Bang & Olufsen (B&O) is a brand famed for its high-end and elegantly designed audio products. And in the realm of headphones, it is the Beoplay lineup that represents the brand’s entire ranged, be it wired or wireless.
In this review, we’ll be taking a look at the brand’s latest ANC-capable entry, the Beoplay HX, and whether or not it is able to uphold the brand’s reputation.
What Is It?
While B&O may not confirm nor deny this, the Beoplay HX headphones are, for all intents and purposes, a “baby” or watered-down version of its Beoplay H95. Design-wise, the Beoplay HX takes its cue from the H95 and its predecessor, the 3rd generation H9, with the hanging quarter hinge headband design. Moreover, in order to maintain the illusion of luxury, both the paddings at the base of the headband and the earcups are fitted with a faux leather material. In my case, the unit provided to me came in B&O’s Timber colour, but do note that it also comes in two other colours: Black Anthracite and Sand.
Moving on, the back of the earcups are metallic and feature a concentric pattern and distinct ring that, when traced around with a finger, actually feels interesting. On that note, the right earcup’s back also serves as the gesture control module, with the concentric ring in the middle acts as the volume control. More on that later.
Is It Any Good?
Firstly, the Beoplay HX is surprisingly light. In fact, it is a lot lighter than I initially anticipated. For that matter, the headband’s tension also isn’t very tight, and in wearing it over prolong periods of time, my head doesn’t feel like it is gradually being squeezed by a clamp.
Moving on, the built-in buttons are exceptionally responsive and do not require a “press and hold” sequence in order to turn on – you’ll still need to perform the action if you’re looking to activate the Bluetooth pairing mode – as most other headphone brands implement with their own offerings. Likewise, it’s the same feature with the noise cancellation button situated behind the left earcup; cycling the three listening modes can be done in rapid succession, with three different tones serving as indicators as to which mode is currently active.
Lastly, there’s a USB-C port that serves as the Beoplay HX’s charging port, plus a 3.5mm port, if you wish to manually connect the Beoplay HX to a device that has a corresponding headphone jack. One really impressive trait of the Beoplay HX is its battery life; while B&O rates it for at least 30 hours of continuous playback, I am able to go nearly a week without having to charge it, as my daily driver.
The Sound Quality. Talk To Me.
One of the Beoplay HX’s greatest strengths is that it is well-balanced to a fault, really. The highs, mids, and lows all feel and sound as if each pitch is playing on equal ground, with no one pitch trying to one-up the others. In tracks like Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts’ Digging My Potato, the headphones impressively manage to deliver each note from the harmonica and with no signs of breaking at higher volumes.
In tracks like Nina Simone’s Feeling Good, the rumbling and growling of the Tuba is precise, with each note audible but sadly, you don’t feel the aforementioned rumble. On another note, the vocals delivery is also impressive and with tracks like Stacey Kent’s Venus du Melo, the singer’s voice isn’t overpowered or drowned out by the accompanying bass line which, yet again, I can hear but not feel.
That brings us to some of the underlying flaws of the Beoplay HX’s performance.
The Bad Stuff. Tell Me.
The B&O Beoplay HX (left) and JBL Club 950NC (right).
As I said, the Beoplay HX’s audio delivery feels terribly well-balanced and while that may be good for some, it can also be a flaw to some. Because no one pitch stands out from the rest, there is a tendency for some tracks to fall flat or even feels like it is lacking the ability to deliver the body that it has. Again, it may not be an issue for some people, but it is a glaring point for me.
Audio fidelity aside, there are other shortcomings with the Beoplay HX, and one that I take issue with is its portability value. Compared to other ANC headphones such as Sony’s WH-1000XM4 or the JBL Club 950NC, the headphones lack flexibility and cannot be folded like its rivals, thus making it less of a travel-friendly product. Especially when you want to stow them away into your bag.
Still on the subject of control, the gesture control pad on the Beoplay HX isn’t the most intuitive I’ve used. More often than not, swiping left or right to skip or repeat a track goes unregistered and it actually takes several attempts just to get it to work, at which point I’d have given up and simply resort to executing the tasks on my phone.
On another note, the volume control ring. sadly, falls into the same intuitive narrative, despite actually being far easier to access. While it has an invisible outline you can feel, as you draw circles around it, there is sadly no form of feedback, haptic or aural, to indicate how fast you’re increasing or decreasing the volume levels. Simply put, there are moments when I nearly go deaf, all because my finger was too vigorous with the control.
Another flaw to the Beoplay HX, I find, is with B&O’s companion app. In contrast to the apps of other audio brands, this one has a lackluster feel, despite its tasteful minimalist design. At best, the availability of controls and functionality is limited; there is no equalizer that will allow for manual tweaking of the headphones’ performance, yet there are several pre-set Listening Modes that I can choose from.
As for the Beoplay HX’s adaptive active noise cancellation (ANC) feature, I have to say that it isn’t the best application of the feature that I have come across. Moreover, the sound pressure level (SPL) that is part and parcel of the feature cannot be manually tweaked, and can feel relatively uncomfortable if kept on over long periods of time.
The most painful aspect of the Beoplay HX, though, is the asking price: it cost a whopping RM2900.
Should I Buy It?
At the end of the day, the B&O Beoplay HX is a comfortable and decent pair of headphones, but ultimately, it isn’t one of the most immersive or mind-blowing pair of headphones I’ve had the pleasure of testing.
That said, I will say once again that it is quite possibly one of the more neutral and well-balanced pairs I’ve used and on those grounds, I have no qualms recommending the headphones to the consumer that not only seeks these audio qualities but can also afford the steep asking price of these headphones.
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