Given their Danish origins, it shouldn’t come as too much a surprise that Bang & Olufsen Play’s new H9 headphones carry an immediate sense of visual impact. Sure, the technology underpinning the H9 is solid but technological excellence is clearly playing second fiddle to aesthetics here.
Boasting both style and elegance, there’s a gorgeous handmade quality to the H9 that’s both visually eloquent and surprisingly ergonomic. Every component here is as lavish as consumer-grade headphones get: the lambskin-coated memory foam ear cushions feels puffy and weightless on your ears, the clean stainless aluminum-capped ear cups are smooth to the touch and the faux-cowhide leather and aluminium frame holds everything together with swagger and sturdiness in almost-equal measure.
However, while it’s gorgeous to behold, these external attributes do come saddled with some fine print. The leather headband soaks up grease with ease and there’s not a lot of flexibility allowed by the frame.
Unlike similarly-priced offerings by companies like Sennheiser, the H9s don’t fold up into a convenient bundle for travel. It comes with a small carry pouch but unless your bag has a headphone-shaped hole in it, it’s going to be a poor fit.
If that’s not enough, the technical side of things also works to impress. The H9s feature B&O’s Active Noise Cancellation tech and – according to the company – carry a promise to deliver “uncompromising sound”.
In reality, this feature proved itself above-average. It wasn’t the best or most comprehensive form of wireless noise-cancelling I’d ever experienced, nor was it the worst. If you’re looking to escape the bustle of your daily commute, they’ll do the job. If you’re looking for silence on a jet plane, you might be out of luck.
B&O say that the H9s are packing approximately 14 hours of battery life and our experience lived up to that expectation (though you might have some trouble getting a smartphone battery to last that long).
The H9s other signature feature is its touch/gesture-based fingertip control. Similar to the Sennheiser PXC550s or Samsung’s IconX earbuds, you can swipe your finger along the earcup to pause or change music, alter the volume and enable/disable the noise cancelling.
This feature proved very finicky during our time with it. Pausing and playing was easy enough but altering the volume proved trying at the best of times. There wasn’t enough feedback to know if the sensors in the frame were even picking up your gesture and it often felt like it wasn’t picking up movements at all.
In terms of reliability, the Bluetooth connection audio the H9 relies on is privy to the usual issues. Audio hitching isn’t too frequent, but it’s present. That said, it does deliver a reasonably good connection at surprisingly large range. After a little bit of regular use, I felt confident putting my phone down and walking around the house with the headphones on their own, confident that they wouldn’t drop out on me.
Ultimately, the aesthetics of the H9 stuck with me far longer than its technical merits. If you’re looking for a pair of luxury headphones that look the part, these might be the right fit. However, if you’re in the market for superior sound, you might want to look further afield.
B&O PLAY’s Beoplay H9 will be available from Bang & Olufsen stores, beoplay.com/h9 and selected third party retailers for RRP $799.
The Beoplay H9 is available in two colours, Black and Argilla Grey for RRP $799, and includes a carrying bag, charging cable and audio cable.