Unapologetically luxurious in its approach and hence its pricing, Bang & Olufsen has never shied away from having a high sticker price on their products. The Beoplay H95, by mainstream standards, isn’t just high, it even makes the AirPods Max look like a bargain! So, besides being made with Viking blood, what else do they have to show for their astronomical price tag?
B&O doesn’t credit the designer for this particular headphone as they do with some of their more iconic products, but the compliment lies in the model designation itself. The H95 refers to the 95th anniversary of this Danish company that has captured the minds of nerds and artists alike. Built to their usual high standards of metalwork, the H95 also get materials like lambskin covered ear cups filled with memory foam, natural leather headband, titanium 40mm drivers and lots of polished aluminium for the casing. It all comes together rather tastefully and even fits on your nug comfortably, as well as the AirPods Max if we’re still comparing. The clamping force is just right, which means not too loose and not too tight so you can keep wearing these for extended periods without getting a headache. But, if your playlist consists of One Direction Greatest Hits, don’t go blaming B&O.
Bringing in a bit of the typical Bang & Olufsen magic and tactility to the proceedings, control dial rings around each earcup adjust both the level of ANC (left earcup) and volume (right earcup) in a delightful analogue fashion, akin to tuning dials on vintage audio equipment. The right earcup also features basic touch controls while Siri and Google voice assistants get a dedicated button on the left earcup. Pairing is as simple and quick as expected from Bluetooth 5.1 but it’s the partnering B&O app for iOS that is riddled with a bug. Painstakingly slow to detect the phone and erratic. But once synced, it is clean and well designed with custom preset sound modes including a neat mood-based selector called Beosonic, battery level indicator, ANC level control but no embedded playback controls.
In terms of design, they don’t steer too far from the standard headphone template, it’s good to see them fold and swivel for ease of packing in a travel bag. Sadly, the official hard case is just too impractical for everyday use while the soft carry case option makes the AirPod Max bra case look stylish. Where the H95 redeems itself though is the staggering battery life, which B&O claims is up to 50hrs with ANC off and 38hs with it on! That figure puts every other wireless over-ear ANC cans to shame, including Sony, AirPods, Jabra or what have you. Throw in a 3.5mm port along with an airline adapter and it does make a very strong case for itself. Mind though, the ANC deactivates upon using the wired 3.5mm connection. Fully wireless, it does activate its full suite of DSP and can select the right amount of active noise cancellation depending on the ambient noise levels, but you can manually take control and at max setting, it trumps the AirPods Max in terms of effectiveness. What it didn’t do as well as the AirPods Max is isolating wind buffeting noise which you may experience if you’re outdoors in a windy location or even just cooling off around a fan.
Sound of Scandinavia
Put them on and it’s instantly apparent and audible that the sonic signature here is very different than the AirPods Max. Much more front and centre, the soundstage is forward sounding but without wanting to bite your head off. There is ample dynamic range on offer and on ‘Hi I’m Max Maco by Two Feet, it handles the bass drop with precision and aplomb. There is weight and depth but without any of the overhang that is so often heard on other dynamic headphones. Vocals are pristine and the overall clarity outshines the competition easily making them sound almost like an equivalent of near-field studio monitor speakers experienced from behind the mixing desk, at close proximity. All the details and nuances in the music come through in a balanced manner without sounding lopsided in the overall frequency balance, making them well suited to virtually any genre of music. On vocal-heavy music like Bollywood, some may find their presence may be a tad bit overpowering, but it never gets overly sibilant or bright. If you’re a fan of pop, rock, EDM, metal or any of their sub-genres, you’ll love the sound of the H95. It’s an energetic, edge-of-the-seat kind of sound compared to the AirPods Max’s more relaxed, reclined and laid-back signature. You’ll have to make your decision, but it certainly does get easier if you have multiple Apple devices and you start missing the auto-switching function. Without the synchronization with the B&O app, there was also no easy way to tell the battery left in the H95 so the long battery life really does come in handy. A 15-minute recharge also tops it up for another 2 hours of playback time if you’re looking for a splash and dash of power.
Between the Transparency and full ANC mode, things work as expected, although it misses out on auto-detection so your content won’t pause/play when you take them off or put them on again and there is also no way of an instant mute or ANC off for quick responses while talking to someone. The phone calls on the other hand are handled well with the requisite clarity and intelligibility in your voice and the callers.
Not the most affordable wireless headphones, the B&O H95 sticks to its roots of luxurious audio and delivers a stonking performance when it comes to the all-important sound quality. Compatibility with apt-X Adaptive, AAC and SBC ensures it plays well with all kinds of audio files and If it’s an indulgence you’re after, sure, treat yourself to the H95. They do miss out on some essentials like auto-detect and auto-switching but they aren’t deal-breakers if the sticker price isn’t a wallet-breaker for you.