Jabra Elite Active 75t headphone review: Hear hear?
Riding with headphones is an acquired taste. Some people hate the loss of awareness. Some people love the escapism. Others – and I include myself in this category – find riding and listening to music to combine two favourite activities.
Danish headphone brand Jabra, which is probably best known for its workplace headsets, has had a big year getting millions of people equipped for remote working in The End Times. But in the mix there, they’ve also found time to push out an update to their range-topping sports headphone, the Elite Active 75t.
This tiny little in-ear has an impressive spec-sheet. The Elite Active 75t is IP57-rated for sweat- and water-proofness, and there’s a two year warranty against dust-ingress as well, which is a promising sign for year-round riding. They’re smaller and less obtrusive than most of their rivals in the space, sitting quite flush against the ear – which is, likewise, good news for cycling, because it means that there’s far less wind noise than equivalent wireless sport headphones from the likes of Beats and Bose.
On top of that, they have active noise cancelling, the ability to calibrate the headphones to your specific range via an in-app hearing test, and you can customise the sound profile for different genres and sound preferences. From Bell Witch to Taylor Swift, I’ve been impressed by how good they sound.
Their sound quality and isolation is good enough that I run them without the noise cancelling activated, at a medium volume, and still have no issues hearing the music or podcast I’m listening to. There’s a flipside to that. Traffic noise is dulled, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but awareness of your surroundings is notably hindered.
My previous benchmark for sports headphones was the Plantronic Backbeat Fit 2100, which worked nicely for cycling because they weren’t a wind-noise horror-show, while still allowing enough ambient noise in for road awareness. Jabra makes a bit of a fuss about its HearThrough feature, which, at face value, seemed like it would be an engineered solution reaching the same outcome.
Spoiler: for cycling, it doesn’t. While it probably works fantastically at the gym or when doing lower-speed activities – walking, jogging, curling – the microphones are buffeted by wind when you’re riding at pace, and you can’t hear whatever it is you’re trying to listen to. That’s a bummer. You can, of course, ride with a single headphone, but it’s worth noting that this only works with the right headphone (which acts as the receiver) leaving the traffic-facing ear blocked on Australian roads.
Happily, much of my riding is away from traffic, so I’ve had the opportunity to give these a strenuous work-out over the past few months. They’re comfortable enough for an in-ear headphone, which is to say that they give you a little of a squeamish feel until you get used to them. They come with three pairs of silicone eartips to achieve a tight fit for passive sound isolation; I use the smallest to let a bit more ambient noise in and they stay put unless I’m absolutely drenched with sweat.
They give a reliable Bluetooth connection and they have decent battery life for their size – 5.5 hours with active noise cancelling on, or 7.5 hours with the headphone’s default settings. That’s more than enough to get through all of my rides these days, although if you go long, you might find yourself running out of juice. The charging case accepts the headphones with a satisfying magnetic clunk and gives a further 20 hours of battery life before you need to plug it into a wall socket, where they’ll take just over two hours to get back to capacity.
So where does that leave us? They’re a good sounding, tough and impressive headphone, with decent battery life and a whole lot of jazzy features – which you’d probably hope for, seeing as they’re expensive at AU$329 (although available much, much cheaper online, and with a hefty Australian sales tax given they retail in the US at US$149).
If you run them in default mode – or with the noise-cancelling activated – you’ve got a lovely crisp-sounding sports headphone you can wear in the shower, and I like them a lot. But each sport has its particular quirks, and in a cycling context, your perception is compromised and the HearThrough feature is basically useless. If you’re riding on the road a lot or that’s a red flag for you, I’d suggest giving these a miss.
For more info, see jabra.com