The premium noise cancelling headphones space is heating up. While two years ago the Boise QuietComfort 35 headphones were the way to go, these days there are a ton more options — like the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones, the new Bose 700 headphones, and the Jabra Elite 85h headphones.
Jabra’s offering may not be the first option you think about when you think about premium noise cancelling headphones. Should they be? We put the Jabra Elite 85h headphones to the test to find out.
Like other premium noise cancelling headphones, the Jabra Elite 85h headphones look great. They feature a sleek black color, and swap plastic for a nice fabric covering on each ear cup. On the left ear cup, you’ll find a single button for controlling the noise cancellation mode, while on the right, you’ll get a central control button and two volume, an aux port for using the headphones in wired mode, and a USB-C port. We’re glad Jabra included a USB-C port and not a MicroUSB port here.
The control buttons on the right ear cup are relatively hidden, so you may not notice them right away. The central button is found in the middle of the ear cup, while volume controls are located behind small plastic bumps on the ear cup.
The headphones themselves are pretty smart. For example, when you take them off, your audio automatically pauses — while the opposite is true when you put them back on.
In the box, there’s a nice selection of accessories — including a USB-C charging cable, an aux cable, and a nice clamshell-style hard case. There’s even a flight adapter — so you’ll pretty much get everything you need.
The Jabra Elite 85h headphones are clearly strong and well-built. The ear cups are a little bulky, but not overly so — and it’s not hard to get used to the look of them. They’re built with premium materials too — there’s a nice memory foam in the ear cups and under the headband, and they look great.
The headphones aren’t just well-designed — they’re pretty comfortable too. That’s thanks largely to the fact that the headphones feature plenty of padding under the headband and in the ear cups.
The headphones are relatively light too, which is always helpful. Sure, it’s probably not quite as important as in-ear headphones, but it does come into play for things like long-haul travel. We were able to wear the headphones for a number of hours without them getting uncomfortable. They did get a little warm at times, but again, not overly so.
Jabra Sound+ App
A big part of how the Jabra Elite 85h headphones work is the Jabra Sound+ app, and it’s a relatively well-designed experience. You’ll start by pairing your headphones to your phone and opening up the app, after which you’ll be set to control certain aspects of the headphones.
One interesting aspect of the experience is the SmartSound feature, which essentially uses AI and the microphone to automatically switch between different listening modes. It worked decently — but not flawlessly — and we ended up turning it off and just setting the modes manually.
The app is relatively well-designed, and allows for a number of different features. You can set the headphones to have noise cancelling on, off, or using HearThrough mode, and you can tweak the EQ too, which is a nice touch.
Ultimately, the most important thing to consider is how the headphones sound, and they sound pretty good. And thankfully, they sound great.
Let’s start with the bass, which is relatively thick and powerful. Kick drums are able to punch through a mix nicely. That said, a little more bass extension would have been nice to hear — and it’s something you can’t really tweak with the EQ.
The mid range is well-tuned, even right out of the box. You may want to tweak things a little using the EQ feature on the app, but sound is still relatively warm in the low mids, with plenty of high mids to go around.
The high end, like the lows, could have slightly more extension — but there are still plenty of highs to go around. This is another area you may want to tune a little with the EQ, and with the highs it would have been nice if the EQ was a little more surgical — but you can still get pretty nice-sounding highs with a little tweaking.
Ultimately, the headphones end up sounding pretty good. While the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones sound a little better out of the box, you’ll get more versatility and customizability with these headphones.
The Jabra Elite 85h headphones connect to your listening device through Bluetooth 5.0, and with that connection you’ll get up to 10 meters, or 33 feet, of listening range. We found that the headphones were able to retain a pretty good connection without dropping or skipping.
The battery life on the headphones sits in at a whopping 41 hours without noise cancellation, or 36 hours with it. That’s pretty spectacular — and means that the headphones should easily last even the longest of travels.
The Jabra Elite 85h headphones are a seriously good product. They boast a good sound quality, with some super smart features, and a classy-looking design.
But do they truly take out the likes of the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones? Well, it depends. The Sony headphones look that little bit sleeker and sound a little better, but they don’t really have the same super smart features. That said, these headphones are a little cheaper — so if you’re looking to save a few bucks, then it’s worth considering these, though the Sony headphones are often discounted.
Because of their excellent features and amazing performance, we’re awarding these headphones the Headphone Review Silver Medal.