US229.99 / AU$199 at Amazon
Commutes are back. So is travel. And while over-the-ear
noise-canceling headphones hold some performance advantages, their
true wireless earbud counterparts can't be beat in portability.
With the likelihood of greater mobility in 2022, we put our
attention back on this class of earbuds. Among the standouts is the
Jabra 85t—launched a year ago, these ANC buds challenge top-tier
models like the Sony WF-1000XM4 and Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
not just in specs, but in price, too. At MSRP, they cost $50
But you won't notice much sacrifice in performance despite the
lower price: The Jabra 85t offers pleasing sound and strong noise
canceling. The primary compromise you'll make is battery life, but
as you'll see, it's a fair trade-off.
- MSRP: $230 USD / AU$270.82
- Colors: Titanium black, Black, Copper black,
Gray, Gold Beige
- Drivers: 12mm
- Codecs: SBC, AAC
- Multiple devices: Yes (up to two
- Water-resistance rating: IPX4
- Bluetooth version: 5.1 (10m / 33ft range)
- Charging: USB-C (USB Type C to A cable
included), wireless Qi (optional)
- Dimensions (Earbud): 23.1 x 19.0 x 16.2 mm
(0.91 x 0.75 x 0.64 in)
- Dimensions (Case): 64.8 x 41.1 x 28.5 mm (2.55
x 1.62 x 1.12 in)
- Weight: 7g per bud, 45g for the case (59g
- Warranty: Two years against dust and
Design and fit
The Jabra 85t are
quite compact for true wireless earbuds.
Image: Alaina Yee / IDG
The Jabra 85t takes the best qualities of its top rivals and
puts them into buds that fit and travel extremely well.
The Jabra 85t's color variations play it safe—three of the five
are riffs on black. Our sample pair was the Copper Black version,
which is mostly pitch-dark with metallic accents on the control
buttons. Each bud is marked clearly as right and left, though the
monochrome label on our pair can be difficult to see in low
These semi-open buds are compact for true wireless models, and
compared to the hulking Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, the 85t is
downright tiny. They don't feel that much more substantial than
chunky wired models like the venerable Monoprice 9927, either.
For my body proportions, this diminutive sizing feels just
right. Popping the Jabra 85t buds in and out of their case is easy,
and I'm not overly conscious of them when they're in my ears. I
also get a good fit with the included eartips—surprisingly good.
They're secure without pushing too hard against my skin. I usually
kept them on around water even despite their IPX4 rating, which
only protects against splashes and not a full-on dunking.
But also surprising is that I have to use the large eartips. My
ears fall somewhere between small and medium for most earbuds, and
on average I go with medium. If you usually take large or extra
large, you may struggle with fit out of the box. (A friend of mine
who normally borders on XL immediately rejected these buds for
being way too small.) Some users have found success with
third-party tips, like those from Spinfit and Comply, but your
mileage will definitely vary. Fit is incredibly personal with
The included charging case also takes little space—like the Sony
WF-1000XM4, the Jabra 85t's case slips easily into in a pocket (a
miracle given the size of women's pockets). I never mind taking it
with me on a walk, especially since it provides several full
The Jabra 85t's
default sound profile is warmer than the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
(rear left), but not as warm as the Sony WF-1000XM4 (rear right). Image: Alaina Yee / IDG
Audio sounds neutral and clean on the Jabra 85t, but with just
enough bass to keep it from feeling sterile. Listening to music
with these earbuds tends to feel a little more crisp than with
rivals like the Sony WF-1000XM4, which is warmer across all of its
sound profiles. Mid and low frequencies get a little more emphasis
(like most mainstream consumer earbuds), and so high frequency
elements can feel a little muted at times.
You can adjust for this somewhat in the 85t's EQ settings (via
the Jabra Sound+ companion app), but not by a dramatic amount. In
general, the six sound profiles and any manual equalizer
adjustments to them are more subtle, though still discernible.
Jabra does an excellent job with the EQ interface in the app, too,
with a good balance between being simple enough for non-audiophiles
and full control over a frequency range. (You can make as small of
an adjustment as you prefer.) I like the default Neutral profile
pretty well as it is, since voices come through distinctly against
percussion instruments. But I had no objections to bumping up the
bass, as it adds more richness to songs without overwhelming
Equalizer settings in
the Jabra Sound+ companion app. Image: PCWorld
To further customize your music listening, you can flip on a
feature called MySound, which applies a personalized hearing
profile to songs. After going through a hearing test, the app
analyzes what frequencies to emphasize per ear and adjusts music
playback accordingly. It's an interesting trick, but I found I
preferred music without the processing on. My profile kept shifting
audio to be more dominant on my right side, which threw off my
sense of physical placement for instruments and singers.
In calls, incoming audio sounds clear—you can easily sit through
hours of meetings with these buds. Outgoing audio is not quite as
good, as the 85t tends to overcompress the transmissions. You get
clear, discernible sound, but with a slightly robotic edge. It's
acceptable to listen to but not enjoyable, so I ended up leaving
the sidetone feature off (the ability to hear my own voice while
speaking). If you're buying the 85t primarily for speaking during
conference calls, you should probably look into a different set of
Volume across all types of audio can go fairly high. To stay
around my preferred volume (loud enough to block normal
conversation with noise-canceling on), I usually was in the high 30
to low 40 percent range.
Active Noise canceling
levels can be adjusted from the main screen in the Jabra Sound+
companion app. Image: PCWorld
Active noise canceling on the Jabra 85t works quite well—at full
strength and with no music playing, it muted the noise of a
moderately busy city street by more than half. (If I had to give a
rough estimate, I'd say about 60 to 65 percent.) If you play music
at moderate volume, it silences much of the remaining background
sound. The 85t's ANC blocks out conversations and TV audio well,
too. I like these almost as much as the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds,
which rank as a top performer for ANC. The only real limitation is
having just five levels of noise-canceling strength to choose
The hear-through mode, which actively pipes in audio from your
environment, is also one of the most natural takes on ambient sound
I've heard. It has much milder echo effect than on other earbuds
(and for me, less effect on spatial awareness as a result). I often
found myself toggling to it rather than taking the buds off. You
can adjust its strength in a similar fashion as active noise
An optional off mode exists as well. It's handy for conserving
battery life, since both ANC and hear-through mode make active use
of the Jabra 85t's microphones.
The Jabra 85t's case
supports wireless charging (via optional Qi-certified pad). Image: Alaina Yee / IDG
Relative to its rivals, the Jabra 85t's one weakness is its run
time. It's rated for 5.5 hours with noise-canceling on, but I found
my pair typically gave out after 5 hours of continuous music
playback. Given the 85t's smaller size, this lower battery life
isn't surprising, but it does mean you get about an hour less than
you would with the competition.
Jabra makes up for this shorter span with its case, which can
provide another 3.5 full charges (give or take) before you have to
juice it back up again. If you need just a quick hit, you can get
60 minutes of play time after just 15 minutes of charging in the
case. As a result, I never had battery anxiety while out and
To push the battery further, you can turn off both noise
canceling and hear-through modes. It doesn't affect audio quality,
and you'll gain another hour or so of run time on the buds.
Pairing and controls
Pairing the Jabra 85t with devices (including PCs) is
straightforward. You can link up to eight different devices. Once
that's complete, you can have up to two devices simultaneously
connected to the 85t.
This standout feature sets the 85t apart from its rivals, as you
can play music or accept calls from either device. You can't
receive audio at the same time from both, but going back and forth
between the two is seamless. Press play in an app on one and the
other piece of gear automatically silences.
There is one small quirk—if you want to change which two devices
are connected, you must first manually disconnect from the gear you
no longer want to use before you can connect to the new device(s).
So if your 85t buds automatically connect to your previous two
devices and one isn't the item you need, you have to first find
that and disconnect. It's mildly annoying, but manageable.
On occasion, you can sometimes run into issues in some apps when
two devices are connected, but it's not a fault of the Jabra 85t.
For example, Spotify doesn't always understand which device to
output to, and so it'll keep stopping playback. It's easily fixed
by reconnecting one or both devices.
Bluetooth range on the Jabra 85t holds up well—when visiting
family with multi-story houses, I could often keep the connection
through multiple walls, or while on one floor above or below.
Not only can you pair
up to eight devices with the Jabra 85t, but you can have up to two
devices simultaneously connected, too. Image: Alaina Yee / IDG
To control the 85t, you press the discrete buttons on each
earbud. If I had to go by interfaces alone, the Jabra 85t would be
my favorite—I never have to worry about the errant brush of
clothing, a hand, or my hair triggering an unwanted
command, as I do with some earbuds that rely on touch input. The
tactile feedback is satisfying, too, and you don't need much
pressure to bottom out and feel a click.
More importantly, the 85t offers a good range of commands. One,
two, and three clicks can all be active options at the same time
per bud, and you can assign any of the presets
(Play/Pause, Next Track, Restart Track, Voice Assistant, and ANC
sound mode toggling) to each type of button press. The only thing
missing is a preset to go back to previous tracks.
You can also customize the buds' behavior if you take one out of
your ear. By default, pulling either bud will pause music or video
playback. You can turn off that feature in the app. You can also
use the right bud on its own by placing the left bud back in the
To get the most out of the Jabra 85t, you must install the
company's Sound+ app on a smartphone or tablet. Unlike other apps,
Jabra's somewhat buries settings—instead of different tabs on the
main screen, you have to go into multiple sub-menus to get at most
everything (button command customization, auto-pause behavior,
power saving, finding the earbuds' last location, etc). Only
battery info, noise-canceling mode, sound profiles, and EQ settings
live on the main screen. The high polish of the interface mostly
smooths over this annoyance, though.
The Jabra 85t blends excellent sound with superb active
noise-canceling in a compact package. For me, it takes the best
qualities of its top rivals and puts them into buds that fit and
travel extremely well, making them my preferred choice. If your
needs lean more toward lots of phone calls, a larger fit, or a bit
more battery life, you may be happier with another set, but for
many people, these will be a very strong, highly customizable pair
of true wireless earbuds.