Mobile technology should not be about cramming the office into your pocket but a way to enjoy your everyday life.
Truly wireless headphones - why so difficult?
The brand new Jabra Elite 65t are supposedly among the best truly wireless headphones/earbuds you can buy today and I paid €195 for them.
The Chinese QCY Q29 wireless earbuds are about as cheap as they get - I paid exactly €20 at Aliexpress.
Apart from the price, the difference between the two are surprisingly small. Let's compare.
Just looking at the retail boxes and opening them up might make you think the QCY headphones are the expensive ones.
The Chinese headphones come in a tiny eco-friendly cardboard box with a minimalistic stylish logo as well as a tiny hologram sticker. It's easy to open with a premium feel to it.
The Danish/American Jabra on the other hand comes in a run of the mill bulky bright yellow box that is frustratingly difficult to open and looks cheap. Lots of plastic and paper that you have to rip apart to get all the peaces out and for some reason one of the silicon earbuds got stuck in the plastic and had to be scissored out. This is as far from a premium unboxing experience as you can get.
The design of the earbuds are quite different but both look good in different ways. Both are also fairly easy to pair - it's the usual Bluetooth pairing process. The charging cases have slightly different shapes but are roughly equal in size - both will fit in jeans pockets. I do prefer Jabra's case as it has slightly rounded corners.
Sound quality is also very different. Jabra is very neutral while QCY emphasises the base. In fact, the QCY has surprisingly strong base for a pair of earbuds and I have to admit I like it. Based on specs and price, Jabra is supposed to have superior audio quality. Personally, I don't think there is that much of a difference in audio quality. But if you prefer a neutral audio profile then Jabra is clearly better.
I have seen only a few reviews about the Jabra Elite 65t so far and they all praise the audio quality. Sure, they sound good. But having paid €195 for them, I'm not feeling impressed.
As far as I can tell, both models only support the very basic SBC audio codec - this is the default Bluetooth codec for music. I would have expected Jabra to support the more advanced aptX codec or even aptX HD considering how they are promoting the audio quality but this does not seem to be the case.
Ergonomics is where QCY once again outperforms Jabra - and this surprises me considering Jabra's reputation and experience.
The QCY has smaller earbuds. The silicon buds going into the ear canal carries almost all of the weight and they are very soft. The rest of the earbuds only gently touches against the inside of the ear and the round design doesn't cause any pressure points. I have used these for 4 hours continuously without any kind of discomfort.
The Jabra earbuds are much larger and they immediately felt too big. There are alternative silicon buds (smaller and larger) but they make no difference as the problem isn't with the tip but with the size of the rest of the earbuds. The sides of the earbuds push hard agains the inside of the ear in all directions and felt uncomfortable. After about 20 minutes it became painful. Carefully positioning them moved the pressure against less sensitive parts of the ear and I could continue to use them but I would not say they are comfortable. And the silicon buds have several times detached and got stuck in my ear canals.
Once in place, both Jabra and QCY feel secure in the ears and not like they are going to fall out. This is especially true for Jabra.
Obviously, your mileage will vary. I did, however, expect a company like Jabra to have made earbuds that would fit at least as well as QCY. In this regard, I'm disappointed.
Connectivity is the weak point of the QCY and what makes the Jabra unique.
The QCY earbuds keep loosing their connection with the phone. I need to carry the phone in the front pocket of my shirt to get a working connection - I can not keep the phone in the pocket in my trousers. And even so, there are frequent glitches with several second long pauses and stutter.
The Jabra Elite 65t is the first mainstream wireless earbuds with the new Bluetooth 5 technology that offers slightly better signal strength and range. My OnePlus 5 phone also has Bluetooth 5 and it makes a noticeable difference. But the connection is not "rock solid". Even if I keep the phone in my shirt pocket I experienced tiny glitches every 10 minutes or so. Not nearly as bad as with the QCY but the glitches are still there. I can also keep the phone in the pocket of my trousers with only minor glitches. I would call the connection "good enough".
Then there are also a few things that only Jabra will do:
With Jabra you can use Amazon Alexa as your voice controlled assistant. You can of course also use your phone's default assistant (Siri or Google).
Jabra also has a sound pass-trough mode. Since the buds fit quite tightly in your ears you will not hear much from your surroundings. This might be a good thing. But if you want to hear, you can tap the right bud twice and get audio pass-trough: the mic will pick up outside sounds and pass them trough to the speakers. It works very well. You can also choose a mixed-mode where you hear both music and outside sounds and you get to choose how much of the outside sounds you want to hear.
I found the pass-trough mode very useful when I wanted to be able to briefly interact with a ticket sales person or cashier and then continue listening to music. It's quicker than taking the buds out.
Used as a hands-free set when talking on the phone, Jabra works very well as you might expect from a company that with a long tradition building such devices.
All in all the quite expensive Jabra Elite 65t is better than a pair of €20 "noname" Chinese headphones - but they are not as much better as you would hope considering the difference in price.
Knowing what I know now, I would wait for other Bluetooth 5 truly wireless headphones/earbuds.