The Jabra Elite 85t stands out for good sound quality, great comfort, and a pocketable case.

Jabra Elite 85t review: The best true wireless earbuds an Android user can buy
Atom Technology Saturday, January 30, 2021 - 21:11

Having tested Jabra’s Elite 65t, Elite 75t and Elite Active 75t set of truly wireless stereo (TWS) earbuds, I was eagerly awaiting their next big launch. When Jabra announced the Elite 85t earbuds, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on them. They had one feature we’d all been waiting for the company to introduce in their next product: Active Noise Cancellation (ANC). What took us by surprise though, was that the company also added noise cancellation to the earlier Elite 75t and Elite Active 75t via a firmware upgrade.

The Elite 75t and Elite Active 75t earbuds are both significantly cheaper than the new Elite 85t. With three of Jabra’s TWS earbuds having ANC enabled, it’s hard to decide just which one to get. While the answer isn’t entirely clear, the 85t does sound better than ever and that’s reason enough to pick them from the lot.

The fourth-generation earbuds from Jabra have a better fit, improved sound quality and active noise cancellation that rivals the competitors’ products such as Apple’s AirPods Pro and the Galaxy Buds Pro from Samsung. The Elite 85t earbuds can be purchased at Rs 18,999. That’s a hefty asking price (with a plethora of truly budget wireless earbuds on the market) but is it worth it?

The fit 

The Elite 85t earbuds have been redesigned — they get a semi-open shape and oval ear gels. While it isn’t noticeable at first, the 85t protrudes 2mm more than the 75t.

According to the company, the new earbuds nestle in your ears for a more comfortable fit and you needn't jam them in all the way into your ear. Since they are semi-open in shape, some sound will leak in, because it isn’t a tight seal. To combat this, Jabra, in collaboration with Qualcomm, have come up with Advanced ANC.

For me, I fiddled with the earbuds a little too much in the first few days. Every time I thought they’d fall out, I tried pushing them deeper into my ear canal. Once I realised I was just being unnecessarily anxious, they became comfortable. Find the right tip and they won’t fall out, even while jogging. While they aren’t as secure as the Elite 75t, they are still a good fit. They don’t wear you down even after wearing them for hours at a stretch.

Connectivity and controls 

The Elite 85t are one of the first truly wireless earbuds that are able to connect to two different devices at the same time. They come with support for the latest Bluetooth 5.1 standard, and the universal SBC standard Bluetooth audio format. They also support higher quality AAC. The only thing they are missing out on is support for aptX or higher quality audio formats that audiophiles love to use these days.

While being connected to my Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, OPPO Find X2 Pro and OnePlus 7T, I never noticed any lag. There was may be a second or two, where the audio cut out, but that was it. 

The right earbud can be used on its own to listen to music/podcasts or make calls. The left one cannot be used on its own.

Compared to the previous 75t earbuds, the 85t’s connection is more stable.

The Jabra Sound+ app allows one to remap the physical touch controls, located on each earbuds to suit their needs. The controls are standard - volume up and down, play/pause, skip/fast-forward, ANC/HearThrough, and voice assistant.

Sound quality 

The 85t uses the new 12mm drivers and there are better details and clarity in the vocals than the 75t. The thing that the 85t is missing is the deeper, fuller bass that was present in the 75t. 

As with the 75t, the 85t handles all of the music genres fairly well. One can customise the sound through the equaliser in the Sound+ app. They are one of the best sounding earbuds in the market, but not the best.

Just a quick note: Call quality was significantly better than the predecessor but on occasions, the receiver at the other end could hear some background noises. While it isn’t perfect, it’s acceptable for casual calls outdoors and even some work calls in a quiet room indoors.

Active Noise Cancellation

There are five levels of active noise cancellation to choose from. Alongside this, there is also the HearThrough mode which allows you to listen to the outside world.

The active noise cancellation is up there with the best. I went around Delhi in an auto-rickshaw and the only thing I could hear with ANC turned on was the excessive honking. That too, only faintly.

HearThrough (transparency mode) is great if you’re walking on the streets or going for a run. It lets you hear things from the outside world so that you don’t bump into anyone or anything.

Battery life

With ANC activated, one gets about five hours of continuous playback. With it off, that extends to seven hours. The case is good to recharge the earbuds 3.5 times. 

Thus, the total battery life on a single charge is 25-31 hours, depending on ANC activation. Furthermore, a simple 15-minute recharge in the case can provide for up to an hour of playback. 

For me, battery life was excellent. I used the buds for over a week, and did not have to charge the case even once. The one downside is that the case doesn’t support wireless charging. It only charges through a USB-C cable.

Just something to keep a note about when traveling with the headphones. If you keep the case in a pocket/purse with keys or other sharp items, the exterior will get scuffed up. It won’t look as pristine as it was when you first bought it, that’s for sure. But it’ll still function just as well.

Verdict: Jabra’s best product yet

Jabra may not have the best sound of all the TWS earbuds in the market but it’s certainly up there. What it may lack in sound - as compared to the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2 - it makes up in battery life and comfort.

Also, the Jabra earbuds are routinely discounted. The 65t (two generations ago) is going for less than Rs 5,000 today.

It’s no doubt that the Elite 85t is the company’s best truly wireless earbuds till date by far. If you have the Elite 75t/Elite Active 75t, then there is no reason to upgrade. But if you’re coming from any earbuds in 2019 or early 2020s, then these should be on top of your list.

Good sound quality, great comfort, and a pocketable case. All at a price of Rs 18,999. Wait for a discount and pick these up immediately. They are the best truly wireless earbuds an Android user can buy!

Views expressed by the author are personal

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