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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Our Analysis and Test Results
While the Jabra elite 85H can hang its hat on both great sound quality and effective active noise cancellation, the real differentiating factor of these headphones are their unique user interface features. Namely these headphones can automatically pause your music when you take them off, a feature generally only seen in earbuds, 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 Jabra Elite 85H sounds great. We have a few minor nitpicks with its sound profile that place it ever so slightly behind the top 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 are able to produce just a bit more clarity and separation. However, we think most people will be more than pleased with the Jabra 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 Jabra 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 Jabra Elite 85H offers great if not quite field leading performance.
For the most part, if you turn noise cancellation on and listen to music at a moderate volume with the Jabra 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 cancelling 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 actually did a better job at cancelling out higher-pitched frequencies than some of their competitors. Higher frequency staccato noise like typing or tapping on a desk tend to be harder for active noise cancellation to obscure, but the Jabra 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 Jabra Elite 85H will more than get the job done for most people.
This is one area that the Jabra Elite 85H gets right. The vast majority of our comfort testers reported having no issues when 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 Jabra Elite 85H, even when they remained sat 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 is using for most of their headphones.
The Jabra 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 of, 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 the 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 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 of time.
Jabra also offers pre-programmed "moments" that can 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, and it automatically shuts off when things are quiet, which can dramatically increase overall battery life. However, we found many instances where the in-public mode turned on in situations when we would have preferred the noise cancelling 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, as well as select from some pre-programmed EQ modes like bass boost. All this is done in the Jabra Sound+ app, which is also where you can adjust these headphones' myriad other settings.
Outside of unique features and sensors, these headphones keep things pretty simple when it comes to 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 Jabra Elite 85H comes with a semi-hard and protective travel case, which is 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.
The Jabra 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.
— Michelle Powell and Max Mutter