Jabra Elite 85h headphones change sound and invoke Alexa without a single touch

When you're deep into a movie or a brilliant track, the last thing you want is to lose all the audio when you move from one place to another.

The new Jabra Elite 85h headphones - launched at CES 2019 - are designed to try and take away the annoyance of having to alter your headphone settings on the fly to get the best sound experience when leaving home, commuting or just wandering around a big city.

This works using Audeering technology, an audio analysis company that Jabra's parent company GN Technologies has a minor stake in, where artificial intelligence uses eight microphones to analyse the surroundings and decide on the best sound quality needed.

The Jabra 85h headphones will adapt automatically to the sound around you, switching between 'Commute', 'In Public' and 'In Private' modes to offer tailored sound - and uses six of the microphones to provide active noise cancelling too.

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Your own new world

The 'Gold Beige' coloring

The 'Gold Beige' coloring

You'll be able to create your own 'sound environments' too in the associated application, and the headphones will remember to switch to that mode when certain audio conditions are heard.

In terms of the smarts built into the headphones, Jabra is promising that the cans will always be listening for the Alexa, Siri or Google wake commands (presumably depending on the phone you're using) to allow you invoke the voice assistant without touching a button.

While that sounds cool, given there's a lot of promotion being made on using these headphones in public, you're going to look a little odd just shouting out Siri's name when idly wondering how tall Kylie Minogue is while quietly sitting on a train.

Despite this 'always-on' technology, Jabra is promising 32 hours' battery life and strong audio through 40mm custom-engineered speakers thrusting sounds into your ears. Without active noise cancelling enabled, this battery life will apparently increase up to 35 hours.

Isn't adaptive sound a bit 2017?

Adaptive sound is the new wave of audio improvement in headphones, with certain models (like the Nuraphones or the adaptive sound built into the HTC U12 Plus or the Samsung Galaxy S9) but those models are all about changing the sound to work best to our ears.

Given hearing differs from person to person, and it alters over time, this is the perfect way to get the best sound quality into your brain holes. 

The Jabra Elite 85h headphones aren't offering this option (although you can tailor it manually through the app) but instead is altering the kind of noise coming into your head to make sure it helps block out unhelpful sound and improve that which you can hear.

The new Elite 85h headphones will be available in black, titanium black (which just sounds like a fancy way of saying gray), gold beige and navy (well, brown and blue).

The Jabra Elite 85h release date has been set for April 2019, and the 85h price is a pretty expensive £280 / $299 (around AU$500) with no official word Australian release at the moment.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.