Jabra Elite 85t Review: Simply the Best

Evaluation:
9.5 / 10
?

1 – Absolute hot garbage
2 – Sorta warm garbage
3 – Strongly imperfect design
4 – A few advantages, many disadvantages
5 – Acceptably imperfect
6 – Good enough to buy on sale
7 – Excellent, but not the best in its class
8 – Fantastic, with some footnotes
9 – shut up and take my money
10 – Absolute Conception Nirvana

Price: $ 230

Jabra Elite 85t holster on a white desk Cameron Summerson

When it comes to true high-end wireless headphones, there are Apple’s AirPods Pro and then everyone. It has been that way – at least in my mind – for 12 months. The Jabra Elite / Active 75t have been the closest competitor, so I’ve been looking forward to the incoming 85t since Jabra first announced them. This is the first set of true wireless earbuds that not only compete with the AirPods Pro, but outperform them in almost every way.

This is what we like

Excellent sound quality
Good comfortable fit
Amazing ANC
Long battery life and wireless charging

And what we don’t do

SideTone might sound a little more natural

This is precisely what I was also hoping for from the 85t. Jabra has significantly improved its game since the 65t, with each version making significant progress over the last. The 75t were the best headphones I had heard at the time and remained my most recommended headphones based solely on the sound quality from last year. It’s the other features – active noise cancellation (ANC) and transparency mode – that have given the AirPods Pro the edge in most cases.

Recently, Jabra brought ANC to the Elite 75t and Elite Active 75t via a firmware update, and that’s great, especially for a free update. This is a huge win for the 75 ton owners, and I commend Jabra for doing everything possible to integrate this functionality into an existing model. It’s awesome.

But while the 75t was basically a more refined version of the 65t (until the ANC update, anyway), the 85t features an entirely new design. They look a lot alike, but under the hood they have an improved open ear design to avoid that stuffy ear feeling. This open-ear design also means they only offer an IPX4 rating for splash resistance (they should be fine for workouts, but that’s about it). Still, they offer five adjustable levels of ANC, improved HearThrough (transparency mode), and better sound quality than ever before.

These are the best truly wireless headphones I have ever used. In all directions.

A smarter case

The Jabra Elite 85t case lying on its back to display the Qi charging logo at the bottom85t box has Qi charge Cameron Summerson

If the Elite 75t’s charging case was an upgrade from the 65t (it was), the 85t is another step in the right direction. The general design is the same: it is flat on the bottom with a magnetic closure on the lid. The USB-C charging port is still on the back. It’s a bit bigger than the 75t’s case, probably because the buds themselves are also slightly bigger and the case probably has a bigger battery to accommodate the 31 hours of battery life with ANC turned off ( 25 hours with ANC activated). Fifteen minutes on the charger also gives you an hour of playtime if you’re in a rush.

The 85t box also has another trick up its sleeve: wireless charging. This is the first set of headphones that Jabra made to offer wireless charging and in my opinion is the best way to charge the headphones. They’re small and don’t need a lot of power to charge quickly – just the type of thing wireless charging excels at. I’m so happy to see this on the 85t case.

The Jabra Elite 85t case in black next to the Elite 75t case in blue, for size comparison The Elite 85t box (left) next to the Elite 75t box (right) Cameron Summerson

There is also another notable change from the 75t case. The charging light, which is on the back of the 75t case for some reason, is now on the front. It’s a smart change because it makes sense. I love it. Yes.

Overall the case is a gradual improvement over the 75t, but an improvement nonetheless. And it’s only slightly bigger, so it’s still very practical. I can’t tell the difference between the two by carrying it in my pocket, so it’s okay.

Better fit than ever

A good fit is arguably the most important feature of any set of headphones, wireless or not. And as long as I’ve tested the Jabra Elite headphones, the fit has been generally excellent for everyone. But it’s even better with the 85t.

Elite 85t earphones pop out of the case, showing the buttons and eartipCameron Summerson

Instead of sticking with the typical round ear tips, the 85t uses oval shaped tips. Not only do these create a better seal, but they are also more comfortable and stay in place better than previous versions. I can wear them for hours without any discomfort. It’s fantastic.

The heads come with the typical three sets of tips: small, medium and large. I normally wear medium tips for most headphones, but with the 85t I had to upgrade to large ones to get the best fit. This is worth keeping in mind if you normally wear large spikes as they appear to be smaller than the rest.

Also, because I know someone is going to ask: you can use the right bud solo, but the left earphone is prohibited.

The Jabra Elite 85t compared to the AirPods ProJabra Elite 85t vs. AirPods Pro. Totally different form factors here. Cameron Summerson

The great fit is crucial for the 85t however, as this is how it gets great sound quality and fantastic ANC. Let’s talk about it.

Crazy sound quality and killer ANC

Last year I said the 75t was the best set of true wireless headphones you can buy. And the 85t sounds even better. They are full and balanced, with powerful bass and pristine highs. They are truly amazing.

I have a playlist of songs that I use for each headphone and speaker review, but I always start with the same song and repeat it often throughout testing: Fireflies by Owl Cities (thanks, Cody!). To be clear, I don’t like this song. I don’t recommend it to anyone for regular listening. But if you want to know what a headset or speaker is capable of, this is the song. The waveform in the choir is like a solid block of sound. If there is a frequency range in the music, you will find it here.

This song lets me know what to expect from the start. And from the first bass note of the song, I had a smile on my face with the 85t. I knew the chorus was going to be amazing. And boy, I was right. It’s the most complete, boldest and most powerful sound from such a small set of speakers that I have ever heard. These are the first headphones I’ve heard that can compete with on-ear headphones in terms of volume.

Jabra Sound + app showing headphones and HearThrough option enabledThe Sound + app showing the equalizer The Sound + app with the MySound function

And that’s just with the stock settings. The Jabra Sound + app really improves sound quality with a number of modifications. First, there is the MySound parameter. It is a sound test that goes through a series of tones to assess your hearing and create a personalized profile just for your beautiful ears. It’s easy to do, takes around two minutes, and has a significant impact on your listening experience.

Besides that, you can also define a custom equalizer curve. The stock is flat (sure), but you can adjust it however you like depending on what you’re listening to. Some presets are available, but they are also fully customizable. I did the first part of my tests on the Neutral setting, then moved on to the Energize setting, which is my preference. It cuts off a lot of the midrange (I don’t like midrange, sorry), which just works for me. Either way, they sound amazingly good, so setting the EQ is just a matter of refinement – you could never touch it and be perfectly happy with the way they sound.

And then after all this amazing sound quality it just keeps getting better. There is the ANC. First off, this is the best ANC I have personally heard in a set of headphones.

Jabra gave the 75t an unexpected boost with the ANC update, which is working surprisingly well. This gave me high hopes for the ANC capabilities of the 85t. I was not deceived. Because the 85t uses an “open ear” design to avoid the stuffy ear feeling (similar to the AirPods Pro’s open ear design), the ANC is not only great, but very natural. And in direct comparison to the AirPods Pro, the 85t also seems to block out more ambient noise. It’s fantastic.

The Jabra Elite 85t case open with the headphones insideCameron Summerson

But ANC isn’t the only thing taking advantage of the 85t’s open-ear design – there’s also HearThrough, Jabra’s version of transparency mode. Now, to be clear, this isn’t a new feature on the 85t. It’s just better than before. Basically, it opens the buds so you can hear the outside world in a more natural way than its predecessors. It’s almost as good as the AirPods Pro transparency mode at this point, and after a few minutes it’s almost indistinguishable. This is very, very good.

And then there’s SideTone, which is basically like HearThrough, but when you’re on a call. But that’s kind of a weird feature, because the audio profile changes totally when a call comes in. For example, the whole experience is different. Where HearThrough is very natural, SideTone is jarring in comparison. It’s more of the unnatural thing of “pumping microphone sound into the ear” that was once common with early transparency features. I wish SideTone was as transparent as the Transparency mode on the AirPods Pro.

This is something that bothers me not only with the 85t, but also with all recent Jabra headphones with HearThrough capability. Alas, I’d rather have this version of SideTone than no SideTone at all, so it’s better than nothing. And once you get used to it, it’s not that bad. Overall call quality is still quite good.

Conclusion: the new benchmark

Closed Jabra Elite 85t case on a white deskCameron Summerson

In the past 12 months, the AirPods Pro are the headphones I have used to benchmark everyone else. Today that is changing. The AirPods Pro will keep spinning because they’re so good, but the Jabra 85t are my go-to new earbuds. The excellent sound quality, comfortable fit, new open ear design, incredible ANC and improved HearThrough make them the best headphones I have ever had the pleasure of testing.

If Jabra can make the SideTone sound a little more natural, they will be absolutely perfect and without compromise.

Evaluation: 9.5 / 10

Price: $ 230

This is what we like

Excellent sound quality
Good comfortable fit
Amazing ANC
Long battery life and wireless charging

And what we don’t do

SideTone might sound a little more natural

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