A premium sound experience makes you feel that you have a movie theater on your head.
EDITOR’S UPDATE: The replacement Ear Cushions for the headphones are now available for purchase through Jabra.
For me, sound is not taken for granted. I am hard of hearing and through the course of my life, I have lost most of the high-end hearing range in both my ears. My hearing loss is so severe that I do wear hearing aids to enrich my daily life. I’m sure you can imagine that with profound hearing loss comes the loss of enjoyment in activities like listening to music or podcasts. Even though sound can be pushed through my hearing aids, it’s not the same as having a really great set of headphones. For years now, I’ve turned to Jabra for these high-end, premium headphones that provide me with the ability to take pleasure in listening to music again. As much as I have enjoyed Jabra products in the past, nothing compares to the listening experience I’ve discovered with one of their newest products — the Elite 85h Headphones featuring SmartSound.
Announced in January 2019 as a part of CES, the Elite 85h headphones are engineered with Jabra SmartSound, an exclusive AI technology for intelligent adaptive audio. The technology is based on audEERING context intelligence technology and include Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) as well as Jabra’s HearThrough technology, which enables users to decide how much ambient noise penetrates their listening experience. The SmartSound technology will automatically adjust to this listeners surroundings to ensure the best phone call and music experience options for listeners.
The Elite 85h headphones boast an impressive 32-hour battery life (with ANC activated), 6-microphone call technology, and a 40mm custom-engineered speakers for top-quality acoustic experience. The headphones also feature hands-free Voice Assistant Control with a one-touch connection to Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. The headphones themselves are built with a durable nano-coating that ensure rain-resistance. As is the case with most of Jabra’s wireless headphones, users have the opportunity to pair the 85h’s with the Sound+ app, which will give you access to SmartSound and other features for personalization.
- SmartSound: Audio that automatically adapts to your surroundings
- 100 per cent hands-free: Voice Assistant access without pushing a button
- Four colour variations: Black, Titanium Black, Gold Beige and Navy
- Battery: Up to 32-hour battery with ANC activated and 35 hours without ANC
- Microphones: 8 microphones in total. 6 dedicated for calls, 4 for ANC and 2 hybrid mics for both calls and ANC.
- Speakers: 40 mm custom-engineered speakers
- On-ear detection: Headphones recognize when you remove them from your ears and automatically play or pause tracks accordingly
- Durability: Unique IP52 dust and rain resistance, backed by a 2-year warranty against water and dust
- Personalize: Jabra Sound+ app for SmartSound features, including customized settings
- Active Noise Cancellation (ANC): Digital Hybrid ANC uses 4 of the device’s 8 microphones; passive noise cancellation available
- Available colors: Black, Gold Beige, Navy, Titanium Black
- Pricing: MSRP $299 (USD)
- Music & Talk Time: Up to 41 hours (with ANC off)/Up to 36 hours (with ANC on)
- Sleep Mode: Yes
- Standby Time: > 1 year (auto power off after 72 hours)
- Charging Time: 2.5 hours (with dedicated 500mA USB wall charger)
- Battery after 15 min charging: Up to 5 hours (with dedicated 500mA USB wall charger)
- Charging plug: USB-C
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, USB-C, 3.5mm jack
- Bluetooth compliance: Bluetooth 5.0
- Supported Bluetooth Profiles: HSP v1.2 , HFP v1.7, A2DP v1.3, AVRCP v1.6, PBAP v1.1, SPP v1.2
- Operating range: Up to 10m (33ft)
- Paired devices: Up to 8
- Multi-Connect: Two devices can be connected at one time.
- Auto pause music: Yes
The Jabra Elite 85h ANC Wireless Headphones come in a standard yellow and gray box from Jabra. It’s very well-made and detailed. The packaging lists information about the headset like details about the iOS app, how many hours you should get if using the ANC, etc. Inside the box, you will find an instruction pamphlet, USB-C cable, carrying case, audio cable, and flight adapter. The carrying case is semi-hard shell and comes in the same color as the headphones, which I thought was a nice touch. I was also very happy to discover that the headphones charge via USB-C. There are still so many devices that choose to deploy to consumers using Micro USB as their main method of power and I just find that to be outdated technology. So, finding that Jabra included USB-C with these headphones made my heart jump for joy.
The next thing I noticed right off the bat was the ear cushions. Comfort is a big deal to me. I like to listen to podcasts and watch YouTube videos frequently so the headphones I wear have to be soft, not too tight, and definitely have to be breathable and not cause my ears to sweat. By design these headphones are over-the-ear style so they should cover my ears 100%, which provides a certain amount of noise isolation even without the ANC active. Over-the-ear headphones can cause my ears to overheat — it just depends on the material used for the cushion covering. I’ve had experiences with headphones that use lambskin as the covering, but these Jabra’s use leatherette (PU) as the covering. So, they weren’t as breathable and did cause some sweat to collect around my ears. It wasn’t so much that it made me not want to wear them, but it was enough to make me take them off for a while. Along with this observation, I noticed that the ear cushions cannot be replaced. Once they wear out, users have no option to replace them. That means you would have to shell out another $300 to replace the headphones once the covering starts peeling away to reveal the foam beneath it. A few years back, I reviewed a set of Jabra on-ear headphones — Jabra Move Wireless — and they had the same issue. So, unfortunately, I know this to be a pretty big flaw of headphones with this type of covering.
Because Jabra is a GN company they work in the same building as ReSound, the company that designs and manufacturers the hearing aids I use. Those hearing aids are designed to work with the iPhone and what I have been told is that the two companies do sometimes work together to increase the quality in projects they are working on. This gives the end user the best of both worlds when it comes to sound processing. While I can’t say that is the case with the ELITE 85h headphones, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a ‘special’ project between the two teams given the quality of the sound that the 85h headphones produce.
The mobile app that accompanies the headphones is really the key to unlocking the Elite 85h’s potential. With it, you can take advantage of the SmartSound as well as music equalizer presets and the ANC. I have used the app with other Jabra headphones and the iOS app has been greatly improved since the last time I used it with my Jabra 65t. In fact, I think it’s a must have now. I have been able to change the sound to a more precise adjustment for myself and as an added bonus, the app also shows you the battery level of your headphones. By adding the Jabra Sound + widget you get access to the app features quicker and allows you to adjust settings with one touch. If you don’t already have the app open in the background, tapping the settings in the iOS widget will open it. You can find the powerful Jabra iOS app here.
As far as sound testing goes, I listened to several tracks of music through the Music app on my iPhone. I thought the sound was crisp, clear and full of depth. I really liked applying different EQ presets. I do wish there was a way to customize those presets, but the addition of this option through the app is a nice way to provide some sound profiles to users.
One of my favorite films to use as a test subject for sound mixing is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The first 5 minutes of the film is packed full of different styles of sound including music, spoken word, sound effects, and of course a complicated mix of all those elements. The Jabra 85h provide a wonderful sound experience for a movie like this. Ever little, subtle sound was its own character through the Elite 85h’s. The beginning of this film is a very delicate mix and there is a lot happening with dozens of layers of sound. Nothing was lost within the mix while I was listening to it through the Jabra headphones. In fact, I think there were actually some very subtle sound effects that I hadn’t heard before.
Another famous film scene that I’ve always loved is the scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark where Marion and Indiana Jones get into the bar fight in Nepal. The punches and gunshots are legendary as signature sound effects. Watching this scene with the Elite 85h headphones almost made it seem like I was there — that’s not an exaggeration. I had the Bass Boost turned on while I was watching this scene and it was just a bit too much for me. So, I switched it back to Default and loved the results. Finally, I watched the introduction to a couple of Disney movies. Sampling all of these different films made me feel like I was watching the films back in the theater. The Jabra Elite 85h headphones are like having a movie theater on your head.
Even though there are a lot of amazing features of these headphones, I think the one that stands out the most to me is the sound quality. It is outstanding — even for someone with hearing loss. The ANC is top-notch and rivals what Bose and Sony offer with their over-the-ear headphones. I can say this with certainty as someone who owns and has used both Sony and Bose headphones frequently. The only real downside I have with these headphones is the lack of replaceable ear cushions and the earpieces causing my ears to overheat and sweat. Aside from that, I’ve been using these headphones daily and haven’t had any problems with them. Even though they carry a premium price tag, you get a premium product and these headphones are going to be hard to dethrone as my favorite headphones.