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Jabra Elite 65t review: My best buds

Jabra Elite 65t
(Image: © Daniel Bader / Android Central)

To say the AirPods were the first truly wireless earbuds would be a lie, but they're the ones that put the category on the map. Since then, nearly every headphone maker has tried its hand at outdoing the market leader.

It took a couple years, but we're finally reached that moment. In early 2018, Jabra released the Elite 65t truly wireless headphones, and over the past few months I've come to understand why so many people say they're best-in-class.

The Good

  • Great sound for truly wireless earbuds
  • Intuitive controls that make sense for the size
  • A great app that's actually useful
  • Decent battery life
  • A case that's pocketable

The Bad

  • Micro-USB charging
  • Minor latency issues with video
  • Could be a bit too expensive for some

Here's the thing about this kind of headphone: because of its design, it's inevitably space-constrained. There just isn't the room for a large battery or massive drivers or, most of the time, tactile controls.

Many of the earliest truly wireless earbuds sacrificed battery life for functionality, relying on the charging case to do most of the heavy lifting. It also meant that many of these early models have enormous cases, too big to fit in a pocket. To me, that completely negates the usefulness of this compromise; there's no freedom in having to lug around a charging case in a bag or stuff it uncomfortably into a jacket or pants pocket for the inevitable short-term top-up.

Very few companies have done the charging case well; Apple with the AirPods; Samsung with the second-generation Icon X; a few others. Jabra, thankfully, gets most of it right. The rest is bonus.

Jabra Elite 65t What I like

Let's start with the sound quality: for truly wireless earbuds, it's very good. Part of the praise goes to the design. Unless the tube shape of the AirPods, Jabra's take is a little more rounded, with a minor "Bluetooth headset" protrusion that puts the noise-canceling microphones nearer one's mouth. Once inserted in the ear — the box comes with three silicone tip sizes — there's a tremendous amount of passive isolation, which ensures a most robust bass response than your typical earbuds.

These earbuds sound like decent headphones, which is high praise for this category.

If you're looking for a neutral frequency response you should look elsewhere. These are tuned for easy listening, with an over-emphasis on the low-end and a suppression of the highs, which all but eliminates the brightness commonly found in genres like classical and jazz. Conversely, they sound great for compressed streams of thumping hip-hop or droning EDM, or for podcasts, which I spent most of my time listening to with one just bud in my ear. That flexibility is why I enjoy using products like this — when the one earbud goes empty, you just swap it out and pop the depleted one back in the battery case.

Speaking of the case, Jabra's done a pretty good job with it. Firstly, it's compact — not quite container of floss-sized, but not noticeable in a pocket. There are no buttons on the case itself, since the earbuds have a large control panel on their outer shell for pairing, play/pause, and all the other requisite commands one would expect. The buds nestle beautifully inside the case, which opens by squeezing the sizes. I worry that a nasty drop could snap the case's top, but I haven't experienced any major incidents yet, and I'm holding out hope for a long future together.

Getting back to the controls, each bud takes on a different task: the right side dons power, play/pause, and pairing. The left size controls volume and track-skipping. That Jabra was able to make these feel intuitive and reliable is a testament to their engineering team, because these are among the best I've used on any headphone, especially one this size.

It's a small thing, but the elegant controls — that aren't gesture-based — make a huge difference in how pleasant these are to wear.

Another elegant solution to a common problem is Jabra's "HearThrough" feature, which by double-pressing the right earbud fashions the built-in microphones as a sound passthrough of sorts. We've seen this on other products before — Sony's 1000X series lets you hold your hand over the right cup to temporarily do the same thing — and Jabra nails it here. Good thing, too, because otherwise, I'd be removing the earbud on a regular basis just to have a conversation — the passive isolation is that good (or bad, depending on your needs).

HearThrough also activates automatically when receiving a phone call, which makes the experience sound a bit more natural than it would otherwise. Except for really windy days, the person on the other end of the line told me I sounded clear, crisp, and free of major sibilance — always a bonus. Conversely, I enjoyed using the 65ts for talking on the phone, as they proved comfortable to wear for long periods.

Long-pressing the right earbud's single button also activates the assigned smart assistant, which depending on your platform can be Google Assistant or Siri. Or Alexa. See, the Elite 65ts are one of the first standalone earbuds to work with Amazon's turnkey Alexa integration kit, which taps directly into the company's cloud platform if there's an active internet connection. For the most part, it works well, and has been improved considerably through firmware updates since Jabra released these headphones in early 2018, but Alexa is still nothing like Assistant, and if you're on an Android device you should probably avoid it. Still, it's nice to have.

All three major voice assistants are available, depending on your preference.

Selecting a default voice assistant, along with other granular settings, can be done through the excellent Jabra Sound+ app. In there you can configure one of three "states" — "Default," "Commute," and "Focus." This allows you to set up independent equalization settings for three distinct settings — more bass for that louder commute, for instance — along with whether HearThrough is active by default. The Focus mode even offers one of twelve white noise streams, including "pink noise," "ocean waves," and "perfect storm."

Finally, at five hours per charge and an additional 10 hours in the case, battery life isn't fantastic but it's fine. Until we get a sea change in Bluetooth power efficiency, we're unlikely to see truly wireless earbuds of moderate size with uptimes above seven or eight hours, and given its portability, I'm pretty happy with 15 hours in my pocket.

Jabra Elite 65t What I don't like

Speaking of charging, that's one of the few downsides to this product. The case charges via Micro-USB which, after coming from the great OnePlus Bullets Wireless and pretty-good-but-not-amazing Samsung Icon X (2018), which both charge using USB-C, needing to be particular about the direction in which I plug in my cable is a bit tiresome. It's a minor blemish on an otherwise unassailable product, but it's still worth mentioning.

And the case itself, while still quite portable, isn't the tiny, magnetic-latching engineering achievement of the AirPods. It's all plastic, a little creaky, and the earbuds have to be placed just so to hit the charging pins.

Micro-USB charging was problematic when these were released a year ago. Now it just feels insulting.

And as with most truly wireless headphones, the Elite 65ts have a slight audio latency discrepancy between what's shown on screen and what you hear in your ears. It's nowhere near as bad as, say, Jaybird's Run headphones, but due to how the earbuds are designed — the right bud connects to the phone, and the left bud relays its message through the right — dialogue and other sound effects are slightly out of sync. It's only really pronounced when watching something with lots of dialogue, but these earbuds wouldn't by first choice to watch The Godfather while sitting on a plane.

Then there's the price. At $160 you can also buy a pair of AirPods, which are inferior in almost every way, but I expect most people to do just that. The Elite 65ts did fall to $120 during Black Friday, and since they're coming up on their first birthday (and are liable to be updated in the coming months) I'd expect a permanent price drop sometime soon. And while I'd easily recommend these at full price, they attract a lot more attention at $120.

So should you buy them? Without hesitation

I have been a proponent of using AirPods with Android phones since Apple's white tubes were released in late 2016. They sounded like garbage but were so reliable and so convenient it almost didn't matter. Well, with the Jabra Elite 65ts, I've found a pair of truly wireless earbuds with all of the AirPods' conveniences and none of its aural flaws.

4.5 out of 5

If you've been looking for a pair of truly wireless earbuds that don't look like protruding white ear tubes and actually sound like a decent pair of headphones, Jabra's got your back. Or, I guess, your lobes.

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Daniel Bader was a former Android Central Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor for iMore and Windows Central. 

33 Comments
  • The buds have to be placed just so in the case to charge. So what are the chances of not getting them in correctly and then not noticing? Same with them getting knocked out of charging position while in the case? Do they also auto connect to your device when taken out of the case like the airpods?
  • There's no problem with placement for charging. The magnets align them. Yes they autoconnect when taking out of the case.
  • They connect when taken out, and disconnect when put back in the case.
    No alignment magnets but the slot are precisely shaped for each bud so it sits in place perfectly. No chance getting it wrong.
  • I have not seen an alignment problem. With the lid open, they may not line up properly. When placing each into its respective hole, the red LED on each bud will briefly flash indicating that it made contact with the charging pins. What is being missed here in the comments is the lid. The lid forces the buds to align if they already have not as there is an impression of the shape in the lid itself. So you can't put them in wrong because the lid will either nudge them into place or will simply not close.
  • It came down to these or the Bose, went with the Bose since I could use points to get them. Sound great but the elite have a better look.
  • The Bose sound good but they stick to far out your ear, and I have small ears.
  • Have you used the Momentum True Wireless headphones? Curious how you think they compare, if so.
  • I purchased mine and have had them for 7 months. They are pretty good. Definitely better than the ones by Bragi (The Headphone) that I had for over a year and a half. Which by the way, the left earbud failed 4 months ago. One advantage that the Bragi brand has over Jabra is that you can use the earbuds individually from one another. So I was able to use the Bragi right ear earbud which I find extremely helpful even with pass-through technology. According to CNET, there are a ton of new wireless earbuds coming out this year. I'm very excited about the possibilities.
  • Can't you use these one earbud at a time? The review specifically calls that out. I had them for a while but didn't think they were worth the price. I also had a pair of Enacfire buds I got from Amazon for 50 bucks that sounded much better. They don't have the extras the Jabras do but when it comes to sound they were superior. I was expecting a lot when I got the Jabras but came away unimpressed. I am hopeful Gen2 will be better.
  • Yes, the right is the Bluetooth connection to the phone. The right can be used alone without the left.
  • "...for podcasts, which I spent most of my time listening to with one just bud in my ear. That flexibility is why I enjoy using products like this — when the one earbud goes empty, you just swap it out and pop the depleted one back in the battery case." To me, that sounds like he used both in single mode... ?
  • Yes get them, they are awesome.
  • I've had elite active 65t's since last July. Last week, after 6 months of use, I took advantage of the warranty I purchased and exchanged them for a new pair. First the good: I love love love the sound. Before the Jabras I was using Audio Technica ATH-M50x headphones which I also love. To my ears, there was no drop off in sound quality. I liked their sound right out of the box and never found a need to use the in-app equalizer. Also, they have great great stereo separation. I especially enjoy them with songs that make heavy use of reverb. If you have a chance to give them a preview, I'll recommend you give "4 AM (Fauns remix)" by Power Glove a listen. I primarily use them on my subway commute in NYC and the sound isolation is as good an any previous IEM I've ever used. The battery life is just fine for me. Given a 50-60 minute commute both ways, I can typically go a week before needing to charge the case. Micros USB is a non-issue for me. The bad: Interference. The first pair I had suffered terribly from interference. I couldn't keep my phone in my pants pocket without the sound breaking up terribly. Connectivity: The earphones are supposed to automatically turn off when you put them in the case. My first pair would turn on in the case and connect to my phone. A number of times I was confused as to why my music or podcast suddenly stopped, only to discover that it hadn't. The earphones had connected and took over the stream. Headset: The original pair weren't very good for phone conversations. Everyone I spoke to had a difficult time hearing me. It was only a few times that I used them in this capacity and each time I was outdoors. The earbuds may have been too good at picking up street noise. Since I've exchanged them, these issues have been largely resolved. Interference is far less frequent. I can still cause it at times if I cover my phone with my hand while it's in my pocket. However, for the most part, the stream is uninterrupted. The new pair seem to fit a little more snugly in their case. They no longer turn on while in their case and they quickly reconnect to my phone when I take them out. I haven't tried to have a phone conversation with the new pair outdoors yet, however indoors they were just fine. Also I should note that the video lag is there but it's fairly small. I've only noticed when I paid close attention. My first pair I bought as soon as they were available. So it's possible that I just got a bad pair. It's also been only a week since I got the new pair. So it's also possible that these same problems may crop up again. The problems I described didn't occur right away. They developed a few weeks after a purchased the original pair. They're expensive but for the sound quality I can say I'm satisfied for the price. Buyer beware though. If any issues crop up you should return them asap. I took my time exchanging them because the extended protection was good for two years. But in retrospect, I paid $40 extra for a working pair of earbuds. On top of that I purchased the extra protection again because of my experience with the first. My hope is that within two years, another pair of earbuds come out that are as good or better for $80 less so I can exchange and break even.
  • I also got the elite active 65t and I can say I don't have any issues aside from connectivity but only when there's strong interference like a magnet or something. I commute everyday and I live in NYC. I absolutely love them as my first pair of true wireless earbuds. I use it with a Google Pixel 3 XL.
  • These are great earbuds. I love mine!
  • I wonder, do you live in a densely populated area? Have you worn these as you walk through crosswalks? I have had awful experiences with bluetooth in NYC. Especially as I cross streets in Manhattan and walk through parks. The audio skips and gets chopped up, it's almost unusable. I have also found that when my phone's in my pocket, or I'm wearing a jacket, bluetooth is also nearly useless. Between the parks, crosswalks and jackets, bluetooth seems like a no-go in NYC. I'd love to get a pair of wireless pods, but not if I'm going to plunk down 100+, just to be driven crazy.
  • I have had these buds since they were available in the UK. My first pair had to get warranty replaced when the case just stopped working/charging (and your description of creaky is spot on). Testing with my buds in my friend's case worked fine so I sent mine off - for almost 2 months.
    Worse though, and this still affects the replacements: terrible microphone quality.
    You mention only on windy days... I wish!.. I find that I can't use it anywhere near other people speaking.
    The useless support from Jabra suggest turning of hear through, which doesn't help one bit.
    The fact their next planned release will have an additional microphone is perhaps an indication they plan to do some noise cancelling? Training on your voice and filtering out external sound would be a sensible move.
  • I work for a cellular carrier and for Black Friday we had these on a promotion we were sold out but most of them got returned for bat audio and uncomfortable in the ear.
  • A reminder to do a firmware upgrade using the jabra app on your phone. Before I did the update the buds were horrible. After the upgrade it was money well spent
  • I love these. My only issue is that you can only use the right ear bud independently.
  • I've had the active version of these for about 7 months and love them. Work and sound great. Stay in place running and mountain biking.
  • After trying the AirPods (I have an iPhone, they just didn't sit as well for me in the ear), I still had an itch to try these. Thanks for reaffirming the desire to try these. They seem like the best fit for me since I really want them for phone calls.
  • I've got a pair of these and love them. Worth it.
  • I've had these since launch as well, they are significantly better than air pods for one key reason - they fit more ears. the ability to have them fit different shape/size of ears is a flaw in Apple's design that will always make them dead to me. The second reason I love these is that the phone call sound is great. I take conference calls all day and have never had an issue with people saying they can;t hear me or anything along those lines due to the headset. Lastly the ability to pair ot multiple devices and swap play flawlessly between them is great. It is just like the Bose effect, I use my QC35s for flying and I can swap from Tablet to phone as fast as I stop a song and start a movie on the other device. these run the same way. I highly recommend these. I will not be needing to upgrade on these until they offer USBC charging, and longer battery(Ear buds and case)
  • I use these everyday. They connect quickly, the sound is very good for wireless buds, they are comfortable to wear and charge quickly and easily in the case. There are deals to be had on these as well. With a little patience you can get them on sale and they are well worth it, in my opinion.
  • Thanks for your comment, it helps. I have been sitting on making the purchase for a few weeks now but I think I'll try to wait for a sale.
  • « At $160 you can also buy a pair of AirPods, which are inferior in almost every way, but I expect most people to do just that » They actually are not, even considering your own review : better case and better latency... And the sound is not bad at all, except it’s lacking noise cancellation
    It seems they are inferior just because made by Apple
  • I'm surprised no one else here has complained about the lousy fit. I am quite pis-ed off as I only used these 4 times during the first 3 weeks I owned it and, today, when one earbud fell out for the third time since I owned it, it was lost forever. $170 just went down the drain. I had tried all 3 ear gels and none gave me a solid fit. Also, the surface of the buds is very slippery which made it hard place them in my ear canal.
  • Did you know to rotate the earbud about a quarter of a turn to get the proper fit?
  • Curious as to why you are re-releasing this old review on the 65t buds when the updated 75t buds have just been released (Nov 1st).
  • Video latency is a big problem. So was the tinny sound. Took mine back in three days. If you are interested, definitely try to get the best fit. But for me it was ultimately the tinny sound that sent me back to Bose.
  • I got these buds and the audio worked fine for 2 months. I am now in the process of getting a replacement set from Jabra since they have begun cutting out and having static. The pass through audio has never worked on my set.
  • In case you want to adjust the article, "Unless the tube shape of the AirPods..." probably should read "Unlike the tube shape of the AirPods". :-)