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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
Spectacular audio quality
Great battery life
Annoying power on and noise-canceling indicator sounds
Auto pause/play was occasionally unreliable
Despite a few hiccups, the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8i offers a true luxury headphone experience and one that should last you for years. They sound great and are made from robust materials.
The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8i are headphones designed to be free of compromise. These aren’t just premium on-ear headphones, but also a luxury product that commands a luxury price tag. The question is, can they meet the expectations that accompany their high cost?
My first impression of the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8i was the sheer quality of their construction. The genuine leather of the headband and earcups, as well as their metal frame, make it clear these headphones are built to last. Size adjustment is smooth, as is the rotation of the earcups, and those earcups conform to your head. What little plastic is built into the Beoplay H8i is of very high quality, and the controls all feel really solid. I particularly liked being able to see the stitching in the leather.
The premium design of the Beoplay H8i elevates these headphones above other wireless headphones we’ve tested, though their style is not for everyone. They come in natural, black, or pink (I tested the natural version).
A downside to the Beoplay H8i is that it’s not as portable as other on-ear headphones, as it doesn’t collapse down into itself and thus takes up more space. Also, I would have preferred a hardshell carrying case to the padded cloth bag these headphones came with. They’re light enough at 215 grams, however, and come with an audio cable and a USB-C cable for charging.
Typically, headphones require little setup, but he Beoplay H8i seems to be the exception to the rule. My phone (a Samsung Galaxy Note 9) repeatedly refused to pair to the H8i. Even after I installed the companion app and created an account they refused to play nice. My phone could see the Beoplay H8i, but pairing attempts aborted instantly. Eventually though, after half an hour of frustration, it suddenly paired to my phone.
If you want headphones you can wear all day, these are it. The big cushy leather earpads snuggle up to your ears like little leather clouds, and the headband rests almost imperceptibly on the top of the head. This doesn’t equate to them being loose—they’re very secure and adjust to fit a wide range of head sizes.
The big cushy leather earpads snuggle up to your ears like little leather clouds.
The Beoplay H8i sounds as good as it feels, with particularly excellent performance in the mids and highs. The bass end is no slouch, but it isn’t particularly punchy. This was apparent when listening to the 2Cellos cover of Thunderstruck, which I use as a baseline song to test and compare the capabilities of headphones. However, the slight bass weakness is compensated for by the H8i’s excellence in the mids and highs.
With this in mind, I listened to A Heady Tale by The Fratellis which features fewer tones in the bass range. This confirmed that the best performance of the Beoplay H8i is in the mid to high range. However, I next listened to Lazaretto by Jack White, which features deep pulsing bass instrumentals, and this also performed rather well. This tells me that the aforementioned minor weakness in the bass is barely worth nitpicking.
The Beoplay H8i sounds as good as it feels, with particularly excellent performance in the mids and highs.
I continued on with another Jack White song, Temporary Ground, which has an interesting country edge to its rock roots. The Beoplay H8i rendered the high vocals and instruments, as well as the low bass, very nicely.
I also enjoyed the way the melancholy piano cut through the angry buzz of the electric guitar in Billy Talent’s Swallowed up by the Ocean, where a wide range of instrumentals and vocals were clearly differentiated and reproduced.
Call quality was mostly excellent, with people on the other end reporting that my voice was crystal clear with no background noise. However, on a few calls my voice cut out and was very quiet. I wasn’t able to reliably replicate this, but I suspect it may have to do with a malfunction of the ambient noise-canceling software.
Noise-canceling is more than sufficient for even very loud environments. The active noise canceling was able to cut distracting sounds out almost entirely, and it’s easy to switch it off or change to the hear-through mode in either the app or via a toggle switch on the headphones themselves. The only serious complaint I have with the audio is the shockingly loud beeps that the headphones emit when powered on or off, or when noise canceling settings are changed. These noises need to be drastically lowered because as it is I worry I might suffer ear damage from their bleating.
I found the claimed thirty-hour battery life of the H8i to be fairly accurate, and I was easily able to listen to them throughout the course of several days without having to recharge. I also appreciate the modern USB-C charging port.
The Beoplay H8i is supposed to deliver 100 feet of range, but I was only able to get about a third of that distance before the audio started cutting out. This is a pretty standard range for Bluetooth headphones. It’s good enough to work around the house, but disappointing compared to the advertised capability.
The Bang & Olufsen app is easy to navigate; the volume, media control, ANC, and other controls are clearly labeled and are easy to use. You also get access to sound customization options.
The listening experience of the Beoplay H8i can be fine-tuned either with a list of presets or manually through a rather slick interface. You can easily choose the tone balance you prefer here. Personally, I found I preferred high treble, but your preference will vary, and there is a wide range of customization options.
The H8i can also sense when you take them off or put them on and pause/play music accordingly. This works fairly well, but I did notice that this feature is not 100% reliable.
There’s no doubt that the Beoplay H8i commands a high cost. With an MSRP of $400, these headphones will set you back farther than most other noise-canceling headphones. However, considering the amazing quality of the materials used to build them, and the excellent sound and noise-canceling they deliver, that high price is worth it if you can afford the expense.
At a significantly lower price than the Beoplay H8i is the Marshall Mid ANC. It offers most of the features found in the Beoplay H8i, as well as similarly impressive noise canceling and audio quality. I also prefer the looks of the Mid ANC, and it comes with a nicer carrying case. However, the Beoplay H8i is superior in terms of build quality; where the Mid ANC uses faux leather, the H8i uses real leather. The H8i is also much more comfortable than the Mid ANC, especially for larger heads like mine.
Though they have a few minor faults, these are fantastic headphones.
Despite a few stumbles, the Bang & Olufsen H8i is an ideal listening device for audiophiles on the go, though only if they have deep pockets. Its premium build quality is what really sets these headphones apart from the pack.