Jabra ANC Elite 85t: Big sound, little package

The following is a review of the Jabra ANC Elite 85t wireless earbuds.  I was supplied the Jabra 85t for an independent long-term review by Jabra GN.  My orientation in writing this is from the perspective of a range of potential end users—those who are considering new earbuds and will make their decision based on a combination of value and comfort across relevant environments, as well as those who will, in addition, consider the technology.  Of course, in evaluating earbuds, most of the conclusions are subjective and should be taken as such.  To that end, I hope I have provided sufficient information to assist you in reaching your own conclusions.

  • Technical specifications[1]
    • Noise isolating fit
    • Noise reduction on calls using 6-microphone technology
    • Wind noise protection
    • Audio codecs supported SBC, AAC
    • Speaker size 12 mm / 0.47 in
    • Speaker bandwidth (music playback) 20Hz to 20kHz
    • Speaker bandwidth (calls) 100Hz to 10kHz
    • Microphone type 6 x MEMS
    • Microphone bandwidth 100Hz to 10kHz
    • Active Noise Cancellation Jabra Advanced ANC™ using 4 of the device’s 6 microphones; includes HearThrough and In-ear pressure relief
    • List price US$229.99
  • After unpacking, I downloaded the free Jabra Sound + app.  It quickly paired my Samsung S10 (Android) phone with the Elite 85t buds. The app includes a Quick Start Guide that walks you through the different elements of the charging case, how to insert and wear the earbuds.  The app also includes a “Welcome to MySound” that tailors the sound set up to your personal hearing.  It runs through a short (about two-minute sound test) after you enter you sex, and year of birth.  It then generates a personal hearing profile. 

At the end of the profile it checks for and asks to download the latest software update.  After the update is downloaded, it instructs you to place the earbuds back inside the charging case and close it.  Once you do the purple/pink LED on the front of the case flashes to slow the update being loaded to the earbuds.  It states it can take up to 15 minutes.  It took about 11 minutes for the update to complete.

  • Note: when you look for the app on your phone, it is called Sound+, not Jabra Sound+
    • When you open the app, it shows you the battery charge in each earbud as well as the remaining battery life of the charging case.
  • One of the first things you notice about the earbuds is the shape of the silicon gels, they are oval rather than the typical round.  They feel amazingly comfortable in your ears and don’t require pushing them in firmly.  They immediately feel very comfortable and the earbuds themselves fairly light.
  • The active noise cancellation (ANC) was the best I’ve experienced with earbuds.  At one point while listening to a soundtrack at moderate volume, my wife walked in and apparently was loudly trying to get my attention.  I didn’t realize she was there until she stood right beside me, and I saw her in my peripheral vision, though still not hearing her.  I found the overall sound much fuller and richer if I used ANC and/or passthrough vs neither.
  • Receiving and making calls:  the six built in microphones apparently do a great job in that people I called said my voice was clear, sounding just like a land line connection.  Similarly, I could easily hear them.  To answer an incoming call, you simply press on the center circle part of the bud.  Unlike on some other earbuds where you have to find a small area on the surface to answer or mute, these have a real ‘button’ switch that is a circle nearly the size of the outside of the bud, it depresses when you push on it.  You use the same button to activate or deactivate the ANC, fast forward music, lower or raise the volume, or activate voice assistant of Siri® and Google Assistant™ by varying the number of presses or holding the button.
  • You charge the Elite 85ts by putting them back into the charging/carrying case.  Each charge according to Jabra GN Technical Specifications sheet, is good for 5.5 hours, and then by reinserting in the charging case, a total of an additional 19.5 hours.  Conveniently, you can get about an hour’s charge added by leaving in the case for just 15 minutes.  To fully charge the case using the supplied USB cable, takes about two and one-half hours.
  • Now to the sound test. 

Initial comparisons were made using a Samsung S10 and Amazon Prime Music downloads.  The same songs were also sampled using  a PC with Windows Pro OS, Intel Core i9-9900K Coffee Lake 8-Core, 16-Thread, 3.6 GHz (5.0 GHz Turbo) LGA 1151 (300 Series) 95W with Noctua NH-D15S 140mm SSO2 D-Type Premium CPU Cooler, EVGA GeForce RTX 2060 KO GAMING Video Card, again with Amazon Prime Music. 

The Jabra Sound+ was set to about 50% HearThrough and the equalizer to Neutral when using the Samsung. 

Since one of the key considerations for many is the ‘value ratio:’ the quality of the audio reproduction versus the cost.  For this reason, I have included a comparison with a pair of Boltune Wireless Earbuds BH024.  The Jabra 85t lists at US$229.99 and the Boltune BH024 at US$59.99.

In the following, the first comment is based on the Jabra earbuds and the second on the Boltune.

  • Listening to Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon: Time, there was excellent separation of instruments, voices.  All tones were clean and crisp.  The bass was unmuddied, and very well balanced. The bells and symbols shined.
    • The Boltune 024s did reasonably well on the separation, but the overall sound lacked bandwidth- it was as if you compressed the dynamic range.
    • Adele He Won’t Go gave a good test of the buds’ range, cleanly handling the highs while keeping the bass impactful.
      • The Boltunes did fine on the highs but muddied the bass.
    • Listening to Leonard Bernstein conducting Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture, Op. 49 you can clearly differentiate the violins, oboes, trumpets and drums.  As the crescendos built to the ‘canons,’ the bass drum explodes with a distinct roll off each time.
      • The Boltunes matched the Jabras in the softer sections but seemed more compressed in the build up to the ‘canons.’
    • Queen Play the Game was a treat- the voices were incredibly distinct against the beat of the percussions.  The electronic tones and echo effects felt like you were in front of live production.
      • The Boltunes cleanly projected the electronic tones and effects, and the vocals were clear, but the result was like listening through a headset vs the Jabra feel of being in a live production.
    • A real test IMO of the sensitivity of the earbuds is in playing Arvo Pärt Tabula Rasa.  This amazing score really tests the ability to cleanly play the strings along with the rest of the orchestra accompaniment in the background.  The 85t produced perfect strings throughout their range with no distortion or sharpness while clearly preserving the bass and midrange.
      • The Boltunes matched the Jabras on cleanly projecting the strings but did not reproduce the bass as richly.
    • Beatles 2019 Mix Because really shows off the 85t’s ability to distinctly and cleanly separate the ethereal vocals from the electric spinet Baldwin harpsichord and Moog synthesizer.
      • The Boltune 024s were not as clean sounding, and did not do as well in differentiating the bass from the vocals
    • Hovergal Brian Gothic Symphony is a great piece to demonstrate whether earbuds can comfortably reproduce a range of instruments from piccolos to harps to timpani.  The 85t truly provided a feeling of sitting in the center of a perfect acoustical hall during the performance.
      • The Boltunes faithfully reproduced the range of instruments but fell short of feeling live.
  • Second sound tests were done using CDs and a PC with Windows Pro OS, Intel Core i9-9900K Coffee Lake 8-Core, 16-Thread, 3.6 GHz (5.0 GHz Turbo) LGA 1151 (300 Series) 95W with Noctua NH-D15S 140mm SSO2 D-Type Premium CPU Cooler,,EVGA GeForce RTX 2060 KO GAMING Video Card, and an OWC Mercury Pro 16X Blu-ray unit.
    • The first CD test used Rodrigo y gabriela Satori.  This percussion instrumental includes two acoustical guitars.  It ranges from light distinct runs to fast, heavy instrumentals.  The 85t beautifully separated and reproduced the stings from the ‘drum-like’ beats on the guitars, as well as the ability to hear their fingers slide along the strings.
      • The Boltunes matched the 85t in reproducing the percussion acoustics with only a slightly smaller perceived width of the sound.
    • Sanata’s Evil Ways provides an opportunity to see how well the earbuds can reproduce heavy instrumentals with vocals.  The 85t produced crystal clear vocals, clean timbales, unmuddied bass.  This was a digitally mastered edition, and to my ears, the music was too stereophonic for my taste.
      • Here the Boltunes did slightly better handling the heightened stereophonic effect of the digitally mastered edition.  However, the bass was a little muted in comparison.
    • Andrea Bocelli Sacred Arias: Panis angelicus [Franck orch. Michelot] provided a sample of the ability to reproduce Bocelli’s voice against the coral and the background of the orchestra.  The 85t shined in preserving the depth of Bocelli’s voice and even the harp against the coral and orchestra.
      • The Boltunes did a good job reproducing Bocelli’s voice, clearly and distinctly.  However when the coral came in there was not as much separation and for example, Bocelli’s rolling of the “r”s was less clear.
    • KT Tunstall Drastic Fantastic White Bird tests the ability to reproduce a mix of electric guitar and solo vocals.  With the 85t you get to cleanly hear KT Tunstall’s bluesy voice along with her fingers on the strings, crisp percussion, and super clear individual electronic bell tones.
      • The Boltunes nicely reproduced the vocal of KT Tunstall, the finger slides on the string, and the percussion.  However, with a less real vs recorded feeling.

Preliminary Conclusions

Five out of a possible Five Clefs rating

  • Audio Reproduction:

The Jabra Elite 85t did an outstanding job of faithfully reproducing soundtracks ranging from rock to operatic, from electronic instrumental to acoustical.  Regardless of the instrument or the vocalist, the sound was clean, crisp, and never distorted.  In most cases the fidelity resulted in ones feeling like they were dropped into a live concert.

  • Comfort:

The Jabra Elite 85t were very comfortable for extended wear and were easy to put in and remove.

  • Build Quality:

The Jabra Elite 85t are very well designed, appear to be solidly built and yet lightweight.  The charging/carrying case is equally well made.  My only nit, so to speak, is that with the smooth sides of the 85t earbud, it can be a little difficult to remove from the case because of the strong magnets that ensure the bud connects with the charging posts.

  • Value:

The Jabra Elite 85t are in the mid to higher cost range of earbuds, and not quite four times the cost of the Boltunes BH024.  However, you get a number of things on the 85t including ability to tailor the sound to your taste (and hearing), larger speakers, much more effective sound cancelling and greater richness to the sound than with the Boltunes.  One area the Boltunes exceed the Jabras is in the waterproof rating.  The Boltunes are rated at IPX8 while the Jabras are rated at IPX4.  IPX4 – A device with a level 4 water resistance rating can survive splashes of water from any direction. IPX8 – A device with a level 8 water resistance rating can survive immersion in water deeper than 1m (usually up to 3m).[2]


[1] From Jabra’s website

[2] Audio Reputation Blog: IPX Ratings Explained Updated on October 2, 2020 by James Longman

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Best regards,

   Jeff

Jeff Daum, Ph.D, PPA

Photojournalist, Technology & Product Analyst

Website: www.DaumPhotography.com

Blog: https://insight.daumphotography.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jwdphotog/

Muck Rack: https://muckrack.com/dr-jeff-daum

One thought on “Jabra ANC Elite 85t: Big sound, little package

  1. […] tests similar to those I normally do with earbuds, for example with the Jabra ANC Elite 85c (see https://insight.daumphotography.com/2020/12/01/jabra-anc-elite-85t-big-sound-little-package/).  I listened to Symphony No.1 in D minor ”Gothic’‘ – Havergal […]

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