When it comes to premium headphones, Jabra is not a brand that Indian headphone buyers automatically think of. However, the company’s new Jabra E85H headset enters a market that is populated by known names like Sony, Bose and more. That doesn’t mean that Jabra doesn’t have a history in the audio space, or that the company should be treated like an upstart, but with the quality of headphones its competitors have ordered, it certainly has an uphill battle.
The E85H is headlined by a lot of features that premium headphones should have, active noise cancellation being the most important out of those. Like the Sony MDR1000XM3 and others, the E85H also has internal circuitry to remove unwanted, ambient noise.
Jabra’s noise cancelling might feel a bit aggressive, especially for those who haven’t used such headphones before. That though is not a dealbreaker in any way. It cuts off ambient noise quite well, which is what a buyer expect from such headphones.
The E85H also has a nice woven finish to it, which is strikingly different from the plastic or metallic finish that most companies go for. The headphones are heavy, but since they aren’t meant for running or exercise, that’s another element we can forgive. The earcups can swivel, which is useful when they’re around your neck, because they can rest on your chest instead of sticking out. The headphones also turn off automatically when they’re placed in this position and pause audio the moment you take them off your ears.
In fact, as far as features are concerned, there’s no questioning the E85H. It has the Jabra SoundPlus companion app, which lets you control the equalised and choose from certain presets. This also gives you access to Jabra’s SmartSound feature, which uses the headphones in-built microphones to listen to ambient noise and change the noise cancelling mode automatically. As with the Sony and many others, this feature makes sense on paper, but didn’t make a noticeable difference, at least on our usage.
But while this is a feature rich headphone alright, it fails in the most important department — audio quality. That doesn’t mean the audio experience is poor, but it pales in comparison to a Bose QuietComfort III, Sony MDR 1000XM3 or Bowers & Wilkins P7.
The E85H lacks the punchy bass that premium headphones are often known for. Additionally, they lack detail in audio. Imagine listening to a concert from outside the hall instead of being amongst the crowd, that’s the kind of experience the E85H delivers often. It over-emphasises the high notes, which makes it tiresome to use them for extended periods.
And finally, the Jabra E85H don’t really have an audio signature of their own. If the 1000XM3 is known for audio detail, Bose is known for crowd-pleasing bass and so on, the E85H excels in none, and that’s a problem for a headphone that is priced (operating price) at ₹24,900.
Granted that the E85H is a few thousand bucks cheaper than a lot of its competitors, but you will get a significantly better audio experience with all of those. And at the 20K plus price range, a few thousands is often not worth considering. If you can buy a 1000XM3 for ₹27,000, the extra two thousand is certainly worth paying for all the same features and better audio.
That said, the Jabra E85H does make a case for themselves with a feature-rich spec sheet, nice design and ease of use, headphones are first and foremost about audio quality, and a less than convincing experience in that department makes it difficult to recommend this over competitors.