B&O Beoplay H8
Design and materials: These classy headphones come in two colours: "Agrilla Bright" (light beige with light grey accents, and gold metallic earpads and headband), and "Grey Hazel" (dark brown with dark grey accents, and dark metal). The H8 is an on-ear design. At 255g, it's the lightest of this group, and sits quite comfortably on the wearer's head and ears.
Supplied accessories: Signal cable, cloth carrying bag, micro USB charging cable.
Specified battery life: Up to 14 hours with Bluetooth and noise cancellation.
Noise cancellation: Second best of this bunch, by a slight margin. It lets more midband noise through than the Zik 2.0, but is better at blocking low-frequency noise. Though slightly less effective than the Zik 2.0, I was certainly able to enjoy music with extended quiet passages like "Prelude à la Nuit."
Control features: The Beoplay H8 lets you control playback and telephony with fingertip gestures on the right earcup. Rotate your finger along the perimeter to adjust volume. Swipe up and down to turn noise cancelling on and off. Swipe forward and back to change tracks or transfer a call. Tap once briefly to toggle play/pause, and to answer a call. A single long press lets you reject, cancel or end a call. Tap twice to redial. It takes a little practice to get the right touch, but once you've got the hang of it, this is a really cool feature.
Sound: Very good, though not quite top of the heap. The overall presentation is surprisingly big and dramatic, given the compact on-ear design. On "Poinciana" by the Keith Jarrett Trio, drums had good impact and cymbals good shimmer, and bass was deep and snappy; but the mids seemed a little recessed. The piano tone on the Ravel recording was very natural. String tone was a little hard in the Nielsen symphony. Vocals are very satisfying: on "Different Sides" and "Maggie Said," the Beoplay H8 did a very good job rendering Cohen's and Merchant's voices, as well as their supporting bands.
Our verdict: The beautiful materials, classy design, fine sound quality, comfortable fit, cool gesture control and effective noise cancellation make the Beoplay H8 a great choice for frequent flyers.
Canadian retail price: $600
Canadian distributor: Lenbrook Canada