B&O BeoPlay H8 - Stylish and Feature Packed

September 10, 2015

The Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H8 headphones, announced in early 2015, promised much with its wireless design combined with a fashion sense to match. Priced at SGD 699, this is one of the priciest on-ears available though one of the few to sport active noise-canceling.
Let's check out the unboxing.
The box is very sturdy and gives the immediate impression it could pass drop tests in a heartbeat. 
Opening the top cover unveils the Gray Hazel B&O unit in all its glory. 
The removable labeled sticker gives a good idea how the touch controls are used.
Removing the foam layer by the side tabs reveals 3 boxes of accessories bearing a unique icon to identify its contents. I could only guess what one box contained - the one on the top right. The one with a droplet icon, believe it or not, actually stores the carrying pouch (go figure).
Top left - Carrying pouch ; Top right - Cables
Bottom - User Guides
Now to the BeoPlay H8 proper - it looks and feels great. The Jakob Wagner designed cans have a seemingly durable cow leather-made headband supported with a solid anodized aluminum frame. 
The flipside is at 255g, this is one of the heftier on-ears headphones when you consider the 215g Beats Solo 2 Wireless or the 150g Jabra Move Wireless. The additional weight could be put to the noise canceling function (which the other 2 do not have) and a solidly built aluminum headband.
The cups can be rotated 90 degrees for easy storage.
The ear cushions are made with lambskin clad memory foam which are marketed to give comfort. My personal experience was quite the opposite, especially with prolonged usage, so I do encourage you to try them on for yourself 'cos you may have a different take.
The ear cushions are easily replaceable with a counter-clockwise swivel.
The touch controls are very well thought out and they function in wireless mode. For playback, you can skip tracks with a single finger gesture to the right (forward) or left (back). Activating play / pause or taking calls can be done with a single touch and adjusting the volume is by swiveling your finger clockwise (increase). 
Noise canceling is actuated with a vertical flick of the finger, with a satisfying click to confirm the action. My error rate of triggering an action was not too high. On occasion, I mistakenly did a double tap which gave some folks a few miscalls (my bad if any recipients are reading this :).
On first pairing, just hold the power slider to the Bluetooth icon for 2 seconds which triggers a flashing blue LED. Once you connect your player, two click sounds will confirm the pairing.

Now the H8 is a Bluetooth 4.0 unit. Is this a big deal? Yes and no. The major difference with previous versions is its low energy capability which by right, should translate to a longer battery life. If your source player is using an older Bluetooth version, no problem - the music plays.
The BeoPlay H8 supports aptX, allowing for CD-quality sound over Bluetooth. While enabled by default for the Samsung Galaxy S4, the iPad Air I tested is not a compatible product. It is nonetheless not a showstopper unless you need the very best in sound (read 'audiophile').
The Lithium-Ion battery that powers the Bluetooth and noise cancelling is user replaceable. It is stashed away in the left side and is opened with a slider switch. A big thumbs up to this as this is not seen in on-ears like the Beats Solo 2 Wireless or the Bose SoundLink on-ear Bluetooth. 

There are many ways to enjoy music with the B&O BeoPlay H8. Let's take you through the experience of each.

1. Bluetooth Wireless:
During testing, there was intermittent interference as the music got disrupted when walking with my source device (the Galaxy S4) in my pocket. This interference was removed once I held my phone in my hand. In active noise canceling (ANC) mode, the battery lasts for 14 hours and 16 without.

2. Wired
The B&O headphones include the 3.5mm stereo cable for a wired connection. As this was missed out in my test unit, I linked this with the Beats Solo 2 Wireless cable which fitted and was functionally fine. The audio quality manages to hold up well on its own when compared with wireless mode. The touch sensor is disabled, meaning that you have to interact with the playback functions on your source player directly. ANC can still be enjoyed for 35 hours when the power switch is turned on. When switched off, music can be enjoyed for as long as needed.

3. Active Noise Canceling (ANC)
Ambient sounds are quite effectively blocked out when traveling on the train. The flipside is that the audio sounds somewhat squeezed. Once the ANC is off, I personally found this to be ideal for listening purposes as the soundstage widens significantly. A travel adapter is provided for usage on the plane. Unfortunately, we couldn't test this out but if it's anything like the train experience, it's not too bad at all. 
The Argilla Bright variant
Let's now look at the audio quality. Depending on the music genre, your music experience can be quite different. Keane's Russian Farmer's Song is somewhat infused with a good dose of bass. Tom Chaplin's vocals and piano riff are, at times, drowned out by the enhanced low frequencies. Dubstep is a great genre to try on the BeoPlay H8. Flux Pavilion's Lines in Wax addictive basslines are very engaging and make for enjoyable listening.

Amazingly, it appears that walking was missed out during the testing of the unit. During brisk walking, there is a knocking sound that resonates with each footstep.
The clamping around the ears is rather strong, resulting in some discomfort after prolonged usage. This is not unexpected as this helps in improving the noise isolation of the on-ears headphones.
Charging just takes 3 hours. The LED will flash yellow and displays green when done. When charging via the micro-USB, you are still able to listen via wireless or wired mode - a great feature if you want to keep the music going.
The BeoPlay H8 is a premium looking pair of noise canceling on-ears. While the headphones are on the higher end of the price spectrum, they are loaded with features. Its 3 year limited warranty, durable build, battery and ear cushion replaceability all give the impression that it is a generally well thought out product that is built to last.

Where To Buy
If you like this product, feel free to support me by buying via this Amazon affiliate link. Pricing is from USD 439. 

B&O BeoPlay H8
(Gray Hazel)
USD 439

Audio Sources
Russian Farmer's Song - Keane (Spotify 320kbps MP3) on Samsung Galaxy S4
Lines In Wax - Flux Pavilion feat. Foreign Beggars (Spotify 320kbps MP3) on iPad Air

The unit was provided by Bang & Olufsen for an evaluation.

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