Review: Jabra Elite 65t Bluetooth Earbuds
The Elite 65t are Jabra's third-generation fully wireless Bluetooth headphones. The company is taking a slightly new path with this addition to the Elite family. The 65t focuses on improving music and call performance, while bolstering the basics. Do these efforts pay off? Find out in Phone Scoop's review.
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Bluetooth device makers have iterated quickly on truly wireless earbuds over the last two years. Many companies are already on their second or third wave of products and we're finally seeing the performance we expect from these most mobile of audio machines. Truly wireless earbuds offer the benefit of a wire-free music experience, access to smart assistants, and of course support for voice calls.
Jabra is making a bit of a change with its line of earbuds. Where the Elite Sport were a pricey, do-it-all earbud for audiophiles and fitness buffs alike, the Elite 65t focuses more on music and voice quality, while the soon-to-be-available 65t Active will focus on fitness functions. By ditching the jack-of-all-trades approach, Jabra has created a better pair of buds.
The Elite 65t are not a complete rethink of Jabra's previous efforts, but they are different enough in all the right ways. These buds, in black and dark grays, have a business-y, no-nonsense appeal. They look professional, and would be at home in the ears of any suit-clad jetsetter dashing through an airport terminal.
The buds are formed by a hard plastic shell that's smooth in texture. Copper contacts are positioned on the inner surface of the buds. A small stalk protrudes from the inner surface and holds the rubber eartip. A second, short stalk juts out from the outer surface of the buds, resembling a miniature boom mic. Tiny holes on the exterior skin allow the Elite 65t's four mics to listen to the environment.
A round, plastic button forms a large part of the outer surface of both buds. The button on the left bud has two nubs to help you adjust volume and skip tracks. A short press adjusts volume while a long press jumps tracks. Travel and feedback of the entire button is good. The button on the right side handles answering/ending calls, play/pause, and calling up the voice assistant of your choice (Alexa, Assistant, Siri).
The Elite 65t don't feel as robust or strong as last year's Elite Sport, but they are more comfortable to wear for longer periods of time. I enjoyed tunes for hours on end with little ear fatigue. The buds ship with three sets of ear tips, but no supporting ear wings. Don't worry; they'll stay in place as you walk around. They're rated IP55 for protection against sweat. (They can't handle serious rain or accidental dips in the pool.)
Over a week of testing, I found the Elite 65ts to be among the most wearable truly wireless earbuds I've encountered.
The charging case is more compact and rounder in shape than the case for Jabra's Elite Sport buds. This makes it far more comfortable in your pocket. I like the smaller dimensions, but inserting and retrieving the buds is a fussy experience. The microUSB port for charging is on the bottom of the case, along with a tiny multi-color LED that lets you gauge the charging process.
You don't need the Jabra wireless app (available for Android and iOS) to listen to music or make calls, but it is required to access the best features.
To start, it bugs the crap out of me that these headphones necessitate not one, but two apps for Android devices: the Jabra Sound+ app and the Jabra Services app, which is for the buds' firmware.
On Android devices you have to start the Sound+ app first, and only then power on the Elite 65t to get the app and headphones talking to one another properly. If you turn the headphones on before the app, the app doesn't see the headphones and thus can't control them. This is just grating if you encounter it.
On iPhone, you only need the Sound+ app, and it connected to the buds whether you start the app or the buds first.
The app gives you power over the headphones' settings, modes, and more. There are four listening modes: standard, commute, focus, relax. The first is the most flexible and is where you'll find you can adjust the 65t's EQ, voice call performance, and such. I like that the EQ has a set of user-controlled sliders. I was able to find the sound I like with minimal fiddling.
The 65t's provide passive noise isolation due to the design of the earpiece and rubber tips. However, the advanced listening modes allow you to dial-in how much external sound reaches your ears through the buds' built-in mics. Jabra calls it HearThrough.
For example, the "commute" mode delivers HearThrough of 50%, so you don't miss train announcements, etc.. This worked well when I was waiting to board an airplane. The "focus" mode blocks out everything, allowing you to concentrate on what you're doing. When you pause music in this mode, the 65t switches and pumps in all outside sound, so you can hear and talk to people. Last, the "relax" mode simply drowns out everything all the time, even when you pause the music. It's like turning off the world.
All of these modes work really well. In "standard" mode, HearThrough is off and if you skip using the app on your mobile device entirely, the headphones still sound good — you simply lose access to these advanced modes. I like that you can use the Elite 65ts to simply turn off the sound around you, in effect making them a really advanced pair of earplugs.
There are no fitness features in the Sound+ app.
The Elite 65t support Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD and AAC for your high-end Android and Apple devices. I'm happy to say that, other than Apple's AirPods, the Elite 65t are the easiest-to-pair earbuds I've used. Turning them on instantly puts them in pairing mode and every device I tested them with connected immediately and without effort. Range is as good as 30 feet, and connections maintained a drop-free experience while used them. Huzzah. You can pair with up to two devices at a time (such as a phone and a PC), and up to eight devices in total. You cannot listen to two sources at the same time.
The earbuds have a standard frequency response of 20 Hz to 20,000 kHz. I was pleased with how the 65t sounded right out of the box (without the app), but was able to make improvements by tweaking the Sound+ app. These earbuds have 6mm drivers and produce cleaner and brighter sound than older Jabra earbuds. You can find plenty of boom if you prefer. The adjustable EQ is really flexible and lets fans of every genre find the right mix.
The passive noise isolation helps a lot, and the HearThrough experience is a helpful alternative to pulling your earbuds out so you can discern what's going on around you. I was able to block out most of the annoying din on an airplane via the relax mode, as well as maintain situational awareness in the commute mode. These tools are truly helpful, work well, and give the Elite 65t a huge leg-up on the AirPods as far as features go.
Voice calls pushed to the Elite 65t are among the best I've heard on wireless earbuds. You can take advantage of all the listening modes to ensure calls grab all your attention. Calls are crystal clear, and those I spoke to via the Elite 65ts said I sounded very good.
Battery life is best-in-class. The Elite 65t deliver 5 hours of playback time, with a two-charge reserve in the charging case (500mAh). That means you get up to 15 hours in total away from home. The Elite 65t often met or exceeded Jabra's battery life claims no matter the device I connected to or the mode I listened in. Putting the earbuds in the charger for 15 minutes gives you 1.5 hours of music playback. The earbuds and charger together take about 2 hours to charge fully.
Jabra has improved its truly wireless earbud family rapidly. The original Elite Sport and second-generation Elite Sport were very good, but the Elite 65t are next-level buds for music listeners. The 65ts are small, light, and comfortable to wear. The charging case delivers huge battery power in an ultra-compact form. The sound quality is excellent for music and calls alike, and the added modes for controlling the outside environment are easy to master.
The most attractive feature is the price. The Jabra Elite 65t sell for $170, which is just $10 more than Apple's AirPods. For iPhone and Android phone users alike, the Elite 65t are, for now, the best deal in the market.
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