Anyone with an interest in portable audio will tell you that the current wireless headphone market is crowded, competitive, and evolving quickly. Brands are launching plenty of premium products because they’ve learnt that consumers are willing to spend in excess of S$200 for a pair of wireless music playback devices regularly, and the buying market is barely able to keep pace with the innovations that we’ve seen so far.
In less than five years, we’ve gone from clunky Bluetooth enabled neckbands to connected earbuds to fully wireless designs. With Jabra being one of the industry leaders, the company has wasted no time attempting to stay ahead of the curve with the new Jabra Elite 65t series.
Made in two flavours – the standard Jabra Elite 65t and the slightly costlier Jabra Elite active 65t that adds an extra level of waterproofing and an internal accelerometer. They are both designed to be compact, with the claim of high quality audio playback.
We got hold of the Elite active 65t. Well, since we are a sports-centric publication after all and Jabra claims that it is built for fitness enthusiasts.
The difference between the active 65t and regular version is subtle, as they both share the same body shells and largely identical parts. The active 65t has a higher IP56 rating over the standard version’s IP55. This means that you can safely wash it under running water. It is also coloured differently with a more subdued matte finish.
While Jabra makes mention of the accelerometer, at this point the only real purpose of it is as a step counter in conjunction with the Jabra phone app.
The lack of internal data storage and heart rate monitor lights mean that the Elite active 65t is very compact. At first you might wonder what you’re getting for the price, as the minimalist accessories only include a micro USB charging cable and three pairs of sized silicon ear tips.
The lack of extras is actually a good thing in this case, as we’ve all been annoyed by devices that seem to come packed with a whole bag of pointless optional bits. The active 65t does a good job of packing a lot of usability into a tight package.
Optimised to use with smartphones, the Bluetooth connection is a fuss-free affair. A recessed button on each earbud controls all the functions of the unit, and there are two microphones hidden in each earbud not for active-noise cancellation, but for phone calls and pass-through ambient sound.
Activated by a long press on the right earbud’s button, the device will pass the ambient noise through the speakers along with your music for situational awareness even without compromising on bass response from your music.
What’s pleasantly surprising is that the units fit perfectly into my ear. As with all such devices, your mileage may vary and my personal experience is that very few wireless base units sit comfortably in my Asian-sized ears. Most have chunky base units that are too big, causing discomfort on the outer ear after more than 30 minutes of use.
These sit very well though, and do not require additional wings or flanges to secure them.
Jabra claims a playtime of five hours, and in practical use, it proved reasonably accurate. They recharge in the micro USB ported carrying case, which holds an additional two full charges for a maximum on the go use of 15 hours.
The active 65t is as fuss-free as a pair of wireless earbuds can be. They work with Jabra’s own phone app to allow for personal audio equalisation preferences too. The Bluetooth audio connection is strong and sound quality is of above average fidelity, with a good noise isolating seal when fitted with the right sized ear tips.
The sound signature has a slightly rolled off top end, which is the opposite of many competitors that tweak their earbuds to have exaggerated high-end brightness. This works better in the long run though, as your ears will not fatigue as quickly. Better still, you’re also free to tweak it to your liking with the phone app.