Price (RRP): $499
The Jabra Elite 85h Bluetooth Adaptive Noise Cancelling headphones mark the company’s entry into the premium BT ANC ‘travellers’ market. To do that they have to be better than the big three – Sony, Sennheiser and Bose. Did they do it?
The Jabra Elite 85h has an RRP of $499. The tough competition includes Bose QC35II $499, Sennheiser PCX 550 $499 and Sony WH-1000XM3 $549.95 – of course; astute shoppers will find some of them online for less. After a week’s intensive use, we can say the Jabra Elite 85h is right up there with the big boys.
Who is Jabra?
The brand is not all that well known in the consumer space. But, in the Unified Communications and enterprise space it is top-of-mind along with Plantronics/Polycom (now Poly). Its gear constantly wins awards for reliability, build/lasting ability and sound quality.
Jabra is part of the GN Group, established 150 years ago and creates consumer headphones, professional headsets and hearing aids (ReSound). It invented the world’s first ultra-noise-cancelling microphone, the world’s first Bluetooth headset and the world’s first sports headphones with integrated heart rate monitor. If any company can say that it understands sound; it is Jabra.
All we are saying is don’t be a brand snob when Jabra offers some of the most technologically advanced audio gear on the planet.
Review: Jabra Elite 85h
This is a premium ‘travellers’ adaptive noise cancelling (ANC) headset. Our primary review paradigms include
- Sound quality
- ANC effectiveness
- Battery life
- Wear, comfort and style
- Ease of use and app
NC and ANC noise cancelling effectiveness
At the base level, all NC headphones use external mics to generate ‘anti-noise’ to remove it. The ‘A’ stands for adaptive, and this means it offers various levels of NC to suit your environment.
The Jabra Elite 85h has eight mics (four for ANC) and SmartSound that uses AI technology to analyse ambient sound – In Public, Commute and In Private. SmartSound automatically changes modes (it calls these ‘moments’), and it is great for active types in different environments. It uses audEERING’s context intelligence technology that can detect more than 6000 typical sounds.
‘Commute’ lets more of the ‘announcement’ noises in. In Private means, your surrounds are already quiet, and it can turn down ANC and HearThrough for more natural sound. In public means you need awareness of your surrounds, or you may get hit by a bus!
Turning SmartSound off reveals a choice of ‘moments’ (music pre-sets) – default, speech, bass boost, treble boost, smooth and energise. You can also create a custom My Moment using an equaliser (EQ).
While this sounds complex, and you can also press a button on the left ear cup for ANC, HearThrough or Off – I suspect that most will be very happy to let SmartSound think for you.
ANC Summary: Overall SmartSound works well, but it needs a little more polish (via firmware updates) to become the ‘must have’ feature. Sony ANC is almost perfect. Bose offers two modes, and it is very effective. Jabra and Sennheiser are very close.
We test with ANC on, ANC off and via 3.5mm audio.
While it was not conclusive (as our frequency response metre is for speakers, not headphones), we noticed (ANC off)
- Deep Bass: 20-40Hz – none
- Middle Bass: 40-100Hz – creeping in at 60Hz
- High Bass: 100 to 200Hz – building up
- Low-mids: 200-400Hz – good and building
- Mids: 400-1000Hz – flat (good)
- High-mids: 1-2kHz – flat (good)
- Low-treble: 2-4kHz – flat (good peak)
- Treble:4-6kHz – flat (good)
- High Treble: 6-10kHz – declining
- Dog whistle: 10-20kHz – none
The native sound is a little more of a mid-emphasis signature. With pre-sets/EQ you can get it close to warm and sweet (best for movies or music) or Bright vocal (for clear voice and handsfree phone).