Jabra Elite 85h Review: Noise Cancellation Isn’t Its Strong Suit

It was last year when I used the Bose QC35 noise cancellation headphones which really laid the ground work for other headphone makers like Sony to better what Bose was offering.

Not too long after that, the Sony WH 1000XM3 was launched which really turned the game around for Sony with more than impressive noise cancellation and good overall utility.

Now, Jabra has jumped into this little party with the Jabra Elite 85h noise cancellation headphones. What really works against these headphones is that it’s in the same price segment as the QC35 and the WH 1000XM3. So, does Jabra have what it takes to beat stalwarts like Sony and Bose at their own game? Let’s find out.

Also Read: Wireless Club: Sony MDR-1000X vs Sennheiser PXC 550 vs Bose QC 35

Pros

  • Good build quality
  • Multiple device connection
  • Good hear through feature
  • Battery life

Cons

  • Noise cancellation not good
  • Bass cracks at high volumes
  • Prone to smudges
  • Flat audio quality

What’s Good?

I like the overall design of the Elite 85h looks although sharp metal edges make it a battle to fit the headphones back into the cover (first-world problems). The cushion on the ear cups is soft and comfortable and the whole setup rests well.

The fabric finish does give it a good texture and adds a bit of ruggedness to the gizmo although if you’re looking to buy these, go for the black variant. The lighter shade is bound to loose sheen to smudges.

Also Read: Sony or Bose: Which Headphone is Bang for Your Buck Under Rs 30k?

The Jabra Elite 85h offers multiple device connection and voice and mic quality over phone calls is very good. It amplifies the ambient sound when you receive calls so that you are aware of your surroundings. It adds more utility by offering a mute button (which is the voice assistant button), a feature missing on other headphones.

“Hear through” quality is as good as the Sony WH 1000XM3 which is excellent. It’s loud enough that I am well aware of sounds even at a distance.

I was mightily impressed with the Jabra Elite 85h battery life. A full charge lasted me more than a week with average use. The auto pause feature is also a great battery saver as well.

It also comes with a hands-free voice assistant which is a handy addition considering you don’t always have to take your phone out to use Google Assistant or Alexa. However, you’ll need to unlock the phone to use all of the features.

What’s Bad

Sound quality could have been better. After using the Bose and the Sony headphones I felt the audio quality is a bit underwhelming although users experiencing the Jabra Elite 85h for the first time won’t have that complaint.

Also Read: Review: With Bose QC 35, You Will Never Worry About Noise

Though the mids have been balanced well, the bass cracks at high volumes which presumably Jabra can correct with a software update. It should.

Sitting in a plane with a crying baby in the seat behind you is the worst thing that could happen. What comes to the rescue is a good noise cancelling headphone. However, the Jabra let me down in that battle. A lot of noise penetrates the ANC system which is a bummer. Noise cancellation on a Sony is far better.

Even while playing music you’ll have to crank up the volume to about 80 percent to block out all the external sounds which is something you wouldn’t have to do with its competitors.

The headphones also come with a “Smart Sound” feature that analyses the ambient sound to automatically toggle different listening modes which I felt is a feature you can do without. There are times when it would activate the “Commuting” mode when I am in public and you have to then reset it manually.

Verdict

Jabra has played a very risky hand pricing the Elite 85h at near Rs 27,000 which is dangerously close to the Bose QC 35 ii priced at Rs 29,000. And to make things worse it is more expensive than the Sony WH 1000XM3 which costs somewhere around Rs 26,000.

These are good-looking headphones that gets it right in almost all the departments except noise cancellation which is a big deal breaker for many.

Jabra has done really well in the in-ear audio segment but has far to go when it comes to premium over the ear headphones. I really can’t find a compelling reason for you to choose a Jabra over a Sony or maybe even a Bose unless you’re adventurous enough to try something new.

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