Advertisement

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Advertisement

Jabra Elite 85H review: Stylish and functional headphones

Christopher Minasians Mark White
15 Dec 2020
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
280
incl VAT

Jabra’s new ANC headphones take aim at Sony and Bose

Pros 
Excellent battery life
Convenient auto-pause technology
Stylish
Cons 
Performance doesn’t match the Sony WH-1000XM3
Not as comfortable as the Bose QC35
Expensive
Advertisement

First announced at CES 2019, the Elite 85H are a new set of noise-cancelling, over-the-ear wireless headphones from the Danish audio specialist. They arrive into a market that, for the past three years, has been dominated by Sony and Bose – but these high-quality headphones demand serious consideration.

READ NEXT: Our pick of the best noise-cancelling headphones

Jabra Elite 85H review: What you need to know

For the past three decades, Jabra has been developing noise-cancelling mics for other manufacturers’ headsets, so it’s no surprise that the company also offers its own noise-cancelling headphones. They feature Bluetooth connectivity, class-leading microphones, sensors to detect when they’re off your head and an alluring design.

READ NEXT: Bose QuietComfort 35 II review – still stupendous

Jabra Elite 85H review: Price and competition

The Elite 85H don’t come cheap: I’ve seen prices fluctuate between £227 and £280, the latter being the official retail price.

And in this space, there’s plenty of competition. The incredible Sony WH-1000XM3 stand out at £279, along with the comfortable Bose QuietComfort 35 at £289. There’s also the extremely smart and versatile Nuraphone at £349, the stylish and portable Bowers & Wilkins PX at £329, the convenient Microsoft Surface Headphone at £329 and the audiophile-sounding PSB M4U 8 at £300.

Jabra Elite 85H review: Build quality and comfort

The market for over-the-ear active noise-cancelling (ANC) headphones may be pretty saturated, but in my opinion the Elite 85H look better than all of their competitors. They come finished in a woven fabric and a choice of three classy colour schemes – “gold beige”, “titanium black” and navy blue.

And they don’t just look good: they’re made with nano-coated components to protect them against water and dust, and Jabra boldly backs up its claims of water resistance with a two-year manufacturers’ warranty.

The headphones’ oval-shaped pads sit snugly around the ears, passively blocking out noise with a tight seal that ensures they won’t fall off when you’re on the move. Their clamp force can get uncomfortable over long periods of use, however; by comparison, the Bose QC35 sit far more loosely, and can be happily worn for hours on end.

Jabra also includes three physical media control buttons on the right cup – handy for commuters – along with an button on the right edge that activates your smartphone’s virtual assistant. An ANC toggle on the left can be used to disable noise cancellation, or access the HearThrough mode that amplifies your surroundings.

If you prefer, you can also access these modes through the Jabra Sound+ app, as well as enabling SmartSound, a proprietary technology that analyses your environment and applies the right mode to suit your surroundings. There’s a five-band equaliser, too, with a selection of presets to tweak your audio experience.

A final neat feature is a set of head sensors; like Microsoft’s Surface Headphones, the Elite 85H detect when you’ve taken them off and automatically pause playback, resuming it as soon as you pop them back on.

As well as being convenient, this helps preserves battery life – not that the Elite 85H needs much help here. The headphones last a monumental day and a half on a full charge with ANC turned on, and a fast 15-minute charge through the USB Type-C port will give you five hours of use. If you can’t get to a charger, you can also drive the headphones through the integrated 3.5mm port, although ANC and advanced features naturally won’t be available.

READ NEXT: Microsoft Surface Headphones review – all style, little substance

Jabra Elite 85H review: Performance

If you’re listening over a Bluetooth connection, the Jabra Elite 85H disappointingly only supports the bog-standard SBC codec. That immediately puts it at a disadvantage versus the Sony WH-1000XM3, which additionally supports the higher-quality AAC, aptX, aptX HD and LDAC codecs.

The difference is easy to hear. In Justin Bieber’s energetic song “Company”, for example, his voice sounds jumbled up with the instruments. Switch to Drake’s club banger “One Dance” and it’s the opposite: the artist’s voice takes over the song and that catchy tune is pushed to the back. All of this is the result of a rather narrow soundstage, where Sony’s WH-1000XM3 produce a wider, more engaging sound.

The Elite 85H have their good points, though. Notably, they excel in the lower frequencies, with an excellent low-end rumble and a punchy mid-bass. The higher frequencies, meanwhile, provide a lively sound signature that won’t leave you bored.

The Jabra Elite 85H also stand out when it comes to call quality. An array of microphones positioned around the headphones bring out the best in my voice and make it easy to distinguish over ambient noise. By comparison, Bose and Sony’s equivalents sound muffled.

As for their active noise-cancelling capabilities, these aren’t terrible, but nor are they exceptional. I’d rank them above the Microsoft Surface Headphones, since they cope a little better at blocking out low-end frequencies, but the Bose QC35, Nuraphone and Sony WH-1000XM3 all do a better job of blocking out the mid to high frequencies, so you won’t be as disturbed by screeching trains and roadworks.

READ NEXT: Sony WH-1000XM3 review – Bose deposed

Jabra Elite 85H review: Verdict

The Elite 85H represent a commendable attempt to dethrone Bose and Sony. The Danish company has come out with a stylish contender that’s packed with features and offers excellent call and recording quality.

While the Jabra headphones have a fun sound signature, however, they’re ultimately overshadowed by the excellent-sounding Sony WH-1000XM3, which also boast the best noise-cancelling technology around. For the same price, I’d recommend the latter and that you consider the more comfortable Bose QC35, too.

Read more

Reviews