The B&O Beoplay H8i headphones are a pair of wireless Bluetooth-connected, active noise cancelling cans. They offer a combination of high-quality audio with premium design and build materials. As you’d imagine, they’re expensive. But you get what you pay for.
As such, the H8i headphones – the follow-up to the H8 – offer an impressive setup that’s compact and light enough to make them the ideal travel companion. This puts them up against the likes of the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones, although these are a little more pricey for that material advantage.
So are the B&O Beoplay H8i headphones worth that steep price tag?
You’ll struggle to fault Bang & Olufsen when it comes to design. The high-end Danish manufacturer has always prided itself on its superior design, which nearly always means its products come with a premium price tag. The B&O Beoplay H8i are no different at £350.
According to the company, the materials used in the H8i’s construction will ensure these cans will see your through years of use, so your money should go pretty far.
The headband’s leather outer presents a tough skin that, despite seeing plenty of diving into and out of bags, will age well, giving the headphones a well-loved look over time. The earpiece outers are finished with anodised aluminium, which not only looks great but makes for a tough yet lightweight shell.
It’s only the inner part of the headband with which I could find fault. Its rough finish helps to keep these headphones firmly in place, but with very little padding, they aren’t the most comfortable – especially if you’re lacking in the hair department.
That said, the build is super-light, so the headphones do sit very gently on the head and are barely noticeable around the neck. They can be little tight, so be sure to play around with the adjustments to get the fit just as you’d like it.
The B&O Beoplay H8i offers USB-C for charging – ideal to double up with your modern smartphone charger. For those with iPhones or older Android handsets, this might mean having yet another cable to carry around. However, with a 30-hour battery this may not be a huge cause for concern – but more on that below.
Unlike the previous H8 cans, the H8i sport button controls rather than touch-sensitive ear outers. Buttons are simpler to use, plus they’re less likely to be accidentally activated. This might appear to be a step back in terms of tech, it’s actually a step forward for functionality.
Beyond the design comforts, style and longevity, the H8i present a smart setup on the inside too. The headphones offer active noise cancellation at the slide of a switch on the left earpiece. This can also be moved in the other direction to activate a transparency mode that lets you hear what’s going on around you. A nice addition – but it’s likely to be rarely used since the H8i include sensors to detect if the headset is removed, at which point they will pause whatever it is you’re playing.
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Controls, now in button form, make for easy access to a connected smartphone. That means making and receiving calls, pausing and playing music, skipping tracks or controlling volume are all accessed without the need to remove your phone from your pocket or bag. Since the mics in this headset are excellent, this doubles as a hands-free option too.
Physical features are a great part of the H8i setup. The ability to fold the headphones down into the included carry bag is great for travel. Plus, the smooth action on the headband size adjustment feels high-end and is reassuringly well made. It also means you can adjust within millimetres to get the most comfortable fit.
The headphones use Bluetooth 4.2 and can support AAC audio files, so if you want high-quality listening then these will help. However, for aptX support you’ll have to go elsewhere. When you consider the price of these cans, the omission of that pretty widely used standard is frustrating.
The B&O Beoplay app is available to use with the H8i, which is great if you use it with, say, an Apple Watch, since it means you can control music from your wrist. That said, you probably use a streaming app with controls directly from the phone or wearable anyway, so the app may not get that much use in real life.
However, if you want to play with the audio setup then this app is ideal. It allows you to slide a digital dot around to vary audio spaciousness and tonality, for example. You likely won’t use this much, but it’s nice to have the option if a particularly good song needs some fine-tuning to be appreciated perfectly.
B&O Beoplay H8i – Performance
As you’d expect from a £350 pair of Band & Olufsen headphones, sound quality is excellent. The sound through those 40mm electro-dynamic drivers is brilliantly balanced.
Combine the well-tuned speakers with the excellent active noise cancelling and you’ll benefit from a good sense of immersion to whatever content you’re playing through the H8i. They’re loud too, if you feel the desire to rock out.
Some may argue that the bass could be punchier, but those listeners are likely to prefer the heavy bass tuning you’d find on the Beats Studio 3. For those who prioritise balance, the H8i offer a well-refined sound.
When it comes to connectivity, the H8i headphones are great. Powering on is near-instant, and Bluetooth fires up quickly and connects to any device instantly.
B&O says the H8i will keep going for 30 hours on a charge. However, with active noise cancelling off the headphones will power on for a whopping 45 hours. The result is that you’ll very rarely need to charge this headset.
When you do need to charge them up it will be via USB-C, so you can use your phone cable, presuming you have a newer Android device. Despite this new, high-powered charging option, it will still take a good three hours to get the H8i back to full power – but since you won’t be doing this often, this really isn’t an issue.
Coming back to that active noise cancelling. On a plane, the H8i did an excellent job of cutting out much of the engine noise, talking and even screaming children. When you consider that the earpieces are so light and don’t cut out that much sound passively, this is a really outstanding example of ANC at work.
Why buy the B&O Beoplay H8i?
If a high-quality construction and long-lasting quality are what you’re after, then look no further. For a refined and balanced sound with excellent active noise cancelling, the H8i certainly deliver. Plus, they’re light weight means they’re great when it comes to portability and comfort too.
The only instance where you’re left wanting is for aptX support.
If you’ve got more cash to splash, check out the larger and technically fancier B&O Beoplay H9i, which we loved.
Want a pair of headphones that offer premium design and build materials combined with well-refined sound and active noise cancelling, all packed into a portable frame? You won’t go far wrong with the B&O Beoplay H8i then – presuming you can stretch to that price, of course.