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Sound of quality

Jabra wants you to hear what it's offering in the Elite 85h

By Alvin R Cabral

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Published: Fri 4 Oct 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 4 Oct 2019, 2:00 AM

Jabra's been a well-known name in the audio industry for a while. I still have my Jabra Revo from 2013, and that was already a top audio device for me. The Danish company has come up with a new Elite range. And one of them has made it through here for review - the Jabra Elite 85h.
Let's start with looks: a minimalistic design with a mono colour-style, save for the copper black option, which has a touch of copper (and is my favourite). The navy unit we have has exteriors with a meshed-fabric finish that gives an impression of jeans at times. The earcups and inner headband are fairly soft and comfy. Caution: The corners wherein the earcups bend from the headband are quite sharp. Out of the box, it comes with a nice carrying case and a two-pronged adaptor that you can use on those ports you normally see in an aeroplane.
On the left earcup is a single button that cycles you through sound modes - active noise cancellation (ANC), Jabra's HearThrough and off. The ANC on these is among the best I've tried, completely silencing the outside world, while HearThrough does a pretty good job of allowing you to hear sounds that you need (a conversation or announcement, for example) without the need for removing the Elite 85h. HearThrough also activates automatically when you take a call, so you can tone down your voice and not sound like you're yelling.
On the right, meanwhile, are the audio and USB-C ports, volume and multifunction buttons, and a voice assistant button that can work with Apple's Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
There is no on/off switch, because the headset automatically fires up when you put it on and hibernates when you take it off. Ditto for when listening to music: it plays/pauses using those respective actions. But without that capability, does that mean battery life will be compromised?
Nope. The Elite 85h boasts up to 36 hours of juice with ANC switched on, and 41 hours when it's off. I went about 10 days using it, about 4-5 hours daily, and I still didn't hear the low-battery message. Its quick-charge feature takes you just 15 minutes to resurrect it to five hours. Wow.
While the device on its own is formidable, there's one thing that will bring out its full potential - the Jabra Sound+ app. Within it are additional options, such as the equaliser. But the most important is called Moments, which activates four different levels of noise cancellation - My Moment (off), Commute (ANC), In Public (HearThrough) and In Private (off). The difference between those two 'off' modes is that the former can be used to create your profile.
Depending on the space you're in, the Elite 85h will switch to the Moment it deems fit - and this is powered by the AI-driven SmartSound tech. The thing about Commute and In Public is that it tends to get confused in a busy area - so it switches to and from both modes. Add how the headset keeps informing you which mode you're in and it can get pretty annoying.
When I close the app with the Elite 85h on me, it won't, at times, recognise it and asks me to turn on and connect the headset. That inconsistency is weird because it still works with the music I'm listening to. Again, pretty annoying.

The Jabra Elite 85h is worth considering. Aimed at challenging the ANC offerings of Sony, JBL and Bose, it's competitively priced. While it doesn't support top-tier codecs (a possible issue for audiophiles), the sound quality, along with other features, makes it a compelling option.

Form: Over-ear headphone
Audio: Active noise cancellation, HearThrough, passive/wind noise reduction
Mic: Yes, 8 (6 used to boost call quality)
Formats: SBC, AAC
Battery: Up to 41h (ANC off), 36h (ANC on); 2.5h charging time, 15 mins gives 5h
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, up to 10m; multi-connect (2)
I/O: USB-C, 3.5mm audio
Durability: 2-year warranty vs water, dust
Price: Dh1,099
Pros: Good sound quality; great sound cancellation; ridiculously long battery life
Cons: Iffy app; doesn't support higher-end codecs
Rating: 4/5

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