In the competition to make the best noise-canceling headphones, it is almost impossible to keep track of how many manufacturers have put themselves around the price range of 4,000 kroner. Therefore, it is a mixture of refreshing and hair-raising that Bang & Olufsen celebrates its 95th anniversary with the high-end model Beoplay H95. For 650 £! That’s more than double what the competitors charge for their best silencers! One may well ask if B&O has smoked something or other, but to be honest I have dreamed of a pair of proper high-end headphones with noise reduction. Why is it only cable rescuers with serious headphone amplifiers who are going to have all the fun?
So far, you have to choose between the best sound (Shure Aonic 50, Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC) or the best noise reduction (Sony WH-1000XM4).
We have previously had very high expectations every time Bang & Olufsen has released a new headphone, but despite the fact that a lot has been done correctly, the different variants of Beoplay H9 have both been a bit unintuitive, had few settings when it comes to the actual noise reduction, and also not able to play loud enough. Therefore, we hope B&O has taken it all out this time!
Build quality and ease of use
What do you get when you double your budget with Beoplay H95? Well, first of all, the build quality is second to none. The aluminum frame and earbuds feel solid, without adding much weight. And the aluminum carrying case maintains extremely trustworthy quality. It just lacks a carrying handle. The stated battery life of 38 hours with noise reduction activated is almost sensational.
The ear pads are among the most comfortable I have had on my ears. They are attached with magnets and thus easily removable, where they hide a pair of inclined 40 mm speaker elements. The magnetic fasteners make it easier to clean the cushions, and also replace them if they wear out over time. And in the high-end class, there are also many who want to be able to trim their headphones with third-party pillows. For example in velor.
The sound level is set on a separate wheel on the right earpiece. It takes two seconds to turn to, and after that it is a much more user-friendly way to level than most other methods. Also, there is zero slack in the wheel! On the left earcup is a corresponding wheel. This handles the noise treatment. Turn backwards and the noise cancellation is initiated. It increases as the wheel rotates, until you finally hear a sound indicating that the cancellation is at the maximum level. Turn in the opposite direction, and you will first hear a sound indicating that you are in neutral mode, before the headphones will start emitting ambient sound. Turn all the way forward and you get a brighter sound which indicates that you now have maximum ambient sound.
This particular wheel is not as intuitive, as with the exception of sound for neutral mode, you do not get any feedback between the max points. It should still be said that I personally never want to do something halfway anyway, and if you want the noise settings somewhere in between, you will get a full overview in the mobile app.
There are several different sound settings to choose from, where Optimal is the sound Bang & Olufsen has preselected. Then you can choose more or less intuitive sound signatures such as Commute, Clear, Workout and Podcast. The latter removes bass to amplify speech, while Workout pulls up bass and treble. Optimal sounds best in my ears. If you do not like any of them, you can set your own ideal sound, where you slide your index finger in a two-dimensional circle, and can place it somewhere between the extremes of Light, Energetic, Warm and Relaxed. This is not very intuitive, and getting the best sound balance in this way is very difficult.
Therefore, it is extremely reassuring to be able to state that the music in Optimal sound mode sounds excellent. Simply. The bass is perfectly balanced between full and tight, so that tough RnB bass rhythms massage the ear canals while the classic double basses have the tone structure intact.
On Patricia Petibon’s interpretation of José de Nebra’s Vendado es Amor, a lot is happening. Chestnuts, flamenco guitar, double bass, violins and more quirky baroque instruments. All in an open soundscape, where everything fits. If I switch to the Sony WH-1000XM3, it gets extremely stuffy, almost like the whole orchestra is wrapped in cotton wool. Unfortunately, the 1000XM4 has been returned in the test of the Beoplay H95, but even though I thought they were better than the M3, the difference was not as big as here. Not nearby. M4 has more bass (but more confined in that way), and can play a little higher than H95, but the clarity in the Danes is infinitely better.
Singing voices sound very clear, and where Beoplay H9 was a little too subdued in the upper midrange and thus prevented lighter female voices from getting far enough out of the soundscape, they simply shine with the H95.
Janelle Monáes Turntables groover as just that. The excellent rap from the soundtrack to the Amazon film All In: The Fight for Democracy has a good touch in the bass, while Janelle’s voice is clear. Again, Sony makes a sonic belly splash in comparison.
I fell hard for the sound in the Shure Aonic 50. Clear and balanced, it excels in a tough field. The H95 has even more air, and a warmer midrange. Better, simply. It is dynamic but at the same time comfortable. Just the way I like it.
The sound is also more natural than with the B&W PX7 with its dark sound, and I think the sound is also better than with the Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC. If you can live without the noise reduction, it’s still a long way up to the Beyerdynamic Amiron Wireless, which has an even better resolution than the H95. But with Amiron Wireless, I still miss a notch in sound level than with Beoplay H95.
What I miss first and foremost with the H95 is an ability to play with even higher sound pressure. The Sony goes a bit higher, though not much. I often play Beoplay H95 at full volume. I very rarely want to play even higher, but with the Sony you have the latest extra gear. But I definitely think that the H95 goes higher than the H9, without having had them in for direct comparison.
AAC and aptX Adaptive
With the iPhone, the headphones use the AAC codec, which is much better than standard Bluetooth audio (SBC / Sub Band Codec). But it is not as sonorous as aptX HD, which you get if you pair the H95 with an Android mobile. The headphones support aptX Adaptive, which is not really a separate codec but which, with the help of metadata, alternates between aptX and aptX HD and also aptX LL, depending on whether the headphones are within the mobile’s coverage area for higher bandwidth (HD). aptX Adaptive also has built-in dynamic Low Latency, which ensures the least possible delay between picture and sound. This obviously does not work for me, because if I go into the Samsung Galaxy S10 Lite and choose aptX, then the delay between picture and sound is a couple of hundred milliseconds, enough to take me out of the action. This is very common for wireless headphones, I wish I could get this further down.
Good noise cancellation
How much noise is blocked out? A good deal, and enough for most things. You can take your H95 on the plane and block out anything but the joy of music. They do not challenge the superior Sony WH-1000XM3 and M4, but you release the oppressive feeling in your head that is the back of the Sony medal. Beoplay H95 is in class with Shure Aonic 50 on noise reduction, which means that they do what they are supposed to – but no more.
If you have had active noise-canceling headphones on your ears before, you will not get any surprise with the Beoplay H95. The same low hissing you feel from others, and the same amount of noise reduction.
With the Beoplay H95, Bang & OIufsen has taken it all out with a pair of noise-canceling headphones in the high-end class. They cost twice as much as the competition, which is a bit of a statement. It is too expensive for most people, but then high-end products should also stand out. And so does the H95.
The build quality is impeccable, as is the comfort, and it is clear that this is something very special. The impression is followed up when the music comes on, because the makan of dissolved sound is one of the rarities. Natural, dynamic, and also the bass tones sound extremely natural. It’s almost just to keep filling in praise for eternity, this is among the best I have of any wireless headphones. Well, except I wish they could play a little louder.
The noise reduction is good, or rather in the middle of the tree measured against the best competitors in the premium class (H95 is alone in the high-end class). The H95 does not threaten the best, but is also no worse than most competitors’ top models. But then the H95 costs twice as much as the nearest competitor, so we could have wished for the noise reduction to follow up there.
For the high price, you get one of the market’s best noise-canceling headphones on the market. Not when we talk about the noise reduction itself, which is good but not the best. But when we talk about the combination of sound quality, construction and comfort, you are definitely not mistaken here. H95 is something in itself, and then there is something special in the fact that not many others have the like.
Worth the price? As with most other high-end, it is fortunately not up to us to decide.