The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is an obvious rival to the Apple AirPods Pro, but it’s also a threat to less popular noise cancelling true wireless earbuds like the Jabra Elite 85t. Samsung’s flagship attracts the eye with its glossy earbuds and jewelry box-inspired case, meanwhile Jabra’s headset is all business. Comprehensive software features accompany both pairs of earbuds, but which company has the edge?
Editor’s note: this versus article was updated on August 11, 2021, to include information about Samsung’s proprietary codec, iPhone compatibility, and mention the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2.
Jabra Elite 85t vs. Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro: Fit and hardware
Jabra holds a respected reputation within the professional headset market, and its nine-to-five design bleeds into the Elite 85t. These earbuds come in three serious colorways (copper/black, gold beige, and titanium black) and lack any glossy coating. Oblong ear tips extend from the earbuds, and form a more natural fit to the ear canal’s contours than standard spherical ear tips. Each earbud houses a vent to reduce any uncomfortable pressure within the ear, a feature also seen on the Galaxy Buds Plus.
The Jabra Elite 85t doesn’t rely on wing tip attachments to keep the earbuds in place, instead Jabra refined the shape of the Elite 75t series, which makes light contact with different parts of the outer ear. This works very well, and the earbuds remain stable whether you bike, run, or rock climb while wearing them. Although these aren’t explicitly billed as workout earbuds like the Elite Active 75t, the Elite 85t have an IPX4 rating and can endure most all exercise regimens.
You may control music playback, calls, and more from the button on either earbud, and you can reconfigure the controls from the Jabra Sound+ app . The buttons require some force, but not enough to cause pain when you push either of them. Jabra’s earphones also support automatic play/pause functionality when you insert or remove the buds.
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro follows a different framework than the Jabra Elite 85t. Rather than emulating a professional appearance, the Galaxy Buds Pro looks fun and approachable like a true wardrobe accessory. Samsung offers the Galaxy Buds Pro in three color variants: white, black, and violet. Like Jabra’s earbuds, the Galaxy Buds Pro wear oblong ear tips and integrate pressure-relief vents. Samsung goes a step further with its earbud hardware by adding a host of sensors for Samsung 360 Audio, automatic ear detection, and more. Samsung’s earbuds only support automatic pause functionality though; to resume playback, you must tap either touch panel.
The Galaxy Buds Pro are a bit more durable than the Jabra Elite 85t, as proven by the IPX7 rating. You can fumble these earbuds into the pool without worry, so long as you fish them out within 30 minutes. Don’t get it twisted, though: the Galaxy Buds Pro aren’t intended for swimming because they lack onboard storage. Even though the Galaxy Buds Pro are more water-resistant than Jabra’s earbuds, the Elite 85t provide a more stable fit.
Samsung’s earbuds have reflective finishes and you can use the Galaxy Wearable app to remap the touch controls to your liking. The touch panels often register unintended taps, which may prove annoying if you use them regularly. Worst case scenario, you can disable the taps from the Galaxy Wearable app (Android only).
Both cases support USB-C and wireless charging, but only the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro case can charge when you place it on top of a Samsung Galaxy device. Samsung Wireless PowerShare isn’t likely a must-have feature, but it’s convenient when you’re in a pinch and the batteries are drained. Jabra’s case is a bit larger, but feels more premium, while Samsung’s is more compact and lightweight.
Jabra Elite 85t vs. Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro: Bluetooth connection
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro use Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and support three Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, and the Samsung Scalable Codec. The company’s proprietary streaming codec is similar to aptX adaptive in that it makes constant adjustments to optimize streaming quality and connection stability, but it only works for Samsung devices. If you have a non-Samsung Android phone, you aren’t guaranteed access to reliable, high-quality audio because the AAC Bluetooth codec is difficult for Android to encode. iPhone users benefit from high-quality playback with either headset though.
Initially, the Jabra Elite 85t supported Bluetooth 5.0 firmware. Jabra quickly released an update for its flagship earphones, upgrading it to Bluetooth 5.1 firmware and bringing other improvements. You get fewer Bluetooth codecs here with support for just SBC and AAC, which may be a bummer for Android owners. Connection strength is great with either headset, but Jabra has a leg up when it comes to productivity: the Elite 85t supports Bluetooth multipoint, so you can connect the buds to two source devices at a time. Samsung supports automatic device switching among compatible Samsung Galaxy devices, as long as they’re all affiliated with the same Samsung account.
Learn more: Understanding Bluetooth codecs
The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro offers full mono mode support, so you can choose between the left or right earbud for mono playback. This is a must-have feature for hearing-impaired listeners, and is generally useful if you just want to switch it up every once in a while. The Jabra Elite 85t also supports mono playback, but it’s limited to the right earbud.
Which pair of earbuds has better software features?
All Android and iPhone users have complete access to software features and updates for the Elite 85t through the Jabra Sound+ mobile app. You can use the Sound+ app to make granular adjustments to active noise cancelling (ANC) intensity, toggle HearThru mode, locate the earbuds, and more. Jabra also includes a five-band custom EQ module, which you can use to adjust the sound profile. These settings are then saved to the earbuds and applied no matter what source device you use.
With the Elite 85t your custom EQ and ANC settings save and work even when you connect to a different device.
You can also create three different presets called “Moments” for different environments you plan to use the Elite 85t in (My Moment, Commute, and Focus). Each option presents you with a certain level of ANC or HearThru, and you can customize the intensity of either to your liking. Cycling between these situational recipes is much faster than making small changes every time you wear the earphones.
The Samsung Galaxy Wearable app is a bit more limited, and exclusive to the Android OS. Apple has its own Samsung Galaxy Buds app, but it doesn’t support the Galaxy Buds Pro, though this could easily change with a future app update. The Galaxy Wearable app is an excellent complement to the earbuds, and it brings many useful features to the table: you can cycle between ANC levels, enable ambient sound modes, remap the touch controls, select your favorite EQ preset, and more.
iPhone users can't access the features in the app, because the Galaxy Buds Pro is not supported in iOS app version.
You can use the app to toggle speech detection, which automatically registers when you’re in a conversation and enables ambient sound mode for a limited time. Samsung lets you choose the duration of this process from the Wearable app, which you might want to do if you talk to yourself a lot. Another feature, albeit one limited to Samsung Galaxy devices, is Samsung 360 Audio which is its own audio standard; it uses head tracking to place you in the middle of the action during your favorite TV show or movie. This effect is currently limited to Dolby Atmos content, but it’s a great option for traveling movie buffs.
Both noise cancelling earbuds have good battery life
The Jabra Elite 85t lasts 5 hours, 41 minutes on a single charge with ANC enabled at a consistent output of 75 dB—nearly an hour longer than the Galaxy Buds Pro’s battery life of 4 hours, 48 minutes under the same conditions. Both cases can fast charge their earbuds. With Samsung you get 85 minutes of playtime after charging the buds for 10 minutes, while with Jabra you get 60 minutes of playtime after charging the buds for 15 minutes.
Related: How we test
Jabra’s case is bigger than the Galaxy Buds Pro case and provides a few extra charge cycles—nearly 19 hours of reserve battery. You get multiple charge cycles from the Galaxy Buds Pro case too, but it totals to 13 hours of extra juice. Again, both USB-C charging cases support wireless charging.
Do the Jabra Elite 85t have better noise cancelling than the Galaxy Buds Pro?
Both the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro and Jabra Elite 85t have top-notch noise cancelling. No matter which headset you get, background noise is reduced tremendously, which makes traveling much more bearable. As previously noted, both pairs of earbuds feature pressure-relief vents, which reduces the rare dizzying effect some listeners experience when using highly effective ANC headsets.
In order to maximize either set of earbuds’ noise cancelling, you need to find the best fit. Optimal passive isolation begets optimal noise cancellation, because ANC technology isn’t able to nullify sounds higher than 1kHz. This is where incidental sounds are heard like the clang of dishware. Again, both headsets have very good passive isolation too and a comfortable fit in part due to the oblong ear tips. The Jabra Elite 85t earbuds provide a slightly more secure fit, meaning they can passively block out noise with greater consistency.
Learn more: How do noise cancelling headphones work?
Hold up! Something’s missing:
This section is typically where we display a noise cancelling chart to show you exactly where the ANC shines and where its deficiencies lie. Unfortunately, we’ve hit a technical snag in our testing. To combat this, we’ve purchased a Bruel & Kjaer 5128 test fixture (and the appropriate support equipment) to update our testing and data collection. It will take a bit to get it up and running in Canada, but we will update this article (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and ANC performance plots. These will be made obvious by an announcement explaining the change, and a new chart aesthetic.
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
Samsung’s earbuds sound more accurate but Jabra’s sound more fun
Samsung-subsidiary AKG tuned the Galaxy Buds Pro, which resulted in an accurate frequency response, save for some bass and treble emphasis. This means your music will generally sound as the audio engineers intended, but with a bit more oomph in the low end. Jabra follows a little more of a consumer-friendly sound profile, and its Elite 85t earbuds emphasize bass and treble notes with a broader stroke.
The Galaxy Buds Pro’s sub-bass amplification doesn’t run a great risk of auditory masking, as sub-bass notes aren’t even twice as loud as mids. This means you can eat your cake and have it too when you listen with the Galaxy Buds Pro. The same can’t quite be said for the Jabra Elite 85t. You’ll more often have a difficult time distinguishing harmonic detail and clarity with Jabra’s earbuds, particularly during busy song segments like a chorus or loud bridge.
At first read, this may make it seem like the Galaxy Buds Pro sound inherently better, but that isn’t quite the entire story. Remember, you can make fine adjustments to the Jabra Elite 85t sound profile from the Jabra Sound+ app, whereas with the Galaxy Wearable app, you’re limited to a handful of EQ presets. That said, Samsung has the more versatile sound right out of the gate.
Are the Jabra Elite 85t or Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro better for phone calls?
Samsung came out swinging with its advanced microphone system. The Galaxy Buds Pro’s microphones relay voices clearly even when outside, due to the wind-reducing hardware. The Jabra Elite 85t mic array is great too, though it noticeably reduces low-frequency sounds. This is good because it combats the proximity effect, when a low-voiced speaker is too close to the mic and causes audio clipping, but it also means some people may sound distant or muffled. Both headsets do a fine job of rejecting distant noise.
Take a few moments to listen to the samples below and rate them; it helps our other readers!
Jabra Elite 85t microphone demo:
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro microphone demo:
Should you buy the Jabra Elite 85t or Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro?
Although both of these earbuds are great, there’s one defining feature that may push you to the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro over the Jabra Elite 85t: price. The Galaxy Buds Pro costs at least $30 less than the Jabra Elite 85t and includes more premium features like a greater IP rating, more compact build, and arguably better sound quality. However, the Elite 85t has its advantages too: the case provides plenty of reserve battery, the earbuds fit a bit more securely, and noise cancelling performance is stellar. While you can’t go wrong with either of these, the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro is the better deal.
The Jabra Elite 85t is the better buy for iPhone users who want to take full advantage of any included software features because its app is available on the App Store. Again, the iOS Galaxy Buds app doesn’t support the Galaxy Buds Pro, which means you miss out on basic and advanced features with the earbuds. An even cheaper pair of noise cancelling earbuds are the Amazon Echo Buds (2nd Gen), which might make more sense to you than the Samsung earbuds.
However, iPhone owners who want the best software features, well, you can’t go wrong with the Apple AirPods Pro. Software aside, you may just appreciate the more subdued look of the Elite 85t, and if that’s the case, the extra money may be well spent. Of course, you can just wait and see how the Samsung Galaxy Buds 2 fare.