Bang & Olufsen's main announcement this year is the wonderfully weird "Moment" home music system. The Danish company had a few other things to show though, and the BeoPlay H8 Bluetooth headphones are one of them. A mixture of cowhide, lambskin and aluminum, the H8 is definitely one of the more premium-feeling pairs of Bluetooth headphones we've held in a while. With active noise-cancellation, a bunch of high-quality playback features (aptX/A2DP) and a custom metal touch interface, they're one of the nicer specced ones, too. We took a quick look at CES.
The aluminum touch controls are one of the more interesting features. Bang & Olufsen wanted to create controls for the BeoPlay H8 that not only look good, but work well too. The company feels that capacitive controls don't always respond well, especially when exposed to the elements (as headphones invariably are). To work around this, B&O designed a solution that uses the small distortion created in the aluminum when you touch it to track your finger. In my short testing, it didn't work all that well, circling my finger to change the volume gave mixed results. Simpler gestures, like skipping tracks, worked just fine though, so perhaps it's all about technique.
Despite being primarily a wireless headphone, the H8 is actually quite capable as an all-round set of cans, too. That's mostly thanks to the inclusion of active noise-cancellation, which can be used whether the H8's are wired or not. Should you prefer to keep them plugged in, the battery will run the ANC for 30 hours (that drops to a claimed 14 when using them wire-free). The BeoPlay H8 should appeal to those who've been tempted to go wireless, but still want a few premium touches (ANC and nice materials are less common in Bluetooth headphones). It will also please the Bang & Olufsen faithful who've been waiting for a chance to cut the cord. Expect to pay a price for the privilege though, as the H8 will set you back $500 when it launches later this month.