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Jabra Elite 85t review

How do these wireless earbuds stack up against their predecessors?

jabra elite 85t
(Image: © TechRadar)

Our Verdict

While they don’t quite cut it like the Jabra Elite Active 75t buds do owing to a slightly bulkier design, the Elite 85t deliver impressive performance thanks to some great audio quality, effective noise cancellation and decent battery life. However, they’re let down a little by the fit, which is just not on par with their more compact predecessor.

For

  • Adjustable active noise cancellation
  • Elegant design
  • Great audio with impressive bass

Against

  • Much bulkier than the 75t
  • Fit isn’t perfect
  • Rather pricey

One-minute review

Jabra is back with yet another pair of wireless earphones. This time it’s an upgrade to the widely popular Elite Active 75t, aptly named the Elite 85t (the ‘Active’ moniker has been dropped to indicate they’re not as suited to sports). The focus? To block out loud, irritating external sounds with some powerful active noise cancellation (ANC), like the Apple AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM3.

Available on November 15 for $229 / £219.99, the Jabra Elite 85 retain the same stylish design of their predecessor, however, this time there’s some added extra bulk to accommodate the noise-cancelling tech, which makes these true wireless earbuds feel less compact and protrude out of the ear a little more. 

However, audio has been vastly improved thanks to a new pair of 12mm in-built speakers, which are twice the size of those on the 75t buds and offer a wider and more well-balanced soundstage. This, alongside even deeper bass, adds more depth to your favorite tunes. 

While the noise-blocking technology does affect battery life, the 85t buds are still able to offer over five hours of playback per charge, with its charging case able to extend this to an impressive 25 hours.

All-in-all, these are a well-performing pair of earphones, and ideal for those looking for some stylish-looking noise-cancelling earbuds that aren’t huge in size like some of those on offer from Jabra’s rivals. 

What about Black Friday and Cyber Monday?
While we don't think the Jabra Elite 85t will be heavily discounted over Black Friday, it's well worth keeping an eye out for deals on the older Elite 75t. Black Friday kicks off officially on November 27 (though deals are already starting to roll in), with Cyber Monday following soon after on November 30, giving you lots of chances to save money. Be sure to bookmark our guide to Black Friday headphone deals for all the discounts as they land.

jabra elite 85t

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Jabra Elite 85t price and release date

  • Available on November 15, 2020
  • $229 / £219.99
  • Australian pricing and availability TBC

Jabra’s Elite 85t earbuds go on sale on the 15 November. However, you can pre-order them now at Amazon. When they are available to buy, they’ll set you back $229 / £219.99 for the pair – pricing and availability is still to be confirmed in Austrlia, but that works out at around AU$320. That makes them Jabra’s most expensive buds yet. Still, they're $50 / £30 cheaper than Bose's latest wireless noise-cancelling buds, the Quiet Comfort Earbuds, for example. 

In the box you’ll find the two earbuds, a charging case, a short USB-C cable, and three sets of different-sized silicon EarGels to suit each and every ear.

jabra elite 85t

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Design

  • Stylish and elegant looking
  • Bulkier than 75t to accommodate ANC
  • IPX4 water-resistance

Jabra isn’t a company shy of innovation. More often than not, the Danish audio brand is first to market with cutting-edge in-ear headphone designs, pioneering more compact form factors while retaining the great sound quality the firm is known for.

Thankfully, the same goes for the brand new Elite 85t earphones. As the name suggests, they follow in the footsteps of Jabra’s last release, the Elite Active 75t, with a very similar design. 

However, the main difference here is that they’re not aimed at sports (although they are still rugged enough to be used for low-impact fitness thanks to IPX4 water-resistance). 

Instead, these buds focus on improving the audio experience and boast ANC, which works to block out any loud and irritating sounds in your external environment, such as the roaring rattles of an underground train or the dull buzz of a plane engine. But more on the ANC experience later. 

jabra elite 85t

(Image credit: TechRadar)

When it comes to design, the Elite 85t buds retain the sleek appearance of their predecessor, however, there’s a bit of added extra bulk to accommodate the ANC tech, which makes the buds protrude out a little further in your ears than before. It’s not so noticeable when looking at them in the mirror, but this has definitely impacted the feel and comfort levels of the 85t buds as they sit in your ears. The fit is just a lot less snug than in the 75t, and this was one of the main reasons why we were such a big fan of the previous model.

Another thing impacting the fit is the new oval-shaped buds. Jabra says this fresh “semi-open” design features pressure relief vents to prevent pressure build-up inside the ear, while the silicon oval EarGels help create a more secure seal for better noise-cancelling. While that sounds all good and well in practice, we found that they actually don’t fit as tight as the older, rounded design and feel like they’re constantly on the verge of falling out, even when twisted to fit deeper in the ear. 

Nevertheless, they are by no means a bad fit. They are just not as good as the previous pair Jabra released and despite feeling more bulky and thus a little less snug in the ear, they are still generally quite comfortable. There is also an easy-to-use button on each earbud that control music playback, volume and a feature called HearThru, which allows you to temporarily cancel noise-cancellation and listen to the outside world while the audio continues to play in the background. Handy if you want to quickly order a coffee.

jabra elite 85t

(Image credit: TechRadar)

While they don’t boast the same rugged IP57-rating as seen on the Elite Active 75t, the 85t buds do still keep some waterproofing, touting IPX4 water-resistance, which basically means they’re protected against the odd splash of water or a little sweat.

Unlike the Elite Active 75t, there’s only one color option to choose from with the 85t and that’s “titanium black”, a metallic charcoal or gunmetal-like color which definitely gives off super stylish vibes and will probably match any outfit, if that’s ever a concern of yours.

We can't help but compare the 85t to their predecessors; when a pair of earphones  tick all the boxes, it feels as though these updates have only served as a detriment to what was otherwise an amazing design. 

jabra elite 85t

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Audio performance

  • Clear, natural-sounding playback
  • Deep, booming bass 
  • Balanced soundstage
  • Overall great audio quality 

While we felt a little let down by the updated design (if it ain’t broke don’t fix it), the good news is that audio quality is still up there. In fact, it’s actually seen some improvements.

That’s because Jabra has introduced larger 12mm speakers in the 85t, twice the size of those inside the 75t buds. What this means is a slightly wider and better balanced soundstage, alongside even deeper bass, helping to give your music a bit more depth.

Speaking of deep sounds, Jabra is renowned for its booming bass reproduction so we're elated that they’ve only sought to improve it this time round with the Elite 85t buds. It makes up for the less impressive fit, for one. 

Audio, generally, is heavy yet warm. This helps give it a very natural sound, producing detailed and vibrant profile with beautifully booming bass underneath –it's not overpowering but is exaggerated by the noise-blocking ANC. Overall, audio is great. Not the best out there but it certainly hits the spot. 

jabra elite 85t

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Volume also goes up to quite a high level, which used to be an issue with true wireless buds as many brands limited this to help preserve battery life. That’s not a problem on the Jabra Elite 85t buds. In fact, some might find them a little too loud when turned all the way up. 

So, if you do like your music to make you feel like your eardrums are bleeding (which we absolutely don't advise), you're in luck as audio doesn’t distort at high volumes. The 85t buds do a great job of minimizing fuzzy bass tones ensuring music remains crisp even at full whack.

It’s also worth noting that during our time with the Elite 85t buds, connection was mostly stable, and any calls that we made during use presented no cause for complaint. 

jabra elite 85t

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Battery life

  • Over five hours of use per charge with ANC
  • Over seven hours without ANC
  • Charging case extends battery life to 25 hours
  • 15-minute quick charge 

During our time testing the Jabra’s Elite 85t earbuds, we found they lasted for just over five hours per charge with noise cancellation left on. While this falls short slightly of Jabra’s quoted 5.5-hour battery life, it’s still inline with what else is available on the market right now. Take Apple’s AirPods Pro, which last just 4.5 hours per charge. 

Without noise cancellation enabled, the Elite 85t buds will last you around seven hours, the same as the Jabra 75t. It’s also worth noting that this is the length the batteries will last after being taken out of the charging case. The case will actually extend the buds’ life to 25 hours (or 31 hours with ANC off), without needing to be plugged in again. This should last you a few days if you’re just using the Elite 85t buds for an hour or so – for example during your commute – per day. 

Another great feature is that they support quick-charging. Just 15 minutes in the case will get you one hour of listening time in return. Perfect for bringing them back to life when you’re rushing to get out the door. 

jabra elite 85t

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Noise cancellation performance

  • Active noise-cancelling using two mics per bud
  • Decent performance 

For the Elite 85t, Jabra has integrated some digital ANC that uses two microphones in each earbud to cancel the noise you don’t want to hear before you hear it. There’s one feedforward mic, which cancels noise from outside the ear and then a feedback mic, which cancels noise from inside the ear. 

While the noise cancellation is good – blocking out annoying external sounds such as people muttering nonsense on the seat opportunity you on the bus, or a boisterous drunk person across the street on the walk home – it’s not on the level as that in Bose’s new noise-cancelling Quiet Comfort Earbuds, for instance. On the other hand, the 85t buds are way more compact, so that’s the trade off. 

The other great feature is that you can adjust noise-cancelling intensity by simply toggling it off and on in the Jabra Sound+ companion app.

Should I buy the Jabra Elite 85t?

jabra elite 85t

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Buy them if...

You’re looking for a decent pair of noise-cancelling buds
The Jabra Elite 85t offer this as well as good, all-round audio quality, decent battery life and are pretty discreet in terms of appearance. 

You like a bassy sound
The low-end of these earbuds is pretty powerful, making them ideal for bassheads – but perhaps not for audiophiles.

Don't buy them if...

You’re looking for a snug-fitting pair of earbuds
The extra bulk caused by ANC makes this pair of earphones less light and compact than Jabra’s other offerings. Still, they are pretty concise considering they can actively block external sounds, especially compared to something like the much larger Bose Quiet Comfort Buds. 

You see a good deal on the Jabra Elite 75t
The previous model is bound to be discounted over Black Friday, and if you're not bothered about ANC, we'd recommend going for the Elite 75t.