B&O Beoplay H5 wireless earphones review
High-end audio brand Bang & Olufsen recently announced the Beoplay H5 wireless, the company’s first pair of wireless earphones. With rumours of the iPhone 7 dropping the headphone jack, people are looking at Bluetooth headphones and earphones more than ever – but does the Beoplay H5 wireless have what it takes to justify its high-end pricetag? We’ve spent some time with the Beoplay H5 wireless, and here’s what we think. Read next: Best headphones of 2016
Beoplay H5 wireless review: Pricing and availability
First things first – where can you pick up the Beoplay H5 wireless for yourself? The good news is that the wireless earphones are now readily available in the UK after a late-June 2016 release. The price? The H5 wireless is slightly on the expensive side at £199, making the earphones comparable to the likes of Sony’s luxurious h.ear on Wireless NC headphones in terms of price.
If you’re keen on B&O’s Beoplay H5 wireless earphones then you can pick them up on Amazon for £199 or from B&O itself for the same price, £199, and is available in two colours – black or ‘dusty rose’. The question is, “is it worth the £199 price tag?” Read on to find out.
Beoplay H5 wireless review: Design and build quality
Let’s first talk about the design of the gorgeous Beoplay H5 wireless earphones – arguably one of its biggest draws, featuring a combination of aluminium, fabric and rubber. With no chunky middle part to the H5 wireless earphones like with cheaper alternatives, we were concerned that all the tech built directly into the earbuds themselves would weigh them down and make them fall out of our ears fairly easily – but we were wrong. Although it did take a few attempts to find the right size earbud tips for our ears (an important step to getting the most out of your earphones), once we found a snug-fitting set we found the earphones would stay securely in place, making them ideal for use when exercising – but that’s to be expected with earphones that only weigh 18g.
The Beoplay H5 Wireless earphones are also incredibly discreet, thanks to its understated yet sleek design. The earphones are connected via a braded cable (which helps with durability and looks good) and magnets built into the earbuds allow them to be connected to form a necklace around your neck when not in use. The H5 wireless also knows when the earbuds are stuck together, and will automatically pause your music too.
However, that isn’t the only use of the magnetic ports built into the earbuds – they also double up as a charging port for the earphones. Similar to how smartwatches like the Apple Watch are charged, the H5 wireless sits in a dock that wirelessly transfers power to the earphones via the magnetic ports. This negates the need for a large, ugly microUSB port, but it also means you’ll need to carry the dock around with you as, you’ll find out in more detail below, the battery life isn’t the greatest.
Comfort was also a big factor for B&O with the Beoplay H5 wireless, with the earphone housing made from moisture resistant material (to protect against the likes of sweat) and the tips of the earbuds being heat-sensitive. As mentioned above, it did take us a while to find our perfect size tips for our earbuds but once we did, it was fairly comfortable with no real strain on our ears – although we must admit, it did start to get slightly uncomfortable after extended periods of use.
The only downside to the H5 wireless in terms of its design? The integrated media controls are a little bit too high up on the cable, and it requires us to reach behind our ear (as the cable rests along the back of your neck) to change the music or adjust the volume. It’s not a huge deal, but becomes a bit annoying after a while – especially when you’re used to having media controls aligned with your neck on standard earphones.
Beoplay H5 wireless review: Connectivity and battery life
In terms of connectivity, the Beoplay H5 wireless earphones connect exclusively using Bluetooth 4.2 with support for not only aptX but aptX-LL and AAC codecs – but what does this mean for us at home? aptX support provides user with high quality stereo audio over the Bluetooth connection, although the source (i.e. your smartphone) must also feature aptX technology or it’s useless.
aptX-LL, or aptX Low Latency provides audio-video synchronisation, which means that when watching a video using the wireless Bluetooth earphones, the audio and video should be completely in sync – in fact, CSR claims that aptX-LL offers a latency of 32ms. For context, audio to video synchronisation in broadcast TV is somewhere between +40ms and -60ms.
The Beoplay H5 wireless features two 50mAh batteries (one in each earbud) that equate to a combined 100mAh battery, a fairly small capacity when you consider that even smartwatches have bigger batteries. This translates to roughly five hours of playback, although we’ve found that on occasion, it doesn’t even last that long. This is where the issue of a bespoke dock comes into play – if the H5 wireless was charged via micro-USB, it’d be fairly easy to charge up while at work, at a friend’s house, etc because let’s be honest, everybody has at least one micro-USB cable laying around, but the same isn’t said for the H5 wireless dock.
This means that if you want to use the earphones on your commute to work, at work and on the way home from work, you’ll definitely have to carry the dock around with you using the soft case provided.
Beoplay H5 wireless review: Sound quality
The Beoplay H5 wireless features 6.4mm ‘electro-dynamic’ drivers which the company claims should deliver “outstanding Bang & Olufsen Signature Sound” although we do disagree, ever so slightly. While the general audio quality produced by the H5 wireless earphones is fairly decent, there is a downside too – finding the sweet spot. Like with many other earphones, you must find the right size tips and the sweet spot in-ear to provide the highest quality audio possible, and any slight adjustment will impede the quality. The good news is that once you do find the sweet spot, the audio produced by the H5 wireless is generally quite good.
However, while most songs sound crisp, clear and balanced, there are times where the mids become grainy and the audio becomes quite harsh – although we’re not sure if this is due to the earbuds themselves, the Bluetooth connection or possibly a faulty unit. We’ll investigate this issue more thoroughly and report back in the coming days. One area that these earphones succeed in is bass – the bass is generally tight, rich and warm and delivers the desired kick, especially when on-the-go.
But the biggest question is, “is the audio quality good enough to justify the price tag?” and after spending a few weeks with the H5 wireless, we’re not so sure. While the audio quality is generally quite crisp and clear, we don’t feel that its quality is reflective of its price tag – especially when you consider other £200 earphones and headphones.
While the Beoplay H5 wireless earphones are great in terms of its design, slightly disappointing audio quality leads us to believe that the H5 wireless isn’t worth the £199 price tag. The issues regarding the occasional grainy mid tones and harsh audio ruin an otherwise decent audio experience, and although it’s not present with every song we listened to, it happened regularly enough for it to be noticeable and isn’t something we’d expect at this price range. However, the earphones were designed to be wireless, portable and discreet and in these areas, the H5 wireless is a winner – it’s lightweight at 18g and the use of magnets to transform the earphones into a necklace when not in use is a great feature.