After a surprisingly long delay, Jabra has now joined the ranks of audio companies that make a set of true wireless earbuds featuring active noise cancellation (ANC) with the debut of its $230 Elite 85t.
The new top-of-the-line earbuds are $30 more expensive than its previous flagship, the $200 Elite Active 75t, and will be available starting in November in titanium/black. Gold/beige, copper/black, black, and gray options will follow in January 2021.
Physically, the Elite 85t bear a strong resemblance to the Elite 75t and Elite Active 75t, with the same compact, round shape, and familiar one-button control on each earbud. They’re a little larger, however, because they take a slightly different approach to acoustics.
Jabra has used a “semi-open” design for the 85t, which means that some air is allowed to travel in and out of the structure of the earbud. This is different than the 75t series, which uses an entirely closed design. Jabra has also shifted to using oval-shaped eartips, which it claims offer greater comfort while maintaining a secure fit.
The semi-open structure allows Jabra’s proprietary ANC technology to effectively cancel unwanted sounds while avoiding the so-called “occlusion” effect — an increased awareness of self-generated sounds like chewing, walking, or talking.
But going semi-open means that the relationship between the drivers that produce sound and your ear is less intimate. The vibrations that our brains convert into sound no longer travel a sealed passage between earbud and eardrum, so Jabra has equipped the 85t with larger drivers to compensate. They’re 12 millimeters in diameter — twice the size of the drivers used in the Elite 75t series. Jabra claims the new buds will have “big sound and powerful bass.”
Unfortunately, that semi-open design means the 85t aren’t quite as robust as the 75t, with a water-resistance rating of just IPX4. That’s the same as the AirPods Pro, but not as much protection as Sony’s WF-SP800N, which offer ANC and IP55 protection.
The Elite 85t are equipped with three microphones per earbud, two of which are external and one that sits on the inside. The ANC system, which is powered by a dedicated chip, uses one external and one internal mic to produce a level of noise-canceling that Jabra claims goes beyond what its other ANC-equipped products are capable of.
Paired with ANC is Jabra’s ambient sound mode, called HearThrough, which is something it includes on the Elite and Elite Active 75t. Within the Jabra Sound+ app, you can control the amount of ANC and HearThrough you experience using a set of slider adjustments.
Battery life with ANC off is seven hours — slightly less than what you get from the Elite 75t series — and that drops to 5.5 hours with ANC on. Still, when compared to Apple’s AirPods Pro (4.5 hours ANC on, 5 hours with it off), it’s considerably more listening time.
What has improved a lot is the charging case. It now holds just over three full charges, for a total ANC time of 25 hours, or 32 hours with ANC off, plus it’s compatible with all Qi wireless chargers.
As with the Elite 75t range, the Elite 85t offers customizable controls and equalizer settings via the Jabra Sound+, as well as the company’s MySound feature which performs a hearing test to help compensate for any frequencies to which you might be less sensitive.
If the Elite 85t prove to sound as good (or better) than the Elite 75t models, and if their ANC is comparable to the current best performers (Apple’s AirPods Pro and Sony’s WF-1000XM3), Jabra will have a real winner on its hands.
We’ll let you know as soon as we get a set of Elite 85t in for testing.
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