Beoplay H5 review: Exquisite sound at a price
MANILA, Philippines – When Apple introduced the iPhone 7, one of its most interesting quirks (or perhaps most hated) is that it's gotten rid of the headphone jack. The news came as a shock to most audiophiles: What are we supposed to do now with our uber-expensive, wired headphones?
Okay, sure, there's a dongle available. But it's not an elegant solution; in fact, it's counterintuitive.
For some, the signal was loud and clear: hunt for a quality pair of wireless headphones now. A month ago, we came across the Kickstarter-powered Bragi Dash, a $280 pair that's closest to replicating Apple's own AirPods. It had cool features: You could double-tap your right cheek to summon Siri or Google. Unfortunately, the expensive pair falls short on one of the most important features earphones need to have: audio quality.
In our hunt for one, we happened upon the Beoplay H5, from the Danish audio experts Bang & Olufsen (B&O). The H5 is a premium device, through and through. The packaging is exquisite; the materials feel high-end; and the overall experience leads one to believe that its makers were bent on making this pair stand out.
And for the most part, it does. The sound quality you get from this pair is above par. It's delicious. The sound is well-balanced, producing a rich, full-bodied spectrum of lows, mids and highs. The pair does have a tendency to be too sparkly and glittery with the highs, but the accompanying Beoplay app with its "ToneTouch" interface lets you adjust the audio profile easily. The innovative app is a great addition to the package for those who listen to a variety of genres – and want to micro-tweak settings to achieve the best sound. One minor complaint before was that the app was only available for Apple. This has since been addressed and the app is now available on Android.
We're happy to report that the Bluetooth-enabled pair offers mostly a plug-and-play affair. Although if you have multiple Bluetooth devices lying around, that's when you might encounter some difficulty pairing. During testing, there was one instance where we had to restart our phone so we could successfully connect to the device. The H5 connects through Bluetooth 4.2 with aptX and AAC codecs, a configuration ensuring high-quality wireless audio. Older devices do not have support for the said codecs, which result in an inability to receive high-quality audio.
Along with the outstanding audio, the H5 has some design features you won't find elsewhere. The wires that connect that 2 earbuds are made of a premium fabric that B&O says was inspired by the material used in today's modern speakers. The cord, which mostly lies on the back of your neck when in use, is soft but durable and isn't likely to chafe your skin.
The look does take some getting used to. The H5 isn't a true-wireless pair like the Bragi Dash or the Airpods; there's still a wire connecting the earbuds. It will look strange at first and some might wonder just why there's a wire jutting out from your ears. Some will get used to it; some will prefer the cleaner look of true-wireless pairs. It boils down to what you prefer.
For us, the H5 represents a transition from the classic wired earphones to AirPod-era wirelessness – one step in the evolutionary ladder. Maybe we need to experience the semi-wireless design of a pair like the H5, and learn how to live with it before we completely move on to AirPod-like devices – which are mathematically twice as easy to lose thanks to its separate earpieces.
One design feature of the H5 that makes it hard to lose is its magnetic earpieces. When you take the earpieces out of you ear, they hang over your neck. Place the two earpieces together and they magnetically stick to one another, making it look like you're wearing a braided necklaces. The design makes it harder for you to lose the device. The mechanism also automatically turns off the device, saving you precious battery life. B&O says the device lasts for 5 hours, which is par for the course.
Another part of its idiosyncratic design is its charger. The charger is a cube-shaped device on which the two earphones stick magnetically. It's cool, elegant, and easy-to-use. But be very careful not to lose the cube as you won't have any other way to charge – unlike most other micro-USB-enabled wireless sets.
For the on-the-go user
The H5 is recommended for the active lifestyle crowd. It's splash and dust resistant and the housing of its earphones does a good job of resisting all that sweat and moisture you produce while exercising. The package also comes with 3 pairs of ear tips called "Comply Sport" which are designed to further keep the moisture out that might mess with the electronics.
All that said, this pair feels like the best semi-wireless earphones in the market right now, doesn't it? Unfortunately, all of these well thought-out features come at a price – a big one. It's very expensive at P14,990, which is why it's hard to recommend for everyone. But If you like good design, and want an extremely balanced audio profile – perhaps the best in its class – the H5 is truly something to aspire to.
Check out the H5 at Bo Concept Showroom BGC or at the B&O PLAY Collection at URGE Greenbelt, URGE Greenhills and Mobile1 Rockwell. – Rappler.com