The era of wireless earbuds is truly upon us, and as consumers we are certainly spoilt for choice in the market. But which product is worthy of our hard earn cash remains the big question.
At DigitalReviews, we are grateful to Jabra for providing a review unit of the Jabra Elite 65t. Whilst the Jabra Elite 65t is some 18 months old, with the recent announcement of the brand new Elite 75t, DigitalReviews will be looking at both models back to back.
I will be the first to put my hand up and say I have for a long time avoided earbuds. I put it down to my aversion to ill-fitting earbuds of yesteryears where they would refuse to sit well in my ear. In recent times I have largely defaulted to over the ears cans although I am still on a quest for one that is comfortable for me to wear for extended periods.
Unlike Apple’s Airpods which was relentlessly mocked for its close resemblance to a particular feminine hygiene product, the Jabra Elite 65t makes no such faux pas in the design. The Jabra Elite 65t noticeably does not come in white or gloss white, instead it is available in Titanium Black, Copper Black or Gold Beige. In a way they look like little snails, in a very minimalist design which personally I find more appealing than the Apple brethren.
Jabra did not skimp on the packaging either, with a card outer sleeve, a main box that slides out sideways to reveal the two ear pieces nestled in separate plastic beds. It is a premium look for a premium product.
The left ear piece weighs in at 5.8g, and the right one which handles all the Bluetooth connections comes in at 6.5g. They can be a little slippery to handle but once they are in place, they feel remarkably secure.
When you first get started, the Jabra Elite 65t has a voice guidance for setting up your first Bluetooth connection. As expected this was done painlessly and I was able to pair the 65t to both my mobile and my laptop in quick succession. The 65t can maintain two active Bluetooth connections at the same time, and the ability to pair up to eight devices.
The Jabra Elite 65t automatically turns on when they are removed from their charging case, conversely they turn themselves off when put back into the case. It is a nice touch particularly for the forgetful people. The pairing time between removal from case to ready to use is remarkably quick. Generally by the time I have both earbuds in place, I would just catch the message telling me that it is connected.
Jabra provides a free app called Sounds+ available from your respective app store. This is highly recommended as it features a full manual for the device, choice of voice assistant (phone default or Alexa) sound profiles and equaliser amongst other settings. More importantly it allows control of HearThrough and Sidetone which I will cover more in detail later in this article. Firmware updates are also made available via the app.
Being a geek the first thing I did was to check for a firmware update, which took about 20 minutes to download and flash. I am going to chalk the lengthy download time to the absolutely awful network I was on at the time. The app guides you through the process and it recommends to not use the device during the download phase to keep down time to a minimal. The actual firmware upgrade process is done with the ear buds back in its charging case, with the LED pulsing rapidly in purple until the process is completed quite a few minutes later. Despite the time it took, the process was completely painless. With the earbuds running the latest firmware, I was ready to rock.
As mentioned earlier, the left and right earbuds are of slightly different weights. The right earbud houses a single button that can answer and terminate calls, play/pause music, activate your choice of voice assistant or power button by either a short or long press. It is also responsible for all the Bluetooth connections. The left earbud houses a rocker for volume and track control, again either by a short or long press.
The Jabra Elite 65t features 4-microphone technology. The marketing says the MEMS analogue microphones provide a beam-forming direction field, letting in audio from only one direction. In plainspeakese, these are Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (miniaturised mechanical and electro-mechanical elements) with directional pick up to reduce background noise. The microphone tip features a 30 degree curved design with perforations, which according to Jabra is optimised for acoustic performance and wind flow around the microphone tip. Drawing on my background in fluid dynamics, I am going to file that straight into marketing material and say there is some software magic in the background doing some heavy lifting.
Just how well earbuds fit and how secure they are in my ear is always a concern. I was pleased to see that the 65t fits well in my ear and stays there, even through walking, running, talking and (yes it had to be done) eating. There was never a danger of them falling out, or perceived to feel they aren’t seated in place properly. They are rated to last five hours between charges, and it came pretty close to it during one of my many long coding sessions with my colleagues. The sound is crystal clear for voice calls, and it was obvious that I was not talking directly into my phone.
A really handy feature to have while I am immersed in a call (or music) session is the HearThrough function. Jabra utilises the built-in microphones to enable you to pay attention to your surroundings and engage in conversation without the need to remove the 65t. Additionally, Sidetone is the function that enables you to hear your own voice when you are on a call. Both of these features can configured through the Jabra Sounds+ app, either turning it on and off, or controlling the amount of sounds feeding back into the earbuds. HearThrough can be toggled anytime with a double-press of the button on the right earbud, it is a nice thoughtful touch which means you do not have to fumble with the phone and app.
Initially when I first used the 65t, it felt and sounded awkward between the sound isolation, HearThrough and weird level of feedback. I had to play around with the Sidetone feature until it sounded normal to me.
Looking at sound quality, where the Jabra Elite 65t excels at is in the mid-range where vocals lie. With such small drivers, it would be unreasonable to expect much bass. The top end is also lacking and distorts at high volumes. To be fair an audiophile would not be looking at earbuds for their music sessions, therefore the 65t are more than adequate for the market it is aimed for. The Sounds+ app does allow you to adjust the equaliser settings, including separate control for calls independent to music, but there is a limit to what the hardware physically can allow.
As previously mentioned, the 65t is rated for up to 5 hours of battery life, 15 hours in total with the charging case.
With a 500mA USB wall charger, it will take 2 hours to fully charge the case, and a 15 minute rapid charge will provide up to an hour of battery life.
You can use the right earbud solo if the left one is left in the charging case. Taking one earbud out of my ear will automatically pause the audio.
Find my Jabra works by location access permission with the paired phone, storing the last known location for when the 65t is disconnected. Jabra is at pains to point out that only the most recent location data is kept, and only locally on the phone. Interestingly enough, when I was playing around with this, the app found the right earbud at the office I worked of yesterday, and the left earbud is at home where I am writing up the review. It was nice to know that each earbud can be individually tracked, although both of them were actually sitting in front of me.
If the 65t are within Bluetooth range, then the app offers a “locate by sound” option. Despite the volume control offered for this feature, the actual loudness of the locating feature is limited by what the ear pieces can output and I find it to be a bit too soft to be of real value.
The Jabra Elite 65t offers IP55 dust and water resistance, and comes with Assistant and Alexa integration.
There is a lack of passion in the sound if you are a hardcore music lover, otherwise the sound it is perfectly good for what it is.
The charging case lid is a manual clip latch, rather than a magnetic clip. Additionally it is not spring loaded to open fully. It is an aberration in what is otherwise a premium look and feel product. Still on the charging case, while it is lovely to hold a curved unit, it does not sit upright on a desk.
Likewise, there is no magnetic guidance to return the earbuds into the charging case. It is not particularly hard to work out where each one goes and align it, but it would have been a nice touch.
Lastly I would not hold it against the 65t given its age, but I will mention it that is a micro USB charge port and no wireless charging.
The Jabra Elite 65t is designed to be a pocketable pair of headphones that will last most of the day with the help of its charging / storage case. It excels within the vocal range, making their ideal application to voice calls and casual music listening. They are comfortable, discreet and with the HearThrough feature, helps to keep you aware of your surroundings.
These would make for a nice pair of stocking fillers, RRP at AUD$249.00 here. You may find them going cheaper due to the very recent release of the Jabra Elite 75t. DigitalReviews would like to thank Jabra for the on-going support, and stay tuned for a review on the newly launched unit!
Microphone concept: 4 x MEMS
Wind noise protection: 4-mic system, acoustic open chamber design
Ambient noise reduction: 4-mic system
Microphone frequency range: 100 Hz to 10 kHz
Microphone sensitivity: -38 dBV/Pa
Speaker size: 60 x 5.1mm
Speaker frequency range: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
Sound codec: AAC
Wireless range: Up to 10m
Bluetooth pairing list: Up to 8 devices
Multi-connect: 2 devices concurrently
Box content: Jabra Elite 65t, Charging Case, Micro USB cable, 3 sets of silicon eargels, Quick Start Guide
headset weight: Right 6.5g, Left 5.8g, Charging case 67g
Operating temperature: -10C to +55C