Jabra Elite 65t Wireless Earbuds Review: A True AirPod Killer

The Jabra Elite 65t are now my go-to truly wireless earbuds. They fit comfortably in my ear, are designed to take a little abuse and are reasonably priced at $169. They also sound great for a pair of wireless buds, last up to 5 hours on a charge and have a free companion app that lets you access a small treasure trove of functionality. These buds are a true Apple AirPods killer.

Design

The Elite 65ts look more adult than other truly wireless buds I've reviewed. They're not ridiculously hanging out of my ears, like the Apple AirPods, or rocking an ethereal crescent of light, like the Bragi Dash Pro. Instead, the Elite 65t follows the design of some of Jabra's more distinguished-looking mono Bluetooth headsets with an extremely shortened arm.

The part of the buds facing outside is made of a gray ABS plastic with Jabra stamped in the center to accentuate the multifunction buttons. The left bud has a pair of notches cut into the multifunction button so you can easily determine which side adjusts volume and changes tracks.

The Elite 65ts look more adult than other truly wireless buds I've reviewed.

The rest of the Elite 65t earbuds are black plastic, with a pair of metal connectors for charging in their case. But the Elites don't just look good, they're built semi tough with an IP55 rating for water and dust-resistance. The buds also have two-year dust and water warranty just in case something happens.

Jabra bundled the Elite 65ts with one of the smaller charging cases (2.8 x 2 x 1 inches) aside from the AirPods (1.4 x 0.8 x 2.1 inches). The black matte metal case has a micro USB port on the bottom and Jabra embossed on the front, with an easy-to-close snap lid. The buds also come with two additional sets of silicone ear tips and a micro USB cord.

Comfort

After wearing the Elite buds for over 2 hours, I can say that they are immensely comfortable. I didn't even have to swap ear tips. As soon as I put them in, the silicon ear tips created a nice secure seal, immediately muffling the old radiator in my bedroom as well as the grunts and clanks emanating from every corner of my gym.

Like most truly wireless buds, there's a bit of a trick to correctly seating them in your ears. The easiest way to get them properly situated is to position each bud with the arm facing straight up, and then twisting forward. The arms should point toward your face, similar to a mono Bluetooth headset. When placed correctly, I never worried about the Elite 65t buds dislodging during my workout, even when I was sweating buckets on the StairMaster.

Despite their relatively small size (0.3 x 1.2 x 0.9 inches), the right bud weighs a tiny bit more than the left, at 0.23 and 0.2 ounces, respectively. The buds are also lighter than the component-packed Dash Pros, (5 ounces, 0.9 x 0.6 x 0.9 inches), but both are still heavier than the AirPods (0.14 ounces, 0.7 x 0.7 x 1.6 inches).

I never worried about the Elite 65ts dislodging during my workout, even when I was sweating buckets on the treadmaster.

Setup and Controls

The initial setup for the Elite 65t buds is pretty simple. After you hold down the button on each bud for 3 seconds, they power on and are ready to pair. A female voice guides you through the pairing process, which is basically opening up your intended device's Bluetooth menu, selecting the buds and pairing.

Once I was connected to my Samsung Galaxy Note 8, I was ready to hit the StairMaster. I placed my phone on the machine's console and got to work. At the high of my workout, a Sade track started playing, which isn't the best music for staying motivated, even if I did feel like the King of Sorrow after 15 minutes on that infernal machine. Jabra wisely split up control duties between the two buds, with the left controlling volume and track changes and the right handling answering/ending calls, play/pause and queueing up the digital assistant.

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To change to a more upbeat track, I held down the rear notch on the left earbud to skip forward. When I wanted to hear Sleepy Brown's "I Can't Wait" again, I held down the front notch. When I needed to turn the volume up, I gave the rear notch a quick tap and hit the front to decrease the audio. Answering calls and playing or pausing tracks takes just a quick tap on the right bud, with a double tap to summon the digital assistant.

Quick tapping on the Elite's buttons is relatively comfortable, but those long presses can cause discomfort, especially on the inner folds on your outer ear.

App

The Elite 65t buds work in tandem with the free Jabra Sound+ app. Available for Android and iOS, the app has several useful features, including Voice Assistant, Audio Experience, Call Experience and Equalizer. The software also keeps track of how much battery life the buds have left. There are also tabs for Device and App Details.

Voice Assistant allows you to toggle between your device's default assistant (in my case Google Assistant or Samsung Bixby) or Amazon Alexa. Audio Experience let me toggle the HearThrough function, which determines how much ambient noise, if any, is pumped into the earbuds. It's a handy feature for joggers or just navigating the New York City streets. It's here that you can adjust Auto Pause and Headset Prompts.

The Music Equalizer gives you free range to manually adjust the five-band EQ, which ranges from 60 hertz to 14 kilohertz. It's nice, but I do wish there were a couple of presets for folks who aren't necessarily knowledgeable about adjusting for bass, mids and treble. Last, but certainly not least, is the Call Experience feature, which grants you the ability to adjust the volume of your voice on the call, eliminating the need to speak louder than normal due to weak microphones. You can also enhance the treble or bass on the call and hear the name of the incoming caller.

Every now and then, Jabra will push software updates for the buds. When it's time for an update, the app will send a notification under the Device Details tab. When I was ready to update, the app prompted me to place the buds in the charging case, and the small status light began flashing purple to signify the update was in progress, The light then flashed green when the process was complete. The update took about 1.5 minutes to complete.

As cool as adjusting call volume and toggling the EQ is, the Sound+ app is missing a major feature: Find My Buds. In the case you lose a bud, you're going to be frantically scouring the ground, instead of ringing an alarm to track down your wayward bud like you can with the AirPods.

Audio Performance

Regarding audio, the Elite 65t are currently my favorite pair of truly wireless earbuds. Once you have a fairly tight seal established in your ears, the buds' passive noise- cancelling kicks in to block out most of the ambient noise. Whatever you're listening to will take care of the rest.

Listening to Janelle Monae's "It's Code," the audio was reasonably balanced, making it easy to articulate the lead from the background vocals. The cymbals and percussion were crisp with a rich bass and clear guitar.  The bass guitar sounded really clean on the AirPods as did the electronic wind machine. However, the percussion was a bit muted.

I appreciated the pulsating bassline the Elite buds delivered during Kanye West's 'Flashing Lights,' along with the punchy vocal and good snap on the drums.

Tracks on the Dash Pro tended to be quieter than on either the Elites or the AirPods, to the point that I had to crank them to the maximum to really distinguish anything. Still, the Dash Pros delivered a decent performance in which I could hear the strumming on the bass guitar. The cymbals were somewhat brassy, but neither the flute nor electronic wind machine were as present as I would have liked.                                          

I appreciated the pulsating bassline the Elite buds delivered during Kanye West's "Flashing Lights," along with the punchy vocal and good snap on the drums. The hand claps sounded best on the Dash Pros, but the strings were a bit muddy with a submerged low-end. The AirPods also had a problem with weak bass as well as muted hand claps. However, the strings and synths were very clean.

On Diana Krall's live rendition of "Fly Me To The Moon," each pair of buds had enough detail that I could hear brushes gently hitting the drumhead. However, the Elite 65t was best at delivering bright, sparkling piano with lively jazz bass and guitar. Krall's alto sounded the best on the Dash Pros and had better percussion than the competing buds. But I heard warm piano on the AirPods along with a full alto, even though the bass was a little weak.

Battery Life and Bluetooth

Jabra claims that the Elite 65t earbuds can last up to 5 hours on a charge. And so far, the buds have lived up to the hype.

I've completed three 1-hour workouts over the course of three days and spent an hour at home just listening to music without charging. According to the Jabra Sound+ app, the buds had a 20 percent charge left. The Elite's charging case provides up to two additional charges, bringing the earphones' battery life up to approximately 15 hours. When you do charge the Elites, their case will restore up to 1.5 hours of juice in 15 minutes, thanks to its quick-charge technology.

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The AirPods also boast a 5-hour battery life with a charging case that Apple says can deliver 24 hours of charge, delivering 3 hours of juice in 15 minutes. The Dash Pro is also a member of the 5-hour club, with a charging case that can deliver five separate charges.

Part of the reason the Elite earbuds last so long can be attributed to Bluetooth 5.0. The newest Bluetooth iteration uses Bluetooth Low Energy, which consumes less power than standard Bluetooth for longer battery life. Bluetooth 5.0 also allows listeners to pair the buds with two separate devices simultaneously. And this technology quadruples the distance the buds can transmit a signal up to 800 feet. Keep in mind that obstacles like doors and walls can impede the signal.

Call Quality

Jabra's expertise in creating conferencing speakers and mono Bluetooth headsets shows in the Elite 65ts. I made several test calls to my boyfriend while wearing the Elites, and we were both impressed by the volume and clarity. On the majority of the calls, he couldn't tell I was using headphones, and it didn't sound like I was talking to him via an underwater tunnel. Thanks to the company's four-microphone technology, my significant other didn't hear any wind when I was chatting him up while taking a stroll down the street. He reporting hearing a little bit of the ongoing traffic, but not much.

I really appreciated the ability to adjust how loud I heard myself on the calls using the app, eliminating the need for me to raise my voice. I didn't need to fiddle with the Call Audio setting, but it was nice to know that I could toggle the treble and bass if needed.   

Bottom Line

Jabra's packing a hell of a lot of value and functionality into the Elite 65t. For $169.99, you get a pair of wireless buds with a sleek,  durable and comfortable design and up to 5 hours of battery life on a charge. Delivering consistently clean detail and warm, lively instrumentals and vocals, the Elite 65t might be one of the best-sounding truly wireless buds on the market.  

But if you're looking to save $10, you'll want to check out the Apple AirPods, which also offer 5 hours of battery life, but with a better quick charge. And it wouldn't be Apple if the AirPods didn't have a ton of bells and whistles, such as customizing the double-tap function and Find My AirPods even if most of them are exclusive to iPhone owners..

But if you're looking for a pair of truly wireless earbuds that are smart, comfortable and durable, with just the right touch of feature customization, the Jabra Elite 65t should be at the top of your list.

Credit: Tom's Guide