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Jabra's Elite 65t are affordable wireless earbuds with great sound

Hands-on with some of the company's latest audio gear.
Billy Steele, @wmsteele
01.07.18 in AV
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Billy Steele/Engadget

Jabra may have just announced its latest totally wireless earbuds at CES, but I got a hold of a pair early and have been using them as primary headphones for about a week. While the $170 Elite 65t that I've been wearing isn't a final model, they still gave me an idea of what to expect when the final version ships next month. Mostly, Jabra proves that you don't need to spend $250 (or more) to get a pair of earbuds that won't get tangled and still sound really good.

Gallery: Jabra Elite 65t hands-on | 8 Photos

You won't find any surprises in terms of the design here; the Elite 65t look similar to other totally wireless earbuds. The in-ear units themselves are small enough to sit nicely in the space just outside your ear, so they don't stick out from your head like some others do (looking at you, Bose Soundsport Free). The Elite 65t also has controls on both earbuds that make adjustments easy and don't require pulling your phone out of your pocket. On the left side are the volume controls while a short press on the right side will play/pause and a long press will summon your virtual assistant of choice. In my case, that was alerting Siri on my iPhone.

Those controls are handy, but you're still pushing the earbuds into your ear any time you employ them. It's not super uncomfortable, but it did take me a few tries to find the best way to make volume or other tweaks while putting the least amount of pressure on my ears. Of course, the alternative is no on-board controls at all, so I'll take what I can get.

Jabra says both software and sound quality are still being tweaked ahead of the official launch, so I won't go into too much detail there. Based on a few days with the Elite 65t, though, the final product will sound really good based on the current audio quality. There's not quite the depth of sound I heard on the Soundsport Free currently, but again, that could change. However, the current current audio profile is still very nice. Highs, mids and lows are all well-represented across a range of genres, including bluegrass, hip-hop, metal, electronic and more. These earbuds, even in an unfinished state, sound good when you consider they cost at least $80 less than some of Jabra's main competition, like Bose or B&O.

Due to their small stature, the Elite 65t earbuds are comfy to wear, even for long periods of time. They aren't too heavy and sit comfortably in your ears. At the gym, both units stayed in place despite the lack of any fin or other design element to help them stay put. Similar to many of its rivals, the Elite 65t comes with a charging case that provides two addition full charges. That means you can expect up to 15 hours of playback when you use the case's extra power -- up from the 5-hour battery life Jabra says you can expect with the earbuds alone. I didn't put those figures to the test, though, as I put the in-ears back in the case each time I was finished listening so I wouldn't lose them. I did, however, have to plug the case in to recharge the whole thing about every third day.

Even with a beta unit, Jabra has a compelling totally wireless option with the Elite 65t. Sure, there are more affordable options than this $170 pair, but there are also more expensive ones that aren't so impressive they justify the higher price. The combination of good sound and comfort is definitely on display here, and let's be honest, those are the two things that matter most when it comes to selecting new headphones or earbuds.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2018.

A tech writer by day and a graphic designer by night, Billy was ushered into the gadget world by an Atari and its vices: Frogger and Grand Prix. Little did he know that this was training for the undefeated seasons he would string together in NCAA Football (RIP). He covers the audio beat, spanning everything from headphones to streaming. He's also a Cheez-It expert.

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