A quiet and peaceful life: Jabra Elite 85t
If there's one thing I've learned to love in this, the Year of the WFH Zombie Apocalypse, it's peace and quiet.
Every day has turned into a turgid mess of Teams meetings, FaceTime calls, Skypes, Zooms, and all the rest (even Amazon Chime which should absolutely be avoided at all costs).
Then there's the kids at home, the running around, their Teams/Zooms/Skype calls and "multi-tasking" (if you can call pretending to do your homework while playing games online with one set of friends and simultaneously making TikToks with another a series of tasks). All told, my New Year's resolution will be for a quiet and peaceful life.
So when Jabra offered to let me test drive its new earbuds - the Elite 85t (RRP: $379) - I jumped at the chance.
I've had a love-hate relationship with noise cancelling headphones for quite some time. I had a pair of early edition Blackbox noise cancelling headphones that were tremendous, but the over-the-head band made my head hurt on long flights and the cushioning part on the ears got hot and sweaty.
Then I had a full over-the-ear pair from Bose which were great but the cushions also wore out eventually.
The rise of the ear buds gave me cause for rejoicing and Apple's AirPod Professionals have long been my standard bit of ear candy. They weigh practically nothing, the sound quality is tremendous and the mic has an uncanny ability to pick up sounds in a way that's so good I've had radio engineers ask me what kind of lapel mic I'm using.
But it's the noise cancellation that was so extraordinary. Tiny microphones inside the pods listen to the surrounding sounds hundreds of times per second and adjust the audio accordingly. They really do make the surrounding world go away.
I have to say these new Jabra devices give Apple a run for its money.
The Elites have an oval shaped earpiece that doesn't sit in your ear as far as the AirPods do, but feels somehow more secure, more comfortable. Time spent on the treadmill or cross-trainer couldn't dislodge them, yet at no time did they feel like they'd been in for too long, as sometimes can happen with the AirPods.
Battery life is on par with them as well - both will get you through a day of audio use, although constant on-time without stopping to take a breath will drain both sets faster than you'd like.
As for audio quality, well that starts as soon as you synch them with the Jabra app and it's rather odd. You're asked your age and your gender and well, colour me old fashioned but I tend to use my ears for listening, not other parts of my anatomy. So what gives?
Jabra says it has worked with GN Hearing to develop a two-stage hearing test. The first part includes an algorithm which analyses "a significant pool of individuals' hearing profiles to be able to predict a user's audiogram just by inputting age and gender". This is then refined further by taking the user through a short hearing test to reach a more accurate personal profile for the individual.
The test (tap the button when you hear the tone) soon makes it clear I should have insisted on those ear defenders as a student working with heavy equipment because there are times when I'm just unable to hear the higher-pitched tones, but pretty soon the test is done and I have to say the sound quality is tremendous. The app fills in where my hearing is limited so I have a full range of sounds delivered to my pummelled eardrums for maximum effect.
Whether I'm listening to podcasts or music, the quality is stunning to behold, and when you turn on the noise cancellation capability you find yourself alone in a crowded world. There are various degrees of cancellation available - I chose the whole hog setting and never regret it.
The Jabra Elite 85t even allow you to connect to two Bluetooth devices at once, something I've yet to find a use for but which seems to excite the more connectable among us.
But I do have a problem with noise cancelling Bluetooth headphones and ear buds and it's nothing to do with them at all. They connect beautifully to both iOS and Android mobiles but when it comes to laptops it's exceedingly frustrating.
The Apple AirPods will connect with my MacBook Air but it can't see the Jabra at all, and my HP notebook can't see either of them. When I do use Teams on an Apple iOS device the Jabra will connect but there's no noise cancellation capability, so I'm stuck listening to the craziness around me.
This is a problem because it means I still need a pair of wired headphones for my Team calls, or I just rely on the built-in speakers and the inevitable feedback whine. Or of course, I just avoid the meetings altogether. Maybe that's the answer.
Sort that out, laptop makers, and you'll have a friend for life.
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