Are the Jabra Elite 85h the New Gold Standard in Bluetooth Headphones?

The Jabra Elite 85h are the most well rounded Bluetooth headphones I’ve ever used; checking the box on almost every category including sound quality, active noise canceling, clear phone calls, great battery life, intuitive controls, and water resistance.  When paired with Jabra’s companion smartphone app, I’m not sure any other Bluetooth headphones can compete.  The Elite 85h retail for $299.99.

My first thought upon opening the box was that it would be tough for the Jabra Elite 85h Bluetooth Headphones to perform better than they looked.  They’re a truly handsome set of cans in a shade of deep navy blue with an understated design that‘s highlighted by soft curves, plush faux leather, and elegant, easy-to-use controls on the right can.  Also on the right can is located the voice assistant button, 3.5mm headphone jack, and USB-C jack.  On the left can there’s only one button interrupting the oblong shape of the ear cup, which is the SmartSound button that lets you cycle through Jabra’s SmartSound modes, including Active Noise Cancellation (ANC), HearThrough, and off. 

My second thought after opening the box was, how the heck do I turn these headphones on?  There is no power button, which I ended up learning was extraneous in this case because of Jabra’s genius design.  All you need to do to turn your Elite 85h headphones on is to twist the ear cups into position as you’re putting them on your head.  It takes a little while to get used to the fact that it’s so simple, but it’s a really nice touch.  Plus, the Elite 85h have on-ear detection built-in, so that they’ll recognize when you remove them from your ears and automatically pause your music for you.

The Jabra Elite 85h are truthfully one of the most comfortable pairs of headphones I’ve ever worn.  I won’t make any cliché analogies like they feel like you’re wearing a cloud around your ears…but, I’m struggling to find a more apt analogy.  The headband has luxurious faux leather on the underside that hugs the top of your head and prevents any sort of fatigue while the ear cups have the same plus cushion.  I’ve worn these headphones in excess of 2.5 hours at a time and can attest that I haven’t gotten tired of wearing them.

The intuitive controls are located on the right ear cup and are both easy to find and easy to use thanks to Jabra’s design.  The volume up and skip track button is on top of the front of the ear cup and is dimpled while the volume down and back button is on the bottom of the front of the ear cup and is also dimpled.  The play/pause/answer call/end call button located in the center of the front of the ear cup and is recessed.  This simple and elegant design make the controls easy to find and easy to use.

The active noise cancellation (ANC) feature is perfect for the daily commute, as you don’t need to hear the whirring of the bus engine while you’re trying to concentrate on your episode of the Planet Money podcast.  The ANC feature works very well while blocking out most of the environmental noise using 4 of the 8 built-in microphones. 

Another feature worth highlighting is Jabra’s HearThrough setting, which feeds some of the environmental sound into your headphones while playing your music so that you can stay aware of what’s going on around you.  This pairing of sound settings is ideal for commuting into New York City, as I use the ANC on the bus and then HearThrough while walking through the streets to make sure I don’t get hit by a bike or car.  You can also use Jabra’s Sound+ mobile app to use SmartSound, which identifies the type of environment you’re in to automatically select the proper sound setting for you.

Also within the Sound+ app, you can create distinct sound profiles for different settings.  You can set a “commute” profile where you can set the equalizer to sound better for speech with ANC or an “in private” profile where you can set the equalizer to sound better for bass boost with ANC off.  It’s a nice feature to help you get the most out of the Jabra’s SmartSound.  Another smart feature is that these headphones are compatible with virtual assistants such as Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa.    You can summon your chosen assistant with the button on the left ear cup.

The Jabra Elite 85h boasts a battery life of about 36 hours while using ANC, which is huge for those of us who use their headphones every day.   I tested the battery capacity and found that I could use the Elite 85h for over 4 weeks at around 3 hours each day with ANC off before I got a “low battery” warning.   What’s more, is that these headphones are fast charging and you’ll be able to get 5 hours of usage if you only have time to charge your headphones for 15 minutes.

Sound quality from the Elite 85h is excellent, I haven’t noticed a song that doesn’t sound good.  Highs are crisp while bass sounds thick and deep and the mid-range is clear.  Call quality is also great and I’m able to hear everything clearly, and most surprisingly, the people on the other side of the line are able to hear me clearly.  Jabra says that 6 of the 8 built-in microphones are used to enhance call quality and block out wind noise and background noise.

Last, but certainly not least, the Jabra Elite 85h are rain resistant.  The internal components have a nano-coating and the headphones are covered by a 2-year warranty against water and dust.  To me, this is the cherry on top that makes these the Bluetooth headphones to beat in this category. 

Screenshot of the Jabra Sound+ app

If I was forced to come up with a complaint, I would note that while taking a call on the Elite 85h, you need to get used to the fact that the background/environmental noise is absolutely silent.  When I made my first call I realized that I was yelling a little too loud because I couldn’t hear myself.  It’s not a dealbreaker, just something to get used to.

Minor criticisms aside, the Jabra Elite 85h are my favorite pair of Bluetooth headphones.  They really do check all of the boxes and I can’t ask for much more. If you’re in the market for a set of premium Bluetooth headphones, you owe it to yourself to check out the new gold standard, the Jabra Elite 85h.

You can purchase the Jabra Elite 85h directly from Jabra at Jabra.com.

Source: The Jabra Elite 85h was a manufacturer supplied review sample.

What I Like: Excellent sound/call quality; Gorgeous design; Great battery life; Water resistant; Intuitive controls

What Needs Improvement: Not much

 


About the Author

Perry Brauner
I'm an architect by trade, but the overarching theme of my life has always been trying to keep up with the newest, coolest technology. Ever since I picked up an NES controller, I've been hooked on the latest and greatest gadgets, gizmos, and toys. Whether it's gaming, mobile phones, and accessories, or PCs and Apple products, I'm interested. I use many Apple products in my daily life, such as the iPhone, iPad, and my MacBook Pro. I've also built a few PCs in my day, so I'd like to say that I'm a pretty well-rounded techie.