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A photo of the Jabra Elite 85h headphones partly folded on a stack of blue, thin books with a vintage camera in the bottom left corner.

Jabra Elite 85h review

Jabra's noise canceling headphones haven't dethroned Sony, but they're still good and support AAC.
By

Published onMay 18, 2023

7.8
Jabra Elite 85h
The bottom line
The Jabra Elite 85h undercuts the competition with its sub-$250 price and active noise canceling (ANC) functionality, but you get what you pay for: the ANC can't keep pace with top-tier, or even mid-tier competitors. If you want comfortable headphones with great battery life, however, the Elite 85h is a great bet.

Jabra Elite 85h

The Jabra Elite 85h undercuts the competition with its sub-$250 price and active noise canceling (ANC) functionality, but you get what you pay for: the ANC can't keep pace with top-tier, or even mid-tier competitors. If you want comfortable headphones with great battery life, however, the Elite 85h is a great bet.
Product release date

April 30, 2019

Price

$249

Dimensions

195 x 82 x 225 mm

6.4 x 3.8 cm (ear pad internal)

Weight

296g

Model Number

100-99030000-02

Waterproof
What we like
Good fit
Water-repellant nano-coating
Auto ear detection
Bluetooth 5.0, multipoint connectivity
Quick charging
What we don't like
SBC and AAC only, no aptX
ANC isn't very effective
7.8
SoundGuys Rating
8
User Rating
Rating Metric
Our Rating
User Rating
Durability / Build Quality
7.0
8.2
8.0
Value
7.5
8.4
8.0
Design
7.1
8.3
8.0
Connectivity
7.5
7.4
7.0
Microphone
7.0
7.9
8.0
Portability
7.3
7.8
8.0
Battery Life
9.7
9.0
9.0
Feature
8.8
7.7
8.0
Comfort
8.5
7.7
8.0

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 beside 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 are active noise canceling (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, and to help you see if it’s the right headphones for your needs.

Editor’s note: this Jabra Elite 85h review was updated on May 18, 2023, to expand the Alternatives section, update the formatting, and ensure that all information is current. We also updated the score based on results from our reader poll.

Anyone can benefit from these comfortable, noise canceling headphones.

What’s it like to use the Jabra Elite 85h?

The Jabra Elite 85h headphones in front of a window on a stack of books.
The Jabra Elite 85h headphones are a more affordable alternative to top-tier ANC headphones.

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 canceling 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 to create “Moments,” which are different EQ presets 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. By removing the headphones, playback automatically pauses, and placing them back on resumes playback. This works quickly and flawlessly.

How do you control the Jabra Elite 85h?

The Jabra Elite 85h headphones folded flat on a table and surrounded by vintage cameras, a blue notebook, and a black carabiner.
Folding the headphones flat automatically turns them off while turning them inward wakes them up.

Instead of incorporating touch controls, Jabra’s headphones use 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, while the right 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 use 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 headphones don’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 headphones and the USB-C and 3.5mm inputs on the ear cup.
You can connect via Bluetooth or use the included 3.5mm cable for wired listening and optimal audio quality.

The Jabra Elite 85h battery lasts a very, very long time. Our testing yielded 34 hours, 35 minutes of playback with noise canceling on. Jabra claims up to 41 hours with noise canceling 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 eventually depletes, 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 canceling any good?

Attenuation of the Jabra Elite 85h headphones with noise canceling on: it doesn't do anything to block out low-frequency sounds.
The Jabra Elite 85h does a good job at attenuating keyboard clicks but can’t quite combat engine roars and the like.

Noise canceling 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 canceling affects high-frequency sounds above 1kHz, most heavy lifting comes from the headset’s ability to passively block out environmental noise in this frequency range. To get the most out of the ANC, you must ensure 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 have a pleasing frequency response. The slightly under-emphasized bass frequencies 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 helps mids and treble come through audibly. On the other hand, listening to the same part of Raw with the Anker Soundcore Life Q35 makes it 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.

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.

If you have a lower voice, you’ll sound half as loud as I do in the below example.

Jabra Elite 85h microphone demo (Non-standardized):

How does the microphone sound to you?

3288 votes

Should you buy the Jabra Elite 85h?

The Jabra Elite 85h headphones folded in the case with the USB-C and aux cable in the internal pocket.
The zippered carrying case resembles Sony’s and has a nifty organization system for the included cables and airplane adapter.

The Jabra Elite 85h are solid headphones with an attractive price and design. However, if you cannot pick apart sound quality, the Jabra Elite 85h are 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 ($99 at Amazon).

We like the Jabra Elite 85h mainly because they’re comfortable over-ear cans with a degree of water resistance. If you live in a humid place or sweat a lot while you walk, this could be an excellent 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 isn’t very good, you’ll be satisfied with how these headphones fit and all the features you can play with from the mobile app.

Jabra Elite 85hJabra Elite 85h
Jabra Elite 85h
Good fit • Water-resistant nano-coating • Auto ear detection
MSRP: $249.99
Jabra's noise canceling headphones haven't dethroned Sony, but they're still good and support AAC.
The Jabra Elite 85h undercuts the competition with its sub-$250 price and active noise cancelling (ANC) functionality, but you get what you pay for: the ANC can't keep pace with top-tier, or even mid-tier competitors. If you want comfortable headphones with great battery life, however, the Elite 85h is a great bet.

Jabra Elite 85h vs Sony WH-1000XM4

Every flagship noise canceling 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 ($348 at Sony) have markedly better noise canceling than the Elite 85h, but Sony’s headphones should have better ANC: they’re almost double what the Elite 85h cost.

Other features include software tricks like speak-to-chat, which automatically pauses playback when the headset senses that you’re speaking. You can also use Sony 360 Reality Audio and Bluetooth multipoint (over AAC).

If you have the extra cash lying around, the Sony WH-1000XM4 are about as good as noise canceling headphones get — yes, even better than the Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700.

What should you get instead of the Jabra Elite 85h?

A man uses the control cluster on the back of the Bose QuietComfort 45.
Using physical buttons on the QC 45 means pressing into the earcup and potentially dislodging it.

The Bose QuietComfort 45 ($279 at Amazon) are great for listeners who want comfortable headphones with stellar ANC. We like the QC 45 for their tried and true design — they’re nearly identical to the Bose QC 35 II, but this time with a USB-C input rather than micro-USB. The sound quality is very good right out of the box, except the treble emphasis. To combat this, we recommend downloading the Bose Music app to equalize the sound and make the treble more bearable.

The Bose Noise Canceling Headphones 700 ($379 at Amazon), are another alternative that occasionally go on sale for $299. These headphones sound excellent out of the box, and come with a custom EQ in the mobile app. Microphone and build quality are notably better with the NCH 700, too.

Frequently asked questions about the Jabra Elite 85h

The Elite 85h aren’t waterproof, but they’re one of a few noise canceling headphones with a water-repellant nano-coating that protects its internal components from moisture.

Yes, the Elite 85h are 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.

The Jabra Elite 85h are protected under the company’s warranty from water damage, if said damage is a result of regular exposure to dust and water — rain and very light splashes. Water damage from sweat voids 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. If you want something a bit more durable, look into the Plantronics BackBeat FIT 6100 and our comprehensive list of workout headphones.