To properly test any set of headphones, you have to put them on, close your eyes and listen. For the Bang & Olufsen (B&O) H2, that means taking some time to forget about its undeniably cool vibe, thoughtful design touches, and most importantly, its price.
Using just my ears, the sound is superbly balanced and rich. Even the bass is impressively deep for a set of on-ear headphones. Opening my eyes reveals the H2's many points of engineering excellence, but, like most good-looking things, it all comes at a cost. Are these $199 (£169, about AU$270) headphones worth it? It's certainly an expensive price for some, but it pays for much more than just a stylish statement.
And what a stylish statement it is. The B&O H2, along with most of the company's other products, are geared toward posh individuals who want their headphones to be as functional a fashion accessory as they are capable at pushing out music.
It's easiest to compare the design of the H2 to what Urbanears is doing with its minimalistic headphones. The colors and build materials mesh together to form something that's easy on the eyes and durable as all heck. But that's where the similarities end.
The headband is wide set, so even noggins on the large side can kick it with the H2. Its underbelly is capped with matte plastic and cushioned near the apex with a soft, silicon air pocket to keep things cozy. On its top, the headband is covered in a layer of fabric, which gives it a classy look.
Nestled inside of the headband are the adjustable sidearms, and these extend to allow a generous amount of headroom, as I noted earlier. Going down toward the ear pads, the sidearms come to a hinge, which bows out similarly to the Bowers & Wilkins P5 headphones. This design touch isn't just for looks: it affords the pads about 90-degrees of lateral movement, just enough to rest the pads on your chest to show off the design. Not only that, these pads can wiggle up and down, so you can find the perfect placement for your ears.
Speaking of the ear pads, these are stunners. More of the mesh fabric from the headband makes its way down to the outer cap of the ear cups. It shares the space with matte black plastic, where you can also find B&O's logo subtly placed. The right ear pad is free of ports or features of any sort, but on the left side is where you'll find the input for the included 3.5mm cable. Flipped over, each ear pad is covered in luscious lambskin for added comfort.
For the asking price, you might be hoping for some extra goodies inside the box, like a carrying tote. Unfortunately, there's not much here. The only included goody is the added cable, which features a set of controls including a play and pause button, volume rocker and a microphone. It all works perfectly, but only on iOS. The play and pause function do work on Android, but if you want full compatibility, you'll have to shell out $34 for another cable. It's an even bigger issue that users don't even have a choice to opt for a universal cable instead when purchasing online.
The B&O H2 are a fashion-forward set of headphones that also know a thing or two about music playback. Expanding upon what I've written about its capabilities, the H2 presents your music on a surprisingly decent-sized soundstage for a set of on-ear headphones.
Providing an expansive soundstage is a perk usually reserved for over-ear headphones, which, at best, can break apart the instrumental layers of a song and present each clearly without sacrificing the quality of the others. But, I was as impressed with what the H2 achieved with the on-ear form factor.
Bass accuracy is right on and just as powerful as it needs to be. Mids and highs also shine through in the sound with a subtle warmness that's hard to find in a set of headphones. A big part of the reason why the H2's sound experience is so enjoyable is because of the comfort put forward by the build. You'd be dead wrong to assume that these flashy headphones didn't provide a cozy fit that allows them to be worn for hours on end.
Call quality through the headphones is fine and the included cable with microphone picked up my voice as I hoped it would. Pretty standard stuff here, but again, I'm disappointed that B&O's cable doesn't offer universal support. Even worse, it shafts Android and Windows Phone users who need to shell out an extra $34 just to get a cable that works on their devices. For the cost of the H2, a second, universal cable should be included in the box. Not everyone uses an iPhone.
When you wear the B&O H2, people will look at you with intrigue, desperately trying to figure out who makes it so they can buy their own later online. I should know: it's how I found out about them.
Thankfully, the H2 sounds as good as it look. The sound performance should please even picky listeners with its warm, evenly-balanced sound. We're trained to assume that good looks are a guise, but the H2's slick design complements the sound performance quite nicely.