Headphones have done a good job of adapting with technology and today, despite the countless strides taken in terms of technology, we still find headphones to be a critical part of our daily use gadget collection. The forced trend today is wireless as 3.5mm jack disappears from smartphones, and Jabra is right up there with the best of the best. The Elite 85h is Jabra’s offering to the high-end market, and although the specs look good on paper, in this review, we will take a look at how good the headphones really perform against the best of the competition.
Starting off, the Jabra Elite 85h area a pair of noise-canceling, wireless, over the ear headphones, which boast of incredible battery life and some AI features that can be tweaked via their Sound+ app. What’s interesting is that Jabra has priced the Elite 85h ~ 1099 AED, which puts it right in the mix with the likes of Sony’s WH–1000XM3 and Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II, which are by far, the two best headphones in the Wireless ANC Category. So, Jabra, on the surface, has it all – Brilliant design, Wireless, Noise-Cancellation, class-leading battery life and terrific call quality. But does it rise above the rest? Let us find out –
Jabra’s design language has been one of the finer examples in the market and the Elite 85h is no exception. With a faux leather case and a soft fabric interior, Jabra has got it to spot on in terms of design and I must say, the in-hand feel is absolutely premium. Inside this luxurious packaging, we find the neatly placed 3.5mm Aux Cable, an Airplane Adapter, and a USB Type C charging cable. We also get a few color options in the form of Titanium Black, Gold Beige and Navy, which take this premium tag even further.
The Elite 85h is made almost entirely out of plastic, but thankfully, the quality is top-notch and you don’t get the annoying reliability issues that you would get in the more affordable over the ear headphones.
Coming to the meshed fabric finish that we mentioned earlier, you will find this adorning the top of the headband and along with the linings of the cups, giving the Jabra Elite 85h some real class. The rest of the cup and the underside of the headband features faux leather, which compliments the meshed fabric finish down to the T. Another nice touch is that the headband has been pre-tensioned, making it comfortable to use for prolonged periods of time without hurting your head. On the right cup, you will find a slew of controls that allow you to play/pause music, receive/drop calls, adjust the volume, and control your media playback. On the underside of the right cup, we have the 3.5mm jack and the USB Type C Charging port. There is also a single small button that allows you to mute your voice during a call. On the left cup, we find a single button that lets you cycle through the different ANC modes. This is useful when you are not in a position to use your smartphone to change the settings via the Sound + app.
The sleekest feature, however, is the power feature. The Jabra Elite 85h does not feature a power button. Instead, the headphones automatically turn on when the cups face each other, and turn off when the cups are flattened out. Another neat feature is that the music playback is automatically paused when you take off the headphones from your head.
All About the ANC –
We have been talking a lot about ANC in this review, and rightly so, because the Jabra Elite 85h offers you a whole range of modes, that Jabra has taken to calling ‘moments’. These ‘Moments’ lets you choose from among four different levels of noise cancellation – Commute, In private, In public, and of course, no noise-canceling at all.
If you cannot agree with the above settings, you can create your own ANC setting, given the gimmick of ‘My Moment’. This feature gives you complete control over the EQ settings and the level of noise cancellation that you feel is right for you. But the buck does not stop here.
Jabra has gone a step further and has now packed in a third feature in the Elite 85h. Say hello to ‘SmartSound’. With this, the Elite 85h uses the built-in AI to scene the surroundings and automatically choose the right ANC profile for that particular situation. This feature is said to be real-time, with the AI working continuously in the background, performing the scene analysis and getting the job done, while you enjoy your media.
For example, if the Jabra Elite 85h detects that you are in public transport, it dials up the noise cancellation and lets you immerse yourself in your music rather than facing the humdrum of the crown around you. Alternately, if the headphones detect that you are in a secluded room, it dials down the noise cancellation to save on the battery life. The best of the lot, however, is the ‘In Public’ mode. Here, the headphones let in just enough noise to allow you to be aware of any sirens or announcements around you and it is my favorite feature.
There is a bit of an annoying prompt that you get, every time the Elite 85h changes a mode, but thankfully, you can turn these off in the Sound + app.
To top it all off, we also have the voice assistant integration that fully supports Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa.
Jabra is a brand that is known to be among the best when it comes to noise cancellation, and the Elite 85h takes this claim to the next level. What I have noticed about the high-end pair of headphones, is that when you put them on, the transition from full surrounding noise, to noise cancellation is abrupt, making you feel a bit unnerved for a few moments, before your ears finally get used to the change. In the Jabra Elite 85h however, the transition is smooth and gives you a very fluid experience rather than the feeling of being dunked underwater.
You will find that the Elite 85h does let in a little noise by default, but it is so low, that once your music starts playing, its 100% canceled out. The wide range of ANC features and the Sound Quality work together like magic and that is exactly why I feel that the Elite 85h is the only true competition to the mighty Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones.
In its default setting, the Jabra Elite 85h delivers a very balanced output, without given any biased boost to bass which does not really sound as great on all kinds of music. Hip Hop fans will love the Bass boost EQ features which bring out the beats in the track and gets you grooving in no time. I did feel a slight distortion at high volumes or high pitched tracks, so you might want to keep an eye out for that. While all this does make a compelling story, what really baffles me is the fact that Jabra has not bundled in support for the higher end audio codec compression algorithms such as AAC, aptX or LDAC, which help to deliver music at near CD-like quality over Bluetooth. This really does put the Elite 85h on the back foot, and I hope they address this with a firmware update in the future
Coming to the call quality, the Elite 85h has delivered, by far, the best call quality among all the over-ear headphones. Thanks to the 8 microphones bundled into the product, you get to hear crystal clear calls all the time and the hear through feature is a bit of a bonus in the Elite 85h.
Finally, we have the battery life, and this is where the Jabra Elite 85h delivers the knockout punch to its competition. It’s 36 hour playback with noise cancellation and 41 hour playback without noise cancellation is unbeatable by any of the high-end headphones in the market today, and this makes the Elite 85h, a Must-have for those of you who are on the move a lot or absolutely hate to have to charge your headphone every once in a while.
All in all, the Jabra Elite 85h is a headphone that I can easily recommend thanks to its absolute exquisite design, class-leading battery life, and the superb integration of AI to give you the best ANC experience possible today. Yes, I do hope they address the codec support issue, but other than that, this product has got it all, and more.