Updated: Aug 19, 2021
For the longest time, Bose has been the market leader in noise cancelling headphones. Sony launched an amazing alternative, the WH-1000XM3, in late 2018. Now Jabra has joined the playing field with the new Elite 85H Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) headphones that boasts 36 hours of playback time.
There’s also a feature in the Jabra Sound+ app called SmartSound, where the headphones utilise the eight built-in microphones to switch between three sound settings known as Moments, that can also be manually selected. The headset continually analyses the environmental sound and chooses between the “Commute”, “In Public” and “Private” Moments, to determine whether ANC or the Ambient Sound setting should be activated.
While this sounded like a really cool feature, I found that the headset would often pull me out of one Moment and into another. Usually this happens with the Commute and In Public Moments. I ended up just turning off SmartSound entirely and leaving ANC on, since that’s the main reason someone would purchase this headphone.
Generally, the ANC did a decent job. It was enough to tune out the drone of the plane’s engines and most of the human chatter while I was on a flight, but there were still occasional snippets of conversation that floated in from people sitting next to me. It was mostly a low drone however, with the words quite imperceptible, so I didn’t mind.
I was a little worried throwing this into my bag because I noticed that every part of it was made from plastic, even the hinges for the folding earcups. It’s still my job to test the durability, so I treated the headphone like how I would normally.
Aside from an audible plastic-sounding click whenever you lock the earcups into listening position, I was pleasantly surprised that everything else felt quite solid in the hand. You do have to watch out though; the headset turns on when the earcups are unfolded, so if it snags in your bag and opens up it might drain a bit of battery before it enters sleep mode again.
The exterior of the headband and earcups use a tactile fabric covering instead of the leatherette, pleather and plastic favoured by other brands, which I’m very pleased with as it makes the headphones stand out a little more. The downside is that the fabric will attract dust and debris easier than the leather alternatives.
So how does it compare overall? It’s a little heavier than the Sony WH-1000XM3 (296g vs 255g), and the ANC doesn’t quite match up either, with the Sony headphones having slightly better sound quality and noise isolation when ANC is turned on.
But the 36 hour battery life is a solid six hours more than what Sony offers, and the Jabra Elite 85H is around S$120 cheaper as well. If you’re limited to a budget of under S$500 for a pair of ANC headphones, the Jabra Elite 85H is the best headset you can get that has very decent ANC, sound quality and amazing battery life.
The Jabra Elite 85H (S$428) is available on Jabra’s online store and all authorised retailers.