The Jabra Elite 85t True Wireless Headphones Deliver Great Sound and ANC

Jabra has done a fantastic job with its true wireless earphones. The original Jabra Elite Sport was good, and they’ve only gotten better with each iteration. Now they’ve released the Jabra Elite 85t. It packs even more tech than the excellent Jabra Elite 75t and offers native active noise cancellation. But is the new offering better than the Jabra 75t?

As we reported in October, Jabra recently did something rather unusual. Even as they were beginning to promote the upcoming Jabra Elite 85t, they delivered an over-the-air update to both the Jabra Elite 75t and the Active version of the 75t. The update added active noise cancellation to the 75t, and Jabra offered the update for free.

That’s pretty impressive on several levels. First, the fact that Jabra offered the update for free potentially cannibalized sales of the 85t is rather remarkable. Add in the fact that they were able to take existing non-ANC hardware and add ANC boggles the mind a bit. I mean, through this update, Jabra literally gave owners of the 75t a free pair of “new” earphones. Granted, the ANC on the 75t is not the best noise cancellation I’ve heard, but it was a free update, and it does work.

Now the company has released the Jabra Elite 85t. These new true wireless earphones (TWE) were designed with active noise cancellation in mind, and it shows.

Next-level noise cancellation: The Elite 85t buds have been engineered with the most cutting-edge noise cancellation technology on the market, to give you complete control over how you hear the world around you. It’s time to level-up the way you block out the world.

The move from the Elite 65t to the Elite 75t was visually significant but technologically incremental. The 75t have a slightly smaller design than the earbuds they replaced and, as a result, are the most comfortable and secure-fitting TWE I’ve used. The move from the 75t to the 85t is a different story. They may look similar to the 75t, but the tech they pack is something entirely new. The company built these earphones from the ground up and, for the first time, included a dedicated ANC processor chip in their TWE.

Our mightiest chipset yet: All this incredible tech needs incredible processing power. That’s why we’ve built in a dedicated processing chip to power our intuitive sound modes. With both feedforward and feedback independent multi-stage filter configuration, an integrated 6-band equalizer path for the audio line, and low-latency signal processing…

Just check out this breakdown of the various components in the Elite 85t!

To deliver the best ANC experience, Jabra built three microphones into each earbud. Two microphones in each earbud are dedicated to the ANC.

That, combined with 12mm speakers, a customizable equalizer via the Jabra Sound+ app, and AAC and SBC codecs, delivers sound that will surprise and delight you. Yes, Jabra may have focused on ANC when designing the 85t, but they also made sure to deliver the best possible sound. And they have done just that. The Jabra Elite 85t sounds great!

In addition to the three professional-grade microphones in each earbud, Jabra added a function they refer to as “sidetone.” As they explain,

We added sidetone, so you can hear your own voice on calls (without having to shout), and added our latest and most advanced wind protection algorithms. So, your conversations are clear and sharp when it matters, allowing you to enjoy call clarity like never before.

Call quality with the 75t was already excellent. It’s even better with the Elite 85t.

A fantastic new feature of the Elite 85t is the wireless charging built into the battery case. While you CAN recharge the case using the USB-C port and the included USB-C cable, if you have a Qi wireless charging pad, you can simply place the battery case on it and, a short time later, you will have a fully charged pair of Elite 85t! I’ve been looking forward to the convenience of being able to charge my earbuds, and the 85t deliver wirelessly! It is awesome.

The Elite 85t are rated to deliver up to 5.5 hours per charge with the ANC turned on. Thanks to the included charging case, you can expect to get up to 25 hours of total time before you need to plug into a battery or outlet. Without the ANC on, you can expect to see seven hours of music playback and a total of 31 hours when including the battery in the charging case. In addition, the 85t have a sleep mode that automatically turns the earbuds off after 15 minutes without connection or 60 minutes without activity. (This is configurable in the Sound+ app.)

It takes up to 2 hours and 30 minutes to fully charge the case and earphones when using a dedicated USB wall charger and up to four hours when charging wirelessly. Fortunately, the 85t also have fast-charge technology that delivers up to sixty minutes of playback after just 15 minutes. Finally, the 85t have a standby time of six months, although I don’t imagine you leaving them laying around unused for six days, let alone six months.

The Elite 85t have Bluetooth 5.0, a range of up to 33 feet, can be paired with up to eight different devices, and can be actively connected to two devices simultaneously. It is also worth noting that the 85t has an auto-pause feature that stops music playback when an earbud is removed, and you can use the right earbud on its own if you are simply making calls.

Inside the box, you get the Elite 85t earbuds, a charging case, a USB-C cable, 3 sets of oval silicon EarGels, a warranty, and warning leaflets.

To accommodate the additional electronics built into the 85t, Jabra had to make their new offering slightly larger than the Elite 75t. The battery case is also a bit larger than the case that ships with the Elite 75t. It measures 2.55” by 1.62” by 1.12”. The Elite 85t also have new, oval EarGels rather than the round ones found on the 65t and 75t. They claim to have scanned thousands of ears to design earbuds that would fit securely. As they explain,

Thousands of ears in the making: We scanned thousands of ears and ran the results through our advanced algorithmic simulator, using the latest miniaturization techniques to cram all our amazing tech into a compact new design. Our latest buds are a semi-open design with pressure relief vents, preventing pressure build-up inside the ear, while three sizes of smooth, silicone oval EarGels™ create a secure, noise-cancelling seal, boosting your sound quality and keeping your ears feeling great all day.

That’s all good and well, but I have to admit to liking the comfort and fit of the Elite 75t more. Those earbuds sit so comfortably and securely in my ears and, even before the addition of active noise cancellation, did a fantastic job of blocking ambient sound. After the addition of ANC that arrived with the recent update, they do an even better job. I’ve never had the 75t fall out of my ears. In fact, I don’t recall ever worrying that they were loose and might fall out. Once in my ears, the 75t feel like they are simply part of me.

That is NOT my experience with the Elite 85t. Regardless of the size ear tip I use, and I’ve tried all three sizes, the 85t never feel quite as secure as their predecessor. It is pretty clear Jabra did this on purpose as they describe the new earbuds as offering a “semi-open design.” And while it may indeed help prevent “pressure build-up in the ears,” I miss the secure feel of the 75t.

Interestingly, the Elite 85t only has an IPX4 rating for protection from water. By comparison, the Elite 75t has an IP55 rating. (IPX4 means a product is resistant to water splashes from any direction, while IPX5 means a product can resist a sustained, low-pressure water jet spray.) Jabra offers a 2-year warranty against dust and water, but you need to register your earbuds using the Jabra Sound+ app.

To get the most from your Jabra Elite 85t, you will want to use the free Jabra Sound+ app. The app allows you to adjust the EQ to customize the sound to your liking; the app offers the ability to reprogram the button functionality of the button built into each earbud.

For example, a single press on the right earbud plays and pauses audio, while a double press currently activates my voice assistant. (Interestingly, the Elite 85t does not work with Amazon Alexa, leaving you the choice of Siri or Google Assistant.)The earbuds did not ship with a configuration when pressing the button three times, but I was able to set it to toggle between ANC and HearThrough when pressed three times. (More on HearThrough shortly.)

The left earbud is currently configured so that a single press toggles through ANC and HearThrough, a double press skips to the next track, and a triple press restarts the current track.

The good news is that you can configure the buttons to your liking with up to six different functions between the two earbuds for music control and another set of six for controls while on a call.

Finally, there is active noise cancellation. Jabra was not simply content with building ANC into the Elite 85t. Instead of ANC being either on or off, the Elite 85t offer eleven different sound control levels ranging from full ANC to full HearThrough. Jabra’s engineers explain it this way:

LEVELS OF SOUND: As the sound experts, we know the human ear best perceives sound differences in increments of 3 decibels (db) – in fact, it’s something you’ll find in most volume controls – each step up or down is an increment of 3db. So our engineers have specifically developed our 11 levels of sound for the optimum performance. Each level – from full ANC to full HearThrough, and everything in between – is around 3db apart, delivering a noticeable change with each jump. With a maximum ANC level that’s one of the best on the market, our 11 levels are all you need for the optimum experience.

In the Jabra Sound+ app, you can select from one of five different levels of ANC. You can turn off the noise-handling functionality, or you can select from one of five levels of HearThrough for a total of eleven levels of sound control.

 

 

I would describe the Elite 85t’s ANC as decent. When they are properly seated in my ears, and the ANC is turned to full, they do a nice job of canceling noise. If they are not pressed deeply enough into my ear, which is more often the case than not, the ANC cuts some noise but falls short of truly impressing. Honestly, despite only offering one ANC setting (but five levels of HearThrough), I think the Elite 75t do a better job at noise cancellation than the Elite 85t. I suspect this is the result of the 75t sitting so nicely in my ears and physically blocking a good amount of noise even before the ANC is turned on. Regardless, I think the ANC in both headsets is a net positive, but I do not see either pair of earphones is ideal if you are taking a long flight and want to enjoy quiet. For that, you are better looking at one of Jabra’s over-the-ear offerings or one of the other ANC-sporting over-the-ear headphones we have reviewed.

To me, an equally important part of the Elite 85t story is HearThrough. (This was also the case when I reviewed the Elite 75t after updating them.) HearThrough takes the ambient sound and “feeds” it to you. This allows you to wear earphones that would otherwise isolate you and lets you remain aware of your surroundings. That’s important if you are walking on a busy street, at home working but want to be accessible if a family member needs you, or if you are walking alone down a city street. In other words, while there are times when you want to be completely cut off from your surroundings, there are other times when doing so is dangerous. At such times you want and NEED to remain aware. The HearThrough feature does just that.

With HearThrough, the real world is only ever a tap away: Using the adjustable sliders in the Jabra Sound+ app, you can choose your perfect level of both ANC and HearThrough and then use the button on your earbud to toggle instantly between them.

Of course, none of this matters if the Jabra Elite 85t doesn’t sound good. I’m happy to report that, like their predecessor, the Jabra Elite 85t sounds great. They sound good with the ANC turned off and even better when the ANC is on, and the speakers don’t have to compete with the noise surrounding you. Having the degree of control the Sound+ app delivers makes a huge difference by allowing you to adjust the EQ to meet the style of music and your personal taste.

The headset is also great for calls. That’s a bit surprising when you consider how far from your mouth the microphones are. Then again, this is Jabra, and they know what they are doing. To help make calls even better, Jabra lets you hear your own voice during a call. They refer to this technology as “sidetone,” and it, combined with advanced wind protection algorithms, results in great call quality no matter where you are.

Specifications:

  • Noise isolating fit: Yes
  • Noise reduction on calls: Yes, 6-microphone technology
  • Wind noise protection: Yes
  • Audio codecs supported: SBC, AAC.
  • Speaker size: 12 mm / 0.47 in
  • Speaker bandwidth (music playback): 20Hz to 20kHz
  • Speaker bandwidth (calls): 100Hz to 10kHz
  • Microphone type: 6 x MEMS
  • Microphone bandwidth: 100Hz to 10kHz
  • Active Noise Cancellation: Jabra Advanced ANC™ using 4 of the device’s 6 microphones
  • ANC: Yes, adjustable
  • HearThrough: Yes, adjustable
  • In-ear pressure relief: Yes

Here’s Jabra’s promo video for the 85t:

 

The Jabra Elite 85t is the next generation of Jabra’s true wireless earphones. With each release, Jabra has upped their game, and now, they have an offering that has native ANC and eleven different levels of noise control. It is a pretty amazing achievement to have so much technology in such a small package, but Jabra did it. I also LOVE the fact that the charging case is now Qi-enabled for wireless charging. That’s a nice bit of added convenience. The Elite 85t is extremely impressive. All of that noted, I’m finding myself turning to the Jabra Elite 75t more often than not. The ANC on the 75t isn’t as good and doesn’t offer the control you get with the 85t but, at least for me, the fit of the 75t is as close to perfection as I have found outside of the custom earphones I have that were made from molds of my ears. This isn’t a knock on the 85t. They are amazing. But the comfort and fit of earphones is different for everyone and, for me, the 75t just sit better in my ears. I get why Jabra wanted to give the 85t a more “open” design, but, at least in my case, while the tech is a huge step forward, the comfort and fit are a (small) step in the wrong direction. If you are in the market for true wireless earbuds, you can’t go wrong with Jabra’s offerings. Just be aware that one of the two models I have discussed here may be a better fit for you. The Jabra Elite 75t has an MSRP of $179.99 but is currently $159.99. If you want them with a case that offers wireless charging, you’ll have to shell out $199.99. The Jabra Elite 85t is $229.99 and includes wireless charging.

The Jabra Elite 85t true wireless headphones sell for $229.99; they are available directly from the manufacturer and other retailers, including Amazon [affiliate link].

Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample

What I Like: Great battery life; Excellent sound; Sound and controls are configurable using the Sound+ app; Eleven different levels of noise control; Open design said to reduce ear fatigue; Case can be charged wirelessly

What Needs Improvement: The ANC is good, but there are better options for those who need total silence; The new design isn’t quite as good for me as their predecessor (which are still available)

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.