Review: Jabra Elite Active 65t Wireless Ear Buds
Jabra Elite Active 65t
The Elite Active 65t are part of Jabra's third generation of fully wireless Bluetooth headphones. The Active 65t focus on providing a solid music experience while also supporting your lightweight workouts. Are Jabra's Elite Active 65t the walking, hiking, and running companion you need?
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Editor's Note: Because the Elite 65t and Active 65t are so similar, portions of this review have been carried over from our earlier review of the Elite 65t. Rest assured, we full tested and reviewed the Active 65t from the ground up to ensure they perform as advertised.
Fully wireless earbuds offer the benefit of a truly cord-free music experience, access to smart assistants, and of course support for voice calls.
Jabra announced a change in its strategy for fully wireless Bluetooth headphones earlier this year. Where its 2017 Elite Sport were an expensive, do-it-all earbud for audiophiles and hardcore fitness buffs alike, the 65t focused more on music and voice, while the newly available Active 65t focuses on music and fitness.
By veering away from the jack-of-all-trades approach of the Elite Sport, Jabra has created two better pairs of buds.
The Elite Active 65t are the exact same size and shape as the 65t, but swap out the materials, finishes, and colors. The buds are dark blue with copper-ish accents. They look a bit more sporty / less businessy than the 65t.
The buds are formed by a hard plastic shell that has a soft touch finish to it. The material provides a bit more grip than the smooth plastics of the regular 65t, though I wouldn't call the Active more rugged or durable. Copper contacts are positioned on the inner surface of the buds. A short stalk juts out from the outer surface of the buds, resembling a miniature boom mic. Tiny holes allow the Elite Active 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 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 Active 65t are the most comfortable wireless earbuds I've worn — even more so than the standard 65t. I experienced no ear fatigue or soreness even after 5 hours of continuous listening. 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. The soft touch material gives them more staying power than the regular 65t. Moreover, the Active 65t jumps to an IP56 rating (up from the 65t's IP55) for a more protection from sweat and rain. I wore them one warm afternoon while doing yard work and they handled perspiration without issue.
The charging case for the Active 65t is identical to that of the regular 65t, though the texture has been swapped from a glossy black for a matte finish. I like the compact dimensions and rounded shape. This makes it comfortable in your pocket. Inserting and retrieving the buds remains 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 workout features of the Active 65t.
Using the Active 65t with Android devices requires more patience than with iOS devices. You have to start the Sound+ app first, and only then power on the Active 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. You'll also need to download and install the Jabra Services app, a utility.
On iPhone, you only need the Sound+ app, and it connected to the buds whether you start the app or the buds first.
The Sound+ app gives you control over the headphones' settings and modes. There are five listening modes: standard, commute, focus, relax, and active. The first is the most flexible and where you can adjust the Active 65t's EQ, voice call performance, and such. I like that the EQ has a set of sliders for fine control. I was able to dial in my prefered sound quickly and easily.
The Active 65ts provide passive noise isolation due to the design of the earpiece and rubber tips. The advanced listening modes allow you to dial-in how much external sound is piped into your ears from the buds' built-in mics. Jabra calls it HearThrough.
For example, the "commute" mode delivers HearThrough of 50%, so you don't miss public announcements. This worked well when I was at the Port Authority bus station. The "focus" mode blocks out everything, allowing you to concentrate on what you're doing. When you pause music in this mode, the Active 65t switches and pumps in all outside sound, so you can hear and talk to people. The "relax" mode simply drowns out everything all the time, even when you pause the music. It's like turning off the world.
The "active" listening mode is unique to the Active 65t. The Active 65t include a motion sensor that can track your movement. Paired with the app, it can count steps during walks, hikes, or jogs, and several other low-impact exercises. If you want serious, dedicated workout tools, you'll need to upgrade to the Elite Sport. The Active 65t is intended more for simpler activity tracking. The active listening mode also turns on the HearThrough feature so you can remain aware of your surroundings while you exercise.
All of the modes work well.
Importantly, if you skip using the app on your mobile device entirely, the headphones still sound good — you simply lose access to these advanced listening tools.
The Active 65t have the exact same specs and performance as the regular 65t. They support Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD and AAC for your high-end Android and Apple devices.
Turning them on puts them in pairing mode. I didn't encounter any glitches when pairing/connecting them to a variety of phones. Range is as good as 33 feet, and connections maintained a drop-free experience during testing. You can pair with up to two devices at a time (such as a phone and a PC), but you cannot listen to two sources at the same time. The Active 65t can remember up to eight devices in total.
The Active 65t have a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, which is typical. The buds have 6mm drivers and produce clean and bright music. I was happy with how the Active 65t sounded right out of the box (without the app), though I preferred the sound I got after spending a few moments with the Sound+ app. 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 noise from my lawnmower via the relax mode, as well as maintain situational awareness while on the bus in commute mode. These tools are truly helpful, work well, and give the Active 65t a huge leg-up on the AirPods as far as features go.
Voice calls on the Elite Active 65t are not quite as clear as on the standard 65t. They are still very good, but stop shy of being excellent. Voices had a bit of a muffled sound and I experienced some choppy distortion during several calls.
Battery life is best-in-class. The Active 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 Active 65t often met or exceeded Jabra's battery life claims. 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.
The Jabra Elite Active 65t aren't all that different from the Elite 65t, but they do stand out for the right reasons.
Chiefly, they trade call quality for workout features. The Active 65t have a better fit than the 65t, better water/sweat proofing, and offer walking and running tools not available to the 65t. Music quality, battery life, and wireless performance are among the best available at this price point. Toss in the advanced environmental sound controls and you have a powerful set of earbuds for those who like to count their steps.
Jabra has set the bar with the Active 65t. At $190, they are $40 more than the 65t and $30 more than Apple's popular AirPods. Given their better fit, excellent music quality, best-in-class battery life, and better list of features, the Active 65t are some of the best wireless ear buds for the money.
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