If recent products are any indication, something happens to headphones when they cross the $350 price barrier—they get covered in leather. The Sennheiser Momentum, Bowers & Wilkins P7, and now the $399.99 (direct) Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H6 all feature eye-catching leather designs. The audio performance of all three is also top notch, though the H6 offers a far more flat response that might appeal to audiophiles more than the others.
B&O keeps the design flourishes to a minimum with the H6, which at first glance doesn’t scream luxury like the B&W P7 does. The circumaural (over-the-ear) design uses leather nearly as plentifully, but the real flourishes are hidden from view when the H6 is being worn. The interior grille of each earcup is a neon yellow-green and boldly states L or R so you know which earcup is which. I happen to love this move, since it’s much easier than squinting to find tiny letters on headphones to figure out which is the right way to wear it. The overall fit here is also quite comfortable and lightweight, even over long listening sessions.
The H6 also features a detachable cable, and the cable includes a three-button remote control and microphone for use with mobile devices. The cable can be plugged into either earcup, and you can daisy-chain multiple H6 pairs together to listen to the same source. While the removable cable definitely adds value to the H6 (replacing a malfunctioning cable is far cheaper than replacing the whole headphone pair or sending it in for repairs), many similarly priced headphones like the B&W P7 come with two detachable cables, one with a remote and the other without. A protective drawstring bag and an airplane jack adapter (but no 1/4-inch adapter) also come with the H6, but again the B&W P7 ships with far sexier accessories like a leather carrying case.
The H6 didn’t distort on our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” though at absolute top volumes it came close. At safe listening levels, things are clean and clear, but either way this is not a headphone pair for bass lovers. The sound signature is articulate and crisp, and decidedly not bass-heavy. Compared with the bass-boosting Beats by Dr. Dre sound signature, it’s like night and day.
Through the H6, Bill Callahan’s “Drover” had a sharp emphasis on the vocals and guitar work. His baritone receives too much low-end boost from many headphones, but the high-mid, gravelly edge of his voice, the strumming of the guitar, and the attack of the drums take the spotlight here. Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild” sounded a tad thin, with little emphasis on the deep bass presence of the sub-bass synth hits. Instead, the focus was on vocals and the treble attack of the kick drum loop, almost the exact opposite sound of most headphones I review. This is not what hip hop and electronic music lovers are accustomed to hearing when they listen through headphones.
On classical tracks, like John Adam’s “The Chairman Dances,” the higher register strings and brass become even more prominent than usual. This is because the subtle bass response does little to add any sense of richness or depth to the lower register strings and percussion on this track. This track sounds less thin than the Jay-Z/Kanye West track, but again—there is not a lot of bass response here. The sound signature is at odds with modern mixes and tastes, but audiophiles will appreciate it.
If you’re seeking more powerful low frequency response, there are plenty of bass-boosting headphones. The excellent aforementioned B&W P7 boosts the lows, but does so in a way that still allows for a balanced mix. If $400 is out of your price range, the also-excellent Sennheiser Momentum is worth a gander. The Marshall Monitor offers a cool look and balanced sound signature, and the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro offer a similar flat response to the H6 for much lower prices.
At $400, the B&O H6 is an intriguing headphone option. In the age of big, booming bass, it’s doing its own thing. This is by no means an anemic-sounding headphone pair, it just favors lows, mids, and highs over a wildly boosted sub-bass range. If a more refined, crisp mids-focused sound is what you seek, the H6 will not disappoint, and it’s refreshing to see such a unique sound signature in this field.
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