Onkyo H500BT review

With wireless and Hi-Res Audio, Onkyo's latest headphones will please nearly everyone

Onkyo H500BT

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For obvious reasons I spent a number of weeks trying out the Onkyo H500BTs both wirelessly and tethered. Personally I preferred listening wirelessly, but this was purely due to ease of use, and nothing to do with audio quality.

When I did add a cable, I hooked the earphones up to my Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge via Chord's portable mobile DAC, Mojo. The results were superb.

I Exhale by Underworld, from their recent album Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future, bristled with bass. The two-note synth intro and stomp of the drums were captured well by the H500BTs; there wasn't much sound leakage, either, which meant I could turn it up very loud – and even when I did that there wasn't a hint of distortion.

Onkyo H500BT review

Songs that are a little more stripped-back fared well, too. Jeff Buckley's one-take, live rendition of Bob Dylan's Just Like a Woman was warm but crisp, and New York, New York by Ryan Adams live at the Carnegie Hall sounded, well, live, the acoustics of the show reproduced well by the headphones.

It does feel like the H500BTs crave more bass, though, so Massive Attack's Ritual Spirit EP was perfect fodder for them.

One of my favourite things about the H500BTs is that I forgot to charge them. Sorry, let me rephrase that: these headphones hold a massive amount of battery juice when used wirelessly, and easily got me through a week of commuting – an hour to work and an hour back – without me having to put them on charge. When the battery does fall below a certain point you get a voice in your ear saying "battery low", which is helpful.

Onkyo is quoting around 16 hours of battery life, and I experienced nothing to contradict this. I've tried out plenty of wireless headphones, and these are definitely among the best for holding on to their charge; and when you do have to charge them, it only takes a few hours to get them back up to full juice.

Onkyo reckons the H500BTs can also go up to 350 hours on standby, although I didn't test this out because I was too busy using them.

We liked

The Onkyo H500BT range are well designed, comfortable to use and will go the distance on one charge. Couple in Hi-Res Audio functionality and you have a very desirable pair of cans that just about warrant their £169.99 ($250) price tag.

We disliked

These aren't headphones that deliver the 'wow' factor in the looks department; they've been built for functionality, and they function very well indeed. However, while the ear cups are well made and allow for little to no vibration, I would have liked a bit more noise cancelling.

Final verdict

Onkyo may only have been in the headphones market for three years, but the company has deep audio roots, and it's obvious that clear sound that can be played loud is right at the top of its checklist when developing products.

The Onkyo H500BTs are a solid, reliable and great-sounding pair of headphones. While they don't stand out in terms of looks, they do when it comes to sound – especially when you add a cable and Hi-Res Audio into the mix.

Marc Chacksfield

Marc Chacksfield is the Editor In Chief, Shortlist.com at DC Thomson. He started out life as a movie writer for numerous (now defunct) magazines and soon found himself online - editing a gaggle of gadget sites, including TechRadar, Digital Camera World and Tom's Guide UK. At Shortlist you'll find him mostly writing about movies and tech, so no change there then.