Bang & Olufsen launches the HX, a successor to the H9 that is supposed to offer more in all respects – except weight. At 285 grams, it occupies a top spot in the lightweight ear-cup league, which makes them exceedingly pleasant to wear right from the first fitting.
After the Scandinavians’ brand identity had a bit of a wobble a few years ago, these headphones are now rebranded as Beoplay as part of the Bang & Olufsen range.
The HX are wireless headphones made to a high technical standard with a chic design for everyday use and, at just under 500 EUR equivalent, they belong to the upper-mid price range.
Package and workmanship
The sturdy outer box houses a case containing the HX. A side compartment of the box conceals a 1.20-metre (sufficient) USB-A to USB-C cable and an identical 1.20-metre (rather too short) audio cable. The very attractive HX is available in anthracite, sand and timber colour schemes. The Beoplay HX is characterised by quality materials, very good workmanship, a chic design and – as already mentioned – a high level of wearing comfort.
The ear cups are made of aluminium, the cushions of soft leather. The headband is made of composite fabric, and the HX can be comfortably adjusted to fit your head via a padded telescopic mechanism. The underside is covered with fabric. The top is adorned with a leather patch in the same colour as the headphones. In look and feel, this is a high-quality product.
The HX works with Bluetooth 5.1 and the audio codecs aptX Adaptive as well as AAC and SBC. Thus they provide the best possible audio connection with all devices currently on the market. In addition, certifications for Google Fast Pair, MFi (iOS) and Microsoft Swift Pair are provided for the fastest possible and most stable Bluetooth connections. The multipoint function allows two devices to be operated simultaneously. The 40 mm drivers provide an effective frequency range of 20 to 22,000 Hz.
The adaptive Noise Cancelling is achieved via four digital microphones. A replaceable 1,200 mAh lithium-ion battery provides comfortable runtimes of up to 35 hours with ANC and, according to the manufacturer, as much as 40 hours without noise cancellation.
Nowadays, Bluetooth headphones hardly need an instruction manual. As a rule, manufacturers provide apps – and so do Bang & Olufsen. The app has to be personalised. Some may think this is stupid or superfluous, but the manufacturers probably don’t. The app, which is available for Android and iOS, manages all the devices in the Bang & Olufsen universe in a smart home manner.
When the HX is registered, the app offers different listening modes. These are sound attributes that you can determine yourself by moving a point in the circle between “Bright”, “Relaxed”, “Warm” and “Energised”. This allows you to create listening profiles and save them under your own name.
In addition, noise-cancelling can be controlled in the app, either adaptively – i.e. automatically situation-related – or in the conventional sense by setting different noise cancelling strengths via a virtual control.
The app can also be used to perform software updates, there is a small user manual and music control is also possible in the B&O app.
If possible, don’t operate headphones like the Beoplay HX via an app. Ideally, these headphones should operate themselves. When you put them on, they connect automatically to familiar devices such as computers or smartphones, skipping through the playlist is more or less intuitive, and noise-cancelling, transparency mode, accepting phone calls or contacting the user via voice assistant should also function as if by magic in the best sense of the word.
All this works with the HX sometimes more, sometimes less well, because there were a few “hiccups” that required a little patience in our test.
Let’s start with everyday challenges. In our test, which lasted just under a week, I spent most of my time working with an iPhone and a MacBook Pro. Making phone and video calls, listening to music, podcasts and watching videos without disturbing others or being disturbed by others.
One of the things that didn’t always work was the volume control which uses swipe gestures. A circular swipe on the right ear cup, clockwise to increase and counterclockwise to decrease, was all too often unsuccessful. I’m hoping that firmware updates will improve this, as the Beoplay predecessors were capable of this function. Stopping music or accepting calls by tapping the centre of the right outer surface of the HX worked reliably after a noticeable delay and once I’d got used to it.
The voice quality was very good – both for telephone calls and video meetings (and the appearance of the HX even received praise once or twice). Changing the NC mode by pressing a button on the back of the left cup also worked reliably. This made it easy to quickly adapt to different environments. Depending on whether you want to have peace and quiet or want to be able to hear something of the outside world via transparency mode – it was quite easy to manage.
Another thing that worked well was the ability to disconnect and automatically pause when listening to music or podcasts, in order to continue at the same point when you start again.
And: the power goes a long way with the Beoplay HX. These headphones only needed a recharge of just under two hours to get through a five-day trial use without complaint. Last but not least, pairing with iOS and Android devices was quick and without major problems.
Sound and noise cancelling
For everyday headphones, the sound is important, but by far not the most important thing anymore or indeed the sole deciding factor when buying. After listening to the headphonecheck.com playlist, I found the HX quite universal: warm, balanced, pleasant, loud enough. The HX offers a genre-proof sound experience without showing any special character. Classical, jazz, soul, pop, electronic: everything was comfortably delivered to the ear. These headphones offer a great listening experience no matter what genre you’re listening to.
In terms of noise cancelling, however, the Beoplay HX does not offer “haute couture”, but rather something along the lines of good “off-the-peg” quality. They work absolutely fine for everyday use, but there are differences noticeable in comparison to the Apple AirPods Max that I recently tested.
The lightweight construction of the Beoplay HX means that they have little intrinsic bulk, so their passive noise cancelling isn’t all that great for a pair of closed headphones. In ANC mode, the HX also struggle to combat long-wave sound events in particular. A walk beside a stretch of motorway revealed attenuation weaknesses, especially with humming and engine noises. Wind noise, on the other hand, was handled quite well by the HX, and the transparency mode was also impressive. Slightly perceptible background noise and the somewhat overemphasised highs are quite acceptable.
For music lovers and air travellers, the HX also offer the option of playing analogue audio sources via a mini-jack cable. Here, there is hardly any difference in sound; only high-resolution audio material via FLAC player was able to pull up a small sound reserve that would otherwise remain hidden via Bluetooth. The Beoplay HX can be used for hi-fi sofa-based listening, although the supplied cable would need to be replaced with a longer version if necessary. On a positive note, noise-cancelling can be used in wired mode.
With the Beoplay HX, Bang & Olufsen offers a worthy successor to the H9. Its endurance and wearing comfort are extremely positive aspects. But the great sound and efficient adaptive noise cancelling also propel the Beoplay HX to the top of our list of recommendations.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 22.000 Hz
- Impedance+/- 15 %: 24 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)@ 1 kHz/1 mW: 95 dB
- Weight without cable285 g
- Cable length125 cm
What's in the box
- 3.5 mm audio cable, 1.25 m
- USB-A to USB-C cable, 1.25 m
- Fabric carrying pouch
- available in Anthracite, Sand and Timber
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive
- BT version: 5.1