The torrent of wireless headphone news at CES 2018 continues with one of my personal highlights: B&O Play is updating its H8 on-ear and H9 over-ear wireless headphones with new, longer-lasting models. The sound has been retuned, with the company boldly proclaiming that the H8i and H9i are “designed to overwhelm you with precision, power, and detail.”
The new H9i still has the same stitched cowhide leather headband, anodized aluminium ear cups, and lambskin pads with memory foam. But it makes two major improvements in switching to USB-C for charging — as I’d implored B&O Play to do in my original H9 review — and it gets four more hours of playtime out of its battery with a new rating of 18 hours.
In terms of design, the ear cushions have been made a touch slimmer and some of the exterior aesthetics have been updated. I didn’t, however, feel much difference when trying the H9i for the first time here at CES. The H9s were some of the most comfortable headphones I’ve tested and their successors feel very similar. B&O Play has also added a bass port for more powerful and optimal bass reproduction.
Both the H9i and H8i have noise cancelling built in, and this year’s editions have been improved in the particular frequency range of human voices. So if the noise you want to cancel most is other people, this upgrade will be particularly important to you.
The touch controls, which I didn’t like about the H9, return in the H9i, though they’ve been enhanced as well. A new Transparency Mode can be accessed with a gesture, turning off the music and NC to let you hear the world around you.
A proximity sensor has been added to allow the H9i to automatically pause music when you take the headphones off. There’s also an additional mic in the new model, whose purpose is purely to improve voice call quality.
The on-ear H8i differ in being smaller on the outside but having a bigger battery on the inside. There’s an 1100mAh cell in the H8i, which is fixed and can’t be replaced, whereas the H9i have a 770mAh battery that can be swapped out by the user. So B&O Play is giving you, the consumer, the choice: a removable but smaller battery or a fixed and longer-lasting one. The H8i have double the battery life of their predecessor H8 model, reaching a laudable 30 hours of use with active noise cancelling and Bluetooth turned on.
Another difference between the two models is that the BeoPlay H8i comes with physical button controls on both ear cups. The Transparency Mode is thus accessed via a click rather than a gesture on the H8i. The same proximity sensor tech and improved call quality are features of this smaller model too.
Sales of the BeoPlay H9i and BeoPlay H8i begin on January 25th for a price of $499 / €499 / £449 for the H9i or $399 / €399 / £349 for H8i. You can have them in either black or a natural tan color.