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Jabra claims its new Elite 85h is the best noise-canceling headphone

At CES 2019, Jabra is entering the crowded market for premium wireless noise-canceling headphones with the $299 Elite 85h, which has some high-tech features, including hands-free Alexa and Google Assistant support.

The Jabra Elite 85h ships in April for $299.

Jabra

Last year Jabra had a major headphone hit with its Elite 65t totally wireless earphones. Now it's going after Bose, Sony and others with its new Elite 85h over-ear premium wireless headphones that it says will deliver "best-in-class" performance when they ship in April for $299 or 299 euros (no word yet on UK or Australian pricing).

I should be getting some hands-on time with an early unit here at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, where Jabra has unveiled the Elite 85h, but at least on paper, the new headphones look like a contender.

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Some of its features remind me of the features that Microsoft was touting in its new Surface headphones. Like that model, the Elite 85h has multiple microphones (eight total) and adaptive noise-canceling technology (Jabra SmartSound) that changes according to your environment.

Additionally, these headphones feature hands-free voice assistant control using Amazon's Alexa or Google Assistant (only one voice assistant can be active). That means you don't have to tap a button to wake your voice assistant, you just speak the wake word. Microsoft's Surface headphones have a similar hands-free voice assistant feature, but only for Cortana, not Alexa or Google Assistant.

The headphones in the gold beige color.

Jabra

Jabra claims its noise-cancellation system is better than Bose's or Sony's. It's partnered with audio analysis company Audeering, a "leader in audio AI technology" intelligence technology to "ensure the audio of the Elite 85h offers the best call and music experience by automatically adjusting to your surroundings."

Jabra says the technology can detect more than 6,000 unique sound characteristics and uses this to adapt audio output to each specific context.

Battery life also appears to be very good, with up to 32 hours of battery with active noise-canceling activated.

The big question is how good do these headphones sound. You can have all the cutting-edge technology in the world and they still might not sound as good as they should. Right now, the Sony WH-1000XM3 sounds the best of the noise-canceling headphones in this price class. I'll let you know how the Jabra Elite 85h measures up as soon as I get my hands on a review sample. I do anticipate that they will be excellent for making calls -- probably better than the Sony or Bose.

 Key features of the Jabra Elite 85h  

  • SmartSound: Audio adapts automatically to your surroundings
  • Hands-free voice assistant control for Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant without pushing a button
  • Three color variations: Titanium Black, Gold Beige and Navy Blue
  • Up to 32-hours of battery with ANC activated and 35 hours without ANC
  • Eight microphones in total, with four dedicated for calls, two for ANC and two for SmartSound. In combination, this creates the six-microphone call technology and four-microphone ANC and SmartSound solution
  • 40mm custom-engineered drivers
  • IP52 dust and rain resistance
  • Jabra Sound+ app for SmartSound features, including customized settings
  • Shipping: April 2019
  • Price $299 or 299 euros (roughly £270 or AU$480)

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