Review: Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H7 headphones
Everyone has a pair of headphones, and some of us have several, but few spend more than $500 on walk around cans. Bang & Olufsen thinks it might be able to tempt you with something that doesn’t just look premium, it sounds it too.
Features and performance
Bose and Beats may do some pretty strong headphones sales, but it’s not the only player in the game, and it’s not the only player with a name beginning with “B”.
Almost like a Sesame Street character, we’re going “B is for…” Bang & Olufsen, and this month, the pair to look out for is the H7, a pair of wireless cans made from leather, plastic, and metal, with a style of its own that looks like it was designed by someone with a love for textiles and proper materials, not just more and more plastic, as is typically the case in headphones these days.
Inside the cans, which have been designed by B&O designer Jakob Wagner — something Bang mentions on the website — you’ll find a 40mm driver connecting to a set of electronics allowing wireless communication to a smartphone or tablet over the Bluetooth 4/4.1, with support for aptX.
A rechargeable and replaceable battery is brought to the table, and thanks to the universal standard that is microUSB, it’s pretty easy to supply charge to the battery, too.
Most importantly, there’s the sound, and as usual we do the run through of our tests with the GadgetGuy Sound Test, which you can follow with thanks to Spotify, Apple Music, or Google Play, which our 2016 playlist is listenable to.
Starting with a dash of electronic and electro-pop, it’s quite clear from the first few songs, the H7 are friends of mids and highs, because while the bass has a nice snap to it, mids and highs are what dominate this pair of cans in the first few songs.
That’s the feeling we had from Imogen Heap’s “Headlock”, though Demi Lovato’s “Cool For The Summer” offered more punch, still led by the brighter vocals and synth. Still, it’s not bad, and for the modern music, the balance is pretty close with a good snap.
The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” offers a little more warmth, as the lower tones permeate the headphones comfortable, providing an almost glowing tonality to the bottom end and covering the vocals in a snuggly blanket, and in this track, we’re hearing the warmest effort from the bass yet.
This strength continues with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk” each of which offer strength in the balance, though the bass can feel a little pulled back to some degree.
It’s much the same in “Brave” (Sara Bareilles), with a less pronounced bass that is quite obviously still there, though not as full-on as it was in tracks engineered to be bass heavy.
At this point, you get the feeling that the H7 are quite balanced, except for the fact that the bass has been pulled back a touch intentionally, almost so the headphones are always going to be bright, unless lower sounds are meant to be over-emphasised, and then they really kick in against the rest of the cans.
Spatially, there’s also a good soundspace here, with a point that lets you hear the detail in the music and doesn’t push the track out of the speaker all at once, as if each instrument has its own orifice on the cans.
Into the rock, and the wispy tones of Thom Yorke in Radiohead’s “Exit Music” is clear and distinct from the basic guitar and ocean sounds to be heard in the back ground, as the mids and lows pull you into his lonely and almost desolate voice.
“Precise” is the word we’d use to describe that one, and it’s the same word we have for Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” and Muse’s “Psycho”, each of which offer forceful mids above all and deep and angry low sounds that are hard to escape from.
Turned up, rock sounds amazing through the Bang & Olufsen H7 headphones, with a real sense of strength ushered in mids first, while the bass and highs fight it out for dominance.
Finally, there’s the music without a lot of engineering, and in Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”, we go back to a world where the bass is less pronounced and bare visible, just there enough to be there, while the rest of the instruments take point, and it’s the same in “So What” (Miles Davis), which joins in with Brubeck to offer a soft bass that doesn’t really take you over but still is clear and comfortable to listen to.
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