Review: Jabra Elite 75t/Active 75t Compared. Free ANC Upgrade!
The Jabra Elite 75t is a shiny gem in the crowded true-wireless earbud arena. I’d say it’s one of the best all around designs you can buy today, with a great balance between audio quality, battery life and size/fit inside your ears. But the icing on the cake is the interaction you can have with it via software if you want, which lets you monitor its status and even update its functions. Especially the recently announced free upgrade for all 75t customers – an ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) update.
I’d say it’s great for most people, but for the extremists who need more (we’ll refer to them as athletes) Jabra also offers the Elite Active 75t. While it looks and functions just like the Elite 75, the price goes up by $20-$30. And for that, you level up to:
- Special grip coating to keep the earbuds in while you exercise
- Sweat and water proofing (IP57) in addition to dust resistance
- Pressure relief vent – keeps bass in your ears and ambient noise out
- Choice of 6 colors (including mint …mint!)
In a nutshell, the Active model keeps all the great aspects of the 75t and gives it a pilot’s helmet with oxygen mask for added protection at mach speeds. It’s worth the extra money, especially when I think of times that I’ll need to run real fast (you know, when chased by a stray dog or a feral subway rat) or I if I should trip over myself – straight into a swimming pool. Don’t laugh, it’s known to happen.
But while it *is* waterproof, it doesn’t mean you can use them in a pool – it won’t work. In fact, water is akin to a concrete barrier – we can’t walk through those, and BlueTooth radio waves can’t pass through water. Plus, exposure to chlorine and other chemicals would probably be detrimental to any earbuds no matter how good or expensive they are.
STYLING / DESIGN
The Elite 75t is an uptown girl in the looks department. Materials are Gucci standard; it’s well refined with svelt curves, balanced colors and seams that are even all around. The outer shell looks like a smooth, sandblasted plastic, with the Active 75t being a softer silicon (rubber perhaps?) to make the IP 57 rating. Both have two metallic poles on the inside for charging purposes.
From a bird’s eye view, the earbuds have a subtle theme that looks like a play on two commas; a small one stacked on a large one. To me, it’s indicative of a good design house – the kind you find across any industry from fashion to type/logo. I mean how many electronics companies incorporate this kind of industrial design in an earbud? Maybe I’m crazy and just seeing things, but details like this aren’t lost on me – they require a lot of thought and planning between different disciplines (e.g. between the design and engineering teams).
The case sits upright and the earbuds magnetically snap into them for perfect charging alignment. Rounded edges with concave top and bottom make it pleasing to look at, as well as hold. Outside, it looks like matte plastic but the inside is softer, perhaps a silicon that hold the earbuds in place. The Jabra logo is subtly recessed on the front and the lid closes with a pleasingly soft “thud” that sounds like a velvet box that holds a diamond necklace. I’m referring to just the sound, mind you.
The one thing I wasn’t expecting was the location of the charge indicator light. It’s on the back next to the charging port; I had wrongly expected to see a light on the front as I charged it for the first time. I scratched my head for second, flipped it around and was like “oh, there it is.” No big deal.
They crammed a lot of technology into a really small pair of earbuds. They’re so light that you can probably keep them in your ears all day long without tiring. It’s like carrying an ultra-portable laptop bag in each hand, you can do it for most of the day. But if you had to carry two heavy bags of groceries with cartons of orange juice and milk in them, you wouldn’t for very long. It’s the same thing happening in your ears.
The fit is also fantastic, and I think much of it is due to the eartip design. The silicon is soft, yet the top edge that holds it in place in the ear canal has just the right tension/rigidity to keep them from falling out. If you squeeze that edge, you’ll feel more silicon material there, which thins out on the sides. This seals out ambient sound exceptionally well and feels comfortable too. The long and narrow stem is a plus for fitting into most ears with ease. If the installed medium size doesn’t fit you well, Jabra includes two more sets in small and large.
USABILITY / FUNCTION
Usability on the Elite 75t series is magic. You can do everything with just the two physical buttons, one on the left earbud and the one on the right. They only need a soft tap and in return, you get good tactile feedback for confirmation. You can control everything – play/pause, volume, next/previous track, take call/hang up, hear through, ANC (Active Noise Cancellation), and even activate your digital assistant (Google/Alexa/Siri).
Don’t like how they work? You can remap the buttons any way you like via the Jabra Sound+ app. One right earbud click will play/pause music – but you can switch it around to the left earbud. Or have both of them do the same thing for example.
But let me talk about my favorite function; the hear through. I absolutely love using this wherever I am – perhaps in the subway when an (important) announcement is being made, or when I can finally order food after a 20 minute wait on line.
It removes the stupid amount of effort required to pull out the earbuds for a few seconds or minutes, only to plug’em back in for the umpteenth time. It can also save you a level of aggravation when both your hands are full, because while you can’t use your fingers, you can still use your knuckles to press the button. It’s been indispensable to me ever since I reviewed the Jabra Elite Sport, which first introduced me to this function like three years before.
My second favorite thing -compared to any other earbud I’ve ever used- is the solid BlueTooth (BT) connection. If I may be so bold, Jabra’s implementation of BlueTooth is virtually bulletproof, the best I’ve experienced. Like ever.
There’s rarely any skipping or breaks, if at all. No disconnects. Although to be fair, I may be drowning in super strong radio waves that may slowly be affecting my brain in unknown ways (my imagination wanders sometimes, I know.) But Jabra products from the Elite Sport to the Elite 75t line have all consistently had excellent connections with unbroken streams of music for hours of enjoyment.
The inherent problem with weak connections is that random music skipping gets annoying fast, and you immediately start wondering if you made a mistake on this purchase. Jabra’s products have never given me the chance to even think about that.
For those interested in how these devices actually connect to each other, the Elite 75t series use NFMI (Near-Field Magnetic Induction). It automatically connects the earbuds to each other within an 8 inch distance (most human heads fall in this parameter) – and disconnect when farther away, tripping an auto-pause on audio. They automatically reconnect when brought within range. Plus, only the right earbud connects to your device or smartphone. It basically means your music will pause when you pull out one of those earbuds from either ear.
On the technical front, BT 5.0 is used with SBC and AAC CoDec support. The maximum range between the earbuds and your device goes up to 10 meters (that’s 33 ft in church of England) and you can multi-connect 2 BT devices at once.
The seal formed by the eartips is remarkably good and does a great job of blocking ambient noise. If you add to that Jabra’s free offer to install ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) as mentioned earlier, it gives you an additional level of noise reduction (much like how the Active 75t gives an additional level of protection against the elements.) You can hear a noticeable difference in blocking of whirring sounds like turboprop window fans and other sources of pink/white noise.
This might be TMI (and don’t laugh…) but there was one time I was taking a leak when I started wondering if ANC would work (well I had the earbuds on, so why not test it out?) Interestingly, I didn’t hear much – but rather felt the stream as it hit the water in the bowl. With ANC off, I could hear just a bit of the higher frequency sounds. Then as I washed my hands, the slight hum from the faucet water roused my curiousity too… In this case, I heard more with ANC on than off – mostly the very high pitched sounds. It made sense as ANC is designed to block lower frequencies.
Overall, the ANC function works effectively in the right situations (the bathroom is probably not one of them however.)
Protection from the Elements
The Elite 75t is dust and water resistant with an IP55 rating, meaning it can withstand a low pressure water jet spray. So for most people, this model will work just fine even with a mild sweat – you can always wipe the earbuds clean with a damp cloth.
But for extremists (aka athletes) who pretty much drown their earbuds in sweat, the Active 75t would be more appropriate. The IP57 rating gives it enough protection to withstand being submerged in water up to 1 meter (for up to 30 minutes), so you could theoretically clean them under running water or give it a bath while you take one yourself. But I like the damp cloth idea best for keeping either model clean.
The total battery life for both earbuds & charging case nets you:
- With ANC off, 28 hours of playback with up to 7.5 hours on the earbuds
- With ANC on, 24 hours of playback with up to 5.5 hours on the earbuds
This means the case holds roughly 18-20 hours, and power management functions can take this even further with sleep mode:
- When not connected for 15 minutes, the earbuds are turned off automatically
- When connected, 60 minutes of non-activity will trigger auto-off
I’m also thinking hear-through might consume some energy since the mics are enabled, so I’d turn that off for maximum savings. Finally, standby time without use is 6 months, so you might want to charge them now and again if you’re placing them in hibernation.
Case Specs & Behavior
Nowadays, even the case serves support functions to the main product. The Jabra Elite 75t and its variants’ cases automatically detect and charge the earbuds when placed in the case and the lids are closed. It’s smart enough to also turn the earbuds off when the lid closes, lest they keep draining power for no reason, and turn them on when pulled out of the case.
A USB-C port takes 140 minutes (2 hours and 20 minutes) for a full charge and the fast-charge offers 1 hour of battery life for a 15 minute charge. You’ll notice a magnet keeping the lid shut so your earbuds don’t fall out and the inclusion of a 300mm USB-C charging cable.
It’s got great sound for such a small earbud. The closed back design lets you hear the music come to life even in high noise areas, though you’re also able to hear your pulse beating in really quiet places.
The frequency response is rated at 20Hz – 20kHz, which is the whole spectrum of human hearing and calls are intentionally narrowed to 100Hz – 8kHz (in the mic) to zone in on human voices and to block out anything else. You can use the software EQ to change the balance of the frequencies, but I think the initial tuning is great as it is.
The sound is driven by a single 6mm driver and offers what many are saying is the best sound you can buy for the money. And they’d be right, it offers some of the best sound quality from a true wireless earbud to date.
Can you believe Jabra incorporates 4 mics into the Elite 75t’s? These dual MEMS filter out surrounding noise by compressing the voice frequencies with its DSP algorithms and noise reduction. Their technology works hard to make your voice as clear as can be, even in noisy and windy environments.
The freely downloadable Jabra Sound+ app lets you customize just about everything from equalizer settings to earbud controls and also update firmware. Heck, you can even track down your buds if you misplace them or relax to sounds of ocean waves from their collection of soundscapes.
For most people, the app will generally be “set and forget”. Once you set up your earbud controls (like press the right earbud once to play or pause your music, press twice to…) and take the sound tests, you probably won’t access the app again unless you’re upgrading firmware (like the free ANC update) or you’ve misplaced your earbuds. OR… you want to meditate.
Life is busy and you need a change of scene sometimes. In Sound+, you’re provided with a dozen ambient sounds for a little “zen” time. I like to use “empty cavern” to meditate with – it wisks me away from the city to a place where I can clear my mind. But if empty spaces creep you out, you can pick “crowd” and get lost in a sea of people. Still too much? Then remove the spacial information with pink or white noise for a more consistent droning sound.
Of note is MySound, a personal sound test that optimizes the audio for your ears. It measures how your ears hear things, and the results are used to adjust the frequency levels of your earbuds. This information is saved in the earbud’s memory, ensuring all the music you hear is calibrated perfectly for you. I highly recommend using it.
If you misplace your earbuds, there’s a way to help track them down with Find My Jabra. So if you’re at home and can’t find your earbuds, Find My Jabra will have recorded the time you last disconnected your earbuds from your smartphone and match that to where this happened using your location data. A map will pop up showing you where that was, and you’ll smack your head and say “oh! I left it at the gym!” BUT… you need to turn on the app before you lose your earbuds for this to work.
The Sound+ app seems to be in conflict with the app for Jabra Elite Sport. It’ll tell you to remove Jabra Service if you want Sound+ to work, but at the same time, it doesn’t support Elite Sport earbuds. Although I doubt many people will have this issue, it’s worth noting.
The Jabra Elite 75t and Elite Active 75t earbuds not only sound great, but incorporate Jabra’s many years of experience in the audio field into a tiny package. With functions like hear-through and after-sales service updates like free Active Noise Cancellation (plus a 2 year warranty against dust and water damage), they’re an easy recommendation to make for anyone looking for their next pair of earbuds.
Having said that, I have to acknowledge that there are better sounding products out there. But for that, you’d be approaching audiophile territory with multiple armature IEMs costing many hundreds, even thousands of dollars. And those, in turn, require high dollar music players to make full use of them.
Quite frankly though, I’m a normal city guy with a smartphone. And I’m totally happy with these great pair of earbuds that can take full advantage of what my smartphone has to offer, whether they’re mp3’s or streaming music stations. For me then, the Jabras meet that need – with many extras to spare.
More Info: https://www.jabra.com
(Test unit provided by Jabra for this review.)