We reviewed the Jabra Elite Sport, the company’s first stab at true wireless earphones, about a year ago, and they fared well. Now Jabra brings us the Elite Active 65t, and they’re a somewhat different beast. Where the Elite Sport are geared toward intense training, the $189.99 Elite Active 65t earphones skip the heart rate monitor, but feature better battery life. Sonically, these are powerful, bass-forward in-ears that can be tuned to your tastes using the five-band customizable EQ. The fit is secure, and the water-resistant design will hold up during sweaty workouts, making them a solid choice for casual gym goers.
The Elite Active 65t earpieces are matte black, with tips that, when twisted into the ear, keep the lightweight pieces firmly, securely in place. These are among the more secure-feeling true wireless pairs we’ve tested, and should definitely hold in place during exercise. They ship with three pairs of silicone eartips in various sizes.
On the right earpiece, the outer panel’s circular button controls playback, voice assistance, and call management. The left earpiece’s outer button can be tapped on one side for volume up, and the other for volume down—and held in longer for skipping tracks. The earphones will auto-pause when an earpiece is removed.
The charging case is black, small, and pocket-friendly. It has a flip-top design that’s sometimes difficult to open, and a micro USB port on its rear panel—the included USB charging cable, which is quite short, connects here. Inside, the earpieces snap into place and charge, with LEDs showing you when they’re successfully docked, as well acting as battery life status indicators.
Pairing the earphones for the first time is easy, and even better, the earphones power up automatically when removed from the case. They’ll auto-pair with your phone once the pairing process has happened once, assuming your phone is in range. However, once or twice, we found that only one earpiece connected, which is pretty annoying. The solution is to put both earpieces in the charging case and essentially reboot them (or try rebooting your phone, or try deleting the product name from the Bluetooth menu and then restarting the process anew). It’s a glitch that will hopefully be fixed in a software update.
The earphones have a rating of IP56. The 5 means they protected against dust, and the 6 means they can withstand high-pressure water jets and spray from any direction. That means they can withstand a workout in the rain, and even being rinsed off regularly.
The mic offers mediocre intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, we could understand every word we recorded, but there were audio artifacts, like fuzzy distortion, as is common with Bluetooth in-ear mics.
There are few apps for headphones that we really love, but the Jabra Sound+ app is pretty solid. It’s free, and includes a user-adjustable EQ, as well as an ambient Hear-Through mode, and a pink noise option for when you wish to concentrate (or an ocean wave loop, if that’s your thing). Of course, you needn’t use the app at all, but it’s refreshing to see one that gracefully adds in features that are useful. Where the Elite Sport has a heart rate monitor and a VO2 monitor, the Elite Active 65t dials things back a bit—but there’s still a motion sensor, which works with the Jabra app to count your steps.
Jabra claims the earphones get about five hours per charge, and that (believe it or not) puts them in the top tier of true wireless options. But it’s also worth noting that Jabra says the Elite Active 65t get five hours of talk time, not five hours of music playback. If you play your music loudly, you are unlikely to hit five hours, in other words. The charging case holds another two full charges, and the earphones charge quite quickly—15 minutes of charging can net up to 1.5 hours of battery life.
We tested the Elite Active 65t with the EQ off, but rest assured, the EQ in the app works well and can be helpful if you want to dial the bass up or down a bit. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the drivers deliver powerful low frequency thump that should appeal to bass lovers and those who get a little extra motivation from deep lows. The highs are fairly well sculpted here, too, so despite the pumped up bass, there’s a sense of balance, just not accuracy.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the Elite Active 65t’s general sound signature. The drums on this track get a solid bass depth without sounding overly thunderous or unnatural. Callahan’s baritone vocals also get a rich low-mid presence that is well balanced by the high mids, lending it some treble edge and contour. The acoustic guitar strums benefit from some sculpted high-mid presence, and the higher register percussive hits also sound bright and airy. This is certainly a sculpted sound signature, top to bottom, but the balance works.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church In the Wild,” the kick drum lop receives enough high-mid presence to retain its punchy attack and cut through the mix, while the highs are boosted enough to bring the vinyl crackle, which is usually relegated to background status, forward a bit in the mix. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with power, and that can get even more intense if you want to play with the EQ in the app. The vocals on this track are delivered cleanly and clearly, without much added sibilance, despite all the sculpting in the high-mids and highs.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, get some extra bass presence, which will appeal to some, but not to purists looking for a flatter response. The result is the lower register instrumentation being pushed forward slightly in the mix, but not to a level that overwhelms the bright, crisp presence of the higher register brass, strings, and vocals.
You have to hand it to Jabra—the company has invested in an app that works with multiple models of its headphones, and it’s the rare case in which the app actually improves the user experience to a notable degree. In the case of the Jabra Elite Active 65t, it’ll count your steps, allow you to hear your environment or listen to relaxing sound loops, and most importantly, adjust the sound signature to your liking using the customizable five-band EQ. Throw in the water-resistant design and secure fit, and the already-solid audio performance, and there’s very little not to like about the Jabra Elite Active 65t.
As for the true wireless as a category, it’s starting to feel a bit more mature and like less of an early adopter realm. We’re also fans of the Bose SoundSport Free, the JLab Epic Air, the Jaybird Run, and the less expensive Altec Lansing True Evo. But Jabra’s Elite Active 65t rank right up there with these winners. If you’re looking for true wireless earphones for exercise, they’re among the best available.