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Jabra Elite 85t
October 31, 2020
Original: $229 USD
Jan. 2022: $149 USD
23.1 x 19.0 x 16.2 mm (earbud)
64.8 x 41.1 x 28.5 mm (case)
When picking out earbuds, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by analysis paralysis—especially if you own an Android phone. Unlike iPhone owners, Android users don’t have a go-to set of earbuds to pair with their smartphones. Instead, your Android phone affords the freedom of choice. We present to you the Jabra Elite 85t, a great option for listeners in search of compact active noise canceling (ANC) earbuds. The Elite 85t can turn down the volume on your surroundings, and just as quickly amplify background noise to keep you safe.
Is the Elite 85t still a good choice with newer Jabra earbuds on the market?
Editor’s note: this Jabra Elite 85t review was updated on August 31, 2023, to update charts, and verbiage.
Commuters should look at this set of earphones for the ANC, comfortable fit, and compact design. Students will benefit from having a case that takes up very little room in a bag. Anyone will get plenty of mileage out of the competent microphone system on these buds.
What’s it like to use the Jabra Elite 85t?
The Jabra Elite 85t earbuds distinguish themselves from the competition because of their ergonomic design, effective noise canceling, and grade-A microphone array. Rather than the circular ear tips of previous generations, the Elite 85t includes oblong ear tips that fit more comfortably with the ear canal. The silicone sleeves include an earwax guard which prevents debris from gunking up the speaker grill.
The Jabra logo adorns each earbud and you can control playback commands by clicking either panel. You can reconfigure the controls in the Jabra Sound+ app so each user experience is different. A cluster of tiny holes gather at the tip of the earbud housings, these are for the six-microphone array. We’ll get into more of this later, but some of those microphones are for calls and others are for noise canceling.
Every pair of true wireless earbuds includes a charging case but this one is more versatile than most. It supports wireless charging by default and if you don’t care for Qi charging mats, you can top it up via the included USB-C cable. The case feels familiar, as it’s made of plastic-like nearly all other cases, and snaps shut with the help of a magnet. It’s easy enough to open with just one hand, yet the magnets are strong enough to secure the case if you drop it.
The Elite 85t support auto-pause and auto-resume playback.
If you want to remain aware of your surroundings, you can click the left earbud to enable HearThru, which is Jabra’s take on passthrough technology. This sounds quite good and relays environmental sounds without introducing a bunch of static or white noise. If you want to run outside with the Elite 85t, you can get away with HearThru enabled instead of mono mode.
Are the earbuds good for working out?
Jabra’s earbuds are very good for standard workouts like running and weightlifting, and the Elite 85t follows suit. Stability is great: the grippy underbelly kept the earbuds in place as I cycle and skateboard. Unlike the Jabra Elite Active 75t, you can’t submerge the 85t for any time, nor can you expose it to dust without damaging the internal components.
Should you get the Jabra Sound+ app?
If you want to take complete control of your noise canceling true wireless earbuds, you need to download the free Jabra Sound+ app (iOS and Android). You can select your preferred level of noise canceling, enable HearThru mode, remap the controls, and locate your earbuds. Other more hands-on features include the EQ module: you can create a five-band custom EQ, which is saved and applied to the headset, or choose from six premade sound profiles to suit your needs.
Another option is “Moments,” which presents three instances when you may use the headset (My Moment, Commute, and Focus). Each option presents a level of active noise canceling or HearThru, depending on which is chosen. This is a nice feature because you can customize each of the three slots to your liking and tap on them as needed. This is much faster than if you were to make granular adjustments to ANC or HearThru intensity each time you used the earbuds.
On March 30, 2021, Jabra released software version 2.0.0, enabling Amazon Alexa support. Once you update the headset you can access Alexa features like routine settings, direction requests, Spotify control, and phone calls all at the press of a button. While this is convenient and nice to have, if you want direct voice access to Alexa, you should consider the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen).
On February 1, 2021, Jabra released software version 1.38.0, which provided three major features to the Elite 85t. You may now take a fit test to ensure you use the best ear tip to maximize isolation, and sound quality. You can also disable both ANC and HearThrough directly from the earbuds, whereas before you could only use the onboard controls to toggle between ANC and HearThrough.
On November 23, 2020, Jabra released the Elite 85t’s first significant firmware update which upgrades Bluetooth 5.0 firmware to Bluetooth 5.1 firmware. The update also reduces the total charging time from approximately 4 hours to 3 hours, 30 minutes. The company fixed call quality issues like crackling audio during a call, and Bluetooth multipoint switching has improved.
What Bluetooth codecs does Jabra Elite 85t support?
The Jabra Elite 85t support two Bluetooth codecs: SBC, and AAC for high-quality streaming on iOS devices. AAC can sometimes perform inconsistently across Android devices, but it’s definitely the best choice available here for streaming video and other applications that require low latency. Everyone benefits from Bluetooth 5.1, which improves power efficiency over Bluetooth 4.0 devices.
You can use the Elite 85t to connect to two devices at once via Bluetooth multipoint, which is great for multitasking. Jabra’s multipoint works well, but the experience isn’t quite as seamless as it is with the Microsoft Surface Headphones 2. You still have to pause playback on the primary device, before you can play media on the secondary device. Audio-visual lag is only an issue when the Elite 85t is connected to two devices simultaneously. When I use the earbuds with just my phone or just my computer, playback synchronization is great.
How is the battery life of the Jabra Elite 85t?
The Jabra Elite 85t lasted 5 hours, 41 minutes before the batteries depleted in our testing, which fares better than both the AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000XM3, but doesn’t outlast the newer Sony WF-1000XM4. Of course, if you turn the ANC feature off, you might be able to squeeze more life out of it.
Unlike the Jabra Elite 75t series, the Jabra Elite 85t case supports Qi wireless charging. It takes 3 hours and 30 minutes to completely charge the case wirelessly, and just 2 hours and 30 minutes to charge it via USB-C. You can fast charge the earbuds: place them in the case for 15 minutes for an hour of playtime. Although this isn’t the most efficient quick charging around, it remains a great feature for intercontinental flights or cross-country road trips.
Does the Jabra Elite 85t have good noise canceling?
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In a word, yes; the Jabra Elite 85t features very good noise canceling technology that effectively quiets ambient noises like running faucets. Upper-bass and low-midrange notes will sound about one-quarter as they would without the earbuds in. Jabra uses feedforward and feedback noise canceling, similar to the highly effective Panasonic RZ-S500W. In fact, the Jabra Elite 85t ANC is so effective that it causes me to feel disoriented, and the Panasonic RZ-S500W has the same effect.
Passive isolation is quite good: sounds higher than 1kHz are rendered up to eight times quieter when wearing the earbuds than without wearing them. The oblong ear tips help create a secure seal to the ear canal, but you must take a few minutes to find the right set for your ears. The more noise you can block out by creating a physical barrier between your ear canals and the outside world, the easier it is for the ANC technology to block out other noises like engines and refrigerator hums.
How does the Jabra Elite 85t sound?
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The 12mm dynamic drivers pump out a consumer-friendly frequency response, that closely follows our house curve (what we posit as the ideal for most listeners). This means that most music will sound good in any situation.
Lows, mids, and highs
The song Broken Bones by Wingtip sounds great through the Jabra Elite 85t: the guitar picking is relayed clearly and doesn’t make it difficult to hear Nick Perloff-Giles’ vocals as he sings the first verse. Even when the kick drum enters at 0:27, Perloff-Giles’ voice is audible as he says the word, “different,” which is hard to hear with Jabra Elite 75t frequency response. Treble notes are relayed clearly too and can be heard in the first chorus as a tambourine shakes back and forth.
Can you use the Jabra Elite 85t for phone calls?
The Jabra Elite 85t is great for conference calls. Between the two earbuds, the Elite 85t boasts a six-microphone array, four of which are used for noise cancelation. The microphones under-emphasize sounds lower than 500Hz, which is a way to combat the proximity effect: when bass notes are amplified as a speaker gets too close to the microphone.
Some microphone systems take bass attenuation to the extreme, making speakers with particularly low voices sound “off”, but that’s not the case with the Elite 85t.
Jabra Elite 85t microphone demo (Ideal):
Jabra Elite 85t microphone demo (Office):
How does the microphone sound to you?
Jabra Elite 85t Vs Jabra Elite 75t: Which is better?
The Jabra Elite 85t has much more effective noise canceling than the Jabra Elite 75t because the 85t features a dedicated processor just for noise cancellation. This is different from the Elite 75t, which integrates it into the Qualcomm SoC.
With the Jabra Elite 85t, sound quality is more accurate right out of the box too, so you don’t have to spend as much time tinkering in the Sound+ app. Although the form factors are similar, the Elite 75t earbuds are slightly more compact and have circular ear tips. Some users may prefer the standard ear tip shape, but Jabra is wagering that most will fall in love with the oblong design.
If you want something for excruciating workouts of all kinds, we recommend the Jabra Elite Active 75t: it’s IP57-rated to resist both dust and water, and has better battery life than the newer headset. If you commute by plane or train, pinch those pennies for the Jabra Elite 85t a try.
Should you buy the Jabra Elite 85t?
The Jabra Elite 85t lives up to the name; this is an elite set of earbuds that can handle pretty much anything. If you want some of the best noise canceling earbuds money can buy, you should pinch your pennies for the Elite 85t. With its recent price drop, you can nab some of the best earbuds out there for $150 USD.
Other listeners may not find the noise canceling technology to be worth the shortened battery life. After all, you get nearly two more hours of playtime with the previous generation earbuds, and save a significant chunk of change. No matter which Jabra Elite series of earphones you buy, you’ll be happy with it.
Jabra expanded the Elite 85t’s color options and added Gold/Beige, Copper/Black, Black and Grey, in addition to the existing Titanium Black option. Be sure to research the best headphone seller for you before buying, because some vendors have great warranty coverage while others leave plenty to be desired. It takes just a few moments, and many retailers even have a live chat that you can use to contact customer service about further inquiries. We recommend a little reading for the full rundown on where to buy headphones.
Editor’s note: this Jabra Elite 85t review was written with firmware version 1.16.0 (1033).
What should you get instead of the Jabra Elite 85t?
If you want noise canceling for around the same price as the Jabra earbuds, consider the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2. While the earbuds only merit an IPX2 rating, they share many of the same features as the more premium Galaxy Buds Pro like ANC, a consumer-friendly frequency response, and comprehensive features through the Galaxy Wearable app. Get an in-depth comparison of Jabra and Samsung’s flagship earbuds here.
Another fine alternative to the Elite 85t is the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen), which retails for even less than the Buds 2. Amazon’s noise canceling performance rivals that of top competitors like the AirPods Pro. While it can’t quite touch the Sony WF-1000XM4, the Echo Buds (2nd Gen) is a smart option for listeners who want all things Alexa.
Readers who want the best portable ANC that money can buy have probably whittled it down to the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds and Sony WF-1000XM4. Noise canceling is excellent on both, though, you’ll notice a greater difference when you toggle ANC on/off on the Bose QC Earbuds than the WF-1000XM4. Both sets of buds have IPX4 ratings and solid app experiences that work well with any mobile OS. If you need to save space in your bag, we recommend the Sony WF-1000XM4, but the Bose QC Earbuds sounds better out of the box.