Hard on the heels of reviewing the top of the Jabra line in wireless “neckbuds”, we’re now putting the Jabra Elite 85h through its paces. This is the Top of the Wozza for Jabra-philes.
So, with amazing 36+ battery life and 8 (!) microphones to deal with calls and ANC, what else would justify the AUD499 price tag?
Let me count the ways...
First up: I’m confessing a bias towards gear from the House of Jabra. That has been forged over the 15 years of reviewing gear for our digital lifestyle. Jabra products have never disappointed me, some of the earlier units are still in use in our household.
They are beautifully and functionally well designed, great built quality and most importantly, very good sound quality for an acceptable price.
You might think that with a price tag of 499 bucks they are breaking that mould until you realise that their direct competitors in this model segment are charging at least $50 more for less functionality.
OK. We’ve got the price out of the way. Clearly not a product for everyone when it comes to ownership. Yet awfully tempting when it comes to these two criteria: you love to listen to music and you need your calls to be of the utmost clarity.
Jabra also aims these headphones at commuters that want to drown out most external sounds but still be aware of their environment: HearThrough is what they call this mode. SmartSound detects what sort of noise environment you’re in and adjusts to that.
The 65h also detects when you put the headset on and off and connects or disconnects accordingly.
Did I mention how many microphones this thing has? Eight for calls and ANC. Class leading, me thinks – just like the 36-41 hours battery endurance, depending on whether ANC is on.
The 40 mm speakers are custom-engineered.
You can walk in the rain with these cans even though the fabric accents seem to advise against that.
Actually, this set carries an IP52 dust and rain resistance label and is backed by a 2-year warranty against water and dust.
There are three colours variations: Titanium Black, Gold Beige and Navy.
Testing 1, 2, 3...
1. First impressions: great looking headset that folds very easily flat into a nice, bespoke case. Great to carry around. Even better to carry them on your cranium. They fit extremely well, don’t pinch or put too much pressure on your head, unlike one of their previous models, the Jabra Move which became a bit uncomfortable after about 30 minutes.
The Elite 85h can be worn for hours without discomfort but your ears might get a bit warm in that snug environment.
2. Sound: Amazing clarity! I played some of my favourite music, from semi classical to rich movie soundtracks with the app equaliser preset on bass boost. Love it that you can switch off the noise from your environment and I can see use for wearing these in trains and planes even without listening to music. When you do, be aware that you have a $500 price tag on your head. Literally. Use them in a safe environment.
Hey, it also comes with an audio adapter for use in aircraft – a much preferred option compared to the standard issue headsets...
3. Calling: During our testing period I always asked the other parties for feedback on clarity. Invariably their response was somewhere in the Excellence spectrum. And of course I told them what headset I was wearing...
I love the freedom of not having to hold my phone during long talks and being able to hear every word in an important conversation. And to drown out background noise.
Interesting note: with the ANC off there’s a slight hum noticeable.
One-click access to Voice Assistant (Siri, Google and Alexa) and another button allows you to switch ANC or the HearThrough mode on or off.
I like it that this headset has USB-C charging and great connectivity with the latest Bluetooth 5.0 as well as a 3.5mm audio jack. Two devices can be connected at the same time.
With the Elite 85h, Jabra (as part of GN Audio) have given themselves a very nice 150 year anniversary present. It’s a top-class product in every way and the purchase price at 499 Aussie dollars is fully justified and value for money.
Congratulations, Jabra! And even though most of the Jabra gear always rated high on our site, the Elite 85h deserves our Editor’s Choice Award!
Have a look at the Jabra site or drop in at your local JB HiFi store.