Audio

Headphones for the fashion-minded

The BeoPlay H4 comes with a bundled 3.5mm audio cable for wired listening.
The BeoPlay H4 comes with a bundled 3.5mm audio cable for wired listening.PHOTO: BANG & OLUFSEN

Bluetooth headphones are the norm these days, and Bang & Olufsen's latest wireless cans make a great option for a mid-range offering. The BeoPlay H4 is a smaller and cheaper alternative to the Danish company's high-end H7 headphonesand has fewer features too.

Still, at $399, the H4 doesn't come cheap. Other similar over-ear headphones go for below $300.

However, it is a fashion accessory as well.

You do feel like you get what you are paying for, as the H4's solid steel and aluminium design, along with the polished and anodised aluminium discs on the front of the earcups, is a premium- design touch that will appeal to the fashionable music lover.

The lambskin leather padding on the earcups is generous and plush, and provides stellar sound isolation that keeps outside noise out.

  • TECH SPECS

    PRICE: $399

    DRIVER DIAMETER: 40mm

    FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20Hz - 20kHz

    WEIGHT: 235g

    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

Rounding off the headphones' minimalist design aesthetics are a leather headband and braided nylon textile that make them stand out from the crowd.

However, the H4 lacks featuressuch as noise-cancellation or earcup touchpads found on higher- end models, although it does have dedicated buttons to switch tracks or adjust playback volume.

More crucially, the H4 doesn't support high-resolution audio streaming as it lacks the aptX codec needed to do so, a shortcoming which can be a deal-breaker for audiophiles. But the 19hr battery life, which takes just over 2hr for a full charge, makes the H4 a good pair to just grab and head out with.

The signature B&O warmness is present in the H4, along with a strong, powerful bass tone. Bassheads will appreciate the sheer force of bass that these cans can pump out, but those who prefer a cleaner, more balanced tone will probably find the H4 too warm and bassy for them.

For instance, each individual drumbeat on Radiohead's Reckoner rings out with good punch and intensity, and lots of body and impact on the lower register.

While that suits certain genres or tracks perfectly, the bass can easily overwhelm the rest of the mix in some songs, making them sound flatter and more lifeless than they should be.

Tracks with female vocalists and an emphasis on trebles, in particular, suffer quite prominently. For instance, while the bass on electronic rock band The Naked And Famous' single, Laid Low, was pleasingly rumbly and juicy, the female vocals were a bit washed out and lost in the mix.

The H4 comes with a bundled 3.5mm audio cable for wired listening, even though doing so ruins the cool wireless chic the headphones are aiming for.

There is a discernible difference in sound quality while using the cable as opposed to Bluetooth streaming.

So while I prefer to go wireless while out on the street - and bear with the slight dip in audio clarity and quality - I would use the wire while in the office or at home.

• Verdict: The BeoPlay H4 is a stylish option for music lovers wanting something bassier and wouldn't mind paying a bit more for looks and aesthetics.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2017, with the headline 'Headphones for the fashion-minded'. Print Edition | Subscribe