Jabra Elite 85h: These headphones know where you are

Mala Bhargava | Updated on July 10, 2019 Published on July 10, 2019

Smart noise cancellation modes on the go


The days are gone when headphones were just loud music cans you slap on to your ears. Premium headphones now come with a plethora of fascinating smart features that fine tune the listening experience in a number of ways. It’s in this category that the Danish audio giant Jabra has just launched a new set of headphones, the Jabra Elite 85h, in India, available now for ₹28,999. These are right up there with headphones from Sony, Bose and Sennheiser as another option.

The Elite 85h headphones are among the more understated you’ll see — specially in the black that we received for review. There are no loud logos, no flashy accents or popping colours. These are just plain and quiet, though premium looking, because they happen to be covered in a soft fabric. We should stop for a moment to wonder whether the fabric could get torn if they encounter something sharp, such as keys in your bag. It’s just possible that the fabric could become worn down easily or at least dirty in time, when compared with various hard plastic materials used by most others. Well, for now they’re pristine and looking good. They come with a big case which also has a soft fabric covering. The build is however nice and strong and the headphones also fold in at the hinges.

The fit and comfort of the Elite 85h is going to depend hugely on the heads they sit on. I seem to have a smallish head which invariably has trouble holding on to headphones which slip forward if I lean in front or look down. That’s the case with the 85h too but it’s made a little worse by the fact that they’re heavier than most headphones I’ve seen lately. In a while, I definitely begin to feel that weight and have the urge to take the load off my head. Others with regular and large upper stories don’t share the problem but agree that the headphones are on the heavier side. They are very cushioned and plush all over, specially the ear-cups, so that counters discomfort to a big extent. All the same, because the fit and comfort is likely to be so different for different people, I would recommend trying them on somewhere before paying the premium price.

Hear through

Pairing these headphones is done the regular way. Once done, and you put them on, they’ll actually turn themselves on. There’s no power button but instead a sensor. The headphones turn off when you take them off and fold them in. You can pair them with two devices and switch so that’s convenient as you move from phone to tablet or PC. You need to download the Jabra app to get access to the many options there. The Elite 85h come with active noise cancellation and this is something you can turn on both using the app or the bottom on the ear-cup. You toggle between three modes: full noise cancellation, ‘Hear Through’ which brings outside sounds into awareness, and all modes off in which you also hear outside sounds, only somewhat differently. In the app, you can reate some profiles for private listening or for using your headphones during a commute or in public places. You can also make your own if you don’t want the presets.

But in all cases, you can not just choose the noise mode but set the equaliser. The headphones recognise where you are and switch to the mode that fits — such as Hear Through when you’re in a public place, if you’ve chosen that option.

The noise cancellation is very much present and makes a big difference. I couldn’t hear my fingers on the keyboard when it was on, for example. But it doesn’t quite get to the level of the recent Sony headphones or Bose’s QuietComforts. The Hear Through mode can be a little strange, amplifying sounds from everywhere. Luckily you can switch repeatedly with a tap. The ear-cups also include almost-invisible buttons to control song volume and navigation.

On one of the ear-cups you have a button to trigger your favourite personal assistant. The headphones themselves have their own to keep telling you of connection status, battery, etc.

Listening to different genres of music on the Elite 85h, I thought they sounded very good. They do a fantastic job of the highs which come across with a nice delicacy and finesse.

The bass is handled quite differently than on other headphones and is perhaps a little lacking at its deepest end. But then, the EQ settings in the app make an actual difference to the music. All too often, I’ve found they don’t, but in this case, there’s an instant discernible difference. You’ll find this very nice for setting it differently for various types of music.

The battery lasts an amazing 36 hours when using notice cancellation and even more without, though it will depend on the volume you listen at. The headphones charge using a USB Type C connection and can actually be used when charging and in wired mode instead of bluetooth in which they however continue to use the battery.

Price: ₹28,999

Pros: Very good overall sound quality with EQ controls in app, exceptional battery life, good build, useful ANC modes, integrates personal assistants, useful voice prompts, simple controls, feature rich

Cons: Comfortable but a little heavy, ANC good but not great, fabric may be vulnerable to dirt and damage

Published on July 10, 2019
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