If you look at the premium noise-cancellation headphones category, then you probably know that Bose and Sony are the leading names. Of course, there are tons of other brands that focus on professional audio products, but predominantly a majority of consumers are leaning towards experiencing premium sound quality paired with a comfortable design and long battery life.
Earlier in the year, Jabra made an attempt at this category by launching the Elite 85h, its most high-end audio product in the consumer range. Announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), these headphones come with some serious features. The company tries to tip over Sony by offering up to 36-hours of battery life and also falls the same price category. Apart from that it also comes with support for most of your voice assistants, and unique design. But can it live up to the expectations set by Sony’s 1000XM3 or the Bose QuietComfort 35 series?
Giving a fabric touch
Jabra has gone ahead to make use of the design to offer what I think is a great feature on the Elite 85h. Apart from folding down for easier storage, you can just twist the ear cups to lay them flat on your desk, or on your chest when not in use. This way the headphones power off automatically, twist them back and they are ready for use. The headphones also pause your music when you take them off and resume when you put them back on. This helps in saving battery too, as it is way more convenient than a physical button.
There is a nice woven fabric material on the headband and ear cups which gives it a bold look, unlike most headphones which are all plastic. They are bulky though, and a bit heavier when compared to Sony, thankfully you don't feel the weight on your head. The ear cups come with faux leather padding which isn’t very breathable, but that is the case with most on-ear headphones. The headband is sturdy and there is leather-like material on the inside which gives a good grip when you wear them. Since they are IP52 certified, the Elite 85h can withstand dust and water as well. Overall they are comfortable, despite the large size, although I wish the ear cups offered a better fit. Another concern is how well will the woven fabric age over time, especially when it is exposed to sweat.
Other notable features include a USB Type-C port for charging and a standard 3.5mm jack for wired connectivity. Jabra also offers a neat zipper case for protection and an audio splitter for when you need to use the headphones on a flight.
Crisp sound, but not warm enough
Sound quality is going to please most users, but when compared to Sony’s 1000XM3 there is a lack of punch and it tends to sound a bit neutral. There is a sense of clarity in sound, with proper separation of instruments along with excellent mids especially on vocals. However, the warm and encompassing sound that you expect from on-ear headphones seem to be missing. One of the reasons is the limited support for Bluetooth codecs which is disappointing, considering the premium cost of the headphones. Now while details are good, at times they can feel a bit muddy. I am not saying that the headphones sound bad, in fact, they are one of the best noise-canceling headphones, but somehow lag behind Sony and Bose for that matter.
The Elite 85h shine when it comes to other use cases such as making voice calls or watching movies or television content. The headphones feature 8 microphones, 6 of which are dedicated for making calls, 4 for Active Noise Cancellation and 2 hybrid mics for both calls and ANC.
Noise cancellation on these cans is great. It nicely cuts out noise while commuting and I helped my concentrate at my workplace which is usually loud. Sound Plus which is Jabra’s dedicated smartphone app comes with a feature called SmartSound, which offers three EQ and noise cancellation presets depending on your surroundings. You can choose between Public, Private, and Commute which is done by the headphones by listening to what kind of sound environment you are in by making use of its multiple inbuilt microphones. It works well in most situations but still needs minor tweaking. There is also a ‘HearThrough’ which lets you hear when someone comes close to talk to you. You can alternatively scroll through the modes manually by using the dedicated button on the left ear cup.
Speaking of controls, most of them can be found on the right ear cup. Since this is a dust and water-resistive product, there are no touch controls, which I didn’t really mind. You can play or pause your music or control the volume and change tracks as well. The headphones also support all your voice assistants including Siri, Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa, which can be triggered using the dedicated button. This can be used to set alarms or reminders, dictate a message, ask for the weather or news, and so on.
The Elite 85h definitely gets a high position in the premium noise cancellation headphone category and is highly recommended from our side. There is a lot to like about these headphones. You get a distinguished design, even though they are a bit large, but that fabric finish is something that you won't see on a lot of headphones. Even the twist to power off and on feature is thoughtful and practical. Sound cancellation is on the spot, and the dedicated app brings in a mix of controls which work well for the most part. The strongest feature of the headphones is probably the battery life, and while sound quality is impeccable, it is only a notch below the likes of Sony and Bose.