It all started when my friend Bryan saw my review on the Beoplay A1. He asked me if I could help him purchase the B&O PLAY Beoplay H8 wireless headphones since I know the B&O people. And as I arranged for the procurement, I thought I should also try out the headphones.
The last time I reviewed the Beoplay H6, I was in love with the sound. It was so pristine, so class. Honestly, I was expecting similar quality for the H8.
But first, let’s talk about the design. The H8 sports identical design signature: real leather on the headband and the ear cushions, metal headband frame. The right ear is a touch-sensitive control panel devoid of any markings (except the instruction sticker that is removable).
It is easy to use: swipe towards the front to change the next track, swipe backwards for previous track. To adjust volume, you move your fingers in a circular motion – clockwise to increase and the other way to decrease. Swipe up to activate ANC, and swipe down to turn off ANC. Finally, tap the middle to start-stop the music or answer calls. The swipe action is almost instantaneous, while the circular volume requires longer turning movements to adjust.
This way of controlling the audio reminds me fondly of the Jabra REVO Wireless. A small drawback is when you are handling the headphone and your fingers go all over the right ear panel, you end up activating some of the controls. I also find the circular movement of adjusting volume sometimes activate the swipe actions.
I was delighted that the battery is actually removable (S$69), one of the rare features on a Bluetooth headset. It goes to show that the Beoplay H8 is there to last for decades even after the battery is spoiled. The battery takes 3 hours to charge fully, lasts 14 hours with ANC and Bluetooth, 16 hours with Bluetooth only, and 35 hours with ANC only.
In fact, even without battery, you can still enjoy the H8 via direct cable. The only feature you will miss out is the active noise cancellation (ANC). On the Beoplay H8, ANC eliminates the low rumbling ambient noise like aircon sounds and vehicle engines, while human conversations remain audible. In fact, turning it on makes you pick up speeches in a noisy environment better.
Wireless with ANC On
For audiophiles, I am afraid the ANC totally ruins the audio on the Beoplay H8. Turning it on and listening on wireless Bluetooth, the mids almost disappeared, the treble became clearer and more airy, the bass sounded less warm and bloated. Some consumers may prefer this sound as it makes the music appear less muddy, but that is because without the fat mids, you are left with clean treble and big bass.
The saving grace of the H8 is when I turned off the ANC. The entire audio spectrum is presented without the distorted reality. The bass is undoubtedly the star of this headphones. The sub-bass occupies your aural senses yet amazingly it does not overpower the highs, which although clear is not the same crystal signature of the H6. The mids, meanwhile, adds to the overall tonal body. The Beoplay H8 is a headphones that you can turn up full blast without ear fatigue from high frequency, with ANC turned off.
Listening with direct 3.5mm cable gives yet another set of audio balancing. Under wired mode, the ANC will always be activated with power on. To turn off ANC is simply turning off the power.
The audio balance for wired with ANC is a lot better than wireless with ANC. The mids are more forward, the treble is more open. If you really need ANC, listening with wired gives you better mids. When you listen wired without power (i.e. no ANC), the treble turns out rather flat while the bass remains punchy albeit lacking dimension.
My favourite mode is wireless with ANC off. To me, it sounds the most neutral among all the listening options. It doesn’t have the frequency boost around 4000Hz, and I like the balance of a warmer mids with the undistracting bass.
Among the Beoplay products I have reviewed so far, the Beoplay A1 and H6 are glorious, while this H8 lacks the audiophile quality. The H3 ANC is also one mixed bag, but turned better once I swapped the eartips.
The Beoplay H8 is for bass lovers who do not look for bright and accurate treble. Available now in Singapore for S$699.
Frequency: 20 – 22,000 Hz
Included in the packge: Audio cable with 3.5 mm jack, Micro USB cable for charging, Flight adapter, Carrying pouch, Quick Guide
Official product site: http://www.beoplay.com/products/beoplayh8