Bang & Olufsen’s latest pair, the H95, isn’t just another pair of noise cancelling headphones, with a pair that celebrates the 95th anniversary of B&O itself.
Not every pair of noise cancelling headphones is the same. While the idea is pretty clear — cancel and quell noise — the focus is typically on crafting a pair of headphones made to sound good.
And there are many that do, but they can cost a pretty penny. For Bang & Olufsen’s latest, they not only cost a pretty penny, they’re also a pretty pair that celebrates an anniversary. That makes them pretty special in their own right, but they’ll also want to be a great pair of headphones, too.
Are the B&O Beoplay H95 a great pair of headphones, and a pair worthy of the Bang & Olufsen legacy?
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Design and features
With a design that resembles B&O’s other headphones in a style you’d be happy to wear around publicly, the Bang & Olufsen H95 is a take on headphones that looks high-end, but not so much that you’d get robbed for it.
An arm comes down from the sides of each circular casing to hold the aluminium casing of the cans in place, with a leather band and ear pads of the same material, plus memory foam lining that, they’re a pretty pair of headphones that won’t attract too much attention with big symbols or flashy designs. Rather, the B&O H95 are unobtrusive, clear, and easy on the eyes.
They’re exactly what a pair of headphones should look like: headphones. Not just headphones, even, but a record player, with the easy-on-the-eyes approach almost appearing like it has a tone arm connecting to a record that is the casing of the headphones themselves.
It’s almost like the B&O H95 exude music, because that’s how they read.
Inside, Bang & Olufsen has opted for some parts you don’t see every day in headphones. In fact, one of the materials we’ve only seen in one other pair of headphones, giving you an idea of just how premium this thing is meant to be.
That material is titanium, something that doesn’t typically make an appearance in most gadgets, let alone a pair of headphones. We’ve seen it in a pair of Aedle headphones in the past, and it’s making an appearance here with a 40mm electro-dynamic titanium driver, the likes of which can be tuned slightly using the Bang & Olufsen app on iPhone and Android.
Get to using the H95 and you’ll find a combination of touch and analogue-inspired controls to work with, using swipes to change tracks, taps to pause and play, and a dial on each side doing slightly different things.
On the left headphone, the dial changes how much noise cancellation you get, turning active noise cancellation up or switching into a transparency mode and dialling aspects in. Over on the right, the dial is a very tactile volume wheel, not unlike an old volume knob, and about as direct as one, too.
Between dials, swipes, and taps, Bang & Olufsen is providing an approach that feels like a modern interpretation of HiFi, with a bit of that old school thrown in for good measure. It’s a style we like, and makes for a great combination.
Easily the most important part of any headphones, the performance is an area to pay close attention to, and in the B&O H95, Bang doesn’t disappoint. Given these headphones are kind of like a birthday anniversary gift from the company, it would make sense that they sound good, and they certainly have their charm.
Like all other headphones, we’re testing the B&O Beoplay H95 with the Pickr Sound Test, which you can listen to for yourself, and that offers an assortment of music to run through the headphones bit by bit.
And that starts with electronic, where Daft Punk delivers mids that are warm with good feels. The percussion is clear and distinct against everything else, and the B&O “signature style” that oozes out of its other products is evident here.
It continues in R&B and soul, with a solid chunk of bass amidst strong highs in what Ariana Grande sings, while the classic soul of Marvin Gaye is delightfully clear, spacious, and well separated. The sound is warm an enveloping like a good pair of headphones should be, with a separation of the instruments that allows you to get lost in the details.
That said, B&O hasn’t delivered a sound like audiophile headphones. They soundstage isn’t as wide as other headphones, but while it’s closed — and closed rather tightly — the sound is still comfortable and easy to get lost in.
In rock, we found strong balance with comparable separation. Rage Against the Machine is direct and punchy, but still warm in the middle, while the Deftones delivers both the highs of the voice and the mids of the guitars overlaid beautifully, while the bass is channeled underneath. Again, like the warmth of a good speaker, like a good pair of headphones should, and it gets better when the sound is old school.
In Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al”, there’s a fantastic test track uncovered for the Beoplay H95, with beautifully clear tonality and separation, and indeed our other oldies of The Who, Bowie, and The Beatles deliver yet more warmth and balance. It’s all quite lovely if this is what you’re into.
Of course, the tuning can be tweaked in the B&O app, going from the signature style of warm balance to tweaking it elsewhere, and doing it simply. If you’re not so much a fan of the warmth on offer, move the dot on the chart and Bang will let you tweak the sound of the Beoplay H95 to be something more like what you want, much like it does with its other headphones.
On a noise cancellation level, the Beoplay H95 do a decent job, offering an analogue wheel to dial in noise cancellation in one direction or a transparency mode in the latter, or even the app to let you do that, too.
Truth be told, we’ve seen better implementations of noise cancellation — it’s hard to beat what Sony is doing in the noise cancelling game — but there is an adaptive variation here, and the H95 should cover most noise cancelling needs in general.
You may find the audio gets a little thin when transparency mode is kicked in, a downside we suspect of B&O engaging the mics and filtering more of the outside world in using them, but fortunately, full attention can be brought back by dialling the world out just a little more using the left can’s ring.
The battery also delivers, and in a way that makes the headphones some of the more compelling options out there. Simply put, they go on and on and on, and rarely need a charge.
Bang & Olufsen sets the life at 38 hours with noise cancellation switched on and around 50 hours without, because you can choose. We practically stopped counting and managed to get through a good two weeks of intermittent listening without needing to charge the H95.
Basically, if you listen to your H95 headphones for a couple of hours or more each day, you can get a good two weeks out of the battery life, which is quite impressive altogether.
Value, however, is hard to really quantify with Bang & Olufsen’s anniversary pair of headphones. Hell, it’s hard to quantify for any B&O product.
Like Bowers & Wilkins and Harman/Kardon, Bang & Olufsen is a premium audio outfit, and so tends to go for a premium price. In the standard B&O noise cancelling headphones, the third-generation H9, that’s already around $840 Australian, or 500 Euro. The H95 is a special edition for the anniversary of the brand, and so it attracts a different premium, ringing the bell at $1399.
That’s in comparison to other noise cancelling headphones, including the $499 Sony WH-1000XM4, the $699 Bose 700 Noise Cancelling Headphones, and the $899 Apple AirPods Max. Respectively, that last one had its price complained about vigourously, and the B&O H95 is even pricier. It’s really hard to make sense of for most people.
Compared to those other headphones, we’re not sure B&O has an edge. The Sony does noise cancelling better without spending nearly as much, Bose has a big reputation for noise cancelling since it practically pioneered the tech, and Apple has a sound design that delivers loads more volume in a more comfortable and just as premium design.
So we can’t really judge the B&O H95 on value per se. These aren’t value driven headphones.
What they are, however, is a stylish and suave take on noise cancelling headphones from a brand that typically delivers style, and lots of it. And they’re special because of what the “95” means, with the headphones being built as a tribute to 95 years of Bang & Olufsen. Typically, “value” has no business being in a special edition, so it’s really hard to rate these as anything of the sort here.
What needs work?
To Bang & Olufsen’s credit, the H95 are a lovely pair of headphones, and one that’s hard to find fault with. Between a fantastic use of components and materials, and a design that feels premium but isn’t garish in the slightest, B&O has delivered a pair of headphones that sits in the high-end without exposing too much of that secret. These are easy to fall in love with.
But they’re not perfect, and the price is a huge part of that. While some won’t bat an eyelid at a pair of $1400 Bang & Olufsen headphones, the cost doesn’t really feel justified at all.
Yes, they’re lovely and sound warm like a nice speaker, but we’re not sure they deliver an audiophile quality like some other headphones, and feel you might be paying for both the name and the choice of materials here. Lambskin leather, a titanium driver, and that Bang & Olufsen name all add up to the cost here, which doesn’t seem to hit the nail on the head entirely.
The case is also part of that cost, with the big and sturdy case kind of like a nice note for the whole package, though it sure is heavy, and it would have been nice to see something to make it more premium, like a battery inside to recharge the headphones.
As it stands, the H95 case is just a hard case, and one that has a reasonable amount of hefty. Good luck comfortably finding a way to stuff this into your carry-on luggage.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
As far as premium headphones go, it’s hard to find something as interesting as the B&O H95.
They’re such a neat premise: not only do they bring the best of Bang, but they’re also made for audio aficionado who adores the brand.
They’re special and not just because of the price. They’re a definitive special edition.
That still doesn’t make them an easy win for most people, because $1400 isn’t a price most can expect to pay for wireless headphones, even ones with as much heritage as these. We had people question the Apple AirPods Max, and they were $900. B&O’s H95 is $500 more than those, so throw your ideas of “value” out the window with these.
Instead, consider turning your attention to style and legacy, because that’s really what the B&O Beoplay H95 aim to deliver. They exude style and deliver solid sound, which is largely the point. And yes, they’re expensive, but if you love yourself a special edition that doesn’t just look the part, but functions that way too, the H95 may well be it.