technology

The best wireless earbuds of 2021



Jabra’s Elite 85t really have it all: smooth and balanced sound, impressive active noise cancellation (ANC), comprehensive controls, a compact form factor, solid battery life, and a barrel full of other top-flight features. It all adds up to the best wireless earbuds—whether you pledge your allegiance to Android or iPhone.

Perhaps more than any one feature, it’s the open-style design of these earbuds that make them our favorite all-around bombers. While a more bulbous design means the fit isn’t quite as secure as their Elite 75t predecessors, the Elite 85t’s oval ear tips provide a proper seal without plugging up your ears. This means you won’t hear yourself chewing, walking, jogging, etc. in the same way as most earbuds, and yet music and noise canceling are intimate and effective respectively.

That also makes the Elite 85t direct competitors to Apple’s open-style AirPods Pro, but with more features for either side of the mobile aisle, and a more active-ready design to boot. Since they’re device agnostic, you can choose any of the major voice assistants (or none), and they offer all the controls you need (including volume control by default) for whichever mobile device you prefer—all at once.

Speaking of controls, they’re customizable through Jabra’s excellent Sound+ app, allowing you to configure the buds’ two easy-push buttons how you see fit. Also customizable are noise cancellation and transparency mode, the latter of which is among the most natural-sounding you’ll hear on the market to keep you aware of your environment in style—again, a direct shot across the AirPods Pro bow.

The word “natural” keeps coming up when using the Elite 85t, and it’s a big key to their success. You can wear them for hours, even when you’re not listening to audio, and never miss a beat thanks to how seamlessly they transition between noise canceling and transparency mode; a few taps of the keys (even while wearing gloves) lets you slide between jamming out in solitude and striking up a conversation. Multi-point connection to your devices also makes it easy to switch between fun and work modes.

As for downsides, the Elite 85t’s IPX4 water resistance rating means you can splash them but not dunk them. That meets or beats nearly all direct competitors outside Jabra, but they’re not as weather-ready as their cousins, the Elite and Elite Active 75t earbuds. As referenced above, the fit is also less stable than what you’ll get in purpose-built workout buds. And finally, while you can use one bud at a time, only the right one will pull off the trick, which makes them less versatile in this use case than some competitors.

Those are all pretty minor complaints, though, as the Elite 85t really are the complete package. If you can afford their not-insignificant cost, you’ll be rewarded with good sound, great features, and the best usability on the market.



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