Jabra Elite Active 65t vs. Samsung Galaxy Buds: Battle of the AirPod Slayers – Tom’s Guide

This face-off features two bona fide AirPod slayers. In one corner, we have our reigning champion, the Jabra Elite Active 65t, which we praised for its comfortable fit, enduring battery life and excellent call quality. Our challenger, the Samsung Galaxy Buds, brings a sleek design and comfortable fit to the mix, along with great battery life, an intuitive companion app and strong audio performance.

But in the quest to usurp Apple, there can be only one. Read on to find out if Samsung can dethrone the best wireless earbuds.

Jabra Elite Active 65t Samsung Galaxy Buds
Price $159 $129
Colors Black/Titanium, Blue/Copper White, Black, Yellow
What’s in the Box Charging case and Micro USB cable, eartips Charging case, USB Type-C cable, eartips, wings
Battery Life (Estimated) 5 hours, 15 hours (charging case) 6 hours, 7 hours (charging case)
Size 1.1 x 1.2 x 0.9 inches 0.7 x 0.9 x 0.8 inches
Weight (Earbuds, Charging Case) 0.2 ounces, 2.4 ounces 0.2 ounces, 1.4 ounces

  

Design

Although you can use them for working out, the Elite Active 65t earbuds don’t sport a gaudy neon palette. On the contrary, they look downright contemporary. They’re made from either black or blue ABS plastic with a copper or titanium inlay, depending on which color you choose. I’m a fan of the blue and copper myself. Best of all, the buds are IP65-rated against sweat and dust, so you can take them from work to the gym and back.

But I’m also a fan of the Galaxy Buds’ design. Drawing from previous aesthetics, the Galaxy Buds are chic and functional. Using a glittering mix of matte and glossy pearlescent plastics, the Buds look like something you’d see in a near-future sci-fi flick.

While the white version of the Galaxy Buds is my favorite, the earbuds are also available in yellow and black. And just like the Samsung Gear IconX buds before them, the Galaxy Buds can survive a good workout, thanks to their sweat-resistant coating.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Comfort

When it comes to sheer comfort, I prefer the Galaxy Buds. Once the 0.2-ounce, 0.7 x 0.9 x 0.8-inch buds are in, I can barely feel them. So much so, I wore them for 3 hours without any discomfort. The only time I experienced any problems was at the gym, when my labored movements on the elliptical machine caused one of the Buds to start to slip out.

The Elite Active buds are a bit chunky at 1.1 x 1.2 x 0.9 inches. Thanks to all the tech crammed in, the right earbud (0.22 ounces) is slightly heavier than the left (2 ounces). I was definitely aware of the Elite Active once I placed them in my ear, however.

Even though I wore them for over 2 hours, there was never a moment that I wasn’t conscious of them. It’s not uncomfortable per se, but it is a bit disconcerting. However, the buds have a near-rock-solid grip that kept them in place as I worked out.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Buds

Controls

The glossy part of the Galaxy Buds serves as a touchpad to enter commands such as play/pause, skip tracks and answer/end calls. The triangular plate is rather small and is better used for tapping instead of swiping. Thankfully, you don’t have to tap too hard to make the magic happen. But tapping on such a small surface does take some getting used to.

Those swanky metal accents on the Elite Active 65t aren’t just for show. They act as the controls for your buds, with Jabra splitting command duties between the two. If I needed to adjust the volume or change tracks, I engaged in a series of long or quick taps on the left bud.

Answering/ending calls, playing/pausing music and launching the digital assistant can be performed on the right bud. I really like that Jabra put a pair of notches on the metal discs, so you always know where to press to operate the buds.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Special Features and Apps

I’m always amazed at how many functions earbud manufacturers can cram into these relatively tiny buds. In the case of the Galaxy Buds, the biggest feature is wireless charging.

If you own any variation of the Samsung Galaxy S10, you can charge the Buds by placing them in their case and putting that on the back of the phone. That’s big if you don’t have a mobile charger handy. Other cool features include near-instantaneous pairing, which happens seconds after you open the charging case. The Buds also have Ambient Sound Mode, which allows outside noise to filter in –– it’s a really handy feature if you’re exercising outdoors or trying to navigate New York City traffic.

You access even more functions in the Galaxy Wearable app, including a Find My Earbuds feature and an equalizer. Offering five presets (Bass boost, Soft, Dynamic, Clear and Treble boost), the Galaxy Buds’ equalizer can be tuned to your specific listening tastes. You can also toggle how much outside noise can get in via Ambient Sound. Lastly, the app gives you the ability to configure what launches during a long press. You can choose between volume, quick ambient sound or voice assistant.

MORE: Best Wireless Earbuds: AirPods vs. AirPods Alternatives

Jabra didn’t skimp on the features in the Elite Active. The buds have an integrated accelerometer, which turns them into a reliable fitness tracker that monitors steps per minute and the time elapsed. It’s nice, but we wish Jabra had added more info, like heart rate and calories burned. In case you’ll be using the buds outdoors, there’s the HearThrough feature for ambient noise. It’s a nice feature, but we were disappointed to learn we couldn’t disable the feature when using the earbuds in Active mode.

The Jabra Sound+ app lets you further augment the Elite Active’s features, including choosing which digital assistant to use (Amazon Alexa or the phone’s default) and how much outside noise HearThrough allows in. Jabra also has my favorite mobile equalizer. The app has six presets (Default, Bass boost, Speech, Smooth, Treble boost and Energize) in addition to the free-form, five-band EQ.

The app also lets you adjust in-call volume, including how loud your voice will sound. You can even add more treble or bass. There’s also a feature to hear notifications and Caller ID announcements as well as enable/disable auto pause. And, you have a Find My Buds feature to easily track down missing buds. In short, the Elite Active buds are bursting with features.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Audio

Surprisingly, these two sets of earbuds were pretty close in terms of sound quality, especially when I switched both to their most neutral equalizer setting. I felt like I was at an old-school red party listening to Cardi B and Bruno Mars’ “Please Me” on the Elite Active. The buds produced crisp percussion with a deep low end, with good separation that allowed the synthesized portions of the track to play nice with the keyboard. However, the Galaxy Buds had a cleaner presentation that allowed me to appreciate more of the finer details in the track.

The Jabras got the upper hand on Alicia Meyer’s “I Want To Thank You,” delivering crisp detail. I heard the timbre of the piano strings and the clear twang of the guitar along with the distinct sound of a drumstick hitting a cymbal. Plus, the soundscape was wide enough to let the vocalist’s lovely soprano breathe. I lost some of the percussion on the Galaxy Buds, due to the slightly bloated performance of the bass guitar.

MORE: Apple Airpods vs. Bose SoundSport Free: Wireless Earbuds Face-off

It was really close on Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey,” with both buds providing full, rich harmonies in concert with the gentle strums of the acoustic guitar and the robust bass guitar.

Winner: Draw

Call Quality

This was no contest. Thanks to Jabra’s experience creating award-winning mono Bluetooth headsets and conferencing speakers, the Elite Active buds offer unparalleled call audio quality. The company outfitted the buds with four microphones, which work simultaneously to boost your voice while blocking out outside sound. When I called my mother and then my boyfriend, neither could tell that I was talking to them via a pair of earbuds, and they didn’t sound muffled. The ability to adjust the volume of my voice in the call meant that I could talk normally.

The Galaxy Buds didn’t fare nearly as well. Although I could hear the people that I called and they could hear me, they all sounded like they were underwater. My callers reported the same audio quality on their end. You can make calls and hear well enough, but it’s painfully obvious that you’re using something other than the headset to talk through.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Charging Case

The Galaxy Buds come in a pill-shaped case that weighs 1.4 ounces and measures 2.8 x 1.5 x 1 inches. The plastic chassis looks nice enough and is easy to open, but it can only deliver 7 hours of additional charge. Since the Buds have an estimated 6-hour battery life, that’s only one additional charge with an hour left over. But in case you need to top off the charge, there’s a quick-charge feature that adds 1.7 hours of play time after 15 minutes of charging.  

Unlike the actual buds, the Elite Active’s 2.4-ounce, 2.8 x 2 x 1-inch charging case is rather unassuming. Made from matte-black plastic, the Jabra logo is the only flourish. It took a Herculean effort to actually open the seamingly simple case. I later discovered that you have to squeeze the sides while lifting the lid to access your precious buds.

On the one hand, that means you don’t have to worry about the buds falling out when you put them in the case. But you shouldn’t have to fight for the right to rock out. What I do like about the case is that it provides five different charges. The quick-charge feature restores 1.5 hours of power in 15 minutes.

Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Battery Life

Samsung is the new king of wireless bud battery life, rating the Galaxy Buds at 6 hours for endurance. I managed to squeeze out 5 hours and 46 minutes at fairly high volume. That’s longer than the 4:48 I got out of the Elite Active 65t.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Buds

Price

The Elite Active 65ts sell for $159.99, which is the same price as Apple’s AirPods. Jabra sells replacement buds for $59.99 and extra cases for $69.99. The Galaxy Buds are significantly cheaper at $129.99, but there’s no word on whether Samsung will make replacement buds or cases available.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy Buds

Overall Winner: Jabra Elite Active 65t

Thanks to its mature, durable design, great sound and varied feature set, the Jabra Elite Active 65t remains our top choice when it comes to truly wireless earbuds. They’re somewhat pricey at $159, but the Elite Active provides a sturdy fit, a fitness tracker and a customizable equalizer and excellent call quality. We just hope the next iteration of the buds will have longer battery life and near-instantaneous pairing.

Jabra Elite Active 65t Samsung Galaxy Buds
Design (15) 15 12
Comfort (10) 7 10
Controls (5) 4 3
Special Features and Apps (15) 14 10
Audio (25) 20 20
Charging Case (10) 8 6
Battery Life (15) 13 11
Call Quality (5) 5 3
Overall (100) 86 75

 

That’s not to say that the Samsung Galaxy Buds aren’t a great choice. The earbuds are stylish, durable and can last over 6 hours on a charge. And I was pleasantly surprised that the Buds held their own on audio performance against the Jabras. I’m also a fan of their lightweight, durable design. Still, it’d be nice if the charging case could offer more charges and if there were a few more features overall. However, the wireless charging puts the Buds in an innovative class all its own that sets the stage for the future of truly wireless earbuds.

Credit: Tom’s Guide