With many of us substituting home workouts for the gym during the coronavirus pandemic, a good pair of wireless earbuds can be worth their weight in gold right now.
When lockdown was brought in, I began going for more runs and judging by the many others pounding the pavement, I don’t think I was alone. It was in this context that I agreed to trial a pair of Jabra’s latest Elite Active 75t wireless – anything to help the motivation.
As a longtime Apple user, I’ve used the first and second generation AirPods for everything, including exercise. Due to their early ubiquity and popularity, AirPods have become somewhat synonymous with the product category.
But it’s a crowded field with the likes of Bose, Sony, B&O, Beats and others offering popular alternatives.
Aimed at athletic types, the Jabra Active 75t earbuds aren’t exactly cheap at $329 but the functionality and hi-tech nature of the earbuds arguably makes them one of the best value options in the high-end market.
It’s tough to compete with Apple on design, and Jabra’s earbuds take a completely different shape, which offer some advantages and disadvantages.
The Jabra Active 75t buds are fairly light at just 5.5 grams per bud. The design sees a bulk of the ball-shaped device sitting just outside the ear cavity with little speaker protrusions anchoring the bud in your ear. Because of this, the earbuds must be firmly wedged in place and fitted properly to minimise the risk of popping out.
To help with this, the earbuds come with three different sizes of rubber plugs and I found the standard pair provided a fairly snug fit which were comfortable enough.
But even still, compared to the AirPod design (or buds that hook over the ear) I found them more prone to dislodging and possibly falling out. This is not only annoying, but heart-stoppingly scary – If it happens to occur while you’re stepping off the train or walking over a drain, you’ll have your heart in your mouth. For me, this tended to be more of a risk when I look down, for example in a push-up position.
Great controls and tech make for convenient and quality listening
The functionality is where these headphones really shine. Once connected with the corresponding Jabra App, the earbuds will link with your phone, and with Bluetooth 5.0 the buds instantly pair and connect with all your other devices, recognising your device when you put them on.
The buttons on each earpiece provide a number of handy controls, allowing you to answer or reject incoming calls with a tap, skip songs, pause audio, or restart audio. By pressing and holding either button on the left or right bud, you can scale the volume up and down – a very useful control which is lacking in the more expensive AirPod Pros.
By double tapping the right earbud, you can engage you phone’s smart assistant whether that be Apple’s Siri or Android’s Google Assistant. The only drawback being there is no hands free option to engage voice. But the earbuds also have built-in Alexa, so all your voice-enabled needs are taken care of.
By tapping the left bud, you can activate ‘Hear Through’ mode which uses microphones on the outside of the earbud to allow you to better hear your surroundings while they remain in your ears. It works well and is a handy feature for when you’re out shopping and have to interact with other people like the cashier or just just want to be more alert of your surroundings.
The controls are customisable in the app, but are really simple as the default option. As someone who listens to a lot of podcasts I would love to see a skip ahead function able to be programmed in.
When taking calls using the Jabra earbuds, they rely on what the company touts as “4-microphone call technology” which is just a strange way of saying the call quality is clear and sounds perfectly fine.
The bells and whistles
The sound is great and continues to be when the volume is cranked way up loud which is a big plus – however it’s perhaps inadvisable to listen to music at full strength for too long on these.
For such little devices, they generate very, very impressive bass, which makes them really great for most genres of music, or for watching movies. You can also play around with the sound settings in the app to adjust them to your preferences.
Jabra has also introduced new tech which it claims improves the audio quality to cater to each user. Announced at CES in January, the ‘MySound’ feature enables users to optimise their audio experience based on their personal hearing profile, the company says. Via the Jabra Sound+ app, users can take a test comprising a series of beeps which helps optimise the music audio by calibrating the headphones based on the shape an individual’s ear.
The earbuds are water proof and dust proof (IP 57) and the company says they can withstand fresh water up to one metre deep for 30 minutes – something I did not test.
Battery life is advertised as lasting 7.5 hours but they seemed to fall short of that during my time using them. If you leave them sitting outside their case the battery seems to drain badly but in Settings you can change Sleep Mode to kick in at 15 minutes (rather than the 30 minuet default) to help this.
Sadly the case isn’t compatible with charging pads either.
Overall the Jabra buds offer greater capabilities than AirPods 2 ($249 without wireless charging case, $319 with) and are considerably cheaper than the AirPods Pro ($399). If you’re in the market for some new wireless earbuds, these are definitely worth checking out.
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