earbuds. What makes these two models different is they support a third digital assistant: Amazon Alexa. All three AI bots work well on either device, but the Elite Active 65t is more adept and responsive to voice commands.

Jabra's four-point mic system works superbly and recognizes speech slightly better than Bose's mics. All vocalized inquiries are met with quick results, especially when using Google Assistant. Talking to the buds in drafty conditions does cause interference, but the mics pick up vocals well enough to register commands.

MORE: Alexa vs. Google Assistant vs. Siri: Google Widens Its Lead

The SoundSport Free is just as impressive when used outdoors, but the annoyance of enabling the feature through the control panel will cause many people to ignore it. Another drawback is the latency on macOS, which makes it difficult to communicate with Siri.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Connectivity

Bluetooth 5.0 is used on both buds, although Jabra grants the better wireless experience with a higher range and stable connectivity. The Elite 65t gets you up to 40 feet of listening, so you can enjoy calls or music from a distance without any drop out. Pairing devices is also snappy.

Jabra Elite Active 65t

Jabra Elite Active 65t

The SoundSport Free operates solidly around the 35-foot mark, which is a good distance for taking calls in different rooms or outside on your front porch. But the connection on the left bud was spotty, causing it to frequently drop in and out.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Charging Case

Jabra's lighter and smaller (2.4 ounces, 2.8 x 2.1 x 1 inch) charging case is the more appealing option. It's easy to carry, secures the buds in place via integrated magnets, and has a charming, minimalist look to it. The soft-touch rubberized finish is also effective against scuffs and scratches. Our only complaint is the tiny ridge on the front lacks a grip to easily pry open the case.

Bose SoundSport Free

Bose SoundSport Free

Regarding battery life, the Elite Active 65t case gets you up to 10 hours of use. USB-C charging would have been greatly appreciated, but the micro USB port at the bottom isn't too bad, with fast-charging technology giving the buds 1.5 hours of use on a 15-minute charge.

Bose's 2.8-ounce, 1.5 x 4 x 1.9-inch capsule-inspired case is attractive, and offers the same battery life and charging port as the Elite Active 65t's case. It's also heavier and not as portable-friendly. And even with fast charging, it doesn't generate as much juice on a short charge; a 15-minute charge equates to 45 minutes of listening time.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Battery Life

Both models are rated at 5 hours, but when in use, the Elite Active 65t edges out the SoundSport by about 30 minutes. You can expect around 4 hours on a full battery, which is sufficient for four days at the gym. I enjoyed the buds for a full week when commuting around the city.

The SoundSport Free disappoints with 3 to 3.5 hours on a single charge. I learned the hard way that keeping the buds in the charging case for long stretches will  deplete the case's battery quickly. Setting the Standby Timer to 5 minutes in the app is a good way to save preserve power when the buds are inactive.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Call Quality

Jabra's reputation for stellar calling headsets is well-known in mobile circles, so it comes as no surprise who the victor is in this round. Calls and Skype sessions sound clear and loud on the Elite Active 65t. Most of the time, people will think you're speaking directly into your smartphone. Chatting outside does bring ambient noise into the fold, but you can adjust the Call Experience settings in the app to enhance transparency. This is also one of the few models that lets you hear conversations through both buds.

MORE: 10 Completely Inappropriate Uses for Google's AI Phone Calls

Using the SoundSport Free for calls is satisfactory. Vocals are audible and connection holds up well in high-volume areas. I just wish the buds did a better job of filtering background noise and wind. Furthermore, you can take calls only in mono.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Value

Based on particular verticals such as comfort and mobile features, the Jabra Elite Active ($189) offers more bang-for-the-buck performance than the SoundSport Free ($199). The combination of strong connectivity with top-notch call quality and sound customization is something you won't find in most true wireless buds, at any price point.

The SoundSport Free owns the premium look and sound of top-tier true wireless earbuds, but some of its shortcomings make it a tougher sell, especially when compared with Jabra's buds.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Overall Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

The Bose SoundSport Free and Jabra Elite Active 65t have the sporty design and sound quality we desire from a pair of true wireless sports earbuds. At the same time, both models show that they could benefit from certain improvements, mainly with the controls and charging cases. Nonetheless, the Elite Active 65t is the clear-cut winner.


Bose SoundSport Free
Jabra Elite Active 65t
Design (10)7
8
Controls (5)
3
3
Setup (5)
3
5
Noise Isolation (10)
6
8
Sound Quality (20)
18
17
Apps (5)
4
5
Digital Assistant Support (5)
3
4
Connectivity (5)
3
4
Charging Case (10)
7
8
Batery Life (10)
7
8
Call Quality (5)
3
5
Value (5)
4
5
Total Score
68
80

Bottom Line

There is much to admire about the SoundSport Free, from the durable aesthetics to the excellent sonics. Unfortunately, they are painful to sport, and the poor bud-to-bud connectivity can disrupt your groove during intense workouts. If your pain tolerance is high, then the sound quality makes them worth checking out.

In the end, the Elite Active 65t is the more complete package. Dynamic audio, extended functionality, and a pleasant, snug fit make up a great foundation for what we consider a true sub-category leader.

Credit: Tom's Guide