Back around 2012 through 2016, Bang & Olufsen brought to market a portable headphone of the fashion genre in the form of something that was quite unexpected. Known for their deep roots in research and development, a focus on design and a penchant for achieving audiophile level sonic harmony, B&O put brands like Bose, Beats, Ultimate Ears and V-Moda on notice. You see, these brands were gobbling up scads of market-share while offering only a smattering of portable headphones that actually sounded decent. Especially so for their elevated price points. In fact, in many instances, based on size, price and styling, the products were sub-par and certainly did not contend with the likes of more serious players (Meze, Sennheiser, NAD, Focal and others). Build quality and materials was mostly plastics and other synthetics and the design queues of these brands were either generic, boring or exceedingly overdone. Coupled with sub-oar sound, it became and exercise in futility to try and explain to someone how bad many of these were. One way to do so was to whip out something and just let them listen.
In the midst of the furor of fashion-forward portable audio, B&O slipped into the very same space, and made a profound and resounding statement. Headphones can look great, sound great and be made of quality materials befitting the elegance of an evening gown, poolside, at night overlooking the bright lights of the big city below. Well, boy did they succeed! Enter the BeoPlay H6 (which later came in a sonically improved 2nd Generation version). More on that later.
Not only did the leather-clad H6 closed-back cans look like nothing else on the market, they sounded like nothing else on the market either. Durable leather hide across the headband gave way to supple lambskin covered ear pads. Yes! Real lambskin. The pads hid angled drivers that were custom designed and tuned to deliver music in all of its sonic glory--using a signature that was transient, dynamic, yet refined and creamy. B&O landed in a very uncommon sweet spot where nothing offended, while nothing felt missing. These were detailed, beautiful looking headphones without being etched or sibilant. They extended without muddying up the lower mid-range. They breathed air into the upper mids and had the right balance of treble sparkle--all the while being yacht stateroom worthy in the looks department. And all for around $400 at the time. The one rub was that the lower bass extension was a tad bit shy or light for most. People had a strong tendency to EQ them using bass boost and other such trickery. This was not a byproduct of a Beats tuned public. It was a legitimate gripe on a pair of portable headphones that were extremely close to the ever elusive designation of perfection. So B&O set out to fix that problem too.
In the midst of working on a fix that would strike an even better balance, numerous special editions were released. One in conjunction with Audi. Another inspired by and designed in conjunction with world famous street artist Ricardo Akn of Brazil. Suddenly, and often upon just one listen, fashion and tech designers, along with other geeks and other gurus wanted their own version of the much revered H6. Pictured above is the DJ Kahled "We The Best" model with its gold and black scheme, beefed up headband and thicker padding. For the Khaled's, B&O re-tuned the headphones with a slightly different driver and surround adding more thickness and heft to mid-bass region. This was to be expected coming from input born out of a hip-hop artist. And while the tuning did not ultimately prove to my personal liking, Mrs. Blache (who is modeling them for us) fell for them upon her very first listen. Something about the H6 seems to always have that affect on the listener.
With the advent of the 2nd Generation BeoPlay H6, B&O proved that their lineage as a true audiophile equipment manufacturer was once again validated.
The 2nd Generation corrected its bass concerns in just such a way as to achieve the driver's optimal tonal and harmonic balance point. It delivered a sublimely rich sound signature, that proved immersive, engaging, musical and creamy to the ear. I think I may have used that word earlier. If not, then it has been top-of-mind since I started this peace. It is hard not to refer to them as creamy. There is so much to take away from this expose on these cans. The 1st Gen H6 was outstanding. The 2nd Gen H6 took that to astounding. The Special Editions threw a bevy of looks and combinations at an already proven sonic performance. And, the DJ-specific Khaled line deliberately blinged things up just a bit more, and still manage to bring the goods.
Finding a pair of these amazing cans today is quite doable. But the H6 2nd Gen is a difficult animal to locate. They have been discontinued for a couple of years now, and people just don't part with them. I recently had some success finding a pair int he Czech Republic. It took more than two months for them to arrive to me during the slowness of the pandemic cycle we are wading through. But when they arrived, it was like love at first sight all over again. I had just given my Son Q (Fabian IV) my black and grey pair. They were pristine. Always in case; when not being used, and he hinted that he really wished he could find a pair because they are memorable and satisfying. I took the chance and did the magnanimous thing for My Son who is just a great young man. I gave them up. It took weeks to find their replacement. I ended up with a Champagne variant. My next step was to order a custom cable from Lavricables in Latvia, to beef up the sound and really make a statement in the looks department as well.
What came of the endeavor is stunning!
Lavricables nailed the gold sheathing and length for a portable rig. These are not balanced headphones, and could only be made so by significant modding. I am so content with them as they are that I dare not venture into that territory. In this one case, I feel that B&O really caught the wind in the sails just right. eBay and Amazon are two places where you can patiently search and score these cans. I truly think it is a very worthwhile endeavor. It is not very often that a closed-back headphone this musical and satisfying comes along.
If you are looking for a highly portable, non-noise cancelling, musical closed-back headphone for serious listening sessions...you cannot go wrong with these amazing beauties. You will get looks on the bus. You will get looks on the train. You will get looks in the hotel lobby, and in 1st Class on your flight. The entire time that is happening you will be falling in love with your decision with each track that plays, again and again. Enjoy!
Check out varying opinions at these locations:
Z-Reviews - Video
Review The Internet - Video
TK Bay - Video