Jabra Elite 85h headset review: Competing for the wireless ANC crown with SmartSound tech, for $50 less than Bose and Sony

  • Editors' rating
    9.8 Spectacular
  • $299.99

Pros

  • Soft comfortable ear cups
  • Eight microphones for an optimal experience
  • SmartSound technology for automatic profile switching
  • Standard USB-C port for charging
  • Rain resistant nano-coating
  • 36 hour rated battery life
  • $50 less than similar competitors

Cons

  • Bit heavier than competitors

Active noise-cancelling (ANC) headphones are popular for commuters, office workers, travelers, and those who want to shut out the world for a focused audio experience. In the past, Bose set the bar for ANC-enabled cans with Sony, and others, challenging Bose for market share. Jabra just entered the ANC cans contest with its newest wireless headset, the Jabra Elite 85h, and it came out strong with a contender that stands out in a few key areas for the enterprise.

While music is common use for ANC headphones, you can also use them for phone calls and digital voice assistants. Jabra is well-known for high quality professional headsets so it is natural for it to move into this ANC headphone market. It has some excellent fully wireless earbuds with the Elite Active 65t that is better than Apple's AirPods thanks to a number of standout features.

While Bose and Sony continue to release incremental updates to its popular headphones, Jabra's new Elite 85h offers more for $50 less. With the Jabra Elite 85h you will find eight microphones with six of them used to enhance call quality, which is not a focus of the Bose and Sony models, while four of them filter out noise for the ANC system. The Jabra Elite 85h also has nano-coating on the internal components and are advertised as being rain resistant.

See also: Jabra Elite Active 65t review: Better than the AirPods and designed for active users

Jabra vs Bose vs Sony

Before we dive into all of the specific details and experiences using the Jabra Elite 85h, let's take a quick look at how this new headset matches up with the most popular Bose and Sony active-noise cancelling wireless headsets.

Feature Jabra Elite 85h Bose QuietComfort 35 II Sony WH-1000XM3
Price $299.99 $349.99 $349.99
Battery life (ANC on) 36 hours 20 hours 30 hours
Battery life (ANC off) 41 hours Not reported 38 hours
Charging port USB-C microUSB USB-C
Quick charge 5 hours w/ 15 min charge 2.5 hours w/ 15 min charge 5 hours w/ 10 min charge
Number of mics 8 2 4
Dust/water resistance Rain resistant None None
Bluetooth version 5.0 4.1 4.2
Weight (grams) 296 235 254
Warranty 2-year 1-year 1-year

Looking at most of these metrics, the Jabra Elite 85h stands out with the latest technology, best battery life, nano-coating for rain resistance, and eight microphones with a focus on call quality and sound personalization. The Sony headset has atmospheric pressure optimization for airline travel, supports the LDAC and aptX codecs, has long battery life, and is controlled via a touch interface on the side of the headset. Bose was the first to generate excitement for these ANC cans, but the QuietComfort 35 is getting a bit long in the tooth with less battery life, use of microUSB, and minimal number of microphones.

Jabra Elite 85h specifications

  • Active noise cancellation: Digital hybrid uses four of 8 mics
  • Passive noise cancellation: Yes
  • Voice assistant button: Yes, Alexa or on-device option (Google Assistant, Bixby, or Siri)
  • Speaker size: 40mm
  • Microphone type: Six MEMS and two ECM
  • Music and talk time: 41 hours with ANC off and 36 with ANC on
  • Standby time: Greater than one year, auto power off after eight hours
  • Charging time: 2.5 hours with 500mA wall charger
  • Bluetooth profiles: HSP v1.2 , HFP v1.7, A2DP v1.3, AVRCP v1.6, PBAP v1.1, SPP v1.2
  • Bluetooth version: 5.0
  • Dimensions: 195 x 82 x 225 mm and 296 grams
  • Colors: Black, Gold Beige, Navy, and Titanium Black

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Inside the box you will find the headset, USB-C cable, audio cable, flight adaptor, carrying case, Quick Start Guide, warranty and warning leaflets. There is a small diagram in the case to show you how to properly fold the headset to secure it in the case.

Also: T-Mobile LG G8 ThinQ review: An affordable, customizable flagship worth considering

Hardware

The Jabra Elite 85h looks similar to other over-the-ear ANC headphones with a padded top and two large ear cups covered with soft leatherette material that rest comfortably against your ear. There is fabric material on the outside of the earcups and along the connector piece above your head.

After taking the headphones out of the case you simply rotate the earcups to turn on the power, pair, and use the headphones. Rotate the cups back to a flat position and the power shuts off. It's been great to use these movements to manage the headphones without having to press any buttons or flip any switches.

In addition, the Jabra Elite 85h has on-ear detection, setting can be toggle on or off, so when you remove the headphones your music will pause automatically. Put the headphones back on and your music will resume. These are very intelligent headphones in a number of ways.

There is only one button on the left earcup, positioned down along the back side, that is used to quickly cycle between sound modes; ANC, HearThrough, and Off. You can also hold the button to cycle between Moments in the Sound+ app.

On the right side, we find another button in a similar location to the left cup, that is used to launch the voice assistant (Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and Bixby are supported) or mute the microphone. The 3.5mm headset jack and USB-C charging port are located near the bottom of the right ear cup. On the outside of the ear cup, covered in fabric material, are three handy buttons in vertical alignment. The top one is for volume up/next track, the middle one is used to answer or end a call/play or pause music/Bluetooth pairing, and the bottom one is for volume down/previous track. These outside buttons are very easy to find and press while wearing the headphones. Over the past week I've never been frustrated with the button placement or functionality.

The carrying case has a durable zipper with a hard shell design so it will adequately protect your headphones when packing them along on your daily commute, flight, or other means of transportation. A 3.5mm headset cable is also included in case you want to connect to your device via cable, which is what I do with my Zune HD.

Software

While you can simply connect via Bluetooth or a cable on your device to the headset, in order to fully optimize your audio experience and ensure you have the latest and greatest firmware, download and install the Jabra Sound+ app to your iOS or Android device. I've been using this with the Jabra Elite Active 65t and highly recommend installing this app to setup your headphones.

In order to secure the available two-year warranty, make sure that you register your new headphones through the Sound+ app. If you do not do this through the app, you will be limited to a one-year warranty.

The new headphones are engineered with Jabra SmartSound, based on exclusive AI technology from audEERING, that goes beyond current active noise cancellation solutions available in the market to include environmental adaptation,automatically adjusting to your surroundings from traffic, to trains, planes, the office, wind, rain and more.

After making the connection to the headset via Bluetooth, the app will launch with bottom tabs available for Moments, Discover, and About. On the Moments tab you can customize My Moment, Commute, In Public, and In Private settings for surrounding audio mode (ANC, HearThrough, or Off), equalizer settings, and music presets. You can also choose to edit these widgets for the selected Moment.

Tapping the gear icon in the upper right takes you to another screen where you can further refine settings for surrounding audio, music equalizer, audio experience, call experience (auto-answer calls, voice control for calls, mute settings, Sidetone, and more), and headset assistance (sleep mode timing and headset prompts toggle). You truly have full control over your audio experience with the Jabra Elite 85h.

At the bottom of the Moments screen is an option to enable SmartSound. When SmartSound is activated, the headphone mics will gather information from your surroundings and switch between different Moments automatically. It worked fairly well, although it took a bit longer to switch to an ANC situation than I wanted in a couple situations.

The Private Moment is useful when working in my home office when the environment is silent and I want to save a bit of battery by turning off ANC. I also love using the HearThrough setting that lets me hear my environment through the headset.

The Discover tab simply provides a graphical view of all of the buttons and options provided in call or audio playing situations. The About tab provides access to firmware updates, changing the voice assistant (yes, you can even choose Bixby on a Samsung phone), full manual access, and more.

Price and availability

The Jabra Elite 85h headset is currently sold only through Best Buy for $299.99. All four color options are available with varying dates of availability, depending on your local store stock.

I just checked the latest pricing on Best Buy and note there is a $50 savings offer so you can purchase the headset now for just $249.99. This is a fantastic deal and if you are interested in wireless over-the-ear ANC headphones then I highly recommend you go pick up a pair at this low launch price.

Daily experiences and conclusions

Jabra's consumer research study showed that 69% of headphone users make calls while commuting, 42% use headphones to block out noise at home and at work, 89% use the same headset for calls and media, and 61% are interested in using their voice to control their smartphone. Jabra focused on the voice experience, as well as the audio playback experience, to make the Elite 85h a serious contender for the ANC-can title.

As a regular airplane traveler and daily train commuter, active noise cancellation is a necessity. I've lived with the Bose QuietComfort 20 ANC earbuds, but after more than a week with the Jabra Elite 85h I am ready to move to these cans. I was blown away last weekend when I put on the Elite 85h and mowed my lawn. Nearly all of the sound of the mower was blocked by the ANC and my music experience was taken to the next level. Given the rain resistant coating, I just may use these headphones for more outside work too.

I am not a fan of having too many buttons on my headsets so love the simplicity of the three main buttons on the right ear cup. I don't use the other two buttons that often, especially with the Moments setup in the Sound+ app where the audio can change automatically as the mics pick up the surrounding environments sounds.

The Jabra Elite Active 65t is my ultimate running wireless earbuds and it looks like the Jabra Elite 85h is the new champ for ANC over-the-ear headphones. At the current $100 savings over Bose and Sony, it's really a no-brainer to go out and purchase the Jabra Elite 85h. Audio quality is excellent, ANC works very well, you can make and receive calls without much compromise, and you can trust Jabra to keep the headphones updated with the latest and greatest functionality.

Specifications

General
Packaged Quantity 1
Color black
Headphones
Headphones Form Factor Circumaural
Sound Output Mode stereo
Active Noise Canceling Yes
Microphone
Microphones Included 6
Miscellaneous
Refurbished refurbished
Color Category black
Power
Run Time (Up To) 36 hour(s)
Manufacturer Warranty
Service & Support 2 years warranty
Battery
Rechargeable Battery rechargeable
Header
Brand Jabra
Product Line Jabra elite
Packaged Quantity 1
Battery / Power
Run Time (Up To) 36 hour(s)
Internet of Things (IoT)
Intelligent Assistant Compatible Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri
Service & Support
Type 2 years warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty
Full Contract Period 2 years

Where To Buy

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Where To Buy

Jabra Elite 85h (Black)

Part Number: 100-99030003-02