Jabra Elite 85h: The New King of Noise Cancelling Headphones
Comfortable, stylish, and well-designed, these headphones certainly look the part. Coupled with smart features, and superior audio, the Jabra Elite 85h are the best headphones money can buy.
There are a lot of headphones on the market, all claiming to be the best, the most stylish pair around. Many of them are from well-known manufacturers, and a fair few even prioritize fashion over function.
That’s not the case with the Jabra’s Elite 85h. The company is perhaps best known for its range of business-focused audio accessories. If you saw these in a shop, you may be tempted to give them a miss, but that’d be a huge mistake.
The Jabra Elite 85h are probably the best headphones money can buy. Read on for our full review, and at the end we’ve got a pair to give away to one lucky reader.
- Noise Cancellation: Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) using four microphones
- Battery Life: 41 hours (ANC off), 36 hours (ANC on)
- Charging Time: 2.5 hours
- Connection: Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C, 3.5mm jack
- Microphones: Eight
- Voice Assistant: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri
- Additional Features: Wind protection, rain resistance
- Accessories: Carry case, USB-C charging cable, 3.5mm aux cable, flight adaptor
- Colors: Navy, Titanium Black, Copper Black, Gold Beige
- Price: $299.99 at the time of review
You’ll be familiar with the form factor of these over-ear headphones. There are two foam-cushioned earpads connected by an adjustable headband. The adjustable, hardened part of the headband is designed to protrude slightly. This makes the headphones sit better on your head and around the ears, reducing tightness and pain.
However, this, along with the wide earpads, has the effect of making the headphones appear wider on your head. Comfort is your primary concern, but the slight bulkiness of the headphones takes a bit of getting used to.
Underneath the mesh fabric of the right earpad, there are three buttons arranged vertically. The top button adjusts volume and skips forward, while the bottom one lowers the volume and goes back to the previous track. In the middle is a multifunctional button that can accept/end calls, play or pause audio, and put the headphones into pairing mode.
The underside of the earpad is where you’ll find the USB-C charging port, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a voice assistant button. The left earpad is sparser, with just a single button on the underside to toggle noise cancellation modes.
Unlike many other headphones, there is no power button on the Elite 85h. Instead, you have to uncurl/re-curl the headphones to power them on and off. Remembering to do this was sometimes a bit of hassle. However, Jabra has two tricks to help you conserve power.
The first is on-ear detection. The headphones can tell if you remove them from your ears, and they’ll automatically stop playing. Your audio will resume as soon as they’re placed back on. The second is the Elite 85h’s Sleep mode. By default, after one hour of no playback, the headphones will automatically turn off. You can customize the timeout using the Jabra Sound+ app.
Thanks, in part, to these features, the headphones can achieve a staggering 36 hours of playback time with the ANC enabled. This increases to 41 hours of usage without the ANC. To reach a full charge it takes roughly 2.5 hours. However, if you need a bit of juice in a rush, a 15-minute charge gives you five hours of usage.
There are two types of noise cancellation: active, and passive. For active noise cancellation, the headphones use microphones to analyze the background noise. They then emit inverse sound waves to deaden the sound before it reaches your ears. The Jabra Elite 85h come equipped with Active Noise Cancellation (ANC).
The ANC is as good as you’re likely to find on any consumer-focused set of headphones. Sounds are almost entirely removed, allowing you to enjoy your audio in relative peace. The earpads fit securely around your ear too, minimizing sound leakage.
While ANC is a key selling point for many headphones, it is an all-or-nothing solution. Either all sound is muted, or none is. That’s why Jabra developed HearThrough. This is a hybrid form of noise cancellation, allowing through elements of background noise that might be useful to you.
Imagine you’re walking down the street and go to cross the road. With ANC enabled, you’d be totally without any audible sensory input. HearThrough allows you to keep track of what’s going on around you, without the background noise overtaking your audio.
There are many factors to consider when buying a new set of headphones, but the most important is how they sound. The Jabra Elite 85h doesn’t disappoint in this regard. The audio performance is, to my ears, flawless.
Spotify is one of the leading streaming services. If you are a Premium subscriber, then your music will be streamed at 320kbps. This audio format is considered one of the highest quality and allows you to pick out details in the audio that you couldn’t hear if it were broadcast on the radio.
The Jabra Elite 85h handled this bitrate excellently, frequently bringing depth and nuance to tracks that I hadn’t appreciated before. My primary headphones for the past few years have been the Bose QuietComfort 35, which I always considered similarly effective. However, comparing them, it’s clear that the Elite 85h are the superior of the two.
There are a whopping eight microphones placed strategically around the Elite 85h earpads. These have a dual-purpose. The primary reason to have these mics around is to help out with the ANC. However, six of the mics also there for handsfree calls and voice commands.
While it can be difficult for you to observe, or hear, the quality of your end of a call, all reports from the other party were positive. My voice was clear and audible above whatever was going on around me. This was true in a range of situations from a quiet office, a noisy street, and with music in the background.
As the headphone wearer, you also need to be able to hear the other participant too accurately. Given the performance of these headphones, there were no audio issues to be found. I did find, on occasion, that when I first picked up a call, I’d need to turn the volume up. However, I think this is a quirk with the phone I was using. I tried it on a secondary handset and didn’t see the same behavior.
The Jabra Elite 85h are a great pair of headphones, but what makes them outstanding is their smart features. Before you pair them to your phone, download the Jabra Sound+ app, available for Android and iOS. This app gives you access to a host of features that enhance your experience with the Elite 85h, including setup for either Siri, Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa.
Upon connection, the Sound+ app will check for and download any available firmware updates. Then, you get to start customizing your headphones. There are two main features; Moments, and SmartSound.
Moments are customizable sound profiles. At various times of day, and during different activities, you may want the headphones to behave differently. There are four Moments for you to customize; My Moment, Commute, In Public, and In Private.
For each Moment, you can adjust the type of noise cancellation, selecting full ANC, HearThrough, or turn it off entirely. There’s also an opportunity to adapt the music equalizer for each Moment too. You can do this manually–adjusting the bass, mid-range, and treble yourself–or you can use one of the presets.
SmartSound is easy the Elite 85h’s most exciting feature. When enabled, the Elite 85h analyses the noise of your surrounding environment and will select the best Moment for where you are right now. This means you can seamlessly switch between In Private, Commute, and In Public, without having to lift a finger.
This may seem like a trivial feature, but it makes a massive difference to your experience. If you’re walking down a busy street, with a lot of hazards you should be listening out for, you may not bother to switch to HearThrough manually. With SmartSound, the headphones adjust to you, rather than the other way around.
The Best Headphones Available Today
My first experience of the Jabra Elite 85h was at CES 2019, where I felt they were easily the best headphones at the event. Six months on, and after a real-world test, they have proved themselves as one of the best pairs of headphones you can buy today.
Their style, design, and comfort easily place them alongside the likes of Bose, Beats, and Sony. But it’s their features that really set them apart. The Sound+ app, Moments, and SmartSounds change the way you experience audio while on the go.
If you’re in the market for new headphones, or even if you’re not, you should go out and buy the Jabra Elite 85h.