As you’d expect from Bang & Olufsen the Beoplay H5 wireless earphones are an exquisitely designed, beautiful, minimalistic product. Each of their lightweight earbuds contains a tiny 6.4mm driver along with a 50mAh Li-ion battery that delivers a modest five hours of battery life.
The earbuds come equipped with a relatively standard silicone ear tip that, like most included silicon tips, is pretty useless in creating a decent seal. Surprisingly though B&o seem to know that choosing to include a set of Comply sport tips in the box, a very welcomed addition. After the switch the earbuds fit well, as you’d expect, and while they’ll never stay in place as well as a set of headphone with over-the-ear support they managed to not fall out during a sweaty 5km run. How they fit you will of course be different to me, but with the right tips on them and the ultra light weight of the buds themselves, most people wont have a problem with them for day to day and active use.
On the side of each earbud there’s also a small magnet that, when hanging around your neck, cause the buds to come together with a beautifully satisfactory “snap”! This then locks them together any music that might’ve been playing is paused and their Bluetooth connection is severed, prolonging the earphones’ charge.
The H5’s included charger “cube” makes good use of the bud’s magnetic capabilities too. The earbuds snap into each side of the moulded stand, securing them into place as they charge. Beautiful as this looks it does leave you stuck with yet another propriety charger. Sure the other end is USB so it’s easy to find a power source to attach it to but you still have to remember to bring the damn thing instead of grabbing one of the million micro USB cables you have lying around.
Another downside is the time it takes to charge the earphones. A full charge will take a good two hours to complete, that’s almost half as long as their battery life! To have a custom charger and relatively average battery life and then not include a “quick-charge” is pretty disappointing.
The H5’s in-line controls are a little different. A solid piece of moulded plastic the “buttons” are in fact a series of pressure sensitive areas spread out over the length of the controls. Each area is separated by an identical notch of plastic on the rear of the control area and being so far apart they can take some getting used to not only find the right one but find one at all.
The operation of these controls is somewhat unusual too. Double pressing on the central play/pause notch will skip tracks instead of it being associated to the more normal volume buttons on either side enforced through a double tap. The same central button is used for first connecting the device via a longer press but then that same action once connected activates Siri or your associated voice service. Minute, yet frustratingly annoying and something I continue to get wrong now weeks into daily use.
How they sounded
The first song I listened to with the H5’s was Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. As I lay on my couch and listened I repeatedly heard a low hiss or popping in the background of the track. It seemed to be more evident in softer sections of the song but it certainly had me a little worried that connectivity was going to be an issue or perhaps I had a dud pair?
On my second listen through I realised it wasn’t a connection issue, there wasn’t a problem with the earbuds either. The noise wasn’t coming from the headphones at all! The noise was in the recording, clear as day what I was hearing was in fact the needle on a record player bouncing and hissing as it must have done during the digitising of the track. That alone speaks volumes as to just how good the sound coming from these tiny drivers actually is. When using a particular pair of earphones reveals elements of a song that you never even knew were there before, that, right there, makes you want to buy them immediately.
When using a particular pair of earphones reveals elements of a song that you never even knew were there before, that, right there, makes you want to buy them immediately.
The same rang true for Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams. A gloriously sharp guitar strums through the chorus over the left channel that I’ve never heard so cleanly before. The drum’s bass pedal, whilst present, isn’t dominating in a way that other earphones are, like Beats’ Powerbeats3 for example.
Where the Beoplay H5’s and a lot of Bang & Olufsen’s treble emphatic headphones seem to fall down is in those tracks where you expect a little more “guts” to them. Queens of the Stone Age for example, whilst the guitar riffs and vocals sounded angelic that thud you’d expect of a rock band’s bass pedal was just lacking.
Other tracks with an even more bass dominant composition such as Gambino’s Bonfire and JayZ & Kanye’s Ni**as in Paris fall flat lacking that punctuation to them.
It’s strange though. As you re-listen to the more bass heavy genres of today’s pop, R&B, etc the extra crispness of the treble and mids can sort of brainwash you. Your brain sort of refocuses on all of these top end aspects you’ve likely never heard clearly before. As you continue to listen you, the lack of bass seems almost normal and you begin to wonder “Is this the way it was actually supposed to sound?” The bass not dialled up to eleven, overpowered and pelting into your ears – as can often be the case with other manufacturer’s products.
There is a little relief for those wanting a tad more bass though. The H5’s can have their EQ levels adjusted via the Beoplay App, available on iOS and Android. Again not content with standard controls B&o developed their own quadrant system allowing for the customisation of the H5 (and other Beoplay products) tone. A series of presets are included for a few listening scenarios like commuting and workouts but more can be added to better suit your own individual preference. Personally I found it better just to leave them be but if you’re really in need of some more bass this offers the option at least where others do not.
Beoplay H5 - Audio Scorecard
|Moonlight Sonata - Beethoven||A|
|Ni**as in Paris - JAY Z & Kanye West||C|
|Dreams - Fleetwood Mac||B|
|Annie Mae - John Lee Hooker||B|
|Bonfire - Childish Gambino||C|
|Ariana Grande - Love Me Harder||C|
|Paranoid Android - Radiohead||A|
|Go With The Flow - Queens Of The Stone Age||D|
|The Prodigy - Invaders Must Die||C|
|Pilot X (Audiobook) - Tom Merritt||B|
There is a lot to like about the Beoplay H5s. The simplest of features, two tiny magnets that automatically shut them off as the earbuds snap together, is ingenious. Their light weight and well fitting earbuds that can be further customised to ensure a tight seal is something that makes them attractive to everyone be it for commuting or more active activities like running or the gym.
The H5s produce a well rounded sound that will suit all genres of music. They’ll often reveal nuances to a track’s top end that have likely been hidden to you prior but due to their size will never be that punch-to-the-guts bass delivery system some might be looking for.
Where the Beoplay H5s ultimately lets themselves down is not in their sound but through their instance of unique design features. A proprietary charging solution, whilst beautiful looking, ultimately complicates their ease of use; something, which is already complicated enough, through their unorthodox control scheme.
Available in black, “Charcoal Sand” and “Dusty Rose” the Beoplay H5 earphones are available from Bang & Olufsen for A$380.
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