Jabra Elite 65t review

Don't buy those Apple AirPods! You really want Jabra’s Elite 65t

Step aside, AirPods! Jabra’s Elite 65t are the fully wireless headphones to beat.
Step aside, AirPods! Jabra’s Elite 65t are the fully wireless headphones to beat.
Step aside, AirPods! Jabra’s Elite 65t are the fully wireless headphones to beat.

Highs

  • Reliable connection
  • Great passive noise isolation
  • Punchy bass, bright highs
  • Advanced features, good battery life

Lows

  • Somewhat tight fit
  • Slight connection noise

Though more and more of us are gazing out at the fully wireless universe in 2018, one simple fact remains. There still aren’t many competitive options. Apple’s AirPods, far and away the industry sales leader, helped set the mold thanks to solid connection and battery life — issues that still plague many early true wireless options. But they come up short on sound, fit, and passive noise isolation. Another top option, Bragi’s ostentatiously named The Headphone, have better sound, but still exhibit their own hang-ups — specifically, they lack the now-ubiquitous portable battery case for charging on the go.

In this field of up-and-comers and almosts, Jabra’s new Elite 65t really shine. A solid sounding pair of true wireless headphones with stable wireless connection, good battery life, and advanced features that actually work well in the real world, the Elite 65t offer a blend of everyday usability and fidelity that puts the rest of the market on notice. Unless you’re a die-hard iOS enthusiast or plan to sweat your ever-loving brains out, that makes these the new true wireless headphones to beat.

Out of the Box

The Elite 65t come arrive in a grey box with Jabra’s signature yellow accents that slides open to reveal the two earbuds, a small black charging case, and three sets of rubber eartips. Also included in the box are a micro USB charging cable and a small user guide to get you up to speed on their various features.

Features and Design

At first glance, the Elite 65t resemble the kind of miniature hands-free headset you imagine Derek Zoolander would pair with his tiny little flip phone. But the small extrusion for the mic piece somehow manages to give them some style points, adding to the futuristic aesthetic rather than diminishing it. The earbuds come in all black, with silver accents to add some extra flash to their understated profile.

The included charging case is a small black pillbox with a micro USB charging port on the bottom and single LED on the outside to let you know when it’s charging or needs more juice. A treasure-chest hinge opens the top third of the case, revealing two snug cutouts for the headphones, with a green LED in between that lets you know if the headphones are fully charged. The lid is tightly sealed and can be tricky to open at first, but our fingers cracked the code over time. When the earbuds are in the case, LEDs on their exterior pulse red or green, depending on how much juice they’ve got.

The Elite 65t boast an IP55 dust and water rating to combat rainstorms and sweaty workouts.

You’ll get around 5 hours of battery time per charge with the Elite 65t — matching Apple’s AirPods and outdoing much of the competition at this price point – along with two charges from the case, for up to 15 hours of battery before you need to go hunting for a USB port or wall charger. That total battery life is lower than Apple’s industry-leading 25 hours, but better than the 13.5 total hours offered by Jabra’s sweat-proof Elite Sport headphones, though the latter’s heart-rate monitoring for workouts obviously puts a tax on battery life.

Speaking of workouts, while they don’t offer any fitness monitoring, the Elite 65t boast an IP55 dust and water rating, which means they’re easily able to handle rainstorms and sweaty workouts. This is another win for the Elite 65T against the more fragile AirPods, though those who really dump sweat may want to drop the extra dough on the aforementioned Elite Sport.

Much of the tinkering you can do with the Elite 65t will happen inside its Sound+ app (more on this below) but the headphones do have three physical buttons on their outer shells for quick access. Two buttons on the left earbud control volume and song skipping, while the right earbud has a single button that’s used to play/pause music and take calls, and can also be used to let in a bit of the sound from world around you via Jabra’s HearThrough technology with a double press.

The connection is so solid, we often forgot that there were no strings attached.

Inside the Sound+ app is where you’ll control how much, if any, of that “HearThrough” technology is engaged. While similar technology from other companies can make everything sound tinny and harsh, it Jabra’s system works fairly well on the Elite 65t, especially when used to pipe in sounds like public transit announcements. That said, we left HearThrough off in normal listening situations, as music sounds (understandably) better without it engaged.

Using the Sound+ app, you can also adjust EQ (we dropped some of the tinny sound in the midrange) and engage of disengage auto-pause, which pauses music when you remove the buds from your ears. Unlike some headphones, the Elite 65t’s auto-pause worked very well in practice, even when we had them synced to a Dell XPS 13 instead of a phone.

Setup

Setting up the Elite 65t is quick and painless, mostly thanks to helpful voice instructions. Simply put the earbuds in your ears, and press and hold the left button on the left earbud and the (only) button on the right bud for three seconds. From there, listen to and follow the instructions.

Fit

Despite looking a bit bulky, the Elite 65t actually fit quite well in your ears. We were able to listen through a full charge with no discomfort, which isn’t something we can say about many competitors.

Jabra Elite 65t review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

When gripping either of the two earbuds (denoted “L” and “R” along their molded plastic underbellies), we had the best luck putting them in each ear and giving them a slight counter-clockwise twist to seal them in our ears. The inclusion of three different eartips is very useful to finding a proper seal to keep the headphones locked in and optimized for comfort during long listening sessions.

Wireless connection

Before we even get into the sound, due to the problems that plague most true wireless earbuds, we have to talk about simple wireless connection. We’re happy to report that Jabra’s Elite 65t offer a solid wireless connection no matter which pocket your phone is in, or where you move it in your hands – a serious win. In addition, every other feature offered by the headphones works as advertised.

Audio performance

The Elite 65t’s sound is on par with what you can get from wired headphones at about half the price point, and that’s actually fairly impressive. The Elite 65t have deep and punchy bass that performs well when listening to your favorite Kendrick Lamar tracks, and a shimmery high end that makes synthesizers on complex songs like Thundercat’s Drunk really pop. As mentioned, we did occasionally use the Sound+ app’s EQ functionality to turn down some of the high midrange frequencies, which can sound a touch harsh, especially for acoustic guitar-heavy music like Ryan Adams’ Prisoner.

The earbuds offer punchy bass and shimmery treble that makes synthesizers really pop.

Overall, the Elite 65t are among the very few fully wireless models that actually make you forget there are no cords, bands, or wires. Whether listening to music in the office or on the go, we often forgot that there were no strings attached, which is just about the biggest compliment we can give any pair of true wireless headphones currently available.

When it comes to competitors, we do (slightly) prefer the more balanced tonality and richer detail offered by The Headphone, but the Elite 65t absolutely outshine the AirPods, in large part due to the fact that they have so much better passive noise isolation. With the Elite 65t in your ears, not much of the outside world is getting in (unless you want it to) and that offers a much more clear and unimpeded listening experience.

Warranty information

Jabra offers a one year warranty on parts and workmanship, and a two year warranty against damage from dust and water.

Our Take

With solid sound, great battery life, and intuitive features, the Jabra Elite 65t easily rank among the best fully wireless options on the market.

Is there a better alternative?

The Elite 65t are priced just above competitors like Apple’s AirPods and Bragi’s The Headphone, but the small difference in price shouldn’t deter potential buyers from looking at all three side-by-side.

Both competitors have similar battery life, with the AirPods offering worse fidelity but better iOS integration, and The Headphone offering slightly better sound but lacking a charging case. For our money, the Elite 65t are the best all-around pick, especially considering the fact that they have been tested and cleared for water and dust resistance. Still, those who plan on sweating their brains out in their fully wireless in-ears should consider the company’s more-expensive Elite Sport model.

How long will it last?

The Elite 65t offer solid build quality from a well-established brand, and should last years of regular use if treated correctly.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you’re planning on cutting the cord in your listening life, these headphones offer serious value at a competitive price. This is the new best-in-class.

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