When you hear “Bose” and “Sony” in reference to best noise-canceling headphones, you should also be hearing “Jabra”. There’s now a lot of competition in the over-ear noise-canceling headphone market, and Jabra’s Elite 85h is one of our favorite contenders. Bose and Sony still lead the market with more expensive headphones, but Jabra’s got a few tricks up their sleeves that may leave customers even happier. To that effect, in addition to active noise cancellation, the Elite 85h features premium audio quality that can be personalized for you and your environment, a whopping 46 hours of battery, fast USB-C charging, an app, water resistance, and more.
The design aspect that makes Jabra’s Elite 85h stand out is its fabric finish. Other than a few bits of plastic exposed, the headphones are almost entirely finished in a beautiful textured fabric. There’s no telling how this will wear, but our gold beige model looks just as fresh two months later (and without the best care). The headband and ear cups are padded with an ultra-comfortable memory foam ear cushion. The ear cups are oval and should fit most large ears. The ear cups swivel 90 degrees and fold in towards the headband for portability. We can’t believe these headphones are water-resistant; this is rare for over-ear headphones. Apparently the internal elements are nano-coated and there’s even a two-year warranty against water and dust.
The Elite 85h’s convenience features are tough to beat. Believe it or not, our favorite feature might be turning them on and shutting them off — Just turn the ear cups! It’s so simple, obvious, and intuitive. It makes you wonder why every headphone doesn’t have this feature. Maybe even better, there’s ear detection to automatically play and pause music when you take them off and put them on. It’s configurable, and you can even mute phone calls when you take your headphones off.
There are a few control buttons built into the side of the earcup to control your music and volume — the buttons are easy to access and intuitive. Thankfully, there’s no touch buttons or complicated pressing patterns! There’s a voice assistant button under the right earcup which pulls up your phone’s voice assistant with a single tap. In the app you can change this button to access Amazon Alexa. Finally, on the other ear cup is a button to switch sound modes and different “moments”.
The app is incredible. It allows you to completely personalize your headphones, and there’s a lot of different useful features. SmartSound is a neat feature where the headphones can automatically detect whether you need noise canceling. It uses AI and indicators to figure out if you’re commuting, in public, or in private, and it will pair you with that preset, which you can configure. I didn’t use the feature because I prefer controlling this on my own, but I like the idea. There’s also a button on the headphones so you can manually switch between your configured “moments”, like if I leave work I may go from “in private” to “commute”.
The audio quality on these headphones is amazing, and it gets that much better when you customize the tuning for your ears. The default audio preset will sound perfect to most ears. There’s a lot of detail and vibrance. It has really smooth and natural bass. There’s enough bass that you feel it, and it doesn’t overwhelm your music. Voices and mid-range audio shines, and the highs are crisp and clear. I like to bump the mids, so I use a custom profile that I can save and switch around. By default, there are presents for bass boost, treble boost, smooth, and energize. There’s very little distortion, even at higher volumes. The Jabra 85H are now among my favorite headphones to listen to and the active noise cancellation helps.
The active noise cancellation (ANC) is good, but not the strongest out there. It reduces background noise enough to make a difference and provide extra comfort. It’s really clean too; there’s no hiss or noise with the ANC. You can leave ANC on all the time without getting a headache. Sony’s WH1000XM3 has noticeably stronger active noise cancellation that’s just as clean. A New York City subway ride is still somewhat audible with any active noise cancellation, and both headphones reduce the noise, making it a lot easier to hear your music at a safe volume.
Given the Jabra brand, it’s no surprise they packed one of the best and cleanest sounding microphones on the 85H. Actually not just one microphone, but 8 microphones! 6 are used to enhance call quality, reduce background noise, and focus on voice. Phone calls are crystal clear and these are among the best consumer headphones we’ve tested for making calls. The only thing that comes close is Apple’s AirPods and Beats Solo Pro. There’s a feature in-app for you to customize your phone call experience too. You can bump the treble or bass on phone calls and configure whether you want to hear your own voice.
The battery life is an insanely impressive 36 hours, and that’s with ANC on! Fast charging will get you a 5-hour charge in just 15 minutes. It utilizes USB-C charging, and comes with a USB-A to USB-C cable.
The convenience and usability of the Elite 85h makes these a stellar pair of headphones. To that effect, Jabra’s Elite 85h might just be the best pair of noise-canceling over-ear headphones for the money. Pricing in at $250, they’re around $100 cheaper than the competition. The active noise canceling isn’t as strong or tough on noise, though. Bose costs between $350 and $400 and Sony’s WH1000XM3 is just starting to fall below $300. Jabra’s Elite 85H retails for $250, and as all-around headphones, we feel Jabra is the better purchase. That said, if you’re looking for the best possible noise cancellation performance, then Sony would be the better bet.
Jabra’s Elite 85h headphones are currently available in titanium black, copper black, gold beige, navy, and black from Amazon.com.