Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
With these earbuds, Samsung tried to leave nothing to chance, and that's why they feel like a feature-packed pair that finally raises the level of water and sweat resistance. With dynamics in both the active noise cancelation (ANC) and ambient modes, plus excellent sound quality, it's hard to argue against them.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
Packing it all in
Jabra Elite 85t
Jabra had so much of a good thing to go on with the Elite 85t that it would be hard to mess them up, and thankfully, the company did no such thing. These are superb wireless earbuds that earn their "elite" moniker, and the continued support from Jabra only makes them better. The sticking point comes down to the fit.
Jabra Elite 85t
Whenever you pit two of the best at anything against one another, you likely come out with a splendid result, and that's one way to summarize the comparison between these two pairs. Each of them are among the best true wireless earbuds currently available, so the quality is already assured in both cases. The Galaxy Buds Pro are Samsung's best effort yet, and they are effectively a culmination of previous attempts. The Elite 85t are every bit of what makes Jabra such a tough competitor in this space, yet to squeeze so much in, it had to go back on one of its best attributes only one version prior. So, with all that in mind, this had all the makings of a fun duel.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro vs. Jabra Elite 85t: A tight race
They are pretty similar to each other when you look at the specs for what they are. One immediate standout is the Buds Pro are rugged out of the box with an IPX7 rating. That has obvious usability consequences down the line, just as the Alexa integration in the Elite 85t is a uniquely relevant feature. There's a lot to like in what's marked down on paper in their comparative specs, so it comes down to performance that sets them apart.
|Header Cell - Column 0
|Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro
|Jabra Elite 85t
|Bud battery life
|Up to 8 hours
|Up to 7 hours
|Charging case battery life
|18 hours (28 without ANC)
|Wireless charging case
|Digital assistant support
|Bixby, Google Assistant, Siri
|Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri
|Supported audio codecs
|Active noise cancellation
While the Galaxy Buds Pro followed the Galaxy Buds Live, they actually don't have all that much in common. Not only from a design perspective, which is obvious from a cursory glance, but also in features and performance. Samsung did pass down some of the Buds Pro functionality to the Buds Live, particularly the ability to switch audio from one Galaxy device to another automatically. Still, the Buds Pro are supposed to stand alone at the top of Samsung's earbuds' hierarchy.
That's exactly the position the Elite 85t are in for Jabra. The company made these earbuds larger to accommodate all the extra hardware inside. The bulkier form factor makes fit and comfort less assured than the Elite 75t, which remain one of the best pairs of wireless earbuds around.
Samsung, too, had to increase the size just enough to cram everything in, taking away some of that snug feeling from the previous Galaxy Buds+. In both cases, that could affect passive noise isolation, which plays such a key role in how well ANC truly works, but it is subjective, as you may find either pair to fit just fine. More than likely, however, you'll find that you may need to slide them back into place after a while, especially if you're sweating.
There's a fair bit going on under the hood for both of them when you start diving into their respective features. Both have adjustable ANC, letting you control how much you want to cut out background noise. You do this in either the Galaxy Wearable app for the Buds Pro or the Sound+ app for the Elite 85t. Jabra made it a little more dynamic with a slider to adjust the effect. Samsung went with a low and high binary choice.
I have to also put the battery life in perspective because ANC does change things up. Both companies note it based on ANC staying off, so rather than eight hours, the Buds Pro will be closer to six with ANC on all the time. Same with the Elite 85t, which are closer to 5.5 hours with ANC always on. Not bad in either case, but it does bring the two a little closer together, performatively speaking.
Their respective cases are also about equal in both input and output. They carry at least three full charges and also support wireless charging. Plug Jabra's in for 15 minutes, and a quick charge will get you up to an hour's worth of playback. The one caveat with that is the case must have at least 30% left to actually charge that fast. No such restriction for the Buds Pro, which can deliver up to 90 minutes on a quick 10-minute charge, even on empty.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro vs. Jabra Elite 85t: Getting the sound right
While Samsung holds a slight edge in the size of the drivers, the difference is pretty negligible in practice. What matters more here is the totality of the output, including the fit and comfort I mentioned earlier. Neither of these earbuds are necessarily cumbersome, but because they sound so good when the fit feels right, how you feel wearing them makes a huge impact. Jabra has tried to deal with that through its MyFit feature in the Sound+ app, which measures sound leakage by playing a short audio clip, thereby suggesting an adjusted fit or using a different size ear tip in the offending ear.
What's interesting is that both brands went with oval-shaped drivers and ear tips. That makes tips from previous models incompatible to start with and makes clear they each believe this is the way to pull out the best sound. As always, it's about getting a tight seal to preserve as much bass as possible. In that regard, Samsung took a big step forward with the Buds Pro, packing a nice thump from the start, particularly when using one or two of the Wearable app's presets.
The downside is that the presets are the only choices. There's no EQ to adjust to your own liking, like Jabra has in Sound+, though there are also presets should you want to go that route.
It's hard to argue with how both pairs sound once you find the right comfort and sound. Resonant, vibrant, and with an appreciable level of clarity, they're not the kinds of buds that discriminate on musical genre. Beyond that, it's the extra audio features that make each of them even more interesting.
Samsung includes 360 Audio in the Buds Pro, which gives the earbuds a 360-degree virtual spatial effect when viewing or listening to content that's been coded in 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound. Samsung's ambient mode is also dynamic through Voice Pickup, a feature that automatically lowers the volume of whatever you're listening to once you start talking. It can then raise the volume back once you've stopped talking for five, 10, or 15 seconds. In the Wearable app's Labs section, there's a gaming mode with low latency for playing games without audio lag.
Jabra doesn't have spatial effects or a low latency gaming mode, but it does have some cool integration with Alexa that allows you to control audio playback by voice. This only works with the music streaming services Alexa works with, but use it with Spotify, and you can tell the Elite 85t what to play by saying so. Jabra's ambient mode isn't dynamic in how Samsung's done it. Still, there is something to be said about physical buttons on earbuds when they're generally more reliable than the touch-sensitive variety, and that contrast stands out here as well.
Both are excellent with consistent clarity for phone calls, so there's not much to deliberate there. Samsung does get the edge on color options, where choices range between Phantom Black, Phantom Silver, and Phantom Violet. Jabra has gone with a more muted lineup of gold beige, copper black, black, and gray.
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro vs. Jabra Elite 85t: Which pair should you choose?
It's hard to say there's even a bad choice here because there isn't when these two are among the best true wireless earbuds you can find. The only issue you might have is how comfortable you feel wearing them. Naturally, if you want something rugged and durable for workouts and runs, the Galaxy Buds Pro are the better bet for that. Their signature features set them apart, and those are things you will have to gauge when you consider which is the better way to go.
One thing the Buds Pro have going for them is the integration with Samsung's ecosystem. Auto Switch is seamless when moving audio from a movie on a Galaxy tablet to an incoming phone call on a separate Galaxy phone. And having learned from past missteps, Samsung is rolling more confidently with these earbuds.
Jabra doesn't have that kind of backing, yet it holds its own just fine, with the only real bone of contention being the change in fit from the previous Elite 75t. You're paying similar dollars for either option. Just don't be surprised if it's Samsung that slashes its price sooner than later.
Packed and ready
Samsung puts everything it can into the Galaxy Buds Pro, equipping them with the tools and abilities to take on the best.
A dependable choice
The Elite 85t are Jabra's way of adding features that were otherwise missing, and they get the performance just right in many respects.
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Ted Kritsonis loves taking photos when the opportunity arises, be it on a camera or smartphone. Beyond sports and world history, you can find him tinkering with gadgets or enjoying a cigar. Often times, that will be with a pair of headphones or earbuds playing tunes. When he's not testing something, he's working on the next episode of his podcast, Tednologic.