Jabra Evolve2 85: The UC headset for concentration & collaboration

Jabra doesn’t call its Evolve2 85 product a set of headphones, the company calls it a Unified Communications headset. So is there more here than meets the eye? Sorry, ear.

We tested the Jabra Evolve2 85 this summer 2020 with what we hope is a pretty exhaustive process, but first, let’s take an overview of some official product information.

The Jabra Evolve2 85 is part of a family including the Evolve2 65 and Evolve2 40… all of which are positioned as business-level products for enterprise use. The company talks about enabling both concentration levels (a lot of people concentrate better when listening to music) and collaboration, while also accommodating flexibility.

Since Jabra’s Evolve range first hit the market in 2014, office work has obviously changed significantly and Covid-19 has had a massively accelerating impact on those changes. Tasks are increasing in complexity and are creating a higher need for collaboration.

This range promises to deliver integration with software ecosystems, while blocking out more noise so users can collaborate and enjoy optimal working conditions anywhere. Jabra says it has built these products with engineering to reflect the fact that our work and private lives overlap regularly now.

Technical scope for IT managers

Jabra notes that Evolve2 will integrate with software/monitoring vendors to allow IT directors to analyse the performance of every headset in a business environment and identify the root cause of poor call quality – whether it is due to Wi-Fi router, UC infrastructure, or the individual user’s headset settings. This is carried out through Jabra’s Xpress software.

The software also enables secure management of headsets, allowing for firmware updates and the implementation of new features.

Holger Reisinger, SVP, Enterprise Solutions at Jabra, said: “As the importance of digital transformation grows, UC adoption and productivity is climbing the ranks as a key challenge for enterprises globally. We are seeing a growing demand for such solutions from businesses and the channel community. In this scenario, tech can exist as both the problem and the solution. The right tech can help eliminate the hurdles, drive positive user experience and elevate productivity.”

There is an integrated ‘busy light’ with 360-degree view on both ear cups. The headset has been developed to take advantage of the latest audio chipset technology, enabling the Evolve2 85 to offer good battery life, solid connectivity and audio processing.

Straight out-of-the-box experience

We plugged these in and went for the intuitive ‘don’t look for any instructions’ experience.

The Bluetooth connection is very obvious – it’s simply a question of sliding the power button slightly further forwards… and (if you’ve got good eyesight) the Bluetooth logo is printed on the side. As readers may know, the Bluetooth logo represents the initials of 10th century Danish King Harald Bluetooth Gormsson written in Scandinavian runes.

Powered up, we connected straight away to an iPad with zero issues.

We did a couple of WhatsApp calls and found the audio quality to be very tight. Smartphone connection for voice calls was also straightforward and calls were faultless.

The volume buttons are well placed i.e. volume down is ‘below’ the volume up button on the right ear cup (trust us, not all headphone manufacturers make it this obvious) and the play/pause button is between them. It might sound ridiculous to mention this, but we’ve tested a lot of cans over our time and sometimes it’s this basic functionality that lets products down.

Here’s the more official product note from Jabra itself, “Engineered to suit every type of work whether in the office, on-the-go or remote, the Evolve2 85 delivers an immersive call and music experience (40MM speakers) with powerful noise isolation and Digital Hybrid Active Noise Cancelation technology.”

Microphones in headphones

The Jabra Evolve2 85 unit is a headphone device, obviously… but it has microphones also to enable business application usage. The Evolve2 85 has ten microphones in total, including two microphones in the fully integrated boom-arm and eight in the ear cups.

Speech recognition test results from an iPad shown below:

Just testing the speech recognition here, on these Jabra headphones and it is like working really really well actually and the microphones seem to have picked up every single word and even when we are leaving Long posies the system is still waiting for me to speak and picks up all the words

Sent from my iPad

Now – obviously some of that performance comes down to a) how well the human spoke those words and b) the ability of the Apple operating system technology to interpret the speech. The fact that ‘Long’ was capitalised and ‘pauses’ was written as ‘posies’ comes down to Apple and not Jabra. The point here is that the Jabra Evolve2 85 has a dedicated built-in microphone boom, but we didn’t even pull that down, so this was the performance delivered from the eight microphones in the ear cups.

The Digital Hybrid ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) is as good as you’d expect from Jabra. We tried it out next to Battersea Heliport and although you can still hear the helicopters, we think this was a pretty extreme test. In-flight listening (on an aircraft) would surely cancel out most of the noise from the engines — and if you’re lucky enough to travel on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner it might well mask all of it.

ANC on this device offers an additional HearThrough designed to allows users to hear surrounding sounds through the earcups/earbuds while you are wearing them. Ambient sounds are picked up by the microphones and transmitted to the speakers. HearThrough works when listening to music, when on calls (product-dependent) and also when there is no speaker sound.

The headset offers a 37-hour battery life from a full charge. Power is pumped in via a USB-C cable connection or via the Evolve2 85 wireless charge-pad. Full-charge takes 2.5 hours, but a fast charge system also offers 8-hour battery life from just 15-minutes charge.

Home user functionality

Heading for some YouTube videos (in this case The Pretty Reckless – Heaven Knows) there’s immediate texture in the sound. The listener is rewarded with defined sharp points that play right next to deeply textured bass.

Another nice function, if you’re playing a YouTube video or a BBC iPlayer show or ITV Player etc. and take the unit off, the Jabra Evolve2 85 ‘talks’ to your iPad and automatically pauses play at the point you leave. Pop them back on and the show starts automatically without the user needing to touch the screen. The same functionality worked well on an Android tablet and smartphone.

A single tap on the volume buttons changes volume and a longer hold changes tracks, or (if you’re using an app like Absolute Radio for example with its 7 or so stations) it will switch between programmes in audio apps.

Walking from the office into other rooms, the Jabra Evolve2 85 keeps hold of the Bluetooth connection perfectly.

Overall, Jabra has really helped bridge the gap between business and home use (even for so many of us working from home during Covid-19) as the device works very quickly and intuitively with voice applications (and also Microsoft Teams) and with audio enjoyment apps.

There’s even a 3.5mm cable jack just in case you’re old school, but we’re not… these are souped-up cans for sure.

At the time of writing: Evolve2 85 STEREO MSRP £382 (£416 with desk stand for charging).

Jabra Evolve2 85 (designer stubble not included) – image: Jabra.

Jabra Evolve2 85 – image: Jabra

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