In Review

B&O Beoplay H8i headphones: upgrade your audio experience

Active noise-cancelling technology keeps aural distractions at bay

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While smartphones are now most people’s primary source of music and podcasts, even the best of them come with leaky plastic earphones, whose thin, tinny sound is no match for the competing racket of the street, train carriage or aircraft cabin.

In-ear buds go some way to keeping out background babble, but true audiophiles will be drawn to noise-cancelling rivals such as the

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8i. These technologically advanced headphones analyse extraneous sounds and neutralise them with an equal and opposite soundwave.

That, at least, is the theory. What are they like in practice?

The first thing you notice about the H8i headset is that it’s light and comfortable. Even before they’re switched on, the soft leather padding around each speaker does a good job of insulating you - but flicking the switch to turn on active noise cancelling makes a very big difference.

It’s an odd feeling until you get used to it - almost as if your ears are creating a vacuum that seals the headphones and shuts out the rest of the world. The loudest noises will get through - car horns, for example - but the background drone of a busy road retreats into the distance. Once you start playing music, you don’t hear the traffic at all. In fact, taking the headphones off can be quite disconcerting: you’ll be surprised how much noise you’ve been putting up with.

The Bluetooth-connected Beoplay H8i is physically liberating too. There’s no cable to untangle and no risk of dragging your phone from your pocket by snagging the lead. Wireless headphones are also ideal for gym use, as you can stash your phone in a safe place and work out unencumbered.

Buttons arranged along the bottom of each headphone control playback volume and let you pause your music or podcast. You can also turn off active noise cancellation if you need to hear more of what’s going on around you - or switch to “transparency” mode, in which the speakers relay sounds from the outside world. But having tasted the serenity of silence, why would you?

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H8i, from £299

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