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Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX review: Classy sound in style

The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX deliver superior sound and have bags of style, but price is high

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX headphones in an open case on picnic bench
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Understated by the usual Bang & Olufsen standards and all the better for it, the HX are a diverting option for the well-heeled

Pros

  • +

    Opulent-yet-tasteful design and finish

  • +

    Engaging, energetic sound

  • +

    Great control options

Cons

  • -

    High price compared to alternatives

  • -

    Noise-cancellation can be bettered for less

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX specs

Price: $499

Type: Closed-back, over-ear

Size and weight: 7.7 x 7.9 x 2-inches; 10 ounces

Battery life (rated): 35 hours (ANC on); 40 hours (ANC off)

Bluetooth range: Not specified

ANC: Yes

Colors: Black anthracite; dark maroon; sand; timber

Water resistance: Not specified

Somehow the Beoplay HX manage to be a typical Bang & Olufsen product while simultaneously being quite unlike a B&O product. Yes, they’re expensive and go a long way towards justifying their price by using luxurious, tactile and (in some cases) quite aromatic materials in their construction. But they don’t prioritise design over performance, and while they’re expensive they’re not as far removed from the mainstream as many B&O products are.

So if you don’t mind spending what is undeniably over the odds, you can be the owner of a very covetable pair of active noise-cancelling wireless headphones that are properly, competitively specified and perform very agreeably indeed. If you put a lot of weighting on ‘pride of ownership’, it’s a lot easier to justify your spend on a pair of Beoplay HX cans than it is on most other Bang & Olufsen products.

B&O Beoplay HX carry case

(Image credit: Future)

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX review: Price and availability 

The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX over-ear headphones are on sale now priced at $499 (£449 and AU$839) directly through the company's website (opens in new tab), although they can also be found discounted via several online retailers including Amazon (opens in new tab) in various territories. 

It almost goes without saying that this positions the HX well in excess of any number of extremely well-regarded alternatives from any number of extremely well-regarded brands. In fact, we can point to rivals from Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Sennheiser and Sony (especially Sony, in fact) that match the on-paper specification of B&O's HX headphones but cost quite a lot less. Mind you, that’s always been the way with Bang & Olufsen, and the last thing the company seems prepared to do is compete on price.

B&O Beoplay HX closeup of earpads

(Image credit: Future)

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX review: Design

  • Luxury materials and finish
  • Sensible styling

The corner Bang & Olufsen has backed itself into is obvious. The company has built its significant reputation on an unique and opulent design vocabulary — which is the last thing anyone wants in their wireless over-ear headphones. Function absolutely dictates form with products like this, and who among us wants an overwrought or otherwise odd-looking pair of headphones? Exactly.

So in a move not readily associated with Bang & Olufsen, the company has done the sensible thing and delivered a recognisable pair of headphones. Yes, they’re made from a selection of luxurious and expensive materials, but these materials are deployed to serve (rather than dictate) a design. And the end result is that Beoplay HX look like a reasonably upmarket pair of wireless over-ear headphones, no matter which of the available finishes (‘dark maroon’, ‘sand’, ‘black anthracite’ or ‘timber’) you decide to go with.

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX soft ear cushions

(Image credit: Future)

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX review: Comfort and fit 

  • Lightweight feel
  • Well-judged clamping force
  • Great long-term comfort

Of course, all these expensive materials aren’t just for show (although they’re quite good for that too). Bang & Olufsen has combined lambskin, aluminium, memory foam and high-quality plastics to produce a pair of headphones that is simple to position comfortably, and stays that way for hours on end (a trim 10 ounce weight does no harm here). The clamping force is well-judged, and unlike quite a few alternative models the HX won’t swamp the smaller-headed among us. The earcups are slow to absorb your body-heat and even slower to give it back to you, too, which is by no means a given where over-ear headphones are concerned. 

B&O Beoplay HX controls on earpieces

(Image credit: Future)

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX review: Controls

  • Reliable touch controls
  • Useful control app 

The headline here is this: if you can’t get the Beoplay HX to do exactly as you wish, rapidly and predictably, well… the issue is almost certainly you rather than the headphones.

There are some physical controls on the headphones themselves. A touch-surface on the outside of the right earcup lets you take charge of ‘volume up/down’, ‘play/pause’ and ‘skip forwards/backwards’, while the same side also has a push/push button taking care of ‘power on/off/Bluetooth pairing’. Over on the left, there’s a button to allow you to cycle through your active noise-cancellation options (‘on’/’off’/’transparency’) and another that lets you summon your favourite voice-assistant.

Each earcup has a couple of mics dealing with voice-assistant interaction, active noise-cancellation and telephony. And where making yourself understood to Siri or Google Assistant is concerned, they’re entirely fit for purpose.

‘Fit for purpose’ is a little too mild a description of the Bang & Olufsen control app (for iOs and Android). It’s stable, clean, good-looking and responsive — and it’s here you can adjust the level of noise-cancellation you’d like, choose between EQ presets (or create your own using the stylish ‘Beosonic’ graphic interface), decide on the sensitivity of the accelerometers that pause music when you take the HX off your head, and more besides. 

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX open earcups

(Image credit: Future)

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX review: Sound quality

  • Balanced and natural sound overall 
  • Spacious and open soundstage
  • Some hint of mid richness

Like most rivals, the HX give the user a lot of scope to adjust the way they sound. But like most rivals, the HX sound best left well alone — the engineers and Bang & Olufsen decided on a sonic signature here, and you won’t improve on it no matter how you might fiddle with EQ settings.

With a nice big MQA-powered Tidal Masters file of Jack White’s 'Lazaretto' playing from a recent iPhone, the HX are basically unequivocal. They’re a vivid, prodigiously detailed and entirely entertaining listen.

Low-end stuff is punchy and substantial, but it’s properly controlled so rhythms and tempos don’t suffer. Edges of bass sounds are nice and straight, there’s no drone or overhang — instead the B&O have proper momentum and pace. The charging rhythm is expressed with real assurance, and everything above the bottom end builds on the solidity of these foundations. 

There’s bite and shine to treble sounds at the opposite end of the frequency range, but — again — it’s managed well. Some designs can get a bit shouty or hard when you wind the volume up, but the HX are better-behaved than that. They’re never less than controlled, but that doesn’t mean they’re in any way inhibited.

Between these two extremes, the midrange is spacious and simply loaded with detail. There’s never any questioning the character, the motivation or the emotion of a singer, because the HX serve up every shred of information in a natural and unforced manner. It’s about the only area of the frequency range that doesn’t sound entirely neutral — there’s a little suggestion of heat and richness. But in context, and given how expertly the 40mm full-range dynamic driver in each earcup knit the entire frequency range together, it’s easy to overlook.

B&) branding on Beoplay HX earcup

(Image credit: Future)

In truth, this isn’t the out-and-out biggest sound a pair of over-ear headphones ever delivered, but then again it’s not round-shouldered or confined — and the soundstage is easy to understand. There’s a coherence and a unity to the way the HX present music, and more than enough breathing space for soloists to express themselves. Big dynamic shifts are dispatched confidently, and more opaque harmonic variations aren’t overlooked either.

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX review: Noise cancelling

  • Mediocre noise cancelling at the price

It’s not the way the HX present music that needs excusing, but the active noise-cancellation is a little less successful. These headphones will deal effectively with a lot of external sounds — and without adding any sensation of sinus pressure or counter-signal in the way some less accomplished designs can — but there are more effective (and less expensive) noise-cancellers out there. Want a blanket of inky silence on that flight? You’ll want to check out our best noise-cancelling headphones  before shelling out for these headphones.

B&O branding on headphone carry case

(Image credit: Future)

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX review: Battery life

As long as you’re not caning the volume, the Beoplay HX should hold you for around 35 hours (with noise-cancellation switched on) or 40 hours (with it switched off). There’s a USB-C input on the right earcup, and should the worst happen you can charge the headphones from ‘flat’ to ‘full’ in a leisurely three hours or so.  

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX: Call quality and connectivity

The Beoplay HX use Bluetooth 5.1 for wireless connectivity, with compatibility with SBC, AAC and aptX Adaptive codecs. This last means the headphones are always balancing connection stability with streaming quality to make sure you’re getting the best possible performance.

Call quality is every bit as acceptable. In both directions, voices are clear and intelligible, and the Bang & Olufsen do good work keeping wind-noise to a minimum. 

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX headphones in an open case on picnic bench

(Image credit: Future)

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay HX review: Verdict 

It’s almost possible to visualise Bang & Olufsen congratulating itself on being so pragmatic and sensible with the Beoplay HX. And that’s fair enough: by reining in their design-led instincts just a little, the company has turned out a deeply satisfying pair of headphones. An expensive pair, yes, but satisfying nevertheless. 

Simon is a freelance technology journalist and consultant, with particular emphasis on the audio/video aspects of home entertainment. Before embracing the carefree life of the freelancer, he was editor of What Hi-Fi? – since then, he's written for titles such as Wired, Metro, The Guardian and Stuff, among many others. Given time, Simon likes nothing more than publishing and then quickly deleting tweets about the state of the nation (in general), the state of Aston Villa (in particular) and the state of his partner's cat.