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Jaybird Run XT vs. Jabra Elite Active 65t: Which Fitness Earbuds Are Best?

The battle for the best wireless earbuds for fitness is heating up. Our current top pick, the Jabra Elite Active 65t, has proven itself to be a worthy champion after defeating the Bose SoundSport Free and Samsung Galaxy Buds in our previous face offs. Now the device faces a tougher opponent in the form of the all-new Jaybird Run XT.

Each model offers excellent sound, intuitive mobile features, and sporty aesthetics, so picking a winner ultimately comes down to performance and reliability. Let’s see if Jaybird has enough muscle to push Jabra off of the throne.

Jaybird Run XT vs. Jabra Elite Active 65t: Specs Compared

Jaybird Run XTJabra Elite Active 65t
Price$179.99$189.99
ColorsBlack/Flash and Storm Grey/GlacierCopper Blue, Copper Black and Copper Red
What's in the BoxCharging case, four pairs of ear fins, two pairs of round ear tips, two pairs of oval ear tips, and a micro-USB cableCharging case, three pairs of EarGels tips, and a micro-USB cable
Battery Life4 hours, 8 hours (charging case)5 hours, 10 hours (charging case)
Size0.74 x 0.77 x 0.56 inches1.2 x 0.8 x 1.2 inches
Weight0.24 ounce, 1.99 ounces (case)0.22 ounce, 2.3 ounces (case)

Jaybird Run XTView Deal

Jabra Elite Active 65tView Deal

Design

Jaybird’s reputation for build quality has undergone some scrutiny in the past, but the Run series is a step in the right direction. The company has made marginal improvements to its true wireless design, while maintaining the minimalist appearance of the original. The Run XT now boasts a higher water-resistant rating (IPX7), ensuring the buds’ survival from dust, sweat and splash damage. A hard-plastic exterior adds to their ruggedness.

Jaybird Run XT

Jaybird Run XT

The Elite Active 65t combines bold colors with durable construction to achieve a resilient design. The combination of blue ABS plastic with a copper inlay makes for an attractive look. IP65 certification gives these buds dust, sweat and water-resistant protection; anyone who perspires excessively will be grateful.

Jabra Elite Active 65t

Jabra Elite Active 65t

Jabra sells the Elite Active 65t in three swanky variants: Copper Black, Copper Blue and Copper Red. Each one is eye-catching and blends in well with casual or fitness attire. The Run XT may be limited to two colors, Black/Flash and Storm Grey/Glacier, but it’s built to take on whatever abuse you throw at it.

Winner: Jaybird Run XT

Comfort

In terms of comfort, the Elite Active 65t gets it just right, with an adjustable and pleasant fit suited for exercising or casual listening. Each bud is super-light at 0.22 ounces and forms accurately to most ear shapes, resting gently on the cavity. Jabra’s EarGels tips felt nice and maintained stability when in contact with sweat. I sported the buds for 2.5-3 hours daily and ran outside several times, never once worrying about slippage.

The Run XT is slightly heavier at 0.24 ounces, but it offers a more personalized fit, thanks to its smaller form and well-designed ear fins that conform to the concha. Jaybird also bundles several silicone tips and fins in multiple sizes to accommodate different ear sizes. Locking the buds in place requires little effort and keeps them secured.

Jaybird Run XT

Jaybird Run XT

But despite its proper fit, the Run XT becomes uncomfortable to wear after 45 minutes. It didn’t bother me much when running heavily on the treadmill, but man were my ears aching by the time I hit cooldown mode.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Controls

When it comes to truly wireless earbuds, touch controls are the more practical choice. Sadly, both models opt for physical buttons, none of which provide convenient call or playback management.

The metal accents on the Elite Active 65t act as controls and are assigned multiple functions. However, the buttons have poor tactility and require pushing the buds further into your ears to execute commands. You press the right bud once to answer/end calls or play/pause music, while a double press launches the digital assistant. Adjusting the volume or switching tracks requires a series of long or quick taps on the small protruding rockers found on the left bud.

MORE: Best Wireless Earbuds: AirPods vs. AirPods Alternatives

The Run XT is the more frustrating of the two, with stiffer buttons that make it more difficult (and painful) to enable functions. You can answer/end, play/pause, power on/off and pair the buds using the right bud. The left bud is for the digital assistant or to power on/off. If you want to access the volume, you have to enter the mobile app and switch to the alternative control setup which, in turn, disables the digital assistant and playback controls.

Winner: Draw

Apps and Special Features

The Jabra Sound+ and Jaybird MySound apps are loaded with features that augment the listening experience. If I have to choose between the two, Jabra gets my vote.

The Sound+ app brings plenty of audio customization to the Elite Active 65t, starting with the mobile equalizer that lets users tweak the bass, mid-range and treble to create their own sound profile. Personally, I found it easier to pick from the several music presets below the Sound+ app: Bass Boost, Energize, Smooth, Speech, Treble Boost and Default. Each one presents a unique soundscape that enhances the music, depending on the songs.

Jabra Elite Active 65t

Jabra Elite Active 65t

If you’re planning to be outside, there’s also an ambient-listening mode dubbed HearThrough that’s useful for hearing your surroundings. Just know that there’s no way to disable it when in Active mode. It’s cool that the app has options to turn on auto pause, hear notifications, and track missing earbuds via theFind My Buds feature. Lastly, Jabra integrated an accelerometer into the buds, transforming the Elite Active 65t into a fitness tracker. This feature is a decent alternative for recording step counts, but not something that will replace your Fitbit or Apple Watch.

The Jaybird MySound app is more extensive in terms of sound customization. Users can pick from 12 different genre presets, or create and save a sound profile that can be used on other devices. You can also explore other customized presets shared by the Jaybird community. Jaybird also has a Find My Buds feature.

MORE: 9 Cheap Wireless Earbuds (Under $60), Ranked Best to Worst

Another key feature that plays an integral role is connectivity. The Elite Active 65t runs on Bluetooth 5.0, which improves battery life, pairing and range. The buds maintain a stable connection for up to 40 feet,and pair quickly to devices. Ironically, while the Run XT operates on a lower protocol (Bluetooth 4.1), it does a much faster job of re-pairing to devices. But you won’t get much range out of them; drop-out occurs at around the 32-foot mark.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Audio

Listening to either set of earbuds on their default sound settings reveals that each delivers enough boom to satisfy bass heads and gym rats. Listening to M.O.P.’s “Ante Up” on the Elite Active 65t was intense, as the blaring horns and drums, combined with the duo’s shouting vocals, sent an adrenaline rush through my body during a 5K run. The low end is accentuated, which makes the buds ideal for bass-heavy genres like EDM, hip-Hop, and rock. I could still feel the record’s boombastic vibes on the Run XT, but they wasn’t as powerful.

Jumping into something acoustic, I pulled up Nirvana’s live rendition of “Come As You Are” from their "Unplugged" album and was met with striking results. The Elite Active 65t captured the live ambiance of the crowd; hearing the opening applause made me feel like I was sitting in the front row. Kurt Cobain’s evocative crooning sounds blissful on these buds. The cymbals, while docile in this version of the song, were also transparent. Some mids were lost on the Run XT; the audience sounded quieter and the background vocals were hidden during the chorus.

Jabra Elite Active 65t

Jabra Elite Active 65t

Jumping into video content, the Elite Active 65t wasn’t as effective. Films like "Avengers: Infinity War" sounded low. The action sequences and dramatic film score also lacked oomph. The Run XT was the complete opposite, bringing loud and impactful sound, but muddled the sound effects when listening at high volume. The Run XT also has a  latency problem when playing YouTube videos.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Call Quality

Call quality on the Elite Active 65t is remarkable. Jabra’s four-mic system works incredibly well at blocking out ambient noise, while enhancing the clarity on phone/Skype calls. Chatting with my girlfriend and family was pleasant, especially since I could hear our conversations on both earbuds. Vocals sounded loud and clear as well. Most people assumed I was speaking directly into my smartphone.

Jaybird Run XT

Jaybird Run XT

The Run XT also holds its own as a calling headset. When answering calls in my apartment, friends could hear me clearly. Connections held up strong when shifting from room to room. Chatting outside was a different story, however, as the Run XT’s Omni-directional mic system was sensitive to wind. Taking calls in mono wasn’t much fun either.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Charging Case

If the Run XT charging case looks all too familiar, that’s because it is basically the same one that was bundled with the first-gen model. Jaybird’s capsule-shaped case weighs 2 ounces and measures 3 x 1.6 x 1.7 inches. The hard-plastic exterior is robust, and the push mechanism on the front makes it simple to access the buds. Unfortunately, the case only holds up to 8 hours of listening time. On the plus side, its micro-USB port does support fast charging, giving an hour of playback on a 5-minute charge.

Jabra’s charging case maintains the sleek and robust feel of the earbuds, with a matte plastic finish and company logo engraved right on the front. The case's weight is listed at 2.4 ounces and the length is 2.8 x 2 x 1 inches, making it slightly longer and heavier than the Run XT case, but compact enough to carry around. Opening it does prove to be a challenge, one that requires squeezing the sides and lifting the lid simultaneously. At least this guarantees the buds are protected and won’t fall out.

What gives the Elite Active 65t the edge here is longer battery life. The case holds up to 10 hours of juice. And while its quick-charging feature doesn’t work as fast, you still get 1.5 hours of power on a 15-minute charge, which is pretty damn good.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Battery Life

The Elite Active 65t has the better battery life, rated at 5 hours of listening time. I managed to get a solid 4 hours and 20 minutes, equal to 5 days of gym use at moderate volume. This is longer than the 3:45 the Run XT offered, but still shorter than the new king of wireless bud battery life,” the Samsung Galaxy Buds.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Price

At $189.99, the Elite Active 65t is one of the more expensive options out there, although certain colors have been marked down recently on Amazon. The Copper Blue version is currently on sale for $175. Additional accessories are available as well, including charging cases ($69.99), replacement buds ($59.99), and EarGel packs ($9.99).

The Run XT is slightly cheaper at $179.99 and works with the original Run charging case sold at $59. There is still no word on whether Jaybird plans on selling extra accessories for this model.

Overall Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Given its sporty, sophisticated design; dynamic audio; and plethora of features; the Jabra Elite Active 65teasily earned this win.. Performance alone deems these fitness buds a must-have for gym junkies who need music to fuel their workouts, sans cables. It also serves as one of the best calling headsets out there, with intuitive mics that recognize speech well when using Google Assistant. The only thing holding it back from perfection are the subpar battery life and impractical controls.

Jaybird Run XTJabra Elite Active 65t
Design (15)1312
Comfort (10)79
Controls (5)33
Special Features and Apps (15)1314
Audio (25)2223
Call Quality (5)45
Charging Case (10)78
Battery Life (15)1113
Total Score (100)
8087

But if you think the Jaybird Run XT isn’t worth a look, you’re completely mistaken. True, the buds aren’t designed for casual listening, nor do they match the battery life of most standard models. However, personalized sound settings and stellar durability make them a praiseworthy alternative. I’m also a fan of their reliable connectivity, which instantly paired me to all of my media devices. Unique features such as built-in fitness tracking and USB-C charging would have made this a closer battle, but Jaybird does put up a good fight against Jabra.

Credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide