I’ve been getting more and more familiar with the ANC headphone options out there on the market. While earbuds are fine for exercise and quick calls while out and about, I’ve gravitated towards over-ear headphones for use throughout the day, especially when working from home (or on the road). These give a level of noise blocking and comfort that earbuds can’t quite touch. The ones I’ve been checking out lately are the Jabra Elite 85h.
Now, first things first – if you’re seeing that name, you might be getting ready to buckle in for a marathon battery life. Well, while it’s good (36 hours with ANC on, and a 15-minute charge gets you 5 hours). Still, that 85h might have tripped some up. And to be fair, we’ve not run across any headphones yet that can get much past the 40-hour mark. And really, charging up once a week isn’t too bad.
The first thing with any headset – the Jabra Elite 85h included – is figuring out how to turn it on. While many headsets require you to press and hold a button to turn things on, the Jabra does it differently – and a good deal simpler. You simply rotate the earcups from the flat mode into position so the headset can go on your head, and they’re powering on. You’ll hear a chime when it’s starting, an announcement of the battery life, and then a notification once it’s connected (and if it connects to two devices, it will tell you that as well).
If you connect the Jabra Elite 85h to your phone, you’ll have the extra bonus of the Jabra Sound+ App (just on mobile, not desktop), which allows you to tune what sort of noise blocking you want, what sort of equalization you’ll want for your tunes, and even the ability to have some white noise being played through if you just want to concentrate. Once set on the phone, you’re good to go on the headset. With the button on the earcup, you can cycle between ANC off, audio passthrough, and ANC On (using the setting you selected in the app). You can also use the app to analyze the environment around you and figure out the best ANC cancellation for the surroundings.
Once I had it setup and running, it was time to use the Jabra Elite 85h. For the noise cancellation, I sit directly next to my HVAC unit, so there’s a good constant noise coming through. Headphones do good blocking that, as it’s constant in tone, and I didn’t hear it. Nor did it come through on any calls I was on. The Jabras have 8 microphones on them, four of which are used for blocking out that noise that makes it to you or through a call. In terms of it blocking out noise that’s less consistent in a WFH environment, it did pretty good as well. I was able to stay focused on what was going on, while still allowing me to pick up if something crashed down upstairs, or the doorbell was ringing.
In terms of audio quality, the Jabra Elite 85h is definitely in my top 5 for headsets I’ve tested. Even on bluetooth (as opposed to a dedicated 2.4 Ghz dongle like this one), things came through crisply, and I could easily wander around the basement (or even up to the kitchen) without dropping the connection. For the types of music I listen to, it sounded pretty amazing. Crisp highs, nice mids, and a boosted bass end that can lightly punch without getting muddy. I’m no audiophile, obviously, but I think anyone except the most demanding audio snob should be pleased with these.
The Jabra Elite 85h also have a very premium look to them. The earcups are covered in a textured fabric (as is the headband), while the band and the earcups have a vinyl-wrapped foam to help out with the comfort. And, for me, that’s where the one drawback came in. I’ve got a larger than normal head, and the headband was just a few clicks of being able to adjust to the size that fit really comfortably. Also, the earcups just barely fit around my ears. On one hand, that makes for a tight seal, which was nice. With the headband, though, that meant I had more pressure on the top of my head – and on my earlobes – than I’m accustomed to.
Don’t get me wrong – I was able to wear the Jabra Elite 85h all day, and they were fine. At the end of the day, I did have a red mark on the top of my head due to needing to cinch things down as far as I could get it to settle. So, if you’ve got a bigger head, you might want to pass on these, or at least find somewhere to check them out in person.
While wearing the headphones, I quickly got used to the physical controls I had for my audio right on the headset. Sure, you can pause things or adjust volume via your keyboard, often, but having it right at your ear makes things much, much simpler. In terms of the UI for the Jabra Elite 85h, it’s about as straight-forward as it can be. As with any headphones, it takes some getting used to for what you press, double-press, or maybe press and hold, but it all becomes second nature quickly enough. This quick graphic shows what all can be done:
If you want to turn the headphones off? Just take them off, and rotate the earcups out, easy as that. Oh, and while you can pause the music with the button set into the earcup with all of the ports, these also have pretty good on-ear detection. Basically, take them off your ears, and the music stops. Put them back on, and things start right back up.
In other words, along with the premium looks, the Jabra Elite 85h also has had a lot of attention given to how you’ll actually be using them. Jabra has long been associated with audio (one of my first wireless phone headsets was a Jabra), and the Jabra Elite 85h are a very solid premium entry into the ANC headphones market. You’ll find them available in five different colors for $199- 299 depending on color (most simply over at Amazon), and even more details over at jabra.com