AirPods 2 vs. Jabra Elite Active 65t: Which are the better wireless earbuds?

Jabra Elite 65t review
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

The Jabra Elite Active 65t and Apple AirPods have long been two of the best pairs of true wireless headphones you can buy, but there are different reasons that you might pick either one.

Apple’s AirPods are convenient, connect easily, and have one of the best charging cases on the market, but how do they compete with the best that longtime Bluetooth headset maker Jabra has to offer?

Here’s how the latest version of Apple’s AirPods stack up against the Jabra Elite Active 65t, from looks to sound quality.

Design

Apple’s latest AirPods feature the same golf tee-style looks that we’ve seen from the company for over a decade, a white pair of earbuds with plastic tips and long tubes that house onboard microphones and antennas. While we like the way that they feel compact and light in our ears, we still can’t help but feel a bit silly wearing them in public. That, plus the lack of silicone eartips or earfins means that the headphones don’t do as well to stay in place or block out the sound of the outside world as the Jabra Elite Active 65t.

The Elite Actives feel somewhat larger in your ears due to their more compact design, but they also feel much more secure one you get them in. With soft silicone ear tips and a rubbery waterproof coating (more on this later), they don’t move at all when doing vigorous exercise, which isn’t something we can say about the latest AirPods. We also like that they put so much mass (and those ear tips) between your eardrums and the sound around you — the Elite Active 65t have fantastic passive noise isolation.

In terms of controls, we prefer the Jabra as well. They feature two physical buttons on each earphone, which makes adjusting volume and changing songs a cinch, and beats out the limited touch controls offered by the AirPods.

Winner: Elite Active 65t

Features

Both headphones are jam-packed with features and have great battery life. You get five hours per charge from both models and both come with sensors that auto-pause or play music when you remove them from your ears (although that is exclusive to iOS for the AirPods).

Both also have great call quality, thanks to microphones that aim toward your mouth. Jabra does this with tiny elephant-like snouts that protrude from the headphones, where the AirPods put the mics at the bottom of their long tube sections.

One thing we wish we got from the AirPods is waterproofing. The Elite Active 65t boast an IP56 rating, which means they are protected from high-pressure water jets and limited dust ingress, making them perfect for breaking a sweat in, where the AirPods lack any formal waterproofing. This means if you’re a gym rat or live in the rainy Pacific Northwest (as we do), you might consider the Jabra model first.

Winner: Elite Active 65t

Charging case

The charging case is one place where we think the AirPods are a clear winner. Not only is the small white case compact and full of 19 hours of extra charge time on the go, but now you can buy a case with wireless charging included. That’s a cool feature that those who are tired of cables may want to spring for.

The Jabra case has a compact treasure chest-like design but only adds two full five-hour charges before it needs to be plugged in, for a total of 10 hours in the case. It also doesn’t come with a wireless charging option.

Winner: AirPods

Sound quality

Both the AirPods and Elite Active 65t sound warm and balanced, with a surprising amount of low end for such compact headphones. If it weren’t for the fact that the Elite Active 65t boast actual eartips — and thus better passive noise isolation — we’d call this a toss-up. As it is, the Jabra model simply performs better in noisy spaces, so we’ll give them the slight edge here.

Winner: Elite Active 65t

Overall

With great connectivity, good features, and an IP56-waterproof rating, we have to hand this one to the Jabra Elite Active 65t. While the latest AirPods are no slouch, we simply think the convenience of not worrying about getting our headphones wet, and the cleaner looks of the Elite Active 65t make them the better headphones for daily use.

At $190 compared to the $200 you’ll pay for the AirPods with a wireless charging case ($159 without), we also think the Elite Active 65t are a slightly better deal.

Winner: Elite Active 65t

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