You could make decent cans and slap Bluetooth on them to have a successful product. Or you could take a Jabra approach. The company took the Bluetooth headphones to a next level with Jabra Elite 85h. It’s not just about the sound, but how you experience it and interact with the product. Is it just a marketing gimmick, or the features of the Jabra Elite 85h make it stand out from the competitors?
Jabra – not only for business, still means business!
With a premium price point, the consumer expects premium quality. This applies to sound and build quality. Jabra Elite 85h definitely comes with that premium feel and look. Previously, I associated Jabra with business-grade products, it’s nice to see them expanding the consumer end. Enclosed in a colour-matched etui, wireless headphones are crafted with a combination of fabric and faux leather resting on the plastic frame, reinforced by metal elements.
The cups are padded with memory foam that wraps around your ears gently while the bridge has just enough pressure to keep the headphones on top of your head without discomfort from prolonged use. Let’s not fool ourselves, if you are going to fish out over £200 on headphones, they will feel like a premium product in hand.
Jabra Elite 85h is lacking a fancy touch interface and NFC pairing of similarly priced PXC550 (review), but hidden under the fabric buttons are more responsive, than hit or miss at them touch input and I used NFC pairing perhaps twice a year. The usual Bluetooth control buttons (Vol+/Play/Vol-) are paired with individual buttons for ANC and voice cancelling. All this is topped up with a USB-C charge port and 3.5mm audio jack which comes in handy from time to time.
While nothing stops you from giving Jabra Sound+ app a miss, however, you will be doing yourself a disservice. The app introduces a whole new level of interacting with Jabra Elite 85h. By interacting, I don’t just mean the pairing process and EQ presets. Jabra invested time and resources to put the “elite” into Jabra Elite 85h.
Jabra Elite 85h are the first wireless headphones where someone gives me the power over the device itself. Thanks to dozens of options, you can make the headphones yours. Don’t like the notification voice? Change it over to tone, or disable audio feedback altogether.
You can even pick a different (than default) voice assistant to be used with the headset. Jabra thought through the optimisation and you can customise pretty much everything, from sleep mode timeout to on-ear detection. This alone puts many other manufacturers to shame.
There is more…
Auto pause means business! It pauses the music when headphones are lifted, and it’s smart enough to keep the music paused if you shift the headphones over the ears while you are using your ears for something else. As soon as you place the cups over the ears – it resumes. It’s like magic.
Thanks to the app, Jabra Elite 85h come with 4 unique sound presets. These are not just EQ settings, but each mode comes with a unique sound imprint for ambient noise used by the smart sound. Available modes are:
- My Moments
- In Public
- In Private
Each one of them can be customised with different EQ modes, Active Noise Cancellation or HearThrough. Presets are available in the notification shade of your phone unless you want to use Smart Sound.
Powered by AI, Smart Sound analyses (locally) samples of the environment and adjusts the sound mode based on the noise around you. It’s an interesting concept and I was surprised how well it works. While Smart Sound didn’t get everything right, when it did, it felt like someone took my phone and set the headphones to the settings I had in my mind for this specific occasion.
Find my headphones
Jabra Elite 85h will be hard to lose, but the phone is gathering GPS information when the headphones are connected to it. The app can use this to give you the last location of the headphones. This could be more awesome if the headphone serial number was locked to the account. Taken away headphones, would disclose the location again once paired up with a new phone sporting Sound+ app. Perhaps Jabra could consider that.
Jabra is all about sound, not just music. Like many other people, I use the headphones to cut off external sounds thanks to ANC and to relax. Soundscape provides an array of built-in ambient noises.
The selection is quite rich, and even though the sound of frogs and crickets are missing from the list, you will find something there to calm your nerves. Whether you are listening to birds, cave noises or rain, Jabra Elite 85h delivers high-quality ambient sounds without noticeable loops.
There can only be one! (or two if you use Jabra)
These cans can be paired with 2 Bluetooth devices at once. It’s a feature I had seen before but Jabra Elite 85h is the first to make the handover lightning fast. Switching from mobile phone to PC takes less than a second. Simply hit play on a YouTube video and you won’t miss a thing. It takes a little longer to switch back. I love it, as PXC550 would take in excess of 5 sec to switch over. Well played!
ANC and HearThrough
Active Noise Cancellation blocks out a lot. I could not overstate how important to me ANC is. Working in noisy environments is one thing, but working in environments where ambient sounds are on a “loop” drives me mad. Having decent ANC keeps me sane and focused on job at hand.
Noise cancellation is comparable (if not better) to PXC550 I used before. I actually took it to the CNC shop floor to give them a real test. Noises coming from routers and milling machines range from repetitive low frequency sounds interrupted by squealing screams of carved metal parts. Jabra Elite 85h won’t lock it all out, but does seriously good job at keeping it at bay.
In case you need the opposite, HearThrough is available to do just that. As the name suggests, the feature lets the ambient sound in. There is no super hero mode – as the sounds from the outside are delivered at the same level. It’s great when you want to have a quick conversation without taking the cans off, or be more aware of the environment around you (especially on the public transport listening to station announcements).
After this amount of attention to other details, I’d be very surprised if the sound was subpar. Jabra Elite 85h delivers here as well. Whether I play ambient sounds listed with the Sound+ app or go through my playlist, I’m engrossed in the sound experience provided by the headphones.
Quick presets emphasise the vibrant tone of the current track. Tuned in speakers respond great to trebles of the electronic tunes while accompanying bass kicks in each time the beat demands your attention. As far as Bluetooth interface is concerned, Jabra nails the quality and leaves very little to be desired.
If you want to get the best of the speakers used in Jabra Elite 85h you have 2 options. A USB-C interface and a more traditional 3.5mm audio jack. In both cases, you will bypass Bluetooth limitations and enjoy higher data rates. Is it really better than Bluetooth? Honestly, I can’t really tell. There is nothing wrong with my ears, but I’m not an audiophile.
What I can tell you that you won’t be disappointed.
The microphone is great. Or 6 of them to be precise! They take a lesson from Jabra’s unmatched business division and do all sort of audio magic to make you sound perfect. Despite located somewhere in the earcup, my voice picks up clean, and despite having meetings in noisy environments, my colleagues at work were pleased with the pickup pattern.
Things to improve…
At this price point, I would appreciate a much longer USB-C cable (one included is about 20 cm long) and a 3.5mm cable with microphone support. The supplied cable doesn’t have a microphone and plugging it in means you don’t get to use calls.
I would appreciate frogs and crickets in SoundScape, and not naming the product “85h” without living to that expectation in terms of the battery life! 😁 Although 36h is more than enough for my needs!
It comes as no surprise that I love it. After 2 weeks with Jabra Elite 85h I regret getting PXC550. I’d get on pair if not better experience, bag myself over £80 in saving and enjoy a product that is more suited to my needs. It seems like Jabra knows where to invest money, and I’m looking forward to checking more of their products. I have my eye on their wireless earbuds, as I’m always looking for something better suited for my cycling trips. Interested? Stay tuned! Any questions?