(Pocket-lint) - Headphones have been passing through the office in abundance of late, so when the Bang & Olufsen H8 over-ear cans arrived we were expecting something special. The Danish company’s top-end H8 cans are some of the best we’ve heard, but can the step-down H7 deliver quality as solid in a looser over-ear fit?
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Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H7 review: Design
B&O is well known for its design, which is typically second to none across its range of speakers and headphones. The H7 stick to the successful formula too: they’re good-looking, well-crafted headphones made from decent materials and with enough visual flair to entice buyers in.
The grey and tan finish of our review pair look great, marrying a stitched leather headband exterior with soft cloth-covered interior, juxtaposed with hardier, shinier metal outer earcups. The main ear cup sections are plastic, however, their grey finish lacking the sheen of the metal, yet the colour matching is spot on for it to go largely unnoticed.
In terms of fit, the B&O H7 are certainly comfortable for long periods of wear. Whether commuting or sitting in the office all day with then clasped around our ears, their fit is never fatiguing, nor does it pinch too hard, while those cushy earcups are ultra-comfortable and breathable (despite their soft leather finish).
However, the fit is rather loose, so the over-ear cans have the tendency to slide around slightly - which can dramatically affect sound quality (more on that in a bit).
Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H7 review: Sound
Sound quality is the pinnacle of any pair of headphones. And it’s here the H7 cans actually underperform given their price bracket. At £329 you’re paying largely for the materials and brand prestige - but given that the H8 are £70 more, we expected sound quality to strike a similar balance.
The H7, however, lack the deep bass of Bang & Olufsen’s premier headphones, so they’re less engaging overall. Other competitors at this price point deliver a much more lively sound, too. A bit of a surprise, really.
Furthermore that loose fit really doesn’t aid sound: if the cans slip around a little you might lose a large portion of top-end compared to, say, if they were perfectly positioned. That’s the trade-off for large over-ear can comfort, to some degree, but when on-the-move we’ve found the H7 to move around a touch too much.
Although that’s not to say the sound quality is bad - it’s far from that. We’re just contextualising here, as there are better options elsewhere. In quiet surroundings, such as when listening to music at home, we’ve been satisfied with the range and breadth of the sound quality. When on-the-move, however, external noises can distract, as these aren’t sealed cans.
Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H7 review: Bluetooth
In addition to the 3.5mm wire that’s included in the box, you can choose to cut the cord if you prefer and use the H7 wirelessly via Bluetooth. Connectivity is ultra simple, with the built-in li-ion battery recharged within the headphones via a microUSB port.
We found connectivity to be solid, even with a phone placed in a pocket, with no stuttering or breaks in sound delivery. Problem is, though, the sound levels aren’t particularly loud - a maxed-out Android phone lacked the volume, which is a problem we had with the H8 headphones too. As a result, we’ve not typically used the Bluetooth feature, because it’s just not loud enough for what we want.
Bang & Olufsen has achieved a great looking set of headphones in the H7. Problem is, for their £329 price tag there are far better performers out there - and we would certainly pay the extra for the step-up H8 headphones within the company’s range.
The H7’s sound quality is good, yet not the best going. There’s just not the most engaging levels of bass, while the loose fit can mean position works against the sound delivered. And Bluetooth delivery is, once again, too quiet to be of considerable use.
So while Bang & Olufsen hits the nail on the head in terms of design, there are better options in terms of sound at this price point. The H7 over-ears, while good in isolation, are a rare example of B&O not at the top of its game.