It's easier to compare two iterations of the same product when they're one generation apart. With two generations between them, the differences are starker, though it does make for an interesting contrast. That's kind of how Jabra's Elite 85t look juxtaposed to the Elite 65t that first came out in 2018. With hindsight and a focus on what's been missing, Jabra makes a strong case for its new flagship earbuds, yet still won't let go of its past, either.
Jabra Elite 85t vs. Elite 65t: A tale of two years
There's an irony in comparing these two that makes the Elite 75t stand out between them, and that's size. Jabra shed 22% of the Elite 65t earbuds' overall frame to make the 75ts, only to then put some of that extra girth back on the Elite 85t. The reason why was to make room for the extra hardware components that help bring in the new features otherwise unavailable on earlier models, including the Elite 65t. It's a design choice that puts these two closer together as far as physical appearance and fit are concerned.
|Jabra Elite 85t||Jabra Elite 65t|
|Bud battery life||7 hours||5 hours|
|Charging case battery life||24 hours||10 hours|
|Wireless charging case||Yes||No|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth 5.0||Bluetooth 5.0|
|Digital assistant support||Google Assistant, Siri||Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri|
|Supported audio codecs||SBC, AAC||SBC, AAC|
|Speaker size||12mm drivers||6mm drivers|
|Active noise cancelation||Yes||No|
The Elite 65t hold an interesting edge in that they're more resistant to water and dust than their newer counterparts are. If we were talking about comparing the Elite 85t to the Elite Active 65t, then it would be an even more pronounced difference. The IPX4 rating means Jabra's newest earbuds can withstand splashes of water, while the 'X' indicates they were never officially certified for dust-resistance. Despite that, you can probably still wear either pair for modest workouts. Just wipe them down when you're done.
In other respects, the gap between them is more considerable. The Elite 65t didn't get the active noise canceling (ANC) upgrade Jabra released for both the Elite 75t and Elite Active 75t, though it does have the same HearThrough ambient mode. The difference in battery life is more evenly matched when you listen to the Elite 85t with ANC on all the time. The seven-hour ceiling is when you have it off. Turn it on, and you're getting between 5-6 hours.
The convenience is more pronounced when you combine the significantly larger battery capacity and wireless charging the Elite 85t case affords you. Not to mention charging via USB-C (on the Elite 85t) is far more convenient these days than Micro-USB (on the Elite 65t) is.
The Elite 65t were the first earbuds where Jabra included Alexa integration, but it never really took the way it was probably meant to, so the company quietly dropped it with the Elite 85t. You still get Google Assistant through your Android phone, while Apple users always have Siri.
Jabra Elite 85t vs. Elite 65t: Listening for the right sounds
When putting their relative size into context, you get a lot more for that extra space with the Elite 85t. Jabra put in 12mm drivers, so they don't have to work quite as hard to produce a good level of sound. The difference in output is more noticeable when comparing the two earbuds, though admittedly, you might expect a bigger jump with a two-year gap. The Sound+ app has an EQ that applies to both models, so that always helps. The key is to get the best seal possible in your ear, which is arguably a bit easier in the newer model between these two.
Jabra did change the speaker design on the Elite 85t to accommodate those larger drivers, making them and the ear tips oval-shaped. The tips have a mesh membrane in the middle, and the overall design means older ear tips won't work with these earbuds if you don't like the ones out of the box. The company addressed that point further through a firmware update adding a MyFit feature to the Sound+ app. It plays a short audio clip aiming to detect sound leakage, so you could adjust your fit or use a different ear tip.
The additional size is also relevant to the hybrid ANC touted in the Elite 85t. External and internal mics work together to drown out background noise, and are pretty effective in dealing with low and high-frequency sounds. You can also adjust it by way of a slider in the app if you don't need it working at maximum all the time. With the Elite 65t, your only recourse is getting the best passive noise isolation possible through a snug fit. And with both models, you can trigger HearThrough mode using the onboard buttons on the left earbud.
When putting their relative size into context, you get a lot more for that extra space with the Elite 85t.
Sound quality isn't like night and day between these two, but the Elite 85t do come out with better fidelity. You don't have to crank them up as loud to get the same verve, and they pump out better bass out of the box before even engaging the Sound+ EQ.
That's not to take much away from the Elite 65t. They still sound great, especially for the price, and Jabra could still theoretically support them with future updates. Whether it will or not remains to be seen, but either way, the company holds a viable pair of earbuds here.
With phone calls, however, it's very obvious the Elite 85t are better. The extra mics play a big role, as do the larger drivers, but it's also the steadiness of the Bluetooth connection. Range is better, despite the same Bluetooth 5.0 support, and it's because the left and right earbuds are linked more consistently.
The color options between them also differ slightly. The Elite 85t come in titanium black, and starting in January 2021, in gold beige, copper black, black, and gray. The Elite 65t come in titanium black, copper black, and gold beige.
Jabra Elite 85t vs. Elite 65t: Which pair should you choose?
If the Elite 85t were considerably smaller than their predecessors in this matchup, there would be a more pronounced chasm between them. Unlike the Elite 75t, which are smaller than both of these models, the size difference is marginal. So, it's the other elements that pull these two apart, and it largely comes down to the extras — ANC, bigger drivers, longer battery life, steadier connectivity, and improved audio fidelity. The Elite 85t have all those things to make them clear winners, and well worth upgrading to if you feel you need a change.
But considering the price discrepancy, are they that much better than the Elite 65t? It depends on your expectations. Jabra's top earbuds of 2018 are a real bargain, and well worth a look if you're a first-time buyer, rather than one who already owns them. They maintain great sound, decent IP protection, and support through the Sound+ app. Not to mention the Alexa integration, should that be something you like.
Between them, you also have the Elite 75t, which can't be ignored as a worthy upgrade unto themselves, though you will have to pay over $100 to get them. They earned their place as the best true wireless earbuds, and would still compete well against pairs coming out now.
The Elite 85t are a pricey upgrade by comparison, but save for the less nimble fit, you do get one of the best true wireless earbuds available today. Once you get the right fit, they perform with some gusto, even if the ANC isn't the absolute best in the industry. Jabra only needs to keep improving the firmware to hit new plateaus with these earbuds.
New in town
Jabra Elite 85t
New and improved
The Elite 85t are Jabra's way of adding features that were otherwise missing, and they get the performance just right in many respects.
Jabra Elite 65t
Keep the legacy alive
The Jabra Elite 65t stick around because they're still a solid choice, having now become an intriguing budget buy.
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