The Best Noise-Canceling Earbuds for Android

Galaxy Buds Pro vs Jabra Elite 85t

The Jabra Elite 85t earbuds. Photos courtesy of the author.

True wireless earbuds have come a long way in a short amount of time. As someone who loudly rejected the mobile phone trend of jettisoning the 3.5mm headphone jack, I’ve come to appreciate and in many ways prefer Bluetooth wireless earbuds like the Jabra Elite 75t when comfort and all around performance are my top priorities. Some wireless earphones like the Sennheiser True Wireless 2 even satisfy perhaps the most important metric to an audiophile, sound fidelity. Some simply offer incredibly useful features like hands-free Assistant on the Pixel Buds, which I find indispensable for fast-forwarding through podcasts while I’m on a run.

After recently enjoying time with the new Jabra Elite 85t earbuds and Samsung’s new Galaxy Buds Pro, I was struck by a number of feature similarities along with some key differences in design and price. Both are solid choices for most people, with some distinct differences that set them apart from each other.

The design of the Jabra Elite 85t is, at this point, rather predictable considering it looks nearly the same as it has since the Jabra Elite 65t three years ago. Some might be put off by the metallic brushed metal esthetic and rigid edges but I tend to overlook those qualities because the fit is so spot-on. The earbud itself is only slightly larger than last year’s model but that doesn’t affect in-ear comfort in my experience. In fact, the Elite 85ts are as comfortable as ever even if they do protrude slightly more than before. The silicone eartips have been redesigned into an oval shape that feels more natural to me and allowed for a nice seal from the outside world. I wore them while jogging and working out in our gym and though they are only IPX4 rated, they handled my sweat just fine, though they might not be the best choice if running in the rain is your bag.

The Galaxy Buds Pro has a somewhat sleeker design by comparison looking a bit less like a piece of cold technology in my ears. Samsung struck a nice balance between last year’s bean-like Galaxy Buds Live and the Galaxy Buds Pro that came before them. The result is a contoured earbud with gentle curves that fit my ears in a natural, almost custom way. The included oval shaped silicone tips helped me to get a solid seal as well. The Galaxy Buds Pro pulls away from the Elite 85t with their IPX7 rating that makes them perfect for workouts rain or shine.

When it comes to device control, they are worlds apart. The Jabra Elite 85t relies on a push-button approach for its control mechanism. It’s a physical interaction that runs the risk of pushing the earbuds into my ear canal when I press them. The button is loose enough to register most commands without added discomfort but it’s by no means perfect. Jabra makes up for this in its Sound+ app, giving users complete control over assigning their own button mapping for things like music playback and call control.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, on the other hand, utilizes a capacitive touch pad on the flattest surface of the earbuds. On paper, this is ideal because a light tap is enough to register the command, saving the user any discomfort. However, I found the touch integration to be so sensitive that simply adjusting the Buds Pro in my ear resulted in unintended touches that would sometimes activate active noise canceling mode. Removing them from my ear had to be done carefully to ensure I didn’t accidentally hit play on my paused audio book. Ultimately, I opted to disable touch controls entirely using the Samsung Galaxy Wear app which saved some headaches but obviously reduced some of the Buds Pro’s handy and essential features. As for button mapping, the app affords the ability to customize only two of the touch interactions, so if the user wishes to roll their own, they are severely limited.

Active noise canceling on true wireless earbuds has become a big deal thanks to the Apple AirPods Pro, and both of these earphones sport their own flavor. The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro uses three mics to sample the environment while wearing both earbuds and then remove that noise from the audible output. The app gives two levels of noise reduction which, I’ll be honest, I had a hard time differentiating between. Both settings seemed to reduce low end noise pretty capably for me. It was the high and mid frequency noise like that of a fan that seemed a bit less effective. I only wish I could hop on an airplane and let you know how that goes but you know… Covid.

The Jabra Elite 85t has two mics per earbud working hard to provide active noise canceling and by comparison, they do a more effective job at it. Low end rumble disappears but more importantly to me when I actually return to the cabin of an airplane, high and mid frequency noise is very effectively removed with the 85t. Side by side with the Galaxy Buds Pro, it was obvious to me that the 85t was the easy standout. Not only that, Jabra’s Sound+ app offers five steps of noise canceling for deeper crafting of the sound.

Call quality between the two is pretty comparable with the Elite 85ts having a slight edge over the Galaxy Buds Pro. Neither was particularly high definition but the 85ts were a tad clearer in my recordings. If you are considering using these for your next Zoom call at work, don’t expect to blow anyone away with your pristine voice.

Both earbuds tackle the sonic space rather differently, and while I appreciate both approaches, the Jabra Elite 85t ultimately won me over. Samsung opted for a more enhanced, exciting sound in the low end. While saying my farewell to Daft Punk, I definitely appreciated all that rumble. But I found the midrange and high frequency response to be somewhat dull and a good bit less exciting on folk fare like the amazing new album by Fruit Bats. I honestly wouldn’t have realized the deficiency in these areas if I didn’t have the Elite 85t ready for action. Jabra opted for a more natural sound which, yes, results in a less-exaggerated low end response. But the clarity of the overall sound scape is night and day by comparison.

When it comes to connecting these earbuds to more than one device at a time, each product does this differently. The Galaxy Buds Pro offer this in their own Samsung sort of way, bypassing the official Bluetooth multipoint feature and instead using Samsung’s cloud to enable multipoint sharing between Samsung devices. The Jabra Elite 85t, on the other hand, supports the official Bluetooth 5.0 spec that enables true multipoint sharing. Ultimately, this means I can be connected to my phone and my computer at the same time. If a notification comes through on my phone while I’m watching Netflix on my computer, I’ll hear that notification. It’s a very handy feature that Jabra offers for everyone and not just Samsung users.

Samsung has a different trick up its sleeve that the 85t doesn’t offer and that’s voice detect, a feature that actively listens for the wearer’s voice. For example, once the Galaxy Buds Pro determines that I’m speaking, the earphones automatically switch from active noise cancellation to ambient sound, turning on the pass-through mic as well as turning down the volume of whatever it is I’m listening to. This makes it easier for me to suddenly talk to my neighbor when I’m listening to music while walking my dog. It’s incredibly handy and a feature that I wish every TWS earphone offered.

Battery performance between the two earphones is actually relatively similar with the Jabra Elite 85t’s eking out a slight advantage. Both systems resulted in roughly five to seven hours of my listening time per earbud depending on if I’m leaning into ANC or not. However, the Galaxy Buds Pro case holds only an additional 13–20 hours of additional charge compared to the extra 25–31 hours of the Elite 85t case. Both cases support wireless Qi charging, which is nice if you have a wireless charging pad lying around looking for some attention.

The Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro runs $199.99 compared to $229.99 for the Jabra Elite 85t, which puts these at relatively similar price points. Both offer some of the best features that can be found in true wireless earbuds right now. Personally, I’ll be sticking with the Jabras for daily use. Having relied on the Elite series for three years now, I trust the longevity of the 85ts. Now, time to fire up that Fruit Bats album one more time.

Podcast producer and Host for TWiT.tv, including Tech News Weekly, and All About Android

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