Bose and active noise cancellation are pretty much synonymous with one another. The company has been responsible for many of the market’s best noise-cancelling headphones, and its latest creation, the QuietComfort Earbuds, has finally made its long-awaited debut. But this isn’t the only newcomer to join the truly wireless ANC scene, as Jabra just released the highly anticipated Elite 85t.
Top critics and experts, including us, concur that the QuietComfort Earbuds have the absolute best noise neutralization of any model in its class, outperforming consumer favorites like the AirPods Pro and Sony WF-1000xM3. The fact that Bose figured out how to engineer these buds with the same call quality, sound, and noise cancellation as the game-changing Bose 700 is unbelievable.
- Check out our Bose QuietComfort Earbuds review
- ...and our Jabra Elite 85t review
- The best Black Friday headphones deals right now
Jabra flexed its own engineering muscle when creating the Elite 85t, pairing the robust Qualcomm QC5126 processor with a dedicated ANC chip to elevate sound performance on all fronts. Many of the hallmarks that made its predecessors (the Elite 75t and Elite 75t Active) well-rounded performers remain intact as well. This includes reliable connectivity, vibrant sound, and a plethora of features via companion app.
It’s looking like a tough battle already, especially on the ANC front, but let’s see which model comes out the victor.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Jabra Elite 85t: Specs compared
|Bose QuietComfort Earbuds||Jabra Elite 85t|
|Colors||Triple Black, Soapstone||Black, Grey, Copper/Black, Gold/Beige, Titanium Black|
|Battery life (rated)||6 hours, 18 (with charging case)||5.5 hours (ANC on), 7.5 hours (ANC off), 24 hours (with charging case and ANC on), 28 hours (with charging case and ANC off)|
|Size and weight||1.5 x 1 x 1.1 inches, 0.3 ounces||0.91 x 0.75 x 0.64 inches, 0.25 ounces|
|Durability||IPX 4 (water and sweat resistance)||IPX4 (water and sweat resistance)|
|Special features||Adjustable active noise cancellation, Active EQ technology, Transparency Mode, Bluetooth 5.1, Self Voice calling mode, wireless charging||Adjustable active noise cancellation, HearThrough Mode, adaptive listening features, customizable EQ, Call Equalizer, Bluetooth 5.0, wireless charging|
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Jabra Elite 85t: Price and value
The best wireless earbuds usually carry a luxury price tag, which is $200 or higher. Both the QuietComfort Earbuds ($280) and Jabra Elite 85t ($230) are expensive models that, essentially, you’ll want to feel comfortable splurging your Christmas cash on.
We believe the Elite 85t gets you more functionality for the dollar. As compelling as Bose’s ANC technology and call quality are, some of the QuietComfort Earbuds’ shortcomings might have you questioning whether it’s worth paying the premium.
Winner: Jabra Elite 85t
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Jabra Elite 85t: Design
Based on appearance alone, it’s obvious who wins this round: Jabra. The company’s knack for premium craftmanship is on full display, and though the plastic casing on the Elite 85t is thicker than the previous version, it’s highly durable and still looks attractive, thanks to a smooth matte finish. These buds don’t stick out like a sore thumb either, unlike its competitor. We also love the color options: Titanium/Black, Gold/Beige, Copper/Black, Black, and Grey.
With a heavier (1 gram more) and longer (2mm longer) frame than the Elite 75t, it’s surprising that the Elite 85t offers similar comfort and fit. Jabra redesigned the sound port with an oval shape that allows for seamless insertion into the canal. The company’s gel tips provide tight grip as well for decent on-ear stabilization when properly adjusted.
The Elite 85t’s charging case is the more portable-friendly of the two. It’s actually lighter than the AirPods Pro case, feels durable, and has strong magnets on the inside to keep the lid shut and store the buds securely. You won’t feel burdened carry it around in your pockets or gym bag, nor will it add any unwanted weight when commuting.
We get that Bose required larger housing to store its powerful internals. We also feel the company was capable of creating a far more innovative design than what the QuietComfort Earbuds was given. The elongated pill shape sticks out in the most unflattering fashion. We feel the color options are blander compared to Jabra’s offerings too. The one saving grace about the casing is that it’s built from high-end composite plastic, so it won’t break easily, and it comes IPX4-certified for sweat and water resistance, like the Elite 85t.
The extra real estate and added IR sensors that were built into the buds also add extra weight, which affects comfort. The longer you wear them, the more pressure the sound port applies to the concha; you’ll notice some discomfort after an hour of use. Bose’s StayHear Max silicone ear tips and fins do keep the QuietComfort Earbuds secure on the ears for the most part, though you may experience slippage on occasion when speed-walking or jogging..
If you think the buds are huge, then you’ll faint looking at the charging case. This hunk of plastic is heavy and practically double the size of most cases out there. Don’t bother trying to squeeze it into your tight denim jeans pocket or you might end up ripping in a hole in them.
Winner: Jabra Elite 85t
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Jabra Elite 85t: Controls
Bose went with touch controls, while Jabra settled for physical buttons. Yet only one of them put some thought into the actual control scheme, that being Jabra. The Elite 85t supports single-, double-, and triple-tap gestures on both earbuds, supporting multiple ways to interact with the buds, be it music playback, call management or enabling different features. My only complaint is that while the buttons offer great tactility, every press pushes the buds further into your ears, creating discomfort the more you perform this action.
The QuietComfort Earbuds’ touch sensors are highly responsive to taps, but only support double taps and long presses. On top of that, you can only customize the left bud. On-ear detection doesn’t work well either and has latency issues; the Elite 85t operates pretty smoothly.
Where the QuietComfort Earbuds beats the Elite 85t is in digital assistant support. Bose’s mic array demonstrates excellent speech recognition and pick up voice commands with ease, with Siri and Google Assistant registering inquiries as quickly as they respond to them. The QuietComfort Earbuds also support Bixby and Cortana. The Elite 85t currently works with Siri and Google Assistant (Alexa is coming in a Q1 2021 update) and you’ll get quality voice assistance no matter the platform.
Winner: Jabra Elite 85t
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Jabra Elite 85t: Audio
Jabra has stepped up its audio game with every new true wireless release and the Elite 85t stands out as the company’s best-sounding model to date. The drivers have doubled in size (now 12mm) and were tweaked to create a more balanced soundstage that falls somewhere in between bright and warm.
For a full dose of bass, I gave M.I.A.’s “Bird Song (Diplo Remix)” a spin and was overjoyed with the deep, rich reverberations that came out of the Elite 85t’s speakers. Diplo’s kick drums were impactful, while the kazoo-like honking blended well over the boomy production. From there, I pulled up some Busta Rhymes and let the rapper dominate the rhythmic beat on “Tear Da Roof Off.” The syncopated strings and drums exuded energy and sounded tighter and crisper than what came out of the QuietComfort Earbuds.
If you love the clean audio presentation of the Bose 700, then the QuietComfort Earbuds will not disappoint. Listening to orchestral masterpieces like Isaac Hayes' “Walk on By” showed me how much emphasis Bose placed on the high end; violins shined over the melancholy electric guitar. The synths and horn section on Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” even sounded more striking compared to the many other distinguishable instruments that played in the background. I just wish the bass didn’t feel so tamed, as it held a stronger presence on Bose’s previous wireless earbuds, the SoundSport Free.
Enabling ANC mode on either model gives the low end a moderate boost, though you’ll likely notice it more on the Elite 85t. This is complementary for music genres like hip-hop, rock, and EDM.
Winner: Jabra Elite 85t
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Jabra Elite 85t: Active noise cancellation
No pair of wireless earbuds can match the QuietComfort Earbuds active noise cancellation. How Bose managed to transfer over the same ANC technology featured in the Bose 700, and expand on its capabilities, with half the mics, is wondrous.
Like its over-ear counterpart, you have 10 adjustable levels of ANC to choose from, three of which can be saved and cycled through on the left earbud. The end result is nothing short of outstanding. Most of the ambient noise around you will be completely muted. I was able to work right outside on the front porch in peace and not worry about street noises distracting me. Rarely did high frequency sounds like a semi-truck horn enter the soundscape, and it had to be something that took place in front of the house for me to even recognize it.
I would rank the Jabra Elite 85t third in the category for best ANC performance, right behind the Sony WF-1000xM3, which is a compliment. That also means it is better than the AirPods Pro, a model that has been praised for its great noise cancellation over the past year. Jabra gives you five levels of ANC that can be adjusted in the Sound+ app, with each level increasing by 3 decibels to maximum sound reduction at higher frequencies. The technology is effective enough to block out common ambient noises (e.g. home appliance timers, door buzzers, whisking cars) and performs well against wind. Though we found Bose’s earbuds better equipped for dealing with louder noises like crying babies and whistles.
The QuietComfort Earbuds and Elite 85t have their own Transparency modes, but Bose has a more powerful and innovative version that blends with ANC. This doesn’t just improve environmental awareness, but it also makes noises sound more distinct, that way you can better identify them. The Elite 85t’s mode is no slouch either, and provides good clarity to hear much of what’s happening around you. It’s just can’t compete with what Bose delivers.
Winner: Bose QuietComfort Buds
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Jabra Elite 85t: App and special features
The steak and potatoes of the Elite series has been the Sound+ app. Not only is it the hub for all functionality, but the app is being constantly updated with new features that continue to enhance the user experience.
The two most recently added features are MyControls and MySound, which, respectively, let you personalize and expand the controls on both earbuds and analyze your environment to tailor the EQ to your hearing. They work well and help streamline usage. There is also a Sidetone slider to adjust how loud you want to sound on phone calls, along with a Call Equalizer that boosts call quality by adding more treble or bass to the caller on the other end.
What you really want the Elite 85t for are the sound features. The built-in EQ is a central component of the Elite series, allowing you to manually tweak the frequency levels to create and save your own sound profiles. You also get a handful of presets that work well with specific music genres and content (e.g. podcasts, movies). Personally, I feel the Soundscapes mode is one of the more unique and underappreciated features in the app. It’s well engineered and helps to relax you if you’re feeling stressed; you can pick from 12 modes that produce soothing noises to calm nerves. Don’t take it for granted, especially during these times.
The QuietComfort Earbuds is compatible with the Bose Connect app and has some neat tricks available, though none as extensive as what Sound+ offers. Like its competitor, you get a slider to manually adjust ANC, along with several toggle controls for different functions (e.g. voice assistance, on-ear detection) and a Self Voice mode to increase volume on phone calls.
But the Bose Connect app lacks three key features: an adjustable EQ, a Find My Earbuds mode, and an Auto-Off option to put the buds asleep when inactive. All of these are available on Sound+. Something else the Elite 85t has that the QuietComfort Earbuds doesn’t is multipoint technology, so you can pair to two devices simultaneously and easily swap between them. Bose’s response to that is Bluetooth 5.1, giving you super-fast and stable connectivity, though Bluetooth 5.0 holds up strong on the Elite 85t. We’re also fond of the Bluetooth button that’s integrated into the QuietComfort Earbuds’ charging case, as it makes manually pairing seamless.
Winner: Jabra Elite 85t
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Jabra Elite 85t: Call quality
Active noise cancellation wasn’t the only area where Bose showed out, as the company also engineered its buds with best-in-class call quality. You can expect the same clarity and crispness on phone calls and video chats as on the Bose 700. Bose’s mic array also blocks out a majority of the background noise, which allowed me to communicate clearly with my wife when taking her calls outside in drafty conditions. The buds performed even better indoors on Zoom calls.
Compared to its predecessors, the Elite 85t is the superior calling headset, but it isn’t the QuietComfort Earbuds. Jabra’s ANC mics are resilient at minimizing external sounds. I was be able to have clear-sounding conversations, though the volume levels were lower than I liked, as I discovered when chatting with the missus several times. Something else to consider is that the Elite 85t will perform better indoors due to its strong connectivity, meaning fewer dropouts.
Winner: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Jabra Elite 85t: Battery life and charging case
The QuietComfort Earbuds may have the bigger battery (6 hours), but when taking power drainers into account like ANC, high volume, and excessive wireless streaming, they offer the same playtime as the Elite 85t on a full charge: 5.5 hours. This is disappointing no matter which side you choose.
One positive with the Elite 85t is that you can disable ANC to gain two extra hours of use, a helpful move when you’re running low on power and want to prioritize streaming over noise cancellation. There is no way to turn off the listening modes on the QuietComfort Earbuds simultaneously, therefore, you’re stuck using one or the other. This is where quick charging is a lifesaver, as the QuietComfort Earbuds get you 2 hours of a 15-minute charge, whereas the Elite 85t only generates 1 hour of use in 15 minutes.
You would think that with such a massive charging case that the QuietComfort Earbuds would carry a lot more portable power. Nope. Sorry. It only holds up to 18 hours, while Jabra’s case holds 24 hours when factoring in ANC and 28 hours when it’s turned off. Both cases do support wireless charging, that way you charge them with any compatible Qi-certified wireless chargers without being tethered to any charging cables.
Winner: Jabra Elite 85t
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds vs. Jabra Elite 85t: Verdict
Look at the scorecard and the Jabra Elite 85t is the clear winner. We can’t stress enough the importance of extended functionality, which is what these buds do best, providing a wide range of features and personalization. Having an EQ accessible to fine-tune audio and some adaptive listening modes raise the Elite 85t’s stock. The handsome design and solid noise cancellation are noteworthy too.
|Bose QuietComfort Earbuds||Jabra Elite 85t|
|Price and value (5)||3||4|
|Audio quality (20)||18||18|
|Active noise cancelation (20)||20||18|
|Special features and apps (15)||11||13|
|Call quality (5)||5||3|
|Battery life and charging case (10)||7||8|
|Total score (100)||80||84|
You may be asking, “how could this be if the Bose’s buds have the best ANC in the category?” We’re not debating that. The QuietComfort Earbuds are untouchable when it comes to noise cancellation. They just aren’t the better overall wireless earbuds.
Bose’s ability to replicate the 700’s noise-cancelling performance and sound signature is remarkable. The same goes for call quality. At the same time, Bose dropped the ball in three key categories: design, battery life, and extra features. That isn’t to say we don’t recommend purchasing them, but if you’re planning to, learn to live with its shortcomings.