Review: Jabra Elite 85t Wireless Earbuds [UPDATED: Not Recommended]

Every company wants to kill the Apple AirPods Pro as they are perceived to be the market leader. But to be frank, I am not sure why as when I reviewed them, I wasn’t blown away by their performance. And the price wasn’t exactly cheap given the level of performance that I found. Which is why when I got my hands on the Jabra Elite 85t wireless earbuds this week, I was interested in seeing if they could do better than the AirPods Pro.

Here’s a look at what comes in the box:

You get the earbuds in their charging case, a USB-A to USB-C cable, and ear tips that are oval rather than round in the usual small, medium and large sizes. The medium ones are installed on the earbuds out of the box. Here’s the logic of having oval tips: They fit better and provide some ventilation which in turn makes them more comfortable to wear. It also means that they are a semi-open design rather than what the AirPods Pro are which is a completely closed design.

Here’s a closer look at the earbuds:

When you have them in your ears, they are low profile and don’t attract a lot of attention. I like that.

Now on to the key features. The top feature on the list is active noise cancelling. Unlike the AirPods Pro, you can adjust it with 5 different levels of noise cancelling to suit your needs. But to go along with active noise cancelling, the Elite 85t’s also has a Hear Through mode with 5 different levels which mixes the music with ambient noise. That way you are aware of your surroundings. Handy for jogging for example. Also handy for anybody who wants to work out with these is the fact that they are IPX4 water resistant. Which means while you can’t put these underwater, they will survive rain and sweat. One thing that I should point out is that Jabra backs their IPX4 rating by offering a 2 year warranty unlike Apple with the AirPods Pro.

One thing that I really like is that the Elite 85t’s buck the trend of having touch sensitive controls for mechanical buttons. I found that they work way more reliably than touch sensitive controls which makes it very easy to control things during workouts for example. And you can set things up to control as much or as little as you want using the the Jabra Sound+ app. This app also gives you a hearing test of sorts when you first set things up so that it can tune the earbuds to provide the best sound for you. What that involves is playing a variety of tones in each ear at different frequencies and volumes. I did this twice and I did notice slightly different playback quality, both of which was quite good. If that’s not for you, you can tune things manually to your liking.

Other random things that I noted include:

  • Remove one earbud and the music stops. Put it back in and the music starts up again.
  • You can listen to music using one earbud as long as it is the right one. That’s a bit weird as the AirPods Pro lets you do this with either.
  • It supports being paired to 8 devices and you can connect to 2 devices at the same time. Though I found that support to be strange. For example I had both my iPhone 12 Pro and my MacBook Pro paired to the Elite 85’s at the same time. But to play music on my iPhone 12 Pro, I had to disconnect my MacBook Pro from the earbuds to make that happen. I am hoping that this could be fixed via a software update.
  • It supports SBC and AAC audio codecs.
  • Using these earbuds to listen to video is great as there is very low to near zero latency.

One final thing that I should note is that the case which provides up to 31 total hours of battery life based on the following:

  • With active noise cancelling: 19.5 hours of battery in the case with 5.5 hours of battery life for the earbuds.
  • Without active noise cancelling: 24 hours of battery in the case with 7 hours of battery life for the earbuds.

Those numbers are marginally better than what the AirPods Pro offer.

It comes with a USB-C cable for charging purposes, but you can also use it with a Qi wireless charger to charge the case as well. Charging wirelessly takes 3.5 hours, but charging wired takes 3 hours. And if you need a quick boost, charging for 15 minutes will give you 60 minutes of playback. The case easy to pocket unless you have tight jeans, though I note that it is slightly slippery.

So let’s get to the key points. How does it sound and how do the earbuds feel in your ears. The sound quality is top shelf. I used the hearing test to set these up and didn’t touch any other settings. The net results was that the bass and treble were set to my liking and enhanced the music as opposed to distorting it. When compared to the AirPods Pro, I found the sound on the Elite 85T’s to be much better as it seemed more brighter and detailed to me. Active noise cancellation is no joke as it works extremely well as when I tested it while set at max. It pretty much eliminated any outside noise and it didn’t seem to affect the music quality at all. When I tested the Hear Through mode while set at max, my voice sounded slightly robotic, but everything else sounded more or less natural. And it didn’t really affect the music quality at all. At worst, all of this is on par with the AirPods Pro.

I tested these using a Zoom call, a regular phone call, and a Microsoft Teams call and my voice came through just fine according to those at the other end of those calls. But you can be the judge of that using this audio sample below:

Personally, I think it picks up and reproduces my voice very well and you won’t have an issue if you use these to speak to someone. One cool thing is that the earbuds configure themselves to pipe your voice into your ears so that speaking on a call doesn’t sound weird.

To test how comfortable they are, I used these on a couple of Zwift indoor cycling rides. I usually don’t use earbuds while riding indoors because 15 or 20 minutes into the ride they either become uncomfortable or the fall out which is distracting. That wasn’t the case with the Elite 85t’s. On one 44 minute ride at race pace, I enjoyed my music while suffering like a dog at the same time. I barely noticed them in my ears and there was no pressure in my ear canals. Plus they stayed in my ears despite sweat, full effort sprints, and full effort climbing that should have made other earbuds fall out. That was a win. Though the ride itself wasn’t a win.

I do have a feature request that I sent to Jabra via Twitter:

That way I don’t have to fish through my apps to find Sound+ to see what my battery status is. Jabra came back with this:

Hopefully they act on that as I think this would be a good feature.

So are the Jabra Elite 85t’s AirPods Pro killers? No as there’s a few oddities with them that while they aren’t deal breakers, stops these earbuds from being AirPod Pro killers. But I do think they are excellent AirPods Pro alternatives. Especially since they list for $229 USD. That’s about $20 USD cheaper than the AirPods Pro and you get more for your money. And you could save some more cash if you find it on special on Amazon. If you’re in the market for wireless earbuds, these absolutely deserve your time and attention.

UPDATE: I developed a weird issue where I can be on a phone call or a Zoom or Teams call with my Elite 85t’s and all of a sudden, the caller cannot hear my voice. Nothing I do will bring that back and I have to switch to another pair of wireless earbuds which works 100% of the time. Thus it’s the Elite 85t’s that are the problem. My troubleshooting was as follows:

  • Reset 85t’s, delete from phone and MacBook Pro and re-pair to both: No change
  • Reset 85t’s, delete from phone and MacBook Pro and re-pair to only iPhone: No change
  • Reset network settings on iPhone, delete from iPhone and re-pair to only iPhone: No change
  • Force update firmware, delete from phone and re-pair only to iPhone: No change

I reached out to Jabra Support on Reddit and they said the following:

Please test your Jabra Elite 85t for phone calls when you only connect the earbuds to your iPhone 12. We do not support using the Elite 85t with computers and cannot provide technical assistance for unsupported device use.

In my original message I detailed that I had already done that. So clearly they didn’t read it. Then there’s the part about the Elite 85t’s being used with computers. That’s just mind blowing that they don’t support this use case. And it’s not written down anywhere on their site. Likely because nobody would buy them if they admitted that. That’s simply unacceptable. Along with their rather poor customer service, which browsing the Jabra Reddit forum seems to be a common complaint. Thus these will go into the bin and I will be moving to something else that is a quality product that supports the use of computers with their headsets, with quality support. Because Jabra clearly doesn’t offer either.

One Response to “Review: Jabra Elite 85t Wireless Earbuds [UPDATED: Not Recommended]”

  1. […] top right corner of my wife’s iPhone that it’s charging. I also was able to charge my Jabra Elite 85T earbuds as pictured here (the green light on the front is indicates it is […]

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