The Jabra Elite Active 65T earbuds are perfect for working out in. Some of our favorite earbuds, such as the Sony WF-1000XM3s, pose a problem to the habitual gym frequenter because they haven’t been built with human perspiration in mind - in other words, they lack an IP rating. This is not a problem for the Jabra Elite Active 65Ts, whose IP55 rating means they resist both water and dust intrusion. You might not be able to take them swimming, but for non-pool-based sports (which is most of them - we checked) these are up there with the best headphones you can buy.
Of course, while you’re pounding away at the bench press and extending your quads, or whatever it is people do in gyms, you’ll want decent sound quality, and noise-cancelling to drown out the grunting of whoever’s at the neighboring weight bench, and the Jabra Elite Active 65Ts deliver.
Jabra Elite Active 65T review: Design
The default choice for true wireless earbuds has become the Apple Earpods, with their distinctive white finish and long descending stems. It doesn’t have to be this way, as the Sony WF-1000XM3s prove, and the Jabra Elite Active 65Ts take things in their own direction too.
They might not be the most aesthetically pleasing earbuds on the market, but luckily they live in your ears so you can’t see them most of the time. They’re made of soft-touch plastic and come in a variety of colors, including red, blue, and the chunky dark gray that was popular in home electronics about ten years ago, before everything became shiny black and the bezels started to disappear from TVs.
The earbuds’ shape, and that of the silicone tips, are perfectly designed to ensure they don’t fall out of your ear. With the correct tip in place, they don’t move whether you’re commuting or running. The plastic shell is perforated with holes for its various microphones to use, both for noise-cancelling and phone-calling purposes. There are also controls - rocker switches rather than touch-sensitive panels - for skipping tracks and adjusting volume (left) and play/pause/power/answer call/invoke Alexa (right).
The charging case will boost the buds’ five-hour battery life by an additional 10 hours, which isn’t exactly market-leading but pretty reasonable all the same. Charging for 15 minutes gives 90 minutes of playback, which is useful if you’re just slipping them in their case while you drive to the gym. We’re a bit disappointed to see a microUSB charging port rather than a USB-C one, but it works all the same. The case itself is compact, but has a baffling lid design which has neither a magnetic closure not a spring to pop it open. As a result, it’s fiddly to undo and the earbuds don’t stick in place. They do automatically switch on and off as you insert them into and remove them from the case, however, which is a nice touch.
Jabra Elite Active 65T review: Performance
Regular price: $170
Type: Wireless earbud
Weight: 2.36 oz
It’s probably best to be clear from the start. You can get better sound quality elsewhere - the Sony WF-1000XM3s for a start - but what you’re buying here are workout headphones. You want great noise-cancelling and waterproofing. The difference is marginal enough that some may prefer the sound of the Jabras over the Sonys, but we found it lacking in bass and without the sense of sheer scale we got from the Sonys. If you’re looking for a pair of true wireless headphones for everyday use, and that daily routine includes a trip to the gym or a run, then you’re certainly not going to be disappointed with the Jabras. A bit of fiddling with the equalizer presets in the app corrects a lot of problems too.
The weakness of the lower notes has the effect of making the mids and higher sounds come through clearly, but there’s some distortion at louder volumes. Big songs and soaring classics lack a feeling of thickness compared to other earbuds. We’re expecting a lot from the tiny drivers that are working hard here, but if Sony can do it, others surely can. A clever feature we liked is that if you remove the left earbud it switches off, but your music keeps playing on the right. Sadly, this doesn’t work the other way around, but it’s a neat idea.
On phone calls, and when talking to digital assistants, microphone quality is excellent. Voices come through clearly, with none of the muffled quality that creeps in on many hands free calls. There’s also a built-in accelerometer, which turns the buds into head-mounted fitness trackers - this, along with audio equalization, is handled through the bundled app.
Noise-cancelling is very well implemented, with a hear-through feature that allows in ambient noise when you switch into fitness-tracking Active mode, presumably to avoid accidents if running in a busy urban area. Turn the cancelling up high and it easily blocks out the noises you’ll encounter on the average commute.
Jabra Elite Active 65T review: Value
We had a moan about the sound quality above, but that’s because we’re comparing the Jabras with our favorite earbuds, the Sony WF-1000XM3s. The Jabra Active 65Ts are still a really good pair of true wireless earbuds, especially if the water- and dust-proofing features are important to you. Buy them, and you won’t be disappointed, unless you’re strongly affected by the niggling feeling that you might be able to get slightly better sound quality elsewhere.
The other point to make is that you can get these relatively cheaply. For $120, which isn’t an unreasonable expectation, these are great value compared to the $200 you’ll see the Sonys retailing for and the $250 Apple expects for the Airpods Pro. You’re getting a solid pair of workout-focused headphones that are perfectly good for everyday use at half the cost of their nearest competitors. What’s not to like?
Should you buy the Jabra Active 65T earbuds?
Anyone using a gym or running regularly should definitely buy a pair of these. They’re waterproof enough that you can rinse them under the tap, and with excellent noise-cancelling, decent battery life and good-enough sound quality, they’re a great choice as an everyday pair of true wireless earbuds, or a special pair you keep just for exercising.