Jabra’s excellent noise cancelling headphones not quite great enough

In my opinion, the best sounding, truly wireless earbuds available today are Jabra’s Elite 65t. These tiny little buds have incredible sound, great battery life, and the best call quality in this form factor. So I was keen to try Jabra’s newest headphones, the over-ear Elite 85h.

There’s a lot to like about these headphones. Battery life is fantastic, I assume. It’s hard to say exactly, because while I’ve used these all week on a commute that is 90 minutes each way, as well as in the office for hours at a stretch, the headphones still tell me the battery life is “high” whenever I put them on.

Jabra Elite 85h

The active noise cancelling (ANC) is as great at blocking the monotonous noise of a modern open office as it is with a crowded commuter train, though I haven’t had a chance to test it on a flight. I assume it would do a good job, as the low frequencies are similar on a crowded train.

With ANC off, they still do a decent job at muffling sound, and if you need to stay aware of your surroundings you can activate “HearThrough”. This mode uses an array of microphones to allow the sounds of voices and traffic through. While it does a great job keeping you aware of traffic, I found it hard to understand voices around me. Swapping back to Sony’s WH-H900N for comparisons, I was able to clearly hear the voices around me when using the similar “Quick Attention” feature. You may wonder why you’d want to use that, but it is surprisingly handy on long haul flights, to listen to cabin announcements.

I’m a big fan of real buttons, not touch controls, on headphones. For one, it is much easier to feel a physical button over your ear, and for people with long hair there are fewer accidental swipes. The Jabra 85h has nice, easy to feel buttons that are simple to navigate.

While I would never claim to be an audiophile, I enjoyed the rich sound from the Elite 85t. There are presets for extra bass, speech boosting for podcasts, “smooth” and “energise”, or you can custom design a sound profile. The app also has “Moments”, to bundle up these graphic equaliser and ANC settings and quickly switch between them. Unfortunately the app refreshes at every launch, so there's a good twenty seconds before you can switch your settings. As good as the features are, Sony’s WH-H900N again sound much better to my ears without the need to swap settings.

Long story short, the Jabra Elite 85t are great over ear headphones, but Sony’s WH-H900N remain the ANC headphones to beat.

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