The Jabra Elite 65t arrived in early 2018 and quickly became one of our favorite true wireless (AirPods-style) headphones, with the slightly more rugged Elite Active 65t earning a CNET Editors' Choice Award. However, in the world of true wireless earbuds, 22 months is an eternity, and today the market is filled with an array of competing models, including Apple's AirPods Pro, which offers improved bass performance and a noise-isolating design that fits more ears. So how does Jabra's next-generation Elite 75t -- which, unlike the AirPods Pro, doesn't offer active noise cancellation -- stand up to the current competition? Actually, quite well, which surprised me a bit.

8.5

Jabra Elite 75t

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Like

  • Sound better than the AirPods Pro, with better clarity and tighter bass
  • Better fit and smaller size than previous models
  • 7.5-hour battery life between charges
  • USB-C charging

Don't Like

  • Rival models from Apple and Anker have better call quality
  • No wireless charging

The thing is, at first glance, the Elite 75t, which was originally supposed to cost $200 but now sells for $180 (£170 and AU$299), seems more like an evolutionary upgrade from the Elite 65t. But the updates turn out to be a little more substantial than I first thought. The Elite 75t's smaller size (the buds and case are 20% smaller than its predecessor), its boosted battery life and USB-C charging are significant upgrades. And then there are the smaller changes, like the new charging case design with magnets inside it that make it easier to open and close and to keep the buds inside. Alas, that charging case doesn't feature wireless charging, but in the coming months, according to Jabra, it will release a premium version of the Elite 75t that includes wireless charging.

Read more: The best true wireless earbuds of 2019 

The new case has magnets.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Jabra says the main goals for this new model were to make it smaller while increasing the battery life. The issue with the Elite 65t was that, while it fits me well, it's too big for some people's ears, which leads to returns. Jabra says the 75t's drivers are the same as those of the 65t, but the smaller design will help more people get a more comfortable, snugger fit. That snug fit ("tight seal" I sometimes call it) is not only crucial to having the buds stay in your ears securely but it allows you to get the best sound out of them with improved bass performance. And these do have very good sound quality for true wireless if you can get that tight seal. (To be clear, I am comparing these to other true wireless earbuds, not wired headphones, which tend to deliver better sound for the money). 

The new design didn't make a huge difference for me in terms of fit. As I said, the Elite 65t basically fit my ears almost perfectly and these do, too, passively sealing out a good amount of ambient noise. However, the Elite 75t are definitely lighter and more discreet. The "pipe" of the earbuds, where the voice microphone lives, has almost been eliminated on the Elite 75t and its absence gives the earbuds a more streamlined look. That's a big deal. And I think the new smaller design will not only fit more ears but fit them more comfortably. It's arguably not quite as comfortable as the AIrPods Pro, which is slightly lighter, but it's comfortable for this type of noise-isolating in-ear headphone, which isn't for everybody (many people don't like having a silicone ear tip dipped into their ear canal).  

The Elite 65t (left) vs. the Elite 75t (right).

Sarah Tew/CNET

I also appreciated the smaller charging case and that it now has a flat bottom so you can lay it down horizontally (you have to stand the Elite 65t's case up vertically). These design upgrades may seem small but they clearly improve the product.

The headphones still have four microphones -- two in each earbud -- but the location has changed. There are now microphones at the front and the back of each bud. The Elite 65t worked well as a headset and this model works a little better for making calls, though I did think that both the AirPods Pro and Anker Soundcore Liberty Air 2 were a notch up with their noise reduction in noisier environments. You can use the right earbud alone for mono music playback or for calls. If you remove the left earbud while you're listening to music, the music will automatically pause. To resume mono playback in the right earbud, you have to press the multifunction button.

With the Elite 75t, callers said they could hear me clearly but the background sound was less muffled than with the AirPods Pro and the Anker. The Liberty Air 2 actually was the best at muffling background sound. All that said, the Elite 75t is the only one of the three to have a sidetone feature that allows you hear your own voice in the earphones (that keeps you from talking too loudly). You can adjust the level of sidetone in the app.

The Jabra Elite 75t are equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, which not only helps improve battery life, but also helps with wireless connectivity. I experienced almost no Bluetooth hiccups in the New York City, which is notoriously difficult on true wireless earbuds, particularly last-generation models. While the earbuds are smaller battery life is now rated at 7.5 hours at moderate volume levels -- up from 5 hours on the Elite 65t (the AirPods Pro are rated at 4.5 hours with noise canceling on). The case provides an additional 20.5 hours of battery life. My initial tests indicate the battery life numbers are accurate -- at least for the buds themselves. 

With an IP55 water-resistance rating, the Elite 75t is splashproof and offers some dust resistance and will be fine to use at the gym and for running (the buds stayed in my ears securely while running). Like the Elite 65t, there's a HearThrough transparency mode that lets ambient sound -- you activate it with a short press on the left earbud -- and in the Sound+ app for iOS and Android you can opt to have your music pause when you active HearThrough. That way if someone comes up to talk to you with the buds on, you can tap the left earbud and have a conversation. 

The app also has EQ settings that allow you to tweak the sound to your liking and you can choose between your device's native voice assistant or Amazon's Alexa voice assistant. However, you have to press a button to access the voice assistant (to be clear, these buds have physical buttons). With the AirPods Pro, you can simply say, "Hey, Siri" to access Siri hands-free. 

Unlike the AirPods Pro, these have volume controls on the buds. You press and hold the button on the left earbud to lower volume and press and hold the button on the right earbud to raise the volume. It works well.

The earphones have a more discreet design.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Tweaking the EQ settings can improve the sound quality a bit. I ended up going with the "Smooth" setting, which reduces the treble a bit and elevates the bass slightly. That setting seemed to work well for a variety of musical genres. And while the Elite 75t may not be quite as comfortable as the AirPods Pro and doesn't perform quite as well as a headset for making calls, I think it sounds better than the AirPods Pro. They offer better overall clarity, with better definition in the bass. They're more lively and dynamic. 

For some people, that superior sound may not trump the pluses of the AirPods Pro. But the Elite 75t does cost $70 less and hopefully will dip closer to $150 in time. It's an all-around excellent set of true wireless earbuds that has enough improvements, including a significantly improved design and better battery life, to make it one of the top models in this highly competitive and quickly evolving headphone category.     

8.5

Jabra Elite 75t

Score Breakdown

Design 9 Features 8 Sound 9 Value 8