If you want top-drawer BT, ANC, earphones, then Jabra Elite 85t and its superseded Elite 75t must be on your shopping list.
Jabra joins Sennheiser in eschewing the closed earphone design of most ANC ‘pods’ and their resultant narrow sound stage. Jabra Elite 85t use a semi-open design with a wider stage. For me, I will take sound quality over ‘pressurised’ ANC any day.
I also mentioned last year’s flagship, the Jabra Elite 75t (review here 9.2/10). It received a firmware update in September 2020 that unlocked the Qualcomm TWS/ANC features, making them worthy competitors to the Jabra Elite 85t. As a bonus, we will test and postscript the Jabra 75t with its new firmware and give you a fair comparison.
Designed and engineered in Copenhagen and assembled in China
2-year extended warranty against dust and water
Jabra is part of the GN Group, established almost 150 years ago. It is the only company sharing advanced audio tech to create consumer headphones, professional headsets and hearing aids. The single-minded purpose – to make your life sound better.
You can read more GadgetGuy Jabra news and reviews here
Let’s start with the basic specs
Jabra miniaturisation of design and fit – not as deep in the ear as 75t
Oval shaped silicone Ear Gels (was round)
Dedicated ANC Chip – Fully adjustable digital between full ANC, full transparency with HearThrough mode, and anywhere in between – 11 levels!
Six microphones (4 for ANC) and wind protection for call clarity
Up to 5.5 hours battery with up to 25 hours in the compact charging case (ANC on)
USB-C and Qi-certified for wireless charging
Jabra Sound+ App
Gold/Beige, Copper/Black, Titanium/Black, Black and Grey
Comfort – immensely so
I have worn these extensively over the past month, and they are a joy – no undue ear-canal pressure. At no stage did I feel they would fall out.
Because ANC relies on effective noise isolation, we issue the standard warning – please ensure you use the correct size of silicon ear gel tips – small, medium or large to help block noise.
ANC – 11 levels
It has an 11-stage adjustment, each offering an extra 3dB attenuation. From what I read, it is around three levels over Bose’s adjustments.
By default, the ANC focuses on higher frequency noises like passenger voices. The semi-open design tends to let in lower, bass-heavy noise like a plane taking off. As we cannot fly (easily), I tried these on several rail commutes, and after adjusting the ANC level, it effectively blocked noise to Bose levels.
You can also adjust for HearThrough and everything in between.
Hands-free – crisp and clear
It has six mics (three on each bud) and does a terrific job in reducing outside noise (like wind) and two beamform to your voice. Callers commented on the clarity even though I was in a very noisy railway station.
Sidetone (hear your voice via the earphones) is probably the best I have used.
Battery – at least 4 hours per charge
The case is Qi wireless as well as USB-C. As an avoid Qi user, I would not buy just a cable charge case.
Jabra claims 5.5hrs with ANC, and again these are lab figures. Over the month, we averaged between 4 and 4.5 hours at 75%. If you don’t use ANC, you can add a few more hours.
Charging is from any USB-A 5V/1A/5W charger or, as its USB-C, any PD charger (although it does not fast charge).
Charging time ranges from just over user three hours (USB-C) to about 4 hours (Qi 5W)
You can get one hour use on 15 minutes charge.
It uses BT 5.1, so it can have two 5.1 host devices connect. Codecs are SBS and AAC. We could not drive them with Qualcomm’s aptX, which is strange because it uses Qualcomm TWS chips. In any case, BT sound quality is commensurate with the earphone’s capabilities.
Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri.
These are 7g – light and comfortable. It has haptic clicky controls (excellent). IPX4 means sweat-resistant – not waterproof. But most of all, the two-year warranty is class-leading.
How does it sound? Awesome for music
These have 12mm drivers – about twice the usual size – allowing more music subtleties to come through.
In the default mode (no app), it is bass-forward with a flattish response (good) to about 10kHz and then a reasonably fast decline. This is warm – not quite sweet – and it is good for music. There is a lack of strong treble that can make vocal and instrumentals a little flat.
First, connect the buds via BT to the smartphone. Then fire up the Jabra Sound+ app.
This is where Jabra is different from most. It can run a hearing test on both ears to tailor a sound profile for you. It takes a few minutes and requires you to tap when you hear a tone – like a hearing aid test. Your profile then helps to process music to reinforce any hearing weaknesses.
But it does not stop there – next is ‘my fit’ that tests sound isolation – it will tell you if your ear tips fit well.
The ANC has a slider for 11 levels, and each blocks a broader range of frequencies. It also has pre-sets – My moments for about 50% ANC, Commute that switches ANC off and enables hear through and Focus.
I found the smooth EQ pre-set best for most music genres. You can also alter pre-sets.
The app has pre-sets for different noises – pink, white, ventilation fan, waterfall etc. or sounds – ocean waves, rainy day, songbirds etc. that you can use to get to sleep.
The semi-open design widens the sound stage a little, so some sound feels it is coming from outside your head.
All up, the app adds considerable value to the earphones. Once you use it, you will be disinclined to go back to lesser apps.
Jabra Elite 85t Versus the Elite 75t
The Elite 75t (review here) was one of my favourites in late 2019, scoring 9.2/10. Since then, a firmware update unlocked Qualcomm’s on-chip ANC.
Silicon ear tip
Round and fits further down the ear canal
Oval and not as far down the ear canal
USB-C and Qi
Battery (ANC off)
Dedicated ANC chip
There are two primary differences. The Qualcomm ANC is essentially on or off (versus 11 bands), although you can tune it in the app. And the volume is not as loud. We measured 48dB (about 70dB in speaker equivalent versus 80dB).
In all other respects, it uses the advanced Jabra Sound+ app, including age/gender ear testing.
Would I buy them over the 85t? It was my favourite at the time and is now $80 cheaper, so it is tempting. But no – the 85t have advanced and outclass the 75th in every way.
The 75t now compete squarely with Sony WF-XB700 ($199), Sony WF-1000XM3 (now on runout $219) and JBL Live ($249), and it is a strong contender.
Jabra is not a name you automatically look for but, in this class, it should be where you start. The app is incredible, and the hearing profile customisation is almost unique. The Jabra Elite 85t is a premium product. I really like the move to semi-open – nowhere near as claustrophobic as closed-ear can be and the better sound stage.
JB has them at $279, and I would put them in the same class as Bose QuietComfort ($318), Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro ($349), Audio-Technica TWS $299) and Sennheiser CX 400BT ($299). The only wild card is Sony’s about to be released WD-1000XM4, and we don’t know anything about their performance yet (review coming late June).
Jabra Elite 85t
If you are after a superior BT, ANC, TWS set of earphones the Jabra 85t must be on your shopping list