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Jabra Elite 85h Review

Premium cans that offer unique features on top of great sound quality and noise cancellation
Jabra Elite 85h
Credit: Laura Casner
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Price:   $250 List | $191.13 at Amazon
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
Manufacturer:   Jabra
By Michelle Powell and Max Mutter  ⋅  Apr 2, 2020
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81
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 15
  • Sound Quality - 30% 8
  • Noise Isolation - 25% 8
  • Comfort - 25% 8
  • User Friendliness - 10% 9
  • Portability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Jabra Elite 85h lives up to their premium price tag. While they do lag slightly behind the field-leading models 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.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Jabra Elite 85h
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Jabra Elite 85h
Awards   Best Buy Award   
Price $250 List
$191.13 at Amazon
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$40 List
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Pros Great sound quality, great noise cancellation, comfortable, user friendly featuresGreat sound, comfortableInexpensive, powerful bass, effective active noise cancellation, comfortableGood sound quality, good active noise cancellation, less expensive than competitorsIn inexpensive, reasonably good sound quality, portable
Cons Expensive, both sound quality and noise cancellation fall just short of being the best in the fieldNoise isolation not on par with other high-end modelsLacks some brightness in mid and vocal ranges, headband may be to large for smaller headsNot comfortable for those with larger ears/headsPoor noise isolation, not comfortable for large ears/heads
Bottom Line Premium cans that offer unique features on top of great sound quality and noise cancellationA great choice if you don't care for active noise cancellationImpressively inexpensive given the sound quality, active noise-canceling performance, and comfortAn impressive combination of good quality at a reasonable price that makes for a good valueOffers a decent listening experience for a relatively low price, but certainly doesn't stand out in any aspect
Rating Categories Jabra Elite 85h Bose SoundLink Wire... Soundcore Life Q20 JBL Live 650BTNC Tribit XFree Tune
Sound Quality (30%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Noise Isolation (25%)
8.0
5.0
6.0
7.0
4.0
Comfort (25%)
8.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
User Friendliness (10%)
9.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Portability (10%)
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
9.0
Specs Jabra Elite 85h Bose SoundLink Wire... Soundcore Life Q20 JBL Live 650BTNC Tribit XFree Tune
Type Over-ear Over-ear Over-ear Over-ear Over-ear
Noise cancelling Yes No Yes Yes No
Manufacturer reported battery life (hours) 36 15 40 30 40
Measured weight (ounces) 10.5 7 9.3 9.1 10.3
Included case Semi-hard case Semi-hard case Lined drawstring pouch Lined drawstring pouch Semi-hard case
App Yes Yes No Yes No
Earcup padding cover material Leatherette Micro suede Alcantara Leatherette PU Leather Leatherette
Charging cable length (inches) 12" 47" 40" 47" N/A
Microphone for voice? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth version 5.0 4.0 5.0 4.2 4.1
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, noise cancelling

Our Analysis and Test Results

While the Elite 85h can hang its hat on both 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).

Performance Comparison


Undercutting the top-shelf models regarding price, the Elite 85h...
Undercutting the top-shelf models regarding price, the Elite 85h provides close to the same performance as the best models while saving you some cash.
Credit: Laura Casner

Sound Quality


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 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 Elite 85h's clarity when listening to the headphones in isolation.

Though not quite as melodious as the top models on the market, the...
Though not quite as melodious as the top models on the market, the Elite 85h pair sounds fantastic.
Credit: Laura Casner

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.

Noise Isolation


Here again the 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 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.

In most situations we found the active noise cancellation of the...
In most situations we found the active noise cancellation of the Elite 85h to be adequately up to the task.
Credit: Laura Casner

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.

Comfort


This is one area that the 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 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 majority of our testers found the Elite 85h to be plenty...
The majority of our testers found the Elite 85h to be plenty comfortable enough to wear all day.
Credit: Laura Casner

User Friendliness


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 the microphones when you take them off in the middle of a phone call.

Apart from the simple controls, we love that the Elite 85h...
Apart from the simple controls, we love that the Elite 85h automatically pauses you music when you take the headphones off your head.
Credit: Laura Casner

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.

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 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 allow the Elite 85h to dynamically adjust the noise...
You can allow the Elite 85h to dynamically adjust the noise cancellation settings based on the ambient noise the headphones detect. This works well in quiet situations (i.e., turning the noise cancellation off), but it can sometimes get confused when out in the real world.
Credit: Laura Casner

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 Elite 85h comes with a protective carrying case.
The Elite 85h comes with a protective carrying case.
Credit: Laura Casner

Portability


The 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.


Value


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.

Conclusion


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