The Jabra Elite 85h lives up to their premium price tag. While they do lag slightly behind the field-leading wireless headphones in terms of sound quality and noise cancellation, they also cost less than those models, making these headphones a fair value. Plus, they are available in more eye-catching colors than many other premium models and offer a unique woven fabric aesthetic, making them a good choice for those that want their headphones to make a fashion statement on top of providing some sweet serenades. These headphones also provide more advanced features than many competitors, including an automatic pause/play function when you take the headphones off and put them back on, and the ability to automatically ramp the noise-canceling levels up and down as the ambient noise around you changes. Overall, these headphones will please those shopping for a premium pair even though they fail to earn a "best of the best" moniker.Editor's Note: This gear review update from January 18, 2022, offers insight into what we would recommend to a friend and why.
Jabra Elite 85h Review
Pros: Great sound quality, great noise cancellation, comfortable, user friendly features
Cons: Expensive, both sound quality and noise cancellation fall just short of being the best in the field
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Jabra Elite 85h
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|Pros||Great sound quality, great noise cancellation, comfortable, user friendly features||Great sound, comfortable||Inexpensive, powerful bass, effective active noise cancellation, comfortable||Good sound quality, good active noise cancellation, less expensive than competitors||Fairly portable|
|Cons||Expensive, both sound quality and noise cancellation fall just short of being the best in the field||Noise isolation not on par with other high-end models||Lacks some brightness in mid and vocal ranges, headband may be to large for smaller heads||Not comfortable for those with larger ears/heads||Mediocre sound quality, not very comfortable, poor noise isolation|
|Bottom Line||Premium cans that offer unique features on top of great sound quality and noise cancellation||A great choice if you don't care for active noise cancellation||Impressively inexpensive given the sound quality, active noise-canceling performance, and comfort||An impressive combination of good quality at a reasonable price that makes for a good value||Sound quality and user experience doesn't live up to those of other, comparably priced models|
|Rating Categories||Jabra Elite 85h||Bose SoundLink Wire...||Soundcore Life Q20||JBL Live 650BTNC||Cowin E7 Pro|
|Sound Quality (30%)|
|Noise Isolation (25%)|
|User Friendliness (10%)|
|Specs||Jabra Elite 85h||Bose SoundLink Wire...||Soundcore Life Q20||JBL Live 650BTNC||Cowin E7 Pro|
|Manufacturer reported battery life (hours)||36||15||40||30||30|
|Measured weight (ounces)||10.5||7||9.3||9.1||10.6|
|Included case||Semi-hard case||Semi-hard case||Lined drawstring pouch||Lined drawstring pouch||Semi-hard case|
|Earcup padding cover material||Leatherette||Micro suede Alcantara||Leatherette||PU Leather||Synthetic protein leather|
|Charging cable length (inches)||12"||47"||40"||47"||N/A|
|Microphone for voice?||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Onboard buttons||Volume, play/pause, forward/back, noise cancelling, voice assistant, power/bluetooth, answer/decline/mute calls, toggle between sound modes||Volume, play/pause, forward/back||Volume, multifunction, power, NC||Volume, play/pause, forward/back, noise cancelling, voice assistant, power/bluetooth, answer/decline/mute calls||Volume, play/pause, forward/back|
Our Analysis and Test Results
While the Elite 85h can hang its hat on great sound quality and effective active noise cancellation, the real differentiating factor of these headphones is their unique user interface features. Namely, these headphones can automatically pause your music when you take them off and can save battery by dynamically adjusting noise cancellation levels based on the current amount of ambient noise (though this latter feature can be a bit finicky).
Overall the Elite 85h sounds great. We have a few minor nitpicks with its sound profile that place it ever so slightly behind the top wireless models currently on the market, but we think pretty much anyone who listens to these headphones is going to be pleased.
These headphones provide a very lifelike, immersive sound. Instruments come through with clear separation, bass maintains power while remaining smooth and unmuddled, and vocals are crisp and accentuated.
If you put these headphones on and then immediately switch to listening to the same song on one of the flagship models from Bose or Sony, you will notice that these other headphones can produce just a bit more clarity and separation. However, we think most people will be more than pleased with the Elite 85h's clarity when listening to the headphones in isolation.
This point is solely for the audio nerds out there, these headphones do not support the highest quality Bluetooth codecs like aptX or LDAC, meaning the signal that goes into the Elite 85h is often of a lower quality than the ones going into some of the other premium headphones in this price range. We still think these headphones sound great, but this could be a dealbreaker for some.
Here again, the Elite 85H offers great if not quite field-leading performance for noise cancellation.
For the most part, if you turn noise cancellation on and listen to music at a moderate volume with the Elite 85h, you're going to feel fully isolated from the sounds of the outside world. However, we found these headphones to be slightly less adept at canceling out predictable low-frequency noises, often the strong suit for active noise cancellation, than some of its competitors. The headphones still blocked out most of these noises in our testing, but occasionally while listening to podcasts or music with moments of quiet, we could notice the faint hum of a car or bus engine.
That being said, these headphones did a better job at canceling out higher-pitched frequencies than some of their competitors. Higher frequency staccato noise like typing or tapping on a desk tends to be harder for active noise cancellation to obscure, but the Elite 85h does a reasonably good job.
All in all, even though a few models on the market offer better overall noise cancellation, we think the Elite 85h will more than get the job done for most people.
This is one area that the Elite 85h gets right. The vast majority of our comfort testers reported having no issues wearing these headphones all day.
Thanks to generous faux-leather cushioning on both the earcups and the headband, we rarely, if ever, experienced uncomfortable hotspots when wearing the Elite 85h, even when they remained sitting on our heads for 10+ hours in a day. The only minor complaint we received is that if you have particularly large ears, they may be slightly crunched by the earcups. In that case, you might want to go with the particularly deep earcups Bose QuietComfort 35 II is used for most of their headphones.
The Elite 85h offers a slew of features that most of the competition lacks. Almost all of them are useful, and the ones that aren't can easily be turned off.
Possibly the most useful feature of these headphones are the sensors that can tell whether or not they're on your head. This allows the headphones to automatically pause music when you take them off and automatically start it again when you put them back on. This is super convenient for taking the headphones off to have a quick conversation. You can also set the headphones to automatically mute microphones when you take them off in the middle of a phone call.
The headphones also turn themselves on when you twist the earcups into the listening position (facing each other) and turn off when you turn the earcups flat. This can be slightly less intuitive than a power button, and you may find yourself leaving the headphones on because you forget to turn the earcups flat. Luckily you can set the headphones to go into sleep mode and eventually shut off if they haven't been on your head for an extended period.
Jabra also offers pre-programmed "moments" that automatically adjust the noise cancellation levels in response to ambient noise. These moments include "commute," which cranks up the noise cancellation when the headphones think you're on a busy train, "in-public," which enables the hear-through mode that utilizes the microphones to let in enough outside audio so you can hear what your coworkers are saying and "private" which turns the noise cancellation off when in quiet situations that don't benefit from active noise cancellation. When this feature works well, it's great — noise cancellation automatically turns on when things get loud. It automatically shuts off when things are quiet, dramatically increasing overall battery life. However, we found many instances where the in-public mode turned on in situations when we would have preferred the noise canceling to be on full power — like when walking through a crowded train station. Luckily you can easily turn this feature off or opt to cycle through these moments manually rather than letting the headphones decide.
You can also manually adjust the Elite 85h's EQ settings and select from some pre-programmed EQ modes like bass boost. All this is done in the Jabra Sound+ app, where you can adjust these headphones' myriad other settings.
Outside of unique features and sensors, these headphones keep things pretty simple for basic functions. On the right earcup, a large button in the middle functions as a play/pause control while buttons above and below it raise and lower the volume or skip tracks if you hold them down. These buttons feel fairly high quality, but since they are on the face of the earcup rather than underneath, you end up pushing the headphones into your head as you press them, a sensation some of our testers disliked. There are also dedicated buttons on the front of the left and right earcups for summoning virtual assistants and adjusting active noise cancellation, respectively.
These headphones charge with an included USB-C cable.
The Elite 85h comes with a semi-hard and protective travel case, the current norm for premium headphones. We found it very easy to fold the headphones into the case and get everything closed up. However, we wish the case had some sort of interior pocket, as there isn't a good place to store cords or the included airplane adapter.
Should You Buy the Elite 85h?
The Elite 85h is a great pair of headphones that we feel is fairly priced. Sitting just below the top-tier models on the market both in terms of performance and price, we can't say these headphones are exactly a steal, but we can't say they are overpriced either. The Jabra Elite 85h offer great sound and good noise cancellation at a correspondingly high price. If you're willing to spend quite a bit on a pair of headphones, but the top-dollar models feel just a bit out of reach, these headphones are a great choice.
What Other Wireless Headphones Should You Consider?
If your budget is somewhat bigger, there are other options you might consider over this nice pair of wireless headphones. The top-performing Sony WH-1000XM4 has the best sound quality and impressive noise-canceling properties. They are comfortable and easy to use, making the extra hundred dollars feel worthwhile if your wallet allows.
— Michelle Powell and Max Mutter
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