Review: Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9i
Bang & Olufsen is well known for mixing boutique design with high-end audio engineering. The Danish company’s more consumer friendly offshoot, B&O, tries to cash in on that reputation by enticing audiophiles to splash out on gadgets like its latest Beoplay H9i wireless headphones, Which launched early this year and are the successor to the company’s H9 headphones and they keep up the excellent sound quality of its predecessor, They produce a crisp and clear audio experience that caresses your eardrums rather than pounding them, even at high volumes. They produce a layered sound which will surely satisfy the most finicky of listeners. Their bass is good, but is overly thumpy, which bass fans may appreciate. The mid-range is also good, but their treble is overemphasized and fairly uneven.
Overall, vocals and lead instruments sound thin and a bit pushed back in the mix. Due to their exciting sound profile, these won’t be ideal for vocal-centric music and should be better-suited for bass-heavy genres. Also, low-bass is hyped by about 5dB, indicating that the bass of these headphones is deep and very thumpy, which should be pleasing to fans of bass-heavy genres. However, mid-bass, responsible for the body of bass guitars and kick drums, and high-bass, responsible for warmth, are under our target curve by 3 and 4dB respectively. The mid range performance of the H9i is good. The response throughout the range is decently-balanced, but there is a 10dB tilt favoring higher frequencies, which may make them sound a bit intense. The 4db underemphasis in low-mid will make vocals and lead instruments sound thin, and they may also be nudged to the back of the mix. These have a sub-par treble performance. The response throughout the range is fairly uneven. The dip centered around 6kHz will negatively affect the brightness and detail of some sibilants, but the very high and broad peak around 9-10 kHz will make those frequencies sound overly sharp and piercing, specially on already bright tracks. However, not everyone hears treble frequencies the same way, so your experience may differ. The H9i have a great frequency response consistency. These headphones seems to be using their ANC system to make the delivery of low-end frequencies more consistent.
Each earpiece has a 40mm electro-dynamic driver speaker system that pushes out a powerful sound. They could go a tiny smidge louder but they sound fantastic — as they very well should. Noise cancellation is excellent on these headphones, the company has improved its noise cancellation, in particular, blocking out the frequency range where human voices sit. So if the noise you want to cancel out the most is your noisy kids, this upgrade will be pleasing. There is also a Transparency Mode if you want to hear ambient sounds.
There is a Proximity Sensor which automatically pause when you take them off which is quite a unique feature. It takes a second but the music or podcast will stop playing and then commence again once you put them back on Sadly, there is no support for any voice assistants. So, when someone calls, the headphones don’t tell you who is calling, it just rings. You also don’t get a battery update when you put them on so you’ll have to check the app to see the status of the battery.The headphones ship with a 1.2m audio cord with a 3.5mm jack, a 1.25m USB-A to USB-C cable, a flight adaptor and a rather nice carrying pouch.
The headphones are designed by award-winning Danish designer Jakob Wagner. If you hear something like that and automatically think such a statement translates into “these are going to be expensive” then you’re exactly right.they will appeal to a certain design-conscious consumer who likes a luxury flare to their gadgets.
The H9i are practically identical to the Beoplay H9 model, which are a wired variant of the Beoplay H6. They look like very high-end headphones with premium materials used. The cups are fairly shallow, and the padding isn’t the thickest, so they don’t protrude too much. Their overall design feels sleek. While their all-black colorway is a bit low-profile, they come in a few other color schemes that stand out a bit more, like the model we’ve tested..The B&O PLAY H9i are comfortable headphones. They feel lightweight and aren’t too tight on the head. However, while the cups are well-padded, their small circular design won’t be ideal for everyone. People with larger-sized ears may feel a slight pinch on the top of the ears. On the upside, if you can find a good fit with them, they’ll be comfortable to wear for a long time without feeling any fatigue.They are not the most breathable headphones and won’t be ideal for physical activity. Using these headphones during a workout or a run will make you sweat more than usual, and you will notice a difference in temperature.
One other cool thing that the Beoplay H9i offers is touch controls,. So, without having to go into your pocket to look for your phone, you can stop playback, skip tracks or change the volume, but the sensitivity of the trackpad isn’t great and it feels a bit clunky at times. It’s tough to get exactly what you want each time you swipe. The B&O H9i have a great battery life and a companion app that lets you slightly customize the sound of the headphones to your liking. We got about 24 hours of battery life with the ANC on, which is noticeably longer than the advertised 18 hours and a good upgrade from the original Beoplay H9. They can be used passively, even if the battery is dead, and while they are charging, which is very convenient. Their app feels a bit lackluster, but you can slightly EQ them with a preset quadrant EQ. The B&O H9i are Bluetooth compatible headphones that can also be used wired with their 1/8” TRS cable, even if the battery is dead. They don’t support multi-device pairing. The wireless range of the H9i is good. With 47ft of obstructed range, you should be able to walk around a small apartment or office without too many problems.
So, When it comes down to it, I think that recommending the H9i is tricky. If your priorities involve the best possible sound, great comfort, and long-term value and as a designer accessor, then they are without a doubt the best you can buy. But, with a hefty price tag would they be meaningful to a casual listener? Meaningful enough to justify the price tag? This is where I’m less certain.