why-i-ditched-my-airpods-for-these-cheaper-jabra-earbuds

Why I ditched my AirPods for these cheaper Jabra earbuds

Science

(CNN) —  

I’ve reviewed countless wireless earbuds, but no matter how good they are, I always find myself running back to my AirPods Pro as soon as I’m done. There’s something about the way Apple’s earbuds sound and feel to me that no other model could beat — until I got my hands on the Jabra Elite Active 75t, that is.

I initially tested out the Elite Active 75t for our best true wireless earbuds roundup (where they were recently crowned the best buds for working out), but they’ve stayed in my ears for weeks after that. Jabra’s earbuds offer a mix of comfort, style and versatility that I’ve found hard to put down — all for a price that’s as much as $110 cheaper than Apple’s high-end buds.

Here’s why I’ve ditched my AirPods Pro for the Jabra Elite Active 75t, and why they make an excellent (and much more affordable) alternative to the most popular wireless earbuds out there.

Mike Andronico/CNN

The Elite Active 75t are among the few non-Apple earbuds I’ve worn that just feel right — and they look better to boot. I’ve got no problem with Apple’s now-ubiquitous earbud design, but I like that Jabra’s earbuds have a sleeker, more low-profile look that doesn’t hang out of my ears.

I also love having a pair of earbuds with actual color. I’m currently rocking the Navy Blue Elite Active 75t, but you can get them in five other shades including a striking pink and mint green. I’m still hoping Apple will release the next AirPods Pro in multiple colors (as it has with the AirPods Max), but my vibrant Jabras will do for now.

More importantly, the Elite Active 75t are every bit as comfortable as my AirPods Pro. They’re a bit bulkier than Apple’s buds, but they also form a soft, more secure fit that makes the AirPods Pro feel slightly loose by comparison.

I’ve also grown to prefer the Elite Active 75t’s design when it comes to controls. Unlike the tap controls found on most buds, Jabra’s earbuds have physical buttons for doing things like skipping tracks and activating your virtual assistant. This provides a uniquely tactile sense of control and eliminates the chances of any accidental presses, which I’ve had all too often on more sensitive buds such as the Samsung Galaxy Buds+.

While pinching the AirPods Pro’s stems to control music playback is easy enough, being able to click a button on the Elite Active 75t feels that much more immediate and satisfying. Jabra’s buds also offer a finer level of control, allowing you to adjust volume directly from the earbuds themselves in addition to the usual pausing, playing and summoning Siri.

And here’s the real kicker — when using the left control button to switch sound modes, an onboard voice will explicitly say the words “ANC,” “HearThrough” or “off,” making it unmistakably clear which setting you’ve activated. By comparison, the AirPods Pro emit one of three similar-sounding chimes once you’ve switched modes, and I still can’t always tell the difference between them after almost a solid year of use.

Speaking of noise cancellation…

Mike Andronico/CNN

For a pair of earbuds that cost way less than the AirPods Pro, the Jabra Elite Active 75t offer the same key selling points — and a whole lot more. Thanks to a post-launch firmware update, the Elite Active 75t now feature active noise cancellation (ANC), and it’s every bit as good (if not better) than what you’ll get on Apple’s premium buds.

I was constantly shocked by how much noise the Elite Active 75t were able to drown out, as they turned chaotic construction sites and rollicking overhead trains into barely-audible ambiance every time I turned on ANC to better hear my podcasts. In fact, I found that Jabra’s earbuds suppressed even more noise than Apple’s buds did, partially because of the tighter seal they formed in my ears.

And whenever I needed to better hear my surroundings while being dragged to the park by my dog, the Elite Active 75t’s Hearthrough mode did a great job amplifying the outside world. This feature is very comparable to the AirPods Pro’s Transparency mode in terms of how much noise it lets in. But while Transparency mode only offers a single setting, Jabra’s HearThrough feature offers six levels of adjustment for letting you choose exactly how much external racket gets picked up.

On top of matching many of the AirPods Pro’s key features, the Elite Active 75t also do plenty of things that Apple’s buds can’t. While Apple’s buds let you make a few tweaks in your Bluetooth menu, Jabra’s earbuds have a fully featured app for adjusting sound equalization, creating custom audio profiles and even playing some relaxing ambient sounds once it’s time to study or work.

I haven’t really missed my AirPods Pro in terms of sound quality, which speaks to just how close Jabra’s earbuds come in the audio department. While I find Apple’s buds to sound clearer and more balanced, the Elite Active 75t still sound warm and lively enough to bring out the big guitars and vocals of my favorite indie and punk tracks.

And unlike the AirPods Pro, Jabra’s earbuds can be tweaked to your liking, with a fully customizable equalizer as well as presets for boosting things such as bass and treble. After trying out a few different modes, I was able to replicate my AirPods’ sound output pretty closely using the treble boost setting. The Elite Active 75t’s deeper fit occasionally made bass sound overwhelming, but I found it to be a small trade-off to make for their better comfort and excellent ANC. Oh, and did I mention the battery life is great? Jabra’s buds lasted me six straight hours with ANC on (roughly an hour more than the AirPods Pro), and I only have to charge the case every few days when using them on and off during my daily walks and at work.

Mike Andronico/CNN

Ditching the AirPods Pro for the Jabra Elite Active 75t has been a total joy — with one exception. For whatever reason, my iPhone 12 Pro will sometimes stop recognizing my Elite Active 75t, particularly when I’ve had them sitting on my desk out of their case for too long.

I’m usually able to fix this by quickly placing the buds in and out of their case (with some occasional re-pairing), but it is an annoying snag — and one that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced on the AirPods Pro. We call the Pro the best earbuds for Apple users for a reason, as they’ll pair to your iPhone within seconds, and generally stay that way until you decide to unpair them manually.

There are a few other AirPods Pro specific perks: Spatial Audio offers some truly impressive 360-degree sound on supported movies and shows, and Audio Sharing is handy if you and another AirPods owner want to listen to the same tracks together. But none of these features (nor the occasional disconnect) were enough to make me come running back.

Mike Andronico/CNN

I’ve been testing a review unit of the Jabra Elite Active 75t, but if I were choosing which earbuds to buy for myself between those and the AirPods Pro, it’d be a no brainer. Jabra’s buds are just $139 on Amazon at the time of writing (they’re typically $179), which is an absolutely ludicrous value for a pair of earbuds that go toe-to-toe — and occasionally surpass — the AirPods Pro ($199; originally $249) in nearly every way.

There are still some good reasons to splurge for Apple’s high-end buds, from their better overall sound to their seamless connectivity with iPhones, iPads and Macs. But the Elite Active 75t’s superb design, features and noise-cancellation form a winning combo that have gotten this staunch AirPods loyalist to jump ship for now. And I’m not sure when I’ll return.