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Jabra Elite 85h
April 30, 2019
Original: $249 USD
May 2022: $234 USD
195 x 82 x 225 mm
6.4 x 3.8 cm (ear pad internal)
Internal water-resistant coating
It’s 6 a.m. and your back’s against the wall of an overcrowded train car. You left your coffee on the counter and the last thing you want to hear is the stranger next to you drone on about how his kid is spoiled. In most instances, you’d just have to endure this situation, but the Jabra Elite 85h is a pair of active noise cancelling (ANC) headphones that could make it easier to be alone when surrounded.
We spent two weeks with the Elite 85h from Jabra to learn as much about it as possible, to help you see if it’s the right headset for your needs.
Editor’s note: this Jabra Elite 85h review was updated on May 9, 2022, to expand the list of buying options, add to the Alternatives section, and include in-line FAQs.
Anyone can benefit from these comfortable, noise cancelling headphones. Although the headphones don’t outperform the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, they’re more affordable and effective enough.
What’s it like to use the Jabra Elite 85h?
These headphones are extremely comfortable, even with glasses. Plush ear pads leave plenty of wiggle room for even the most outward-facing ears. While the ear cups are rather bulky (a necessity for the 40mm drivers), they fold flat and rotate up toward the headband. Plus, you can keep everything organized in its included carrying case. Sure, it’s not as travel-friendly as a pair of wireless earbuds but it makes a significant difference.
Jabra’s smart noise cancelling uses four of the Elite 85h’s eight microphones to filter out ambient sound. When these mics register unwanted noise, they automatically switch ANC on. What constitutes distracting noise can be customized via the Jabra Sound+ app. Conversely, HearThru settings can also be managed. HearThru amplifies your surroundings, which is helpful when walking outside or during subway rides when you need to hear the upcoming stops. The Jabra Sound+ app is free on iOS and Android and makes it easy for you to create “Moments,” which are different EQ presets that you can switch to, depending on your listening environment. This allows you to dial in the sound that suits your musical tastes, wherever you may be.
Another nifty feature is automatic ear detection. While this is a seemingly popular inclusion for true wireless earbuds, it’s a rarity in wireless headphones—unless you spring for the most premium offerings. By removing the headphones, playback automatically pauses and placing them back on resumes playback. This works quickly and flawlessly.
The Elite 85h isn’t waterproof, but it is one of a few noise cancelling headphones with a water-resistant nano-coating that protects its internal components form moisture and some sweat. It’s a comfort to know they won’t melt like the Wicked Witch of the West if briefly exposed to light rain, and hey, you can even use this as a set of workout headphones.
How do you control the Jabra Elite 85h?
Instead of incorporating touch controls, Jabra’s headphones make use of the right panel with nearly undetectable playback, volume, and call controls. Upon pressing the controls, a wheezing sound escapes from the ear pad. Initially, you may find this comical but it becomes increasingly annoying as time passes.
The edges of both ear cups also have buttons: an ANC button is on the left side, while the right side has a mic mute/voice assistant button just above the 3.5mm and USB-C charging ports. You may access Siri, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant via the voice assistant button. While the buttons are responsive, I wish they were slightly larger.
Does the Jabra Elite 85h stay connected?
The Elite 85h uses Bluetooth 5.0 and stays connected within the 10-meter wireless range. Anyone running firmware version 1.4.1 or later benefits from AAC support for high-quality, which provides reliable streaming on iOS devices. Android users can still use this codec but its performance is volatile. Unfortunately, the headset doesn’t support aptX, so aside from AAC, your only other wireless option is the SBC Bluetooth codec. If you want the best audio quality, wired is the way to go. However, this limited high-quality codec support may be the Achilles’ heel in an otherwise standout product.
Yes, Bluetooth multipoint lets you connect two devices to the headset at one time. You can pair up to eight devices to the Elite 85h, and it will remember each one. I frequently alternate from speakers to headphones when working and appreciate the convenience, which makes it a solid headset for work.
How long does the battery last on the Jabra Elite 85h?
The Jabra Elite 85h battery lasts a very, very long time. Our testing yielded 34 hours, 35 minutes of playback with noise cancelling on. Jabra claims up to 41 hours with noise cancelling switched off and a year of standby time, but your results will likely vary from factors like listening volume, codec selection, and so on.
When the battery does eventually die, it takes two and a half hours to complete a full charge cycle via the included USB-C cable. If the battery dies and you’re crunched for time, 15 minutes of charging provides five hours of playback.
Is the noise cancelling any good?
Noise cancelling on the Elite 85h is pretty poor and certainly can’t hold a candle to the likes of Sony and Bose. Passive isolation is where the Elite 85h really shines. While noise cancelling does affect high-frequency sounds above 1kHz, most of the heavy lifting comes from the headset’s ability to passively block out environmental noise in this frequency range. If you want to get the most out of the ANC, you have to make sure you get the right fit with these headphones. That means there can’t be any gaps between the ear pads and your head or glasses.
Hold up! Something’s different:
This article’s frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We have since purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a while to update our backlog of old test results, but we will update this review (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements, isolation performance plots, and standardized microphone demos. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white). Each new mic sample begins with the phrase, “This is a SoundGuys standardized microphone demonstration …”
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
How does the Jabra Elite 85h sound?
Despite the lack of high-quality codec support, the Jabra Elite 85h has a pleasing frequency response. The slightly under-emphasized bass notes make it easy to hear vocals and important instrumental notes, though bass heads may need to amplify the bass response in the app’s equalizer.
Lows, mids, and highs
In Sigrid’s song Raw, the bass drop at 0:33 can sound overpowering with the wrong headphones, but the quieted bass response from the Elite 85h makes sure that mids and treble still come through audibly. On the other hand, listening to the same part of Raw with the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 makes it a bit difficult to hear Sigrid sing the lyrics, “I just want to be…”
Is the Jabra Elite 85h good for phone calls?
How well it performs depends on your vocal range, but generally speaking, it’s fine, not great. The Elite 85h microphone handles low voices differently than higher-pitched ones. If you have a lower voice like fellow SoundGuy Chris Thomas, you’ll sound half as loud as I do in the below example.
Jabra Elite 85h microphone demo (Old):
As far as technical specs go, six of the eight microphones are used during voice transmission to isolate the voice from background noise. This works fairly well as given by the demonstration. When I turn the background music on it’s much less audible than it sounds in real life. What’s more, the microphones actively work to combat wind noise, which works rather well when walking around.
As of July 1, 2021, 1,002 readers have rated the above mic sample as somewhere between “okay” and “good.” This is a pretty typical result for headphone mics, and at the upper end of what you should expect to get out of any products of this type.
How does the microphone sound to you?
Should you buy the Jabra Elite 85h?
The Jabra Elite 85h is a solid pair of headphones with an attractive price and design. However, if you’re not one to pick apart sound quality, the Jabra Elite 85h is your best feature-packed option. On the other hand, if you want a slightly louder bass response from your headphones with significantly better microphone quality, look into the cheaper, on-ear Jabra Elite 45h.
We like the Jabra Elite 85h mainly because it’s a comfortable over-ear headset with a degree of water resistance. If you live in a humid place or sweat a lot while you walk, this could be a great option for you—just make sure to air out the headset before you place it back into the case. So long as you understand the ANC really isn’t very good, you’ll be satisfied with how this headset fits and all the features you can play with from the mobile app.
Jabra Elite 85h vs Sony WH-1000XM4
Every flagship noise cancelling headset gets compared to the king, and we make no exception for the Jabra Elite 85h. There’s no way around it: the Sony WH-1000XM4 has markedly better noise cancelling than the Elite 85h, but Sony’s headphones should have better ANC: they’re almost double what the Elite 85h cost.
Other features include a bevy of software tricks like speak-to-chat, which automatically pauses playback when the headset senses that you’re speaking. You can also take advantage of Sony 360 Reality Audio and Bluetooth multipoint (over AAC).
If you have the extra cash lying around, the Sony WH-1000XM4 is about as good as noise cancelling headphones get—yes, even better than the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
What should you get instead of the Jabra Elite 85h?
The Bose QuietComfort 45 is a great headset for listeners who love how comfortable the Elite 85h is, but who also want something with best-in-class ANC. We like the QC 45 for its tried and true design—it’s nearly identical to the Bose QC 35 II, but this time with a USB-C input rather than microUSB. The sound quality is very good right out of the box, with the exception of the treble emphasis. To combat this, we recommend that you download the Bose Music app to equalize the sound and make the treble more bearable. If you don’t care for the newer USB-C charging tech and want the option to completely disable ANC without automatically triggering transparency listening, the Bose QuietComfort 35 II has far superior ANC to the Elite 85h and costs about the same.
If your bag can fit headphones but you still want something a bit more compact, the Beats Solo Pro ANC on-ear headphones work rather well to combat external noise. They happen to be Beats‘ best noise cancelling headphones to date, which is greatly attributed to the tight fit. Another great, fairly compact option is the Microsoft Surface Headphones 2. This headset includes a tactile mic mute button, sleek onboard controls, and a substantial carrying case.
What earbuds should you get instead of the Elite 85h from Jabra?
There are a handful of great noise cancelling wireless earbuds available, with more to flood the market in the coming years. While ANC earbuds aren’t as effective as their larger, over-ear counterparts, they’re better than nothing. If you have an iPhone, the Apple AirPods Pro are the earbuds to get. These integrate the company’s H1 chip for streamlined usage across OS devices and hands-free Siri access. What’s more, the chipset affords solid battery life for this category of wireless earbuds, and the included charger is Qi wireless-certified. Don’t have an iPhone? Spring for the Sony WF-1000XM4 or get the budget-friendly Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen) which boasts beyond-good ANC.
If you don’t care for the AirPods Pro, you have plenty of options to choose from and if you want to stay within the Jabra family, get the Jabra Elite 85t. These compact, ergonomic earbuds have excellent active noise cancelling performance and feature an IPX4 rating. The frequency response is quite bass-heavy, but you can EQ it in the free mobile app which is available on Android and iOS. Since the release of the Jabra Elite 7 Pro and Elite 4 Active, the Elite 85t is much cheaper and still a very good pair of earbuds.
Frequently asked questions about the Jabra Elite 85h
Yes, the Elite 85h is quite comfortable for long listening sessions and the padding plays kindly with glasses. The most immediate pain point occurs at the crown of the head, but even that is after a couple hours of wear.
No, the Jabra Elite 85h does not have an IP rating. The headphone is designed with a water-resistant coating meant to protect internal components from light rain, however it doesn’t meet the dust and water resistance standards prescribed by the IP rating. For a more in-depth explanation, be sure to check out our full article on how to decode IP ratings.
The Jabra Elite 85h is protected under the company’s warranty from water damage, if said damage is a result from regular exposure to dust and water—rain and very light splashes. Water damage as a result from sweat void the product’s warranty, since it wasn’t designed for use during workouts.
Yes, the Jabra Sound+ App includes EQ controls for fine-tuning your sound. However, for a more personalized listening experience, the app also includes a feature called MySound: an in-app listening test that helps calibrate your headphones to your own ears.
SmartSound is a feature in the Jabra Sound+ app that analyzes your listening environment and changes your headphone settings accordingly—including choosing the optimal level of noise cancellation. This feature can be enabled within the app under the Moments tab.
Yes, the Jabra Elite 85h are one of a small selection of water-resistant headphones. To be clear, these aren’t impervious to water damage: they’re merely treated with a water-resistant nano-coating. This, however, should protect the internals from short rain showers, and some sweat from a light jog. If you want something a bit more durable, look into the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 6100 and our comprehensive list of workout headphones.