Jabra Elite 65e REVIEW Surprisingly comfortable in ear earphones
When it comes to portable sound, I have two requirements, comfort and comfort. It does not matter how good a pair of in-ear headphones sounds if you feel like someone roundhouse kicked you in the ear during or after their use. The Jabra Elite 65e surpassed this requirement and surprised me with their features. The Jabra Elite 65e earphones arrived in an attractive 6 7/8 inches wide by 7 1/2 inches tall by 2 3/4 inches thick retail package. Instead of bland packaging, Jabra chose to focus upon and enhance the entire consumer experience. The grey/pewter cover served as a wonderful backdrop for the centered picturesque Jabra headphones. The yellow text beneath the image shone brightly against the darker background, as did the yellow rectangle along the top left. The etched “ELITE” towards the bottom right was a nice touch, providing an enjoyable tactile feel. The cover promised that the around-the-neck style headphones used 3-microphone technology, provided ANC with up to 8 hours battery life (13 hours with ANC off), and were “engineered for superior wireless calls and music with professional-grade ANC.” Rotating the packaging ninety degrees clockwise, Jabra continued the etched silver text on grey background theme, announcing “Exceptional Engineering and Superior Sound For 145 Years.” The opposite side displayed a useful side view of the earphones, the ear hook accessories, and the oval ear tips. The back of the packaging provided a pleasant glimpse of the ear tips and listed six icons detailing the product features: 3-microphone technology, Customize your music, Active Noise Cancelling, 2-year dust and water resistance warranty, up to 8-hour battery life with ANC and Voice Assistant enabled.
To access the internal components, slide the outer case upward and separate the inner yellow box from the outer shell. Once the inner yellow box was separated, the innermost grey box slid out easily. Inside of the box, Jabra did a great job at displaying the headphones. Resting atop a grey thin plastic shell, I found the 1.83 ounce earphones. Beneath the tray, Jabra included an accessory packet with multiple sets of ear hooks, small and large ear tips, a short 12.5 inches long USB-A to USB-micro cable, a 37-page multi-lingual instruction manual and a 6 1/2 inches wide by 6 3/4 inches tall neoprene carry bag. The manual was laid out by language, with English from pages 1–5, French from pages 5–9, Spanish from pages 9–13 and Portuguese from pages 13–17. The manual was very limited but essentially unnecessary if you have ever used a pair of Bluetooth headphones. If you orient the headphones so that the buttons are upward and the around-the-neck portion is draped over your neck, you will find three buttons on the right arm and two buttons on the left arm. To activate/Connect the headphones, simply press and hold the central (open) multi-function button (MFB) along the right arm for 3 seconds. The manual stated that the LED will turn blue and that there will be voice prompts to follow. Pressing the MFB will lead to a short jingle/vibration followed by a female voice stating “To connect, go to the Bluetooth menu on your mobile device and select the Jabra product from the list.” When you navigate to Settings and select Jabra Elite 65e, you will hear “Mobile Device Connected.” Setup was simply that easy. I was impressed with the quality of the vocal cues and with the clarity of the assistant. Now if only they could get Paul Bettany to be my vocal assistant! The second page of the manual displayed the method to attach and customize the ear tips and the ear wings to your particular ears. The third page was the most useful, providing a schematic diagram of the earphones.
On the left arm, you will find two buttons, one for mute/Siri activation and one for ANC/Hear through. If you press the ANC button once, the microphones on the headphones will listen to the outside world, and the device will create an opposing signal to block outside noises. This may cause momentary disorientation, as you will feel a pressure difference in your ears. I have used active noise canceling headphones previously and did not notice the pressure problem with the Jabra earphones. If you hold the ANC/Hear Through button, it will change modes to pass through mode. This will allow you to hear your surroundings without taking off your headset. I have tested numerous headphones and used both of these features, but I was shocked to find both on this pair of headphones. The versatility of eliminating the outside noise or passing it through to your ears was outstanding and should be industry standard, in my opinion. On the right arm, you will find three buttons for volume up/track skip, Multi-function button, and volume down/skip track. The button spacing was perfect, and the short-press volume control proved to be very responsive. Located 3 1/4 inches from the right arm and 3 inches from the right ear tip, you will find the 1 3/4 inches long by 1/4 inches wide microphone. The layout of the earphones proved to be ideal, placing the microphone near your mouth. Instead of the tunnel effect observed when testing numerous other headphones, my wife noted that the sounds were rather clear and better than she expected. The microphone also allowed for voice controls even in noisier environments. With the ability to charge the headphones in two hours and a magnetic zone on the back of each of the ear tips to hold the headphones at rest, the Jabra Elite have become my absolute favorite around-the-neck style earphones.
The ear tips and wings that came installed felt a little big for me and I chose to change them out for the next size down. I was pleased that the ear wings and tips were both interchangeable. I ultimately chose the small tips and wings as the best fit for my ear/ear canal. The oval tips seem to fit much better into my ears than the round silicone/rubber/foam that come with some other brands of earphones. I was very pleased with the fit and overall it was quite comfortable. I suspect that nearly everyone should be able to find a comfortable fit with small, medium and large tips. The around-the-neck plastic core rested upon my neck and did not heat up. I did notice that my neck seemed to sweat a little, just at the point where the plastic rested upon it. While I was riding my bike, jogging on the treadmill and working around my yard, I found that the around-the-neck component moved much less if tucked into my shirt collar. I did not experience the ear tips falling out of my ears with any activity. One of my favorite features was not even mentioned in the instruction manual. Instead of having to push the MFB button on the earphones or going to get your smartphone, you can touch the magnetic backs of the headphones together. This decreased the chance that the device would fall of my neck and also paused the song, the audible book or the movie. When you remove the magnets, the device will not automatically restart the last played track. At first, I thought that this was negative but then I realized that you would miss sections of songs/books/movies as you were trying to replace the ear tips. Thus, I figured that Jabra openly chose this as a feature.
To test the sound of the Jabra Elite 65e, I turned to my favorite music testing site, audiocheck.net. Using the Low-Frequency Response and Subwoofer Audio Test (10–200 Hz), I was pleased to hear the deep rumble at 20Hz. Using the High-Frequency Response and Hearing Audio Test (22–8 kHz), I was able to hear sound at 16 kHz. For the novice, the upper range of hearing is more dependent on your ability to hear than the speaker. Since we lose upper range first, most adults will be able to hear from the 14–15 kHz range but this will drop to 12–13 kHz by age 50. Using the Left/Right Stereo Audio Test, I found that the channels were appropriately programmed. To test the bass of my earphones, I used Holly Cole “Train Song,” “Bright Lights Bigger City” Cee Lo Green, “Hotel California by the Eagles and I watched the opening sequence to Star Wars Episode 3, Attack of the Clones. Another track that I found, from a variety of web pages, was “Acid Rain” by Lorn. A Verge article best described the track as a “shovel stabbing deep into hard dirt. It’s quick, deep, penetrating, and almost physical.” I love this song and I imagine it as someone swinging a sledge hammer against the ground. I enjoy the opening bass line of “Train Song” and the sultry feel of the song. The earphones provided their bass by creating a seal with your ear canal. The bass was good to above average but not the best that I have heard. Regardless, the experience was worth more than the ~$150 price tag of the earphones. To evaluate the upper/mid sounds, I used the soundtracks from Far and Away, Braveheart and Gladiator. To test the sound Stage, I used Bob Marley “Turn Your Lights Down Low.” and multiple options from Yosi Horikawa “Wandering.”
To personalize your experience, you can download the Jabra Sound+ App from the app store. You can edit your call preferences, increase the bass or treble and turn on/off sidetone, which will allow you to hear your own voice in the headset or not. You can activate/deactivate the headset audio prompts, and you can activate/deactivate vibration signals. The earphones provided some very useful audible cues during testing. I found that I could watch movies on Amazon Prime Video and Netflix and listen to music on Pandora, Amazon Prime Music, and Apple Music for multiple hours without issue. I did not notice a lag between the audio and visual playback using Amazon Prime Video and was impressed that there was minimal lag when watching YouTube. I did notice, although very rarely, an abnormal high pitched digital sin-wave sound. I noticed this a few times during a phone call and others while listening to some music. Each time it resolved after changing songs or turning off/on the device. After I updated the device with the app, this did not happen again. I was pleased with the battery life, being able to use the device for most of a day without the need to charge. The ability to get 8–13 hours (ANC on-off) off of a single 2-hour charge was outstanding. I found that I could charge the device overnight, without fear that they would run out of power. I did not like that the device did not seem to have an auto-off feature. Luckily, the standby mode seemed to use minimal power.
I had to remind myself multiple that I was reviewing the earphones and not just pleasure watching/listening. I really enjoyed this pair of around-the-neck earphones from Jabra.