The new $ 170 Jabra Elite 65t headphones are my recommendation for anyone who wants truly wireless headphones other than Apple's AirPod. As good as the AirPods are, there are several things that can be discarded for some people. If you're like me, it's the one-size-fits-all design; my ears are not a good combination, and buying hooks for the aftermarket for a snug and secure fit is a hassle. And then there is the outside noise; The open design of AirPods, while ideal for awareness and safety, means that from time to time you'll find yourself putting the volume to the extreme when you want to drown out the cacophony of urban life. But aside from those difficulties, the AirPods have remained on their own pedestal above the competition for more than a year due to its ease of use, solid connection stability and battery life.
We have tested many AirPod alternatives in the last two years, and most of them fall into the same losses, such as lack of audio, a very noticeable audio / video delay or mediocre sound quality. Not this time. The Jabra Elite 65t headphones show that Apple's leadership is finally shrinking.
The Jabras fit me very well. They sound good. The connection, both for your device and the same headphones, is remarkably well maintained thanks to Bluetooth 5. And they have a long battery life and a compact carrying case. They lack additional features, such as tracking physical activity or language translation offered by Samsung and Bragi headphones, but these headphones have the basics.
On the one hand, they are subtle and seem relatively normal. The gunmetal Elite 65t gray headphones do not come off your ears like Bose's SoundSport Free, and they do not have long stems like AirPods. Both headphones are mostly circular with a microphone area that moves slightly towards the mouth to help them raise their voices. And although I do not use headphones for calls or video conferencing work often, these do the job very well thanks to the two microphones in each headset. Siri and the Google Assistant listened to me loud and clear during the tests. The right earphone can be used only for calls and mono audio, but not the left one.
In your ear, the included silicone tips (three sizes are provided) can offer a good level of noise isolation. I ended up buying some Comply Foam tips for the gym to completely drown out my surroundings and because they never moved when I'm running. But I'll take the advice included in all the other scenarios. Jabra says the Elite 65t headphones have an IP55 water / dust resistance, and the company offers a two-year warranty against damage from those factors. I can tell you that I sweat much more than the average human being, and they have not failed or shut down yet after a month of workouts. My only complaint is that I discovered that the headphones can get a little uncomfortable after an hour or more sitting in their ears, but generally some adjustments and twists are enough to alleviate that.
Do they work as easily as AirPods? Not in terms of configuration. Going through the traditional Bluetooth pairing will never be as great and hassle-free as holding an AirPods enclosure near your iOS device and having it connect instantly. But to start with the Jabras is at least very simple. Open the matte black box, put them in your ears, and a voice will ask you to open the Bluetooth settings on your device and select them. They can pair with two devices simultaneously, which is very useful. I really like the voice comments that these headphones provide; it's not too much robot sound, and there are no nonsense audio tones that get very grater like the ones Jaybird headphones have. More than a few times, the left earphone did not turn on when it was removed from the housing, but fixing it only requires holding the button down for a second and immediately synchronizing.
You play / pause audio by just pressing the right button. Holding it activates your phone's voice assistant. The left earphone has small bumps on each side to control the volume or, when held down, skip the tracks. If you are running outside and need knowledge (or just want to have a conversation), touching the right earphone twice will enable a "HearThrough" transparency mode and channel the audio around it. You can adjust the mix between the environment and the music according to your preferences with the Jabra Sound + mobile application, which is also the place where you will look for firmware updates. Jabra issued two of them in March to improve performance and sound stability.
The connection is reliable and you will rarely find audio faults
The duration of the battery is perfectly satisfactory. The pads last for 5 hours with a charge, just like the AirPods, and the case is valid for two additional charges. I never had a single instance where I wanted to hear something, I took out the headphones and found them too exhausted to do the work. These things do not have the 20-hour marathon battery of full-size Bluetooth headphones, but when you put them back in the case for the buffers, it rarely matters day by day. AirPods are still the best in their class in general, since the case can provide more than 24 hours of total listening before you have to plug it in to recharge it. The Jabra case is loaded on Micro USB, which is disappointing. Bluetooth 5 and USB-C seem a natural pair, but no. Also, the case may be difficult to open with one hand at first, but after a week or two I discovered that the tension was level and that it was neither too loose nor tight.
Before the sound quality arrives, I want to emphasize the excellent connection reliability of these Elite 65t headphones. While other truly wireless headsets have routinely experienced stuttering, jumping and disconnecting on busy streets, those annoyances were incredibly rare with the Jabras. They worked impeccably at the intersections that would cause other headsets to fall in a desertion attack and cause me to get them out of frustration. The only environment where I dealt with notable audio problems was on subway trains, where some kind of interference seemed to weaken the reliable playback that I heard everywhere. But the latest firmware update has helped underground stability. I tried Elite 65ts with my iPhone X, MacBook Pro (2014) and Pixel 2.
With Elite 65ts, I finally feel that the performance is on par with (or better than) the standard Bluetooth headset. Other truly wireless headphones have been less stable, especially for the price of $ 200 or $ 300 for which they are generally sold. There is no penalty or sacrifice to go truly wireless with the Jabras, which I can not say about the competition. Apple's AirPods have never been loaded with this nonsense of bad connection, so it's good to finally hear the progress. Bluetooth 5 should play an important role; just remember that your phone must also have it to get all its benefits.
I'm very happy with the way these headphones sound. I have been constantly listening to Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour for the past few weeks, and it has proven to be a good audio test. The Jabras do a good job distributing the acoustic guitars, the banjos, the silky voices and the harmonies in "Wonder Woman" between the left and right channels. The sound landscape is not as wide or expansive as audiophile grade headphones, but for now it seems to be a universal limitation of truly wireless headphones; AirPods are not better. I do not feel that I am missing much.
They are not audiophile, but they sound better than good
"Make Me Feel" by Janelle Monáe is a great example of the Elite 65t playing to her strengths; powerful bass and a bright and brilliant treble. The media can sometimes seem a little deficient, but that varies according to the track. The Jabra app lets you customize the overall EQ, and those changes stick to the headphones when you pair them with other devices. But I have not deviated from the factory profile, and the headphones have never been fatigued to listen. When watching videos on my phone or laptop, the Jabras exhibited a very minimal audio delay. And just like AirPods, you can remove any of the headphones to temporarily pause what's playing until you replace it.
Other companies have been placing the cart in front of the horse and adding additional tricks (such as tracking fitness) before marking the essentials: connection stability and decent sound. That's what the AirPods got from the beginning. The Jabras can not match all aspects of that "magic", and there is nothing particularly unique about them, but the Elite 65t headphones are very good at what they are designed to do. They are being released, they are reliable and they are a very necessary point of reference for this category of products. These are the new default recommendations if AirPods do not work for you.
Incredibly stable connection
Nice sound with good bass
Two-year guarantee against sweat / dust
Sometimes you feel uncomfortable during prolonged listening
Does not include foam tips
You will need a recent phone to get the best performance
Possible problems of quality control with some units
Vox Media has affiliated associations. These do not influence the editorial content, although Vox Media can earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.