Wireless ANC Headphone: Bose QC35 II v.s. Jabra Elite 85h

Introduction

I would have never dug into the wireless ANC headphone arena until I accidentally put on a pair of Bose QC 35 II at Walmart while I was actually about to buy some toilet papers. My feeling was that these headphones are AMAZING!

ANC stands for Activate Noise Canceling. As entitled, wireless ANC headphones can block low and frequency noises. With them putting on, you would drown yourself in your world. These headphones are particularly needed by people who frequently fly around.

The leaders in the current market are Sony and Bose. And normally, their headphones are very expensive (at least for me). Thanks to Black Friday, you can find decent promotions on both brands, as well as other well-known audio brands such as Sennheiser, JBL, Beats, Jabra, Skullcandy, etc. If you missed the sales, don’t worry. I expect the prices for these current models will continue to drop because the manufacturers will release their new models next year.

I constantly checked out the headphone deals from a variety of sources, and I am particularly interested in the Bose QC 35 II which is considered one of the most comfortable headphones in the market. I went to the Best Buy in my town and was able to try Bose headphones and Sony counterparts. Somehow, I did not find the Sony’s is more appealing than Bose even with the newest Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278 with Black Friday promotion). Thus, I focused on Bose, Sennheiser, and JBL.

Specifically, I purchased and compared Bose QC 35 II ($199), Jabra Elite 85h ($149), Sennheiser HD 450BT ($99), and JBL LIVE 650BTNC ($99). You can find them at Amazon. From the prices, you can tell that the Bose QC 35 II compete with the Jabra Elite 85H, whereas the latter two are in the same production line.

In this post, I am going to share my experiences with Bose QC 35 II and Jabra Elite 85H, and briefly talk about the Sennheiser HD 450BT and JBL LIVE 650BTNC. For these over-ear headphones, what I care about most are comfortability, sound quality, ANC performance, battery life, maybe call quality, and other versatilities.

In my situation, the question is whether I spend ($199) for Bose which is outdated (a model of 2017), or go for Jabra which is newer (released 2019) and cheaper ($50 less than Bose)?

Comfortability

The Bose QC 35 II is indeed one of the most comfortable headphones, and it deserves that.

The common problems with over-ear headphones are they become uncomfortable after wearing for a couple of hours. As the earcups keep pushing and pressing your ears, they start to sweat and get tired. The top of your head will also start to feel light pains duo to the headband. In these cases, you need to take off your headphone and have a break for half an hour before you put them back on.

With Bose QC 35 II, you are unlikely to have any of these problems. The earcups are large thus they can cover and fit your ears very well. The large earcups also facilitate breathability so you won’t be sweating. You can wear this pair of headphones for an entire day without any problems.

The Bose QC 35 II

On the other hand, the Jabra is also very comfortable however less so than the Bose. But don’t get me wrong. This does not mean the Jabra is uncomfortable. You won’t even notice the differences if you have not tried the Bose before. My overall feeling is that the Jabra is a little bit tighter than Bose. That means the earcups and headband put more pressure to your ears and head. After a considerable period of time of wearing, your ears get warm and tired, your head though won’t hurt much. This may be a problem at summertime however is unlikely to be a dealbreaker.

Another problem with Jabra is the cushions squeak when you squeeze them (think about the sound coming from the Wheezy in Toy Story).

The Jabra Elite 85h

Overall, the Bose wins this round of the competition.

Sound quality

First of all, I am not a professional nor an autophile, so what I am about to describe is just my experience. In general, I think the sound quality of Bose is slightly better than that on the Jabra. I tested with two songs, Nobody’s Love by Maroon 5 and Lemonade by Internet Money.

My overall feeling is that Bose has a clearer, juicier, and more neutral sound, whereas the sound on Jabra is deeper and heavier. I personally would prefer Bose over Jabra. But this is very much a subjective thing. You may have a different taste and find you enjoy the heavier music.

Overall, the Bose again wins this round of the competition I think

ANC

To be honest, I cannot truly tell the difference in ANC performance between Bose and Jabra. Both of them block a huge amount of noise. The Bose may perform slightly better, but I cannot even convince myself of this.

Overall, I would call a draw in this round of the competition.

Battery life and charging

The Jabra has a much longer battery life (claimed 36h with ANC on) than Bose (claimed 20h with ANC). Additionally, Jabra is charged with USB-C whereas Bose has a micro-USB. That matters when it comes to the fast-charing feature. With 15 minutes charging, you can enjoy a 5-hour playing on Jabra. On Bose, this number will reduce to 2.5 hours.

Overall, Jabra is obviously the winner in this round of the competition.

Call quality

I did not test the call quality directly, since most of the time, I connect the headphone with my laptop. Jabra has six more microphones than Bose (8 vs 2), which makes Jabra win this round of the competition.

Versatilities

Jabra has more features which I think are worth noting. On the Bose side, given it’s a 2017/2018 model, you shall not expect that much.

  • Jabra will automatically pause your music when you take them off, thanks to the sensors inside the earcups. Moreover, if you fold the headphone or swivel the earcups to flat, the headphone will automatically power off.

  • Jabra has a more robust smartphone App. You can do lots of things with it. For instance, you can set up a sleep mode to save battery life. You can also customize the EQ, but I never touch it.

  • The Bluetooth version on Jabra is 5.0 whereas in Bose is 4.2.

  • Both Jabra and Bose can pair with two devices simultaneously. However, switching between devices turns out to be more convenient with Bose.

Sennhesier HD 450BT and JBL LIVE 650BTNC

I bought Sennihesier HD 450BT from Best Buy and returned it on the second day. The only problem is this pair of headphones is uncomfortable because the earcups are very small. It hurts your ears and head and makes your ears sweat. Anything else is excellent with GREAT sound quality and high-performance ANC. People with small heads and ears may find this pair of headphones attractive.

The JBL LIVE 650BTNC has a similar problem and I think it is even tighter than the Sennihesier. This pair of headphone is technically on-ear instead of over-ear. I returned it anyway.

Conclusion

I was hesitant about which one to keep: Bose or Jabra? The Jabra is still appealing not only because of its price is $50 less than Bose, but it also has more promising features. But the Bose is indeed comfortable to wear.

Then came the dealbreaker. I noticed that I can get a $30 student discount from the Bose webiste. Luckily, I can also get some cash back from Rakuton (roughly $19). All together, these promotions finally reduce the price to $169 and it led to my final decision: the Bose.

I hope you all can get the your desired headphones with decent price.

Yabin Da
Yabin Da
PhD Candidate in Agricultural Economics

Research interests include Environmental Economics, Applied Econometrics, and Causal Inference.