By A Straight Up Guy
on 2015-07-06 Great Sound and ANC, Annoying Controls, Pairing is a Dice Roll
EDIT2: At this point (27-AUG-2015), I have auditioned 3 on-the-ear bluetooth phones: the Beoplay H8s, the Bowers & Wilkins P5 Wireless Headphone, Black
, and the Outdoor Tech OT3200 Tuis - Premium Wireless Bluetooth 4.0 Headphones (Black)
. I thought I would do one more update based on that perspective. The B&W phones are a $400 item without noise canceling, and the TUIS are a $120 item. My main impressions are:
1. Nothing I've tried in an on-the-ear bluetooth design comes close in sound quality to the H8s. The H8 advantage is huge IMO.
2. The H8 ergos are truly horrible. Both the B&W and TUIS are so easy to operate, and the H8s are a pain. A $500 pair of phones should not be so hard to operate.
3. The bluetooth implementations of the B&Ws and the TUIS are both easier to use.
If BeoPlay addresses the ergos and bluetooth issues, they will quite likely get my business for an improved version of the H8s. I wish BeoPlay the best of luck in doing so!
EDIT: I am reluctantly returning these because I cannot figure out how to pair them with two devices and reliably go back and forth between the two devices (my computer and phone). Sometimes they won't connect with my phone (an iPhone 6). Other times they will connect with my phone but they will not play music! For me, this is almost no advantage in user convenience from the "old way" of disabling bluetooth on one device to enable connecting with the other. I notice that recharging the battery seems to solve the problem, but the problem reappears after about 3 hours of use. IMO the pairing problem is a shame, as I think highly of these headphones. If there is a method that I am missing, better documentation might have helped. Also if I determine that this is purely an Apple issue, I will raise my rating back to 4 stars. The original review follows. ...
Mistakes are hard to avoid using the touch sensitive controls
Lack of a hardshell case.
WEIGHT 246 g = 8.68 oz
ACCESSORIES 3.5mm audio cable, micro USB cable, flight adapter, soft carry pouch, quick guide,
BUILD QUALITY Generally excellent, tasteful, and rugged.
ERGONOMICS Difficult to use touch sensitive swipe controls; almost no visual cues.
PAIRING/CONNECTIONS Pairs with two devices and reconnects automatically. Gives priority to incoming phone calls
PHONE CALLS Receiving calls is fairly easy and works well. Hanging up does not always go smoothly.
COMFORT AND SEALING The seal is excellent and enables excellent sound and noise cancelling. Users with wide heads and big ears (like me) may find the seal a bit tight.
ACTIVE NOISE CANCELLATION (ANC) The ANC screens out external sound effectively while still providing excellent sound.
SOUND QUALITY Considering that this is an over the ear product, the sound is to die for!
The H8s weighed in at 8.68 oz (246 g) on an accurate scale (Ozeri Pronto Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale, Elegant Black
). I think this is light considering what you get. At any rate, the weight is not an issue for me.
The build quality appears to be generally excellent, tasteful, and rugged. My only concern would be damage while traveling to the points where the ear cups attach to the headband.
As far as I'm concerned, touch and swipe controls on an ear cup are a bad idea, and I find the H8 difficult to control without making mistakes. You can't look at an earcup the way you can look at a cell phone or tablet when you touch or swipe it. A few on/off buttons and a pair of pressure sensitive pads for volume up and down would have been a much more user friendly solution. Sometimes several touches are required when one touch should suffice (e.g., to end a call, or to start and stop music). Other times commands are mistaken for each other, such as skipping to the next or previous tune when trying to adjust the volume, or pausing the music unintentionally. In addition, there might have been better visual clues, for example clearer indication of pairing status and a light to indicate when noise cancelling is on.
BeoPLAY should lose the swipe controls, and replace them with on/off buttons and a pair of discrete pressure pads for volume control. Simplicity is its own elegance. Techno-chic is not elegant; it's stupid, in this case at least.
The H8s can pair with two devices and will reconnect with both devices automatically if they are available. Reconnecting is generally seamless and transparent to the user. In my case, I had no trouble pairing the H8s with a Macbook Pro and an iPhone. After initial pairing, I occasionally experienced anomalies, which I will describe, and which I think may be associated with Apple and not the H8s. I'm really not sure what causes the anomalies and I want to be fair to both Apple and B&O, so I will just describe my experiences.
What USUALLY happens is that when the H8s are asked to reconnect, they will reconnect with both devices if the devices are available. Incoming phone calls will get priority when two devices are connected, so the phone will interrupt the computer. Other than phone calls, the first of the two devices to transmit to the H8s seems to "take over" the H8s, meaning that except for an incoming phone call, transmissions from the second device will be ignored while the first device continues to transmit. The second device will be ignored even in pauses between tunes played on the first device. After transmission from the first device is stopped for some short number of seconds, the second device SOMETIMES can "take over" the H8s by transmitting to them. Other times, the H8s have to be manually disconnected and reconnected, which is fairly quick and easy to do, although the seemingly random behavior is a bit annoying.
OCCASIONALLY strange things happen, such as getting disconnected from both devices, or reconnected briefly and then disconnected. Sometimes a single switch press or swipe is not enough when the manual indicates that a single press or swipe should suffice. One time I had iTunes on my computer start playing through the H8s, even though I had been playing only YouTube videos <cue Twilight Zone music>. As I said, this could be related to Apple's software.
Incoming call functionality works (even when connected to two devices), although hanging up is not as smooth as it should be. I was never able to end a call without several taps over several seconds.
COMFORT and SEALING
I find there is a tradeoff between comfort and how well the earphones seal on the ear. The H8s seal beautifully on my ears. The tight seal enables excellent sound quality and active noise cancellation (ANC), but for me there is a price to pay: I need to position the H8s precisely or my ears feel "pinched". In addition, the H8 seal is so good that there is little or no ventilation, so heat and sweat can become an issue. Fortunately for me, the H8s stay positioned well enough, and I can use them successfully for indoor exercise (e.g., the The Step F1021W- Health Club Size Freestyle Step- Gray
). I would use ear buds for more vigorous exercise anyway, since ear buds are a more stable design. So the seal is excellent but the comfort - for me personally - is just passable.
I am surprised at how well the H8s Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) works. I tested the ANC by sitting down between two nearby QSC K8 2-Way Powered Speaker - 1000 Watts, 1x8"
s - one pointed at each ear - and playing some Latin jazz through the H8s while playing a symphony through the K8s at close to the same volume. I couldn't believe how well the ANC worked. Some people report a loss of treble when using the ANC, but I did not listen carefully enough to judge this (not yet anyway :)).
The H8s sound like a good pair of OVER the ear phones, and I am amazed at how good they sound. BTW, I have heard some people refer to the "B&O sound", but I do not know what the "B&O sound" is, as this is my first purchase of B&O gear. What I do know is that I like the clarity, definition, and balance with the H8s. One of the things I AB-ed is a video of Shlomo Mintz playing Paganini's Violin Concerto #1 (you can find it on youtube; go to about 6:08 - 6:25). The highs are more audible and more lush with the H8s. In fact after listening to different genres (salsa, jazz, rock, classical), I would say that every aspect of the sound is clearer, more present, and better defined with the H8s - as it should be for the price! It feels more like I am in the room with the musicians when listening through the H8s. One possible downside for this more balanced approach is the lack of a highly pumped up bass, which some listeners prefer.
Perhaps it is picky, but for a $500 item, B&O disappoints greatly in the accessory department. They do provide a 3.5mm audio cable, micro USB cable, flight adapter, soft carry pouch, and a quick guide. The flight adapter is a nice touch if you need it. But at this price, the soft carry pouch is unacceptable IMO, and this is my biggest complaint. The quick guide has 16 pages, every two (2) pages of which has one snippet of information in each of 14 languages. You would think for this money, they could collect the English all together on a few pages, the Portuguese all together on a few pages, etc. and provide a downloadable pdf or pdfs. How hard would that be? I guess B&O are not quite up to that.
But so as not to end on a down note, let me say that I think the H8s are keepers. The sound quality and ANC in an over the ear design are that outstanding IMO.