Bang & Olufsen (B&O) Around-Ear Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, May 13, 2015.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Youtube review: http://youtu.be/Sj0u4dLnSJ4

    Photos:
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Panasonic_Zs50/Headphone_B_O_H6_01.jpg
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/B_O_H6.jpg

    Sources: iPhone6+ with v-moda Verza/Portaphile Micro/Decware Zen Head amps, various computers using HRT Microstreamer/FiiO E17k/Beyer A200p DAC/amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the B&O H6 are based on direct comparisons to other headphones - the v-moda M100 and XS, the FAD Pandora VI and IV, the Beyerdynamic T1 and T90, the AKG K812 and K712, and notes that I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I'll describe how I relate to the H6 (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    I reviewed the previous H6 that I purchased in October of 2013, but I purchased this headphone again (after trading off the previous H6) because I now use the Apple i-device Audioforge Equalizer app to make a more precise determination of where the weaknesses are in each headphone, and I wanted to make a curve for the H6 as part of my reevaluation. Although the maximum resolution I get from the i-devices is 44 khz (CD quality) using Apple-compatible DACs such as the Oppo HA-2, that resolution is more than sufficient to determine a headphone's signature, which is its basic sound quality. I rarely need to go beyond basic sound quality unless the headphone is criticized elsewhere for tonality problems or unusual distortions, etc. In the H6's case, I don't find anything that I see a need to report, for example why the deep bass may have less detail than a few other headphones in this general price range. I find it acceptable, so I'll just report the common issues and then go on to the physical description.

    The H6 bass is strong, but also fairly flat. It doesn't have bloat or boom to any significant degree, and no 'humps' or weak points like so many other headphones I've had. There is a slight recess around 200-250 hz that gives the lower mids a lighter than ideal flavor, but it's not offensive. There's a minor but broad emphasis around 800-1500 hz that gives the upper mids a slightly nasal sound, but again it's very minor. The ~6 db recess around 4 khz and emphasis at 9 khz create an impression of 'zing' in the upper treble, which combined with the strong bass makes for a 'V'-shape signature, although it's not as pronounced as the Final Audio Pandora VI, for example. I can't say with any precision how perfectly the bass blends into the midrange, but I don't hear anything amiss in that regard. There is some of the 'constricted' effect with the H6 sound, which I expect with most small closed-back headphones, but it isn't especially noticeable unless listening to very sensitive tracks in a quiet listening room.

    The H6's isolation is much better than average for a passive-isolating closed headphone, and the leakage is very low, so the H6 should be good for use in offices, libraries, or on public transit, even at audiophile volume levels. The H6's weight feels light for a full-size circumaural (around-ear) headphone, and thanks to the relatively light weight and how it's distributed by the headband and earpads, it feels comfortable enough for extended use. The underside of the headband isn't exactly soft and squishy, so for users who are bothered by even moderate headband pressure, I'd suggest moving the earcups down an extra 1/4 inch to carry more of that weight/pressure with the earpads. The earpads are nice and soft and the clamping force is relatively light for a closed-back headphone - all good news. It's possible to lose a little bit of the bass when wearing glasses, but when riding on public transport where there's heavy rumble close by, bass audibility is going to be an issue anyway.

    The H6 is an ideal portable headphone in that it can be pulled off the head when not in use, earcups folded flat, and worn around the neck with no discomfort. This is important to me since even when I have a carry case (the H6 comes with a cloth bag only), I don't like to have to carry the case with me outdoors. The range of adjustment is good - 1.375 inches on each side, where my average size head fits in the middle of that range. The cable is single-entry and detachable with a center detent for stop/start and previous/next, and outer detents for volume up/down, for Apple i-devices at least. My final overall impression is that the H6 is not one of those headphones that has to be EQ'd or modified in some way for hi-fi listening - it's a full-fidelity headphone with only the minor flaws that I noted here for the record.

    In previous reviews I've included the following music examples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to those other reviews and see how the H6 compares with each individual track. The comments below apply to using the H6 with the iPhone6-plus and the Oppo HA-2 DAC/amp, playing WAV tracks from various sources, with no EQ or tone controls enabled. Note that I played several of my bass-centric tracks with the Macbook Pro using the Microstreamer DAC/amp, to see whether that DAC/amp would provide better bass detail compared to the HA-2, but the difference was so slight that I wouldn't qualify any of my comments based on that DAC/amp. I would suggest that a decent tube/valve amp might help to subdue the 9 khz peak, if that's an issue for any H6 owners.
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    B&O H6 review part 2 - music tracks

    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has excellent detail and tone, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The H6 plays this extremely well.

    Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled perfectly by the H6.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can feel the weight they carry with the H6.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The H6 plays this music very smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Great sound quality - this is a good test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled fairly well by the H6.

    Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are crisp and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The H6 reproduces the space and detail very well.

    Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the H6 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The H6 plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are very detailed but not edgy - very musical in fact.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sound is very realistic.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The H6 reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed.

    Ed Palermo - Crazy (Pop Vocal): A dose of big band, pop, country, and jazz with a unique vocal is Ed Palermo's Big Band, and this track is a great demo for the H6 - for instrumental tone and ambiance, and a perfectly-recorded vocal. The saxophone lead at 2:51 is especially gratifying.

    Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The H6 plays this music perfectly.

    Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound that indicates a solid deep-bass response. Overall, the H6 plays this music extremely well.

    Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the H6. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The H6 reproduction is rather bright. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for maximum detail. I want to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the H6 does not delineate these instruments as well as most of the headphones it competes with.

    Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The H6 plays this with enough weight and detail that you can hear/feel some of the 16 cycle per second "beats" of the fundamental tone.

    Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2015, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the H6 is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    Michael Buble - Nice 'n Easy (Jazz): The voice is prominent but well-recorded, the massed instruments are delineated nicely, and the bass line especially is clear and detailed. This sounds pretty good with most headphones, but it's a special treat with the H6.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is impressive with the H6.

    Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the H6 renders this music as perfectly as I've heard an energetic pop-rock recording played with any headphone.

    Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The H6 reproduces the 'clop' portion of that sound pretty well.

    Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The H6 conveys as much of that experience as is possible on a mid-priced dynamic headphone. The tympani also have good impact here.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the H6 renders the tones and transients clearly.

    Tiger Okoshi - Bootsman's Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and is somewhat bright with a significant "bite". The H6's reproduction is near-perfect, and the close-miked piano is also a treat. For comparison, I have several Maynard Ferguson tracks that feature a similarly strong trumpet with lots of brassy bite.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are strong and work extremely well with the horns and other instruments. The H6 delivers the impacts with great weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.
     
  3. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    This is my third H6 - the first, in brown color was reviewed prior to my having a measurement tool, and was traded off. The second, the special edition in agave green, was reviewed at the beginning of my measurement experience and was traded off. This third H6, in black, got a good shakedown this time, and I expect to keep it permanently.
     
  4. Jupit3r

    Jupit3r New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2015
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    Really really nice pair of in-ear speakers, nicely designed, and well balanced in its sound.
     
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