For many travelers, especially those who fly often, headphones are essential for music, listening to movies, and being a polite way to tell the person next to you to shut up. Headphones with active noise canceling go one step further and turn an airplane cabin into a quiet room, no chatty grandfathers or constant hum of jet engines.
Active noise canceling (ANC) is a feature reserved for premium headphones but Jabra’s Elite 85h is a jump into the market, bringing artificial intelligence with it while undercutting the competition. You can watch my full review in the video above or read on.
What’s Different About The 85h?
I could easily go on a long explanation of why you should get headphones with ANC. Most people at first look at the $350 plus costs with their eyes rolling like slot machines into the back of their brains. Until you use a pair. ANC uses microphones in the headphones to analyze external sounds to cancel them out. Effectively, it’s like being in a very quiet room whether you have music on or not. The technology is pronounced, effective, and reduces stress from all the ambient chaos in airports, subways, and the motors that run them. Jabra is clearly marketing these headphones for travelers, so much so, that when I first tried them at CES earlier this year, they demoed the 85h in a mock-subway car.
So, what’s different? Well, first the price. The Elite 85h are $300, solidly less expensive than the Sony and Bose competition.
The second, is the artificial intelligence. Yes, you read that correctly.
Headphones With AI
Normally, ANC is a feature you enable and disable manually. When you’re on the go it’s common to do so otherwise you might miss gate announcements or the flight attendant explaining meal options. The Elite 85h on the other hand analyzes your surroundings automatically, tuning the ANC to let vocals through when needed. This SmartSound feature is controlled through the Jabra+ app where you can set public, private, commute, and other various scenarios with their sound profiles.
Here’s where the experience gets a little less seamless – you have to connect the Elite 85h to your phone over Bluetooth, then connect the Jabra+ app to get the full use of the AI. Once it’s set, you’re mostly done with configuring, but remember to grab the app. Your phone will show two Bluetooth connections to the Elite 85h, not entirely elegant but more of a quirk than a complaint.
The SmartSound AI once you’ve configured it, means less fiddling with buttons or taking headphones on an off. Personally, I think this is the very beginning of smarter headphones in the near future.
The Regular Parts Are Good Too
Overall, the ANC isn’t quiet as crystal clear as the Bose QuietComfort again, more of a nitpick than a deficiency. Sound quality of the Elite 85h is great, these are fun headphones to listen music through. Jabra’s roots also show throughout the Elite 85h. Beautiful but functional Scandinavian design like their entry-level Move, the Elite 85h automatically pause music when you take them off. Turn the ear cups in, and the headphones turn off. No power button.
USB-C charging gives you 5 hours of battery life with a 15 minute top up, or 36 total hours with ANC (41 without) after a full 2 hour charge. There’s an optional headphone jack, plus 8 microphones built-in for ANC and excellent call audio. Jabra is known for making headsets and if you call relatives who are hard of hearing, they’ll appreciate the crispness of your voice.
There’s a lot to like about the Elite 85h, they’re comfortable to wear, come with a form-fitting case, and impressive AI ANC. Usually when a company jumps into a market, they make splashes with gimmicks or products that aren’t full realized. What’s most impressive about the Elite 85h is how complete, and in many ways, better they seem to be at less cost than the Sony WH1000XM3 or Bose QuietComfort 35.
I’ll follow up with a Road Tested! review in a few months to see how durable they are but if budget has been keeping you from getting a pair of headphones with ANC, you should take a very close listen to the Jabra Elite 85h.