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This article was published on June 24, 2019

Jabra’s Elite 85h ANC headphones can drown out noise for days

Jabra’s Elite 85h ANC headphones can drown out noise for days
Elite 85h
Ivan Mehta
Story by

Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

Working for TNW is awesome, but, sadly, they don’t have an office in India. So I work from home, cafes, or coworking spaces. That means there’s a lot of noise around me And while I prefer Bluetooth earbuds like OnePlus’s Bullet Wireless, I often think it’d be nice to have a pair of noise-canceling cans. And that’s where Jabra’s Elite 85h wireless headphones come in.

Announced at CES, these premium active noise cancelation (ANC) headphones are comfortable and long lasting. Plus, they charge with a USB-C cable. After several days of usage, I found the Jabra Elite 85h a great alternative to Bose’s legendary QC II 35 — especially when they’re priced at a cheaper $299.

Design and functions

The Elite 85h’s body is made out of plastic, but the headband and cans are covered with textured fabric that make them look stylish. The pair I tested were Navy Blue — which looks really classy — but there are other color options with the Titanium Black and Gold Beige models too.

The headphones come in a sturdy faux-leather case with a standard 3.5mm aux cable to connect to your devices in case the battery runs out, a flight connector, and a USB-C cable for charging. It’s a nice compact package to carry if you’re going on a trip.

With an adjustable headband, it’s quite easy to get a nice fit with the headphones., according to your head shape. The cans are large enough to snuggly slot over your ears, and the cushioning is comfortable enough to wear them for hours. Plus, the headphones are foldable, so they can fit into the case or in your bag without taking up too much space.

You can control music with buttons on the right ear cup that lets you play/pause, skip tracks, and adjust the volume. To activate ANC, you can use a dedicated button on the left can. You can also press the ANC button to cycle through different modes: ANC, hear-through (which lets in some ambient noise), and off.

Jabra has its own app as well (both for iOS and Android) that lets you set different ANC modes, and temper the sound by adjusting equalizer settings. You can also activate SmartSound mode which, via its eight mics, analyzes the sound around you and chooses a suitable noise-cancelation mode. Still, the constant analysis might hit your battery life a bit, and besides, it’s not that hard to change modes through the ANC button or the app.

Sound and usage

The Jabra Elite 85h has quite a balanced sound signature. Bass is clear, and sub-bass is quite noticeable (especially in songs like this). However, if you’re a bass-head, you’ll be disappointed, because it doesn’t have a booming, low-end bass that’ll rip your skull off.

The vocals and mids are the stars of the show. You’ll love listening to pop, indie, and alternative on these headphones. It can handle the highs of guitars pretty well, but sound can be a bit cloudy if things get as busy as this Game of Thrones theme cover. Notably, this pair lacks support for high-end codecs like AptX and AAC, which is disappointing — especially considering the price.

In terms of connections, the headphones can pair up to eight devices at once; and stay connected to two of them at a time. I frequently took advantage of this and connected the cans to my laptop and my phone.

The noise cancelation on the Jabra Elite 85 is great. As aforementioned, the headphones have eight microphones, these are: four to increase call quality, two for ANC, and two that are dual-purpose.

The ANC mode will make you feel like you’re underwater and drown out most of the loud noises. Plus, if you want, you can play white noises (like rain, crowd) through the Jabra app.

The 6 mics working simultaneously makes the talking on the phone a pleasant and stutter-free experience. The other person can hear you loud and clear.

When Jabra told me that this pair charges with USB-C, I was over the moon. Because of that, I don’t have to carry an extra cable to charge it. The battery life is also stupendously good. The Elite 85h can last over a week with a single charge if you only use them for a couple of hours a day.

The company says they’ll last for 36 hours with ANC on, and a staggering 41 hours with the function off. What’s more, you can charge it for 15 minutes and get up to 5 hours of usage time.

Who’s it for?

The Jabra Elite 85h are a comfortable pair of headphones with excellent battery life, balanced sound, and strong ANC features. So, if you want a pair of cans that are not to bass heavy, and can last more than a week on a single charge, look no further. Plus, if you are a frequent flyer, this pair will serve you quite well on your trips.

While it’s hard to beat the Sony WH 1000xm3’s sound quality and the Bose QC 35 II’s noise cancellation features, these cans give them a sound fight. Besides they’re at least $50 less (sometimes even $100 with offers) than Sony and Bose’s $349 headphones. To put it simply, you won’t regret buying these.

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