Hands On: Jabra Elite 85h Wireless ANC Headphones

I’ve got an insanely long airplane trip coming up and, no surprise, my very first thought was, which noise-canceling headphones should I bring for the flight? Great news for me; Jabra just released the Elite 85h. Besides having a sound that competes with the best ANC headphones out there, they’re the only ones with enough battery life to last for my entire journey. Let’s see if they sound good enough to stay on my packing list.

The Elite 85h has a variety of noise-canceling modes that give it an edge against the competition. These retail for $300, while the Bose QC35II and the Sony WH1000xM3 both retail for $350. There is a button on the left earcup that lets you switch between ANC on, HearThrough, and ANC off. HearThrough actually boosts outside noise so you can hear airport announcements or family conversations while still listening to music. There is an accompanying app with the “SmartSound” feature that uses the microphones in the headphones to analyze outside noise and determine the best ANC mode for your current situation. You can preset how you want it to react in these different modes.

The Jabra Elite 85h headphones feature up to 36 hours of playback with ANC on. That’s one of the best playback performances for headphones, although I was secretly hoping “85h” referred to 85 hours of playback. Alas, 36 hours is quite good, and fast charge capability provides up to 5 hours of playback after 15 minutes of charging.

The headphones come with a 3.5mm audio cable and charge via the included USB-C cable. They automatically pair to Bluetooth (ver 5.0) when initially turned on. Unfortunately, they do not use aptX processing. Up to 8 devices can be paired, and two can be connected at the same time. The phones are voice-enabled, and will work with Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant.

The headphones have some interesting features. They pause automatically when you take them off. They lack a power button, so the only way to turn them off is to rotate the earcups flat. Twist them back into position and they turn on. They also must be rotated in the right direction, and for me, it’s opposite of the way I would naturally take off and set down the headphones. To preserve that massively long battery life, I would prefer a dedicated on/off switch.

The Elite 85h have a very neutral, balanced sound without an exaggerated bass. “Into Yellow” by Martin Luke Brown displayed all the subtle details of the background percussion. The muted trumpet sounds were clean and distinct. The extreme bass on the track was also nicely and accurately conveyed on the Elite 85h, without ever getting overbearing.

Listening to the piano version of the same song caused me to truly appreciate the transparency of the Elite 85h. Brown’s vocals are pure, unmasked and have a wonderful sense of presence, and the piano has a gorgeous, lush soundstage and every nuance, including pedal noise is detailed. The accurately balanced frequency response was showcased on Harrison Storm’s “Run” with the impressive bass staying balanced against the acoustic guitars. The soundstage with the doubled vocals was open and spacious.

There are a few things that are slight negatives for the Elite 85h. When using the SmartSound feature, a voice prompt announces which mode it is switching to. I found it annoying when moving from different rooms in my office to have the voice interupting my music. The voice prompts on all announcements are quite loud, especially when switching ANC modes manually. The headphones have a rather jarring sound that lets you know when you’ve hit maximum and minimum volumes. There’s also a rather loud physical clicking sound when adjusting the volume by the buttons on the side of the right earcup.

The Jabra Sound+ app has a 5-band graphic equalizer and music presets. You can also use the Soundscapes mode to mask external noises, and these can be programmed to play as part of the SmartSound presets. I truly enjoyed the Ocean Waves soundscape, and look forward to using them to remind me of home while on my upcoming trip. Yes, out of all the headphones in my collection, the Jabra Elite 85h have the features, sound, and battery life I’ll need for the journey.

For more information, visit jabra.com.

saserty's picture

Sound quality of the muted trumpet was very clear. @snow rider 3d