The Danish high-end manufacturer Bang & Olufsen celebrate their 95th birthday with the special model H95, which – as of 2020 – seeks to combine all their experience and technical know-how in a pair of stylish ANC headphones.
If you want to party with Bang & Olufsen and wear some H95, you will have to be willing to make an upscale financial contribution, but in return, you will get a pair of headphones that are really something special.
The H95 are available in light and dark colour schemes. For our test, we had the “Grey Mist” version, which was delivered in a colour-coordinated cardboard box with a classy elegant finish. In the interior aluminium case we found the artfully folded headphones, in an “extra room” of the cardboard box in the same colour scheme we then found the USB charging cable, audio cable and aeroplane adapter.
The cables are textile-coated and slightly short at 1.20 metres, while the ear pads are made of finest lamb’s leather and are lined with memory foam. They can be removed with a magnetic closure and can also be replaced. The underside of the headband is textile-covered and the upper side is finished with leather.
Everything is well made, feels high-quality and you immediately have the feeling of wearing something more luxurious than usual on your head.
Function meets design
Yes, the H95 look chic, and the fact that the two large rings on either side of the headphones are not just sitting there, but can also be rotated to perform a function, is very well designed. The right “wheel” controls the volume; the left one controls the adaptive Noise Cancelling. Instead of wiping gestures, controlling the volume via the wheel is a very pleasant operation. But you can also control the transparency mode or the strength of the noise-cancelling “with one finger” which is extremely practical. The surface on the right-hand side of the headphones responds to touch to activate a pause command or to accept calls. A wiping gesture skips forward one song in your playlist, backward to the beginning of a track, and another swipe goes back to the previous track in your playlist.
Then there is a small button on the left side – near your earlobe – to call up the voice assistant of your choice, which works without any problems on iOS as well as on Android. On the right ear cup is another button to switch on and pair the H95. By the way, the folding mechanism is also very nicely designed: You can fold the H95 in an origami-style, which makes them easy to carry in your hand luggage or in the included aluminium case.
A festival of technology
The two drivers are made of the finest material: Titanium drivers and neodymium magnets are – so the brochure says – carefully selected, which should be a matter of course in this price range. The H95 operates via line-in, i.e. via cable, as well as via Bluetooth 5.1 – as Bluetooth codecs, in addition to SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive are implemented. The H95 is also Multipoint-capable – a very convenient feature when you are connected to a computer and Smartphone at the same time, for example, you can therefore accept phone calls and pause audio transmission from the computer the moment a call is displayed or the phone rings.
The test showed that when used with devices in the Apple family – iPhone X and MacBook – the whole combo worked very well. In contrast to the Apple/Beats headphones, however, the music on the Mac did not restart when the call was ended. In our test, the Bluetooth connection was established quickly with both Mac and Android devices thanks to the latest standard (MFI for iOS or Google Fast Pair for Android) and above all it “remembered”, so that pairing was possible at any time and without complications.
The Bluetooth connection was always solid indoors, even over longer distances and with partitions; dropouts in the audio stream only become apparent at 10 metres with two walls in between.
The battery of the H95 has 1.100 mAh making it a real powerhouse – the top values were up to 50 hours of playtime in one go or 38 hours with noise cancelling switched on! The charge level was always sufficient to give me enough time to refresh the H95’s energy thanks to a maximum two-hour full charge via USB-C. By the way, in case of breakdown at some point, the battery is not easily replaceable – it would only be possible to change it using a repair service.
Adaptive Noise Cancelling
When it comes to noise suppression, the Bang & Olufsen engineers have also pulled everything the development department has to offer out of the hat. Out of a total of eight microphones, two outside mics and two in each ear cup ensure that noise from outside is suppressed as much as possible. With ANC activated, only a small amount of noise is audible on the inside, so the H95 can also be used as a snooze aid in noisy environments.
The H95 can’t get rid of the hellish noise of neighbouring construction sites – which the contractors in front of my office have been delivering to my house for weeks now, practically free of charge – but the these special birthday headphones reduce city noise and the monotonous humming and buzzing of traffic noise to such an extent that you could call it peace and quiet. But it doesn’t get quite as quiet with these as with their competitors. I remember a much stronger effect with the Sony WH-1000XM4, the Bowers & Wilkins PX7 and also the Beats Solo Pro, which shows that the H95 aren’t one of the best for ANC. What’s really nice, of course, is that the left-hand dial does not damp the noise continuously, but in noticeable stages. In the middle position – acoustically signalled – ANC and transparency mode are switched off.
As is now common knowledge, Bang & Olufsen offer an app for administrative tasks and settings, and the Danes have now set up a new app – the old B&O version is no longer supported. In addition to user help, FAQs, support contact etc. there is also a sound matrix with seven storable presets – which is very nice. Also important: Tthe indication of remaining battery is show in percent. Unfortunately, you have to create an account to run the app. Unfortunately you get no choice in this matter. Without an app it is possible to use the H95, but they don’t give you the opportunity of quite so much convenience.
Let’s get to the highlight of any headphone test, the sound. Due to the good passive external damping and the quite effective Noise Cancelling, the H95 initially offer good conditions for acoustic retreat and as little disturbance as possible to fellow human beings. You can listen to music with oomph without disturbing others too much. Listening in pairs, like with the Apple / Beats headphones, is not possible here, but it’s OK; we have been self-isolating.
Let’s start with something electronic: “773” by “Compilerbau” is a synthesizer track with voices, artificial spaces, explosions and space effects, which the H95 brings to your ears with ease at all playback volumes. Fat basses, crispy highs, omnipresent mid-range sounds made it fun to listen to my favourite electronic playlists.
For a jazz performance, listening pleasure was also guaranteed. The enclosed space was skilfully filled with sound, with both depth and width guaranteeing a pleasant listening experience.
For the classical music test I put on the Prélude from Wagner’s Rheingold, which at first was very civilised, but then quickly turned into an orchestral monster, which can seem a bit “crowded” under some headphones – but fortunately not with the H95. Here, too, the closed system provided an extremely pleasant acoustic stage. Up to now I have used Bluetooth with the Mac or iPhone to play Spotify tracks, but I also played FLAC files from my computer, which these headphones did to my complete satisfaction. At first, I didn’t feel the need for any improvements in quality and I was curious to see how the H95 would work with HighRes material, fed via the supplied cable using a Pioneer XDP-30R and its renowned DACs.
The H95 appears to pass the analogue signal to the DSP where the audio stream is also processed via Bluetooth. When listening to the same files via Mac – first wirelessly, then via cable – a Mozart string quartet sounded highly similar. Here, too, there are some headphones – like the PX7 mentioned above – which audibly prioritise the analogue signal path and bring out that little bit of quality that an aptX Adaptive Codec just doesn’t provide.
So with the H95, there was virtually no audible difference when listening to a HighRes signal via stream or analogue via computer. The drivers transmitted the same signal via the Pioneer DAC with the expected high resolution, but also left the same sound texture – and that was very pleasant and high-quality with the Bang & Olufsen.
The Bang & Olufsen H95 are a great pair of headphones, but in my opinion they do not quite justify their high price: Very good sound, great appearance, high functionality, especially due to the good controls on the headphones themselves, very good battery performance and stylish materials don’t really make up for mediocre noise cancelling and a price that could have been a third lower… However, if you’re already in the Bang & Olufsen family you might learn to love the H95 for longer than just a glittering birthday party. A little bit of understatement goes a long way…
More measurement results
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 22.000 Hz
- Impedance+/- 15% bei 12 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)@1kHz, 1mW: 101,5 dB
- Weight without cable323 g
- Cable length120 cm
What's in the box
- Cable (USB-A to USB-C)
- Cable (mini jack)
- Airplane adapter
- Microfibre cleaning cloth
- Aluminium case
- available in black and white
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive
- BT version: 5.1