The Elite 65t true wireless earphones redefined Jabra, a Danish company known more for professional and speciality audio equipment like hearing aids and teleconferencing tools. It also redefined the entire wireless audio industry – and here’s why.
First, a quick history lesson. With the elimination of the headphone jack on the iPhone 7, Apple trailblazed a path toward wireless audio despite widespread controversy. But soon, almost every other smartphone (and tablet) manufacturer followed suit. And then the with the AirPods, they ushered in a whole new standard in fully-wireless earphone technology, and every other audio brand raced to offer wireless products that could past muster.
Many failed, but Jabra’s Elite 65t not ideal. Sleek, pocketable, and great-sounding, the Jabra Elite 65t quickly became a crowd favourite amongst both Android and iPhone users alike. My point of this preamble – it’s difficult to get a good understanding of the SGD 298 Jabra Elite Active 65t without constantly invoking comparisons with the Apple AirPods (SGD 238).
Against the Elite 65t, the Jabra Elite Active 65t differs only in terms of colour variants and IP rating: IP56 instead of IP55. With the appropriate nomenclature, the Active-branded option offers added protection against water ingress, especially perspiration according to Jabra.
Unboxing and First Impressions
The Jabra Elite Active 65t is dressed to impress. The unboxing experience befits its price point – a box within a box slides out to reveal the charging case and earbuds themselves. Inlaid in a solid soft-touch material very much like the plastic on the actual earphones themselves, it definitely doesn’t feel cheap.
In the box, you find two additional pairs of SpinFit-branded ear tips – one larger and one smaller than the ones already mounted on the earphones. It also comes with a short USB-A to Micro USB cable. That’s right, Micro USB.
The case and earphones exude a premium feel with a satin finish and decidedly professional-friendly colours.
Form and Ergonomics
Let’s start with the charging case. It’s much, much smaller than the competition, but is still a tad bigger than that of the AirPods.
That can seem like a small issue, but get this: the AirPods barely fit in the change pocket in my jeans (Is that what it’s for? We’ll never know), while the Jabra has to be content with regular ol’ pockets.
Now, for me, that means the difference between getting scuffed up with my keys or my public transit card which already are the permanent residents in either pocket.
That’s a problem that really might affect a tiny fraction of the population, but there’s a bigger issue. The case itself really is particularly flimsy, with significant give on the lid presumably designed to secure the case. That’s especially noticeable compared to the metal hinge on the AirPods that help the much more rigid case pop open and close magnetically with a satisfying snap.
But that seems to be the only issue. I’ve got decidedly regular ears and the Jabra Elite Active 65t fits just right with the medium ear tip. with the microphone protrusions, popping the case open and throwing the earphones correctly is also very intuitive.
Now’s probably a great time to reiterate the great, great, great design of these iconic earbuds.
I’m very glad the folks at Jabra decided to hook me up with the Copper Blue version of the Elite Active 65t. It also comes in Black Titanium and Copper Red. The IP55 Elite 65t variant comes in Gold Beige and Copper Black.
For sports, the lightweight earbuds stayed securely in my ears throughout my 10km runs, and I had no issues with sweat at all – no ingress, no slipping, no blockage.
The earbuds have a single button on either side. The right controls play/pause, and summons the voice assistant with a long press. On the left, the button can be depressed on either the top and bottom – once for volume change, and a long press on the top for next, long press on the bottom for the previous track.
Sensors automatically pause music when either channel is removed, and resumes it as soon as it is reinserted.
The Elite Active 65t boasts 5 hours of battery life, with an additional 15 with the case. For comparison, the AirPods deliver 5 hours, with an extra 20 with the case. Personal testing reproduced around the same results.
With its in-ear design, the Jabra Elite Active 65t offers superb noise isolation. I enjoy in-ear monitors, but am sensitive to fit. The Jabra excels at this with its well-balanced design preventing any sagging or tilting that can be uncomfortable or even lead to the earphones loosening over time. This works perfectly with the included SpinFit ear tips.
The ear tips themselves do not intrude too deeply into the ear to cause irritation, while being deep enough to be secure.
This isolation is likely responsible for its great sound. Bass is deep, powerful and extends beautifully downwards. Daft Punk’s Get Lucky kicks off with deep, rumbling bass with convincing pizzicato.
It’s hard to find quibbles even on classics like Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven and Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me To The Moon. However, in response to sentiments that the Jabra Elite 65t lacks character – Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car is full of warmth and clarity, and Jamie XX’s I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) thumps with rhythm and energy.
If it lacks anything, the Jabra Elite 65t lacks volume. In noisy cafes, I found myself sometimes wishing the earbuds had a little more power to help with focus.
The Jabra Elite Active 65t does all-round duty at a competitive price point to Apple’s AirPods. That makes it an irresistible alternative for those who require a little more noise isolation, or simply prefer not having two prominent white sticks dangle from one’s earlobes.
There are several drawbacks. The lid on the case has significant give, and requires a two-handed grip to open. The case itself is a little larger than the AirPods, which can deter those who demand the ultimate in terms of compactness.
The battery life is also slightly under par, although I found little issue with longevity. I did, however, find it slightly annoying to have to bring along an extra Micro USB cable on my overseas trips.
At SGD 298, the Jabra Elite Active 65t goes straight for the throat of the indomitable AirPods, and has come away undefeated – but not exactly triumphant. The real decision rests upon the subtle yet marked differences between the prominent options.
Nonetheless, for non-iOS users, the Jabra Elite Active 65t remains the gold standard in true wireless audio by a long shot. For a more budget-friendly option, the non-Active-branded Jabra Elite 65t with slightly lower IP55 rating comes in at SGD 268.