The Bang&Olufsen BEOPlay H9 possesses a fun signature. V-Shaped, for sure. Yet not so terribly V-Shaped as to bury the vocals. It’s warm and energetic, with articulate detailing and sharp, sparkly treble. There is a rich quality to the tone, though not exceedingly refined, with notable grain and grime to the rendering.
The bass is big and booming, yet kind of cheap in character. It doesn’t go very deep, and lacks texture and resolution. It colors the whole presentation, adding a layer of “less than awesome” to everything. But only if you’re really being critical. The quantity is sufficient to distract you from nitpicking, most of the time. I get pulled in to the beat and lose myself in the music. As I said, they are “fun” headphones, and seldom will you not have fun while they hug your brains.
Vocals are fairly clear and detailed. Not the most clear, or the most detailed, yet enough to give you a great listen. They are back a step or two on the stage, but come through the mix quite well. While the mid section is sort of thin and flat, they do manage a natural tonality with nice crispness.
To my ears, the treble is nearly equal to the bass in dB. A true V-Shape. It is bright, but never fatiguing. Sharp and detailed. However, it is a little metallic, and comes off artificial. Where the highs succeed is in bringing light and air to an otherwise warm and closed-in sound. I should like the treble more organic in quality, but it does its job, and the result works pretty well in a pinch.
The soundstage is small. The smallest I’ve heard in over-ears. Width is narrow, and there’s almost no depth. Not claustrophobic in size, but still… they could do better. Imaging is okay. Kind of indistinct, but not overly. Separation and layering are disappointing.
When taken on their own, as I keep saying, these are rather fun headphones. I found myself enjoying the music, which is, after all, the most important thing. However, when compared to other, wired, mobile cans, the enjoyment-factor drops measurably.
The closest comparison I have on-hand is the NON-BT Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Over-Ear. Immediately you hear a far grander soundstage. A cleaner, smoother, even richer timbre. The treble feels more natural and the bass isn’t trying to murder you for no reason. It’s a balanced, less exaggerated production. And yet, the vocals sound slightly veiled on the Senn, compared to the H9. Imaging on the Momentum is wonderful, and separation is well above average.
Moving on to my current fave, the Meze 99 Classics, and we blow the H9 clean out of the water. And for only $309. These things are like a still pond, the clarity is so profound. The bass is everything you’d want in quantity, and feels liquid, smooth, and wholesome. The vocals have a transparency and naturalness that shames the H9. On the high end of the spectrum, the treble is pure, sweet, and oh so right. Meze’s staging is the biggest I’ve heard in closed-back cans. Separation is top-notch, and imaging is without fault. These headphones are not to be trifled with, and the B&O H9 doesn’t even come close.
Righty’O. So the H9 in Bluetooh does poorly compared to real headphones. How, then, does it perform when wired into a God-King DAP like the Opus#2?
My first impression is, “WOW! This headphone is making that sound? How?”
Apparently Bang&Olufsen put some proper shit inside the H9. These drivers are capable f**kers. Everything sounds considerably nicer. The soundstage is… well, big. It’s actually big. Delightfully large, in width and depth. Tonality is warm, refined, and organic. That strange, awkward treble now has softer, friendlier edges. Most of the metallic character has gone… even when listening to Metallica. The vocals kept everything I like about them before, while adding a smoother nature. We still suffer from over-blown bass, but it no longer sounds cheap. In fact it possesses a fine, chocolaty tone. Separation shot up ten-fold when using the H9 as a wired headphone. There is excellent definition, and all the elements are easily found on the soundstage.
In short, they become whole new headphones when wired. They become good headphones. REALLY good headphones. Their only stumbling block is a low-end that is so over-done it can hurt on very bassy songs.
There you have it! I actually like these headphones for what they are. I like all my other headphones—not to mention IEMs—more than these, but none of those are designed to do what these do. As Bluetooth wireless contraptions they sound good enough not to make me cringe. WITH a wire the BEOPlay puts a big fat smile on my face. Perhaps with something as simple as a strong EQ, these could be well suited for the discerning audiophile. Right now, they are meant for the ignorant masses, who believe all music is meant to sound like Beats. This is a shame, because Bang&Olufsen clearly went above and beyond in their creation. The H9 is superior to Beats in so many ways, and shouldn’t try so hard to pretend it isn’t.