The Beoplay H9’s B&O’s new premium wireless headphones. They offer some interesting features, including active noise cancellation, audio adjustments via app, wired or wireless operation and touch sensitive controls.
My experience with headphones is fairly wide range on the lower side of the budget spectrum. I have everything from $20 no-name Bluetooth earbuds, to super-aerial wired Klipsch. What are unique to me about the H9’s is active noise cancellation. I’ve had plenty of noise isolating headphones, which either attempt to use foam or direct contact with the ear canal to seal out other noises. If you’ve never had an active noise cancelling headphone on before, the effects at first are disorienting. Immediately it is quieter than you ever thought possible. Once you get past the disorientation though, you start to appreciate the silence. In fact I found myself putting on the H9’s just to enjoy some quiet time without so much ‘white noise’ around me.
Now, the H9’s are pricey. Retailing for half a grand is quite an ask for many, but rest assure you get a premium product. The construction of the H9’s is amazing. Most moving parts in headphones have a tendency to be made of composite material. The problem with most composites is that they have a tendency to be somewhat brittle over time and crack. I’ve lost a couple good sets of headphones simply because the mechanism has broken. That led me to vmoda cans a few years ago, which are amazing, but somewhat flawed. These make the vmoda look like paper mache. Parts you expect to be plastic are anodized aluminum. I’m not even sure how these were assembled, as even the hinges seem to be milled as one piece. The housing of the speakers themselves are composite, but a type that seems extremely durable. The biggest thing is that no metal appears to attach to plastic, anywhere. So if you are concerned about longevity of this set, don’t worry about it - these are a tank. The headband feels quite solid as well, if just a bit more eclectic than the rest of the headphone’s aesthetic (there is leather sown to the top in one layer, with portions of leather wrapping around and inset fabric).
The H9 also sport one of the best sound quality I’ve heard. They blow the Sony MDR-XB950’s I have out of the water (seriously back to back listening was laughably bad). The sound is crisp, clear, and dynamic. Bass is offered up in loads without sacrificing highs. Bass notes flow, and never boom. Mid’s are also quite crisp. I’d still lump the H9’s in with headphones that follow a ‘power’ curve instead of being neutral. That said, these are no Beats. Subtle details of songs, textures of drums, faint percussion or chimes stand out. Bluetooth audio is the best I’ve heard on any set. There are definitely points where the wire help, but for all but the most picky listeners these are a great Bluetooth set. The soundstage (or sense of depth) is narrow, but such is life in the world of cans (closed back headphones). If you try a nice set of open backed headphones, you’ll know what I’m talking about, but I can’t fault a semi-compact set of cans for having an audio profile of cans.
The touch controls are hard to get at first. It’s easy to make a joke that the volume control makes you look like you’re calling someone coo-coo (you circle your ear), but in all reality controlling it is a subtle art. I’ve been using them for over a week now and are still getting the hang of it. Play pause is pretty easy (just a tap), and volume just takes an understanding of where the sensor edges are. It could be a bit clearer, but you get used to it.
The right ear includes most of the controls and ports. These consist of a on off switch with a Bluetooth moment toggle for turning the Bluetooth on and pairing. Ostensibly if you use the headphones with a wire, you could just use the switch to turn on the noise cancellation and keep Bluetooth off. The headphones charge with micro-usb located under the toggle switch. Further under that near the bottom of the can is the 3.5 mm headphone jack. While on the chopping block of 2017 phone designers, this still offers the best sound quality and the ability to bring your own amplifier. The built in microphone seems quite good to those I’ve talked to, so no concerns there.
Interestingly, on the left can you’ll find a switch that will release a removable battery. Inside you find a 750mah li-ion battery which keeps the headphones powered like a champ. I’ve listened for a few days now (admittedly a couple hours here and there) without needing a charge and they’re not even down to 65%. A removable battery is definitely counter cultural these days, but I can appreciate it. It’s unobtrusive and honestly adds to the longevity of the headphones (a non-removable might call it quits after a few years, while this most likely is a 20 spot away from having a brand new battery without any disassembly).
Comfort wise, these are very comfortable. Not quite as luxurious as some I’ve owned, but the important thing is that they are relatively compact and offer this level of comfort. While these are full sized headphones they’re not as large as the aforementioned sony model I have as well.
All in all I can appreciate the B&O H9’s for their focus on not just providing a great sonic experience today, but also 10 years from now. While pricy, they make their case by being non-disposable, durable, and maintainable. Their audio quality can probably be matched by cheaper headphones, but their build quality is several levels beyond what I’ve experienced. The biggest criticism I can leverage is the lack of a hard case (such as what my vmoda came with). I suppose you could say a tank doesn’t need more armor, but I doubt most $500 headset owners want to risk throwing these in a bag 365 days a year. It does come with a double lined soft cloth bag with a elastic tie.
If you’re looking for an amazing set of wireless headphones and have the pocket-change for these, go for them. They’re a great set of ANC cans that will last you for years to come.