Stunning design and exceptional build quality go a long way towards justifying the above-average price tag for all of B&O's range. If you add in excellent sound quality and long list of features then they are worth some serious thought for a truly impressive listening experience.
Design - B&O Beoplay H9i Review
B&O make probably the best luxurious gadgets that there are. The £450 price tag may seem excesive, but let me assure you the Beoplay H9i look and feel every penny of it. Heck, I’ve reviewed headphones costing over £1000; the craftsmanship B&O offers here is not far off. These are truly gorgeous headphones and a pleasure to use.
The construction is mostly aluminium and leather, which instantly sets the Beoplay H9i apart from most of their competition. It’s tough cowhide and padded fabric on the headband, with super-soft lambskin at the ears. Soft memory foam in the earpads mean these headphones hug the sides of your head like pillows. I could wear them for hours.
Considering how pretty and comfortable these headphones are, they are also tough. I’ve been using them in various environments for two weeks and they still look pristine. Twist and stretch them and they still won’t relent.
The Beoplay H9i subscribe to the lie-flat school of stowage, where the ear cups can swivel 90 degrees.
Features - B&O Beoplay H9i Review
The B&O Beoplay H9i have a few extras to offer too. Low frequencies should be more efficient thanks to a new bass port. Battery life is now approximately 18 hours with Bluetooth and ANC on, or up to 24 hours with the 3.5mm wired connection. Active noise cancellation (ANC) has been improved, and the micro-USB charging port has been replaced with USB-C.
Totally new is the inclusion of proximity sensors, which are responsible for automatically pausing your music when you take the headphones off, or resuming when you put them on. It’s not perfect, sometimes I have to manually press pause or play, but it’s less prone to glitches than the equivalent feature on the B&W PX.
There’s also a new Transparency feature, which mutes your music and passes through external sounds so you can hear the outside world.
The touch-sensitive pad makes a return. You control the headphones by tapping and swiping on the right ear cup. Volume is adjusted by drawing circles as though you’re spinning a dial. Swiping up toggles Transparency, swiping down toggles the noise cancellation. A forwards/back swipe to skip and a simple tap to play/pause.
The control scheme is a little fiddly but it wasn’t long before I adapted to it, and now I’m able to operate the headphones with total precision every time.
I much prefer designs that let you swap batteries, if I’m going to spend £450 on a pair of headphones, I want them to last many years – not to be stuck with old batteries existing in built-in headphones. The spare battery packs cost £40 each, but it’s still cheaper than buying a new set of headphones.
Finally, the headphones work with the Beoplay app, free on iPhone and Android. This lets you adjust the EQ a little, but crucially this is where you can download new firmware. The EQ adjustment doesn’t do a huge amount, and is a little unstable, I would use the app sparingly.
Performance - B&O Beoplay H9i Review
I’ve been listening to these headphones for a couple of weeks now, and they are always impressive.
The Beoplay H9i noise cancellation feature isn’t quite as effective as the Bose QuietComfort 35 II but they aren’t far behind. Normal office noises are blocked out very effectively and they can easily fend off noisy London Underground trains.
The Beoplay H9i sound is eloquent, properly engaging performance. The Beoplay H9i manage this by being exceptional in a few key areas. Firstly, it’s a huge, spacious performance with a wide soundstage and excellent stereo separation. Instruments and vocals are given this wonderful freedom of movement, which makes the performance more lively.
Not only do these headphones tell you where the instruments are, they also leave you in no doubt as to exactly what they’re doing. The level of clarity and insight offered is such that it’s easy to pick out not just the leading and trailing edges of notes, but also the textures of the instruments.
The precise stereo separation and impressive clarity, as well as a good dose of energy, and it’s a performance that rarely fails to keep your attention.
The treble has a characteristic smoothness to the sound, even with poorer-quality treble-heavy tracks.
I love the bass on these B&O's. Extension is remarkable for headphones of this size. With strong rock tracks the bass has a wonderfully menacing rumble, nicely taut and impeccably controlled. I think perhaps that there’s a little too much low-end emphasis to qualify as neutral, but that's a small gripe.
The Beoplay H9i offer expansive sound and its proximity sensors seem to really well, not wishing to repeat myself but I will anyway, they are truly impressive.
Verdict - B&O Beoplay H9i Review
The B&O Beoplay H9i headphones don't come cheap and there’s no shortage of more affordable rivals. The Sony WH-1000XM2 has more comprehensive features and the Bose QuietComfort 35 II has better noise cancellation.
But none of those have the aesthetic appeal of the B&O Beoplay H9i and are not as well built. There’s a real pleasure in handling and using these headphones that you don’t get from their rivals. The sound is superb, the noise cancelling is very effective, and the proximity feature is a great feature. For me, they are a great buy and do justify the price tag.