Perfect headphones for a round-trip flight to the US

The Jabra Elite 85h looks classy, fits well and has an excellent battery life.
The Jabra Elite 85h looks classy, fits well and has an excellent battery life.

The Jabra Elite 85h is a pair of active noise-cancelling (ANC) over-ear headphones that has its sights set on rivalling genre leaders such as the Bose QC35 II and Sony WH-1000XM3.

It gets off to a good start, with its sleek design looking the part. I especially like its colour uniformity - the review model is finished in blue and the colour extends throughout, from the soft-fabric exterior to the memory foam ear-cups and the headband, giving it a striking appearance. It is also available in beige and black.

At the bottom of the left ear-cup is a button for toggling through the different sound modes.

At the bottom of the right ear-cup is a button to toggle between the voice assistant and microphone mute functions. Also found here are the headphone jack and USB-C charging port.

On the exterior of the right ear-cup are the up/down volume buttons and a play/pause button that doubles as the answer/call button.

There is no power button. To power it up, fold out the ear-cups as you would when you want to wear them. To power it off, fold in the ear-cups.

  • FOR

    • Good noise-cancelling

    • Comfortable

    • Crystal-clear call quality •Long battery life


    • SmartSound feature does not work all the time

    • Heavy


  • PRICE: $428

    DRIVERS: 40mm

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth 5.0

    WEIGHT: 295g


    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5




    OVERALL: 4/5

I like that music will stop playing when you remove the headphones from your ears, and resume when you put the headphones on.

The Elite 85h comes with an impressive array of eight microphones. They are used to enhance the call quality and to enable the digital ANC technology that filters out ambient noise.

By comparison, the QC35 II has only two microphones while the WH-1000XM3 has four.

The Elite 85h features 40mm drivers for audio output and comes with SmartSound technology that uses artificial intelligence to automatically adjust the headphones' three sound modes - Commute, Public and Private - based on the wearer's surroundings.

For instance, when you are on a plane with plenty of background noise, it will automatically switch to Commute mode that turns on ANC.

If you are in a public place like the office, it will switch to Public mode, which enables the HearThrough feature that lets you hear ambient noise without having to remove the headphones. If you are alone in a quiet place, it will turn off both ANC and HearThrough (Private mode) to conserve battery life.

For the SmartSound technology to work, you need to pair the Elite 85h with the Jabra Sound+ app (available on Android and iOS). Once paired, the app allows you to customise the sound modes, such as tuning the equaliser or turning on the HearThrough.

I found the SmartSound feature working intermittently. For example, walking from my home to the bus stop, the Elite 85h switched from Private to Public the moment I was on the road. But in my office, it kept toggling between Commute and Public. I prefer to deactivate the SmartSound feature and manually select the sound mode using the app.

The ANC works pretty well and allowed me to sleep well during my recent long-haul flight to the United States. But I feel it is not as good as the Bose QC25, which I own. For instance, I can hear a faint engine-rumbling noise with the Elite 85h on the flight, which I normally would not hear with the QC25.

Audio output is decent, with clear mids and crisp highs. The bass is not as punchy as its competition, though it is still good enough to enjoy all genres of music.

Call quality is crystal clear, with the other party hearing me clearly during conversations.

On the downside, it is a tad heavy - around at least 30g heavier than the QC35 II and WH-1000XM3. However, the Elite 85h feels very comfortable, even on long-haul flights when I wore it to sleep. But being over-ear headphones, you cannot sleep on your side while wearing it.

The most impressive aspect is its battery life. Rated at 36 hours with ANC turned on, it lasted a round-trip flight to the US on a full charge. By comparison, the QC35 II is rated at around 20 hours.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2019, with the headline 'Perfect headphones for a round-trip flight to the US'. Print Edition | Subscribe