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It’s no secret that over-ear Bluetooth headphones provide the best music listening experience compared to on-ear models or earbuds.
There’s more space for headphone makers to pack in larger drivers (the part of a speaker or headphone that produces sound), and the large earcups create the ideal listening environment for your ears. You basically get to take a pair of nicer speakers with you on the go.
Unfortunately, the larger size of over-ear headphones means they’re heavier and less comfortable to wear for long listening sessions. Plus, your ears can get sweaty since they’re completely cut off from the outside world.
Bang & Olfusen, an audio company with 96 years of experience in the world of audio, aimed to solve this problem with their new flagship over-ear headphone: The Beoplay HX. They succeeded.
The Beoplay HX Headphones Were Designed With Comfort In Mind
From the outside, the Beoplay HX looks like a standard pair of over-ear headphones. Its circular earcups were large enough to fit over my entire ear with room to spare, but your experience may differ if you’ve got larger ones. The earcups were smaller than the ones on Shure’s Aonic 50s and Bowers & Wilkins’ PX7s, which opted for oval-shaped earcups instead of circles.
A lot of headphone companies over-stuff the earcups on their over-ear headphones to maximize comfort, but Bang & Olufsen bucked that trend. Instead, the company opted to use a thinner layer of memory foam, which squished against my head (in a good way) the moment I put the headphones on.
Because of this choice, the Beoplay HX headphones felt extremely comfortable without being overly bulky. I was especially pleased at how nice the headband padding felt against the top of my head. Bang & Olufsen’s use of soft materials would have been enough to make the HX headphones more comfortable than the average over-ear pair, but the company took things one step further.
It decided to focus on the Beoplay HX’s clamping force, which is how much pressure the earpads apply to the sides of your head. This meant managing an extremely delicate balance. If the clamping force was too high, the headphones wouldn’t feel comfortable for more than a couple of hours; if it was too low, the headphones would fall off each time you turned your head. The company nailed it.
In practice, Bang & Olufsen’s extreme emphasis on comfort paid off. I found myself reaching for the Beoplay HXs more often than earbuds or on-ear headphones when listening to music for pleasure. They were even comfortable to wear during most of a cross-continental flight.
They’re Also One Of The Best-Sounding Headphones We’ve Ever Tested
Comfort is an important factor to consider when choosing over-ear headphones, but sound is still the most important one. Thankfully, Bang & Olufsen didn’t forget that, the Beoplay HX headphones sound fantastic.
I was particularly impressed at their performance when listening to vocals. Lorde’s gentle multi-layered signing on Stoned At The Nail Salon sounded incredible. The powerful, driving sound of Laura Nyro’s voice on Stoned Soul Picnic had a surprising level of punch that made the 54-year-old song sound fresh and alive.
I had similar revelations while listening to instrumental tracks, with the clarity of the piano track on Kenny Durham’s Buffalo being the most riveting. Eric Clapton’s mix of Bottle Of Red Wine, which went unreleased until this year’s 40th Anniversary edition of his eponymous album chugged along, with the organ track largely mixed into the left channel being a particular highlight.
This small element of the guitar-driven song may have been lost when listening on lesser headphones, but it was easily audible during my tests. The only time I felt the Beoplay HX struggle was with the one-two punch of a kick drum and bass on The Roots’ You Got Me. Those two sounds in the low frequency range threatened to overpower the drivers in the Beoplay HX, but never managed to actually cause distortion.
Bang & Olufsen Didn’t Skimp On Extra Features Like Active Noise Cancellation
Audio quality and comfort are the primary reasons we’re recommending the Beoplay HX headphones, but it also checks a number of other boxes that help it stand out.
The biggest one is its active noise cancelling, which was top notch in our tests. Bang & Olufsen made sure to tune this feature so that enabling it wouldn’t mess with the sound of music, which is very important. You can turn ANC on and off with the push of a button, or use Bang & Olufsen’s app to adjust it manually or set the feature to change automatically.
The Beoplay HX’s active noise cancellation is on par with other premium over-ear headphones we’ve tested, which means they’re a solid pick for travel or noisy commutes. We found the headphones could block out all of the noise from a loud air conditioner when playing music at 50% volume. You’ll need to increase it to about 75% if you want to block airplane engine sounds.
Bang & Olufsen’s mobile app required to access the Beoplay HX’s other extra features. You can change the headphones’ EQ to presets, though this pair sounds great right out of the box, or create a custom one that suits your ears. As with all my headphone tests, I made sure the Beoplay HX’s EQ was set to neutral (no added bass or treble) to properly assess it.
The only other extra feature is the ability to enable or disable wear detection, which will automatically pause your music when you take the Beoplay HX headphones off. I liked this feature when traveling because I could hear announcements from the pilot, flight attendants, and gate attendants more quickly.
Are Bang & Olufsen’s HX Headphones Worth It?
Traditionally, you’ve had to choose between headphones that provided the best possible sound, and a pair that felt comfortable to wear for several hours at a time without interruption. Bang & Olufsen’s HX headphones prove that you don’t need to make that choice.
They’re still larger and heavier than on-ear headphones or earbuds, which ultimately means they’re less portable, but Bang & Olufsen deserve kudos for making headphones so nice to wear that it makes the size difference less noticeable.
If you listen to music all day at work, need a distraction during long flights, or want to avoid ear pain that can occur when using over-ear headphones, Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay HX is the best choice.