Your Best Friend to Fly with
Jeff Li/IBTimes

The Jabra 85h wants to be your best friend, especially when you're up in the air - and it does seem to be a pretty great friend indeed. With many features that one would desire from a good companion, here are some boxes that the 85h ticked during our time together.

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That human touch

Surely the first criterion to fill in order to be a good friend is the human touch. Right from the get-go the 85h has a distinct outer shell: fabric ear cups and headband. While most headphone manufacturers opt for metal, plastic, or metal-plastic as the main shell, Jabra is doing something new by going for a textile finish. But this is not new. The Bluetooth speaker market has long discovered this preference and has been using fabric shells for years (Think UE, Google Nest...etc). The result is a soft touch that is friendlier than metal, and feels more durable than soft touch rubber.

The controls implementation on these headphones I have to say is the most human-centric that I have used on the market today. The proof? In using these cans for the last week or so, I have never pressed a wrong button, not even once. Other current popular headphones use aesthetically pleasing capacitive touch surfaces, or near-identical buttons that are placed along the peripheral of the ear cups - both prone to unintentional inputs. Jabra intentionally placed the up/down and play to be on nice big buttons on the face of the ear cup, and single mute/assistant and ANC buttons placed on each of the cups, exactly where your thumb is when you grip the cups. It is a solution that keeps things simple, but separates the controls enough to never press a wrong button.

What I am really a fan of is how I can confidently grip the two cups to take them off/put them on without being worried about pressing a button I didn't intend to - something I find myself 'tip-toeing' to do when using other mainstream wireless headphones. And you should never have to worry about pressing a wrong button when you're with a good friend!

Comfortable silence

Good friends can enjoy a period of silence with one another, and I'm glad to say that I've had many comfortable quiet moments with the 85h.

The Active Noise Cancelling circuit on these headphones is very effective. Having the ANC activated (using the aforementioned well-placed button on the left ear cup) on my recent flight completely muffed out all wind/engine/air conditioning/baby crying sounds. Without any music on, the sound I could hear in a Airbus A320 cabin while in mid flight was very similar to car air conditioning switched to medium high. It was only when I took the headphones off briefly that I realized how much noise the ANC was cancelling out, especially the low end of the booming engine sound.

The hear-through function was also implemented flawlessly, that you can have them turned on, and it doesn't diminish the quality or volume of the music at all. Suddenly you can hear those around you, but they can't hear what you can hear - it's quite an odd but useful sensation.

Non-judgmental on your music taste

A friend should accept you as you are, including your music taste. From the stylish outer aesthetics, I expected some bass heavy sound to come out of the Jabra 85h - but I was wrong. The response of the 85h is surprisingly flat, closer to reference headphones, where none of the highs, mids or lows stands out. To be honest, I was initially a little disappointed by the flat sound, but the more time I spent with it, I realized that the 85h is more like a non-judgmental friend: I could throw any music at it, and it would always produce a balanced, pleasing sound. These headphones are not made to shine in certain music and sink in others, but they suit any sort of tune, and would give a faithful reproduction of how the sound engineer intended.

Strong, not easily broken

A good friendship should last the distance, through thick and thin, rain or shine. I've seen many pictures and videos before getting the 85h, but after holding them in my hands for the first time, what came to mind was: Plastic build? It had me worrying at first, because many other headphone makers are opting for stainless steel headbands to ensure durability, and I'm not sure how plastic builds can hold up to them.

But after spending more up close and personal time with the 85h, I came to notice the stamped metal frames on the inside of the headphone (exposed when folding the cups for storage), which looked plenty tough and won't be easily broken.

These are headphones that are strong where it matters, and the plastic shell giving it the customizability in terms of color and finish variations (Black, Gold Beige, Navy, Titanium Black - and the one I have the Amazon exclusive Copper Black.)

These headphones are also rain resistant, and have a 2-year warranty against water and dust, which for me is mainly a peace of mind - as I don't plan on wearing them out when it's pouring. But these are features that boost one's confidence that this is not a friend that will soon walk out on you.

Extended sessions

What are best buds for if not to hangout for hours - or even days at a time? The Jabra 85h has very impressive battery life - one of the top if not the top in the wireless headphone market right now: 36 hours with ANC on, or 41 hours with it off. It also features fast charging, where it only takes 15 minutes to get 5 hours play time.

If by extended we mean distance wise - the 85h has that covered too. While the other Jabra wireless earphones that I've tested could connect at ultra long distances with Jabra's custom USB dongle - these headphones can go the distance without it. When I'm out and about with Bluetooth headphones on, I have found that no matter how expensive, all headphones cut and stutter now and again. The Jabra 85h were the only headphones that never cut out during all my excursions. As I always say, headphones are only as good as their connection, and these headphones have one of the best connections I've tested.

Who is the Jabra 85h for?

As the title of this article suggests, the Jabra 85h is a great companion when on flights. It's intentionally human design are great for those who place intuitive control as utmost importance; it's musical versatility is perfect for those who likes a wide range of genre of music; and its ability to stay on for days while continuously providing a stable un-stuttering connection means those long-haul flights will seem less daunting. Like with good friends: it's always better together.

Sam is a production engineer turned tech writer who specializes in seeking out gadgets that enhances productivity while still looking sharp. This is a contribution to an ongoing IBTimes review series on gadgets for Business Travelers.

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