Sony WH-1000XM4 vs Jabra Elite 85H: Which is Better?


The Sony WH-1000XM4 has successfully claimed the crown from its predecessor, Sony WH-1000XM3, as the best ANC headphone available in the market today. And, Jabra Elite 85H is one of Jabra’s most well-received headphones. So, when it comes to sound quality, comfort, and features, how does Sony WH-1000XM4 compare to Jabra Elite 85H? In this article, we will compare both the headphones and see which product comes out on top.

The Verdict

Sony WH-1000XM4 is the clear winner in terms of sound quality, noise cancellation performance, and features. Plus, it’s equally good in design, comfort, and connectivity when compared to Jabra Elite 85H. However, Jabra 85H is also a compelling choice when you consider battery life and price.

Before we start reviewing both the headphones in detail, let us have a quick glance at some of their important specifications below:

Sony WH-1000XM4 Jabra Elite 85H
TypeOver-earOver-ear
Enclosure Closed-backClosed-back
Water-protectionSplashproof
Bluetooth versionBluetooth 5.0Bluetooth 5.0
Bluetooth codecsSBC, AAC, LDACSBC, AAC
Frequency Range4 Hz – 40,000 Hz10 Hz – 20,000 Hz
Active noise-cancelingYesYes
Battery life38hr per charge (30hr with ANC)41hr per charge (36hr with ANC)
Digital assistanceYesYes
Weight8.9 oz10.4 oz
PriceLatest Price on AmazonLatest Price on Amazon

Design, Comfort, and Fit: Winner = Tie

The WH-1000XM4 retains the same design as its predecessor because it was popular with the consumers. The ear cups are fitted with super-soft, pressure-relieving ear pads in foamed urethane that evenly distribute pressure when worn. There is minimal contact with the skin which results in less sweat when worn for long periods. However, if you have a large head, you might feel a little discomfort due to the thin padding on the headband. The product is available in three different color options — black, blue, and silver.

The Jabra Elite 85H is slightly heavier than WH-1000XM4 but it feels just as comfortable if not more due to the thick, soft, plush padding on the ear cups. The ear pads are larger and provide plenty of wiggle room for people with large ears. In fact, it is suitable for glass wearers as well. However, if you wear the product for long periods, your ears may start sweating due to skin contact. It is available in four different color options — titanium black, copper black, gold beige, and navy.

Overall, both Sony WH-1000XM4 and Jabra Elite 85H are very comfortable to wear, look premium, and fit well on top of your head. Ultimately, what you like better will boil down to the size and shape of your head, ears, and your personal preference.

Build Quality and Durability: Winner = Jabra Elite 85H

Jabra Elite 85H
Jabra Elite 85H

In terms of build quality, both Sony WH-1000XM4 and Jabra Elite 85H feature a solid build that feels good in the hand. Now, despite being premium products, none of them is built with metal parts to improve the strength of the design. However, they are built with high-grade plastic that is both lightweight and durable. So, both the headphones are likely to survive a few accidental drops.

Still, Jabra Elite 85H wins in terms of durability since it features splash-proof protection and rain-resistant durability. The internal electronic components of Jabra Elite 85H are nano-coated to reduce water damage. The extent of protection that it offers is questionable since it doesn’t have an IP rating for dust and water-resistant. However, it should be sufficient to protect from light rain or mild sweat. Plus, the headphone also features a fabric finish instead of simple plastic on the headband and the ear cups which improves the build quality even more.

Unfortunately, the WH-1000XM4 doesn’t feature any form of dust or water protection. So, it should be handled with more care than the Jabra Elite 85H

Features: Winner = Sony WH-1000XM4

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

When it comes to features, Sony WH-1000XM4 has a lot more to offer than Jabra Elite 85H. This is to be expected since the WH-1000XM4 costs more. 

Both Sony WH-1000XM4 and Jabra Elite 85H have proximity and acceleration sensors that detect when you are wearing them or not. Thus, both support on-ear detection and auto-pause/auto-resume functionality, a nice feature that automatically pauses music playback when you remove the headphones from your head to save battery. Similarly, both headphones support digital voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant to make your life easier.

The special features of Jabra Elite 85H include:

  • SmartSound – Whether you are in public, commute, or in private, the SmartSound technology analyzes your sound environment and automatically applies your personalized audio.
  • Smart Active Noise Cancellation – Jabra Elite 85H contains 8 microphones and 4 of those are used by the digital ANC to filter unwanted background noise. Smart ANC only turns on when it detects unwanted noise.
  • HearThrough – The HearThrough feature allows you to amplify the ambient noise when you need to pay attention to outside noise.
  • The Jabra Sound+ app – The Jabra sound app lets the user customize the music profile of Elite 85H, enable features such as SmartSound, choose the degree of background noise filter that you want to apply, track battery usage, and install software updates directly through the app.

The special features of Sony WH-1000XM4 include:

  • Sony | Headphones Connect app – To get the most out of Sony WH-1000XM4, you have to download and use the Sony | Headphones Connect app. The app lets you adjust ambient sound control settings, experiment with the ANC settings, customize the sound profile, tweak the equalizer, and much more.
  • Ambient Sound Control – This function allows the user to filter unwanted sound but still let in essential sounds such as important announcements when you are listening to music at a venue or while traveling.
  • Speak-to-Chat – The Speak-to-Chat feature uses five in-built microphones and Precise Voice Pickup technology to detect when you are speaking in order to automatically pause the music and let the ambient sound in so that you can have a conversation.

    This feature comes in handy when you want to chat with somebody without removing your headphones or your hands are dirty. However, the feature can also annoy you if the sensitivity is too much. Fortunately, you can adjust the settings to meet your requirements.
  • Adaptive Sound Control – This smart function automatically customizes the ambient sound settings based on your location and travel habits.
  • Quick Attention – The quick attention function comes in handy when you need to quickly pay attention to something around you or listen to someone. All you need to do is cup your hand around the left ear cup and the headphone will dramatically lower the music volume and pick up the ambient audio using the five microphones.
  • Noise-canceling optimization – The headphone supports Unique Atmospheric Pressure Optimization that delivers optimal sound even in high altitudes. And, the Personal Noise Cancellation Optimizer takes into account the unique characteristics that affect sound quality such as head size, hair, glasses, etc. to deliver better sound.
  • DSEE Extreme – The DSEE Extreme™ (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) co-developed with Sony Music Entertainment uses Edge-AI (Artificial Intelligence) to upscale digitally compressed music in real-time.

    The algorithm can dynamically recognize individual elements in songs such as interludes or vocals, instrumentation, and musical genres to provide a richer listening experience by restoring the high-range sound that is usually lost in compression.
  • Hi-Res Audio – The headphone has a built-in analog amplifier that is integrated into the HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 to deliver Hi-Res audio, exceptional signal-to-noise ratio, a sound with low distortion.

Sound Performance: Winner = Sony WH-1000XM4

When it comes to sound quality, Jabra Elite 85H sounds great for the price. It doesn’t support any high-quality audio codec but still produces quite an accurate sound that has a natural depth and offers good spatial awareness. The clarity of the sound is also nice due to the 40mm drivers but the lower range may feel a little de-emphasized if you love to listen to bass-heavy music. The mid-range and treble are quite pleasing to listen to as well since you can distinguish the vocals from the instruments pretty easily.

The Sony WH-1000XM4, on the other hand, sounds exceptional just as a premium headphone should sound like. Unlike the Elite 85H, it supports LDAC which is able to transmit up to 3 times more data at a transfer rate of 990 kbps. The 40mm drivers with Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) diaphragms are capable of reproducing a full range of frequencies up to 40 kHz. And, the HD Noise Cancelling Processor QN1 with built-in analog amplifier delivers Hi-Res audio.

The end result is that the Sony WH-1000XM4 is much more accurate than Jabra Elite 85H, has a better sound signature, and is more fun to listen to no matter the genre of music.

Plus, it also supports 360 Reality Audio that is now supported by premium music services such as Tidal, Amazon Music HD, and Deezer. It’s a new way to experience music that not only sounds awesome but feels amazing too.

Noise Cancellation: Winner = Sony WH-1000XM4

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is way better than the Jabra Elite 85H when it comes to noise cancellation performance. That doesn’t mean that Jabra Elite 85H doesn’t offer good noise cancellation. With the ANC on, it actively blocks out mid-range frequencies quite well and provides good passive isolation due to the thick ear cushions. In fact, it also dampens high-pitched and clicky sounds quite well. But it will let in bass frequencies such as the sound of jet engines or the rumble of a train. Overall, it offers a decent experience when you take the price of the product into consideration.

Now, the active noise cancellation performance of Sony WH-1000XM4 is even better than Sony WH-1000XM3 which was previously crowned king of ‘ANC headphones’. It blocks out noise in the human hearing spectrum or the audio spectrum of 20Hz – 20kHz. Thus, it reduces unwanted sound from the bass frequency as well such as the constant hum of air conditioners or the rumble of an airplane. Plus, the level of ANC is adjustable via the companion app.

Microphone: Winner = Sony WH-1000XM4

Both Sony WH-1000XM4 and Jabra Elite 85H have good microphone quality. Jabra Elite 85H has a total of 8 microphones out of which 6 are used during a call to reduce background noise, wind noise, and enhance the call quality. So, you can expect the person listening on the other end to be satisfied with your voice. The same is true when recording audio or chatting in games. 

The Sony WH-1000XM4 supports hands-free calling. It has 5 built-in microphones that pick up voice clearly thanks to the Precise Voice Pick technology. On top of that, the HD Noise-cancelling Processor QN1 does advanced audio signal processing to the raw audio to deliver clearer audio.

Overall, Sony WH-1000XM4 wins over Jabra Elite 85H due to better signal processing but the margin is not large.

Controls and Functions = Sony WH-1000XM4

The Jabra Elite 85H has physical buttons whereas Sony WH-1000XM4 features touch controls. Which type you like better is a matter of choice but touch controls are more intuitive to use and feel nicer.

The left ear cup of Jabra Elite 85H has a noise-canceling toggle button. The right ear cup features a mic mute/ voice assistant button that can be used to access Siri, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant. The right ear cup also has a USB-C charging port and a 3.5 mm audio port. The buttons are fairly easy to use and don’t feel hard to touch. However, it might feel small to some people. Additionally, every time you press the buttons, you would hear a wheezing sound. Now, if you are not a fan of that sound, it can get annoying after a while.

Now, coming to the Sony WH-1000XM4, both the ear cups are touch-sensitive. You can receive or make calls, control the volume, and change the music track just by swiping the panel or tapping. The double-tap to pause function doesn’t work all the time but the other gesture controls work flawlessly.

If you have never used a premium headphone with touch controls before, it can take some time to get used to them initially. However, once you master the controls, they would feel more fun to use than physical buttons since you don’t have to apply any pressure.

Connectivity: Winner = Tie

In terms of connectivity, both the models perform admirably and maintain a stable connection within a 10-meter wireless connectivity range. You won’t notice any drops in connection strength within the signal radius. Both the headphones support Bluetooth 5.0 and multipoint connection. So, you can connect the headphones with up to 8 devices and pair them with 2 devices at the same time. So, you can seamlessly switch between the two audio sources or receive a call while listening to music without any issues.

The Sony WH-1000XM4 has a slight advantage over Jabra Elite 85H since it supports the LDAC codec on top of the usual SBC, and AAC. Thus, you can expect better sound quality at the cost of higher bandwidth consumption. However, when using multipoint connection, the headphone automatically switches over to the AAC codec to maintain a stable connection.

Unfortunately, none of the headphones support aptX or any of its variants.

Battery Life: Winner = Jabra Elite 85H

When it comes to battery life, Jabra Elite 85H is the clear winner. On paper, it provides playback time of up to 36 hours with ANC on and 41 hours with ANC off. A full charge cycle takes 2.5 hours and the quick charge functionality provides 5 hours of playback with just 15 minutes of charge. 

Similarly, on paper, Sony WH-1000XM4 has a playback time of up to 30 hours with ANC on and  38 hours with ANC off. The standby time is about 200 hours. A full charge cycle takes about 3 hours and a quick charge of 10 minutes will allow you to use the headphone for 5 hours. 

Now, the difference may not seem like a lot on paper but it’s quite noticeable in real-world testing. With a constant output volume of 75dB, Sony WH-1000XM4 only managed to last about 19 hours and 59 minutes with ANC on whereas Jabra Elite 85H managed to last 34.58 with ANC on.

Thus, although both headphones can last you for multiple days on a single charge, Jabra Elite 85H can last you for up to a week or more.

Conclusion

The Sony WH-1000XM4 is undoubtedly the better product of the two if you can afford it. It offers ridiculously better Active Noise Cancellation performance, much better sound quality, lots more features, and better controls and connectivity. However, the Jabra Elite 85H is a strong contender, especially considering that it is much cheaper than the former. It is a little more comfortable and has a much better battery life. However, if you can get the WH-1000XM4 during a sale or for a discount, it would be a better investment.

Rune Bearson

As you can see, I love my headphones! I use them every day when commuting, watching YouTube videos, playing guitar/piano and doing chores. I'm a podcast addict and I like all kinds of music from metal to chillout ambient.

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