Bang & Olufsen H6 (Agave Green) Stereo Headphone Review
Youtube review: http://youtu.be/k5DKDzp_mSk
Sources: iPhone5 alone, iPhone5 with FiiO E07k using LOD, iPhone5 with v-moda Verza DAC/amp, various computers using the v-moda Verza DAC/amp.
First impressions of the B&O H6-Agave Green (H6-AG): Much better than average soundstage for a closed headphone, very detailed bass that's neither emphasized nor recessed, and a midrange that has a lighter sound than most of the darker headphones I've been listening to for the past few months. The H6-AG signature (frequency response mostly) should compare favorably to the kings of 'Neutral', i.e. the Sennheiser HD600 and HD800, except that where the HD800 is noted for being slightly bright, the H6-AG is more neutral.
My most recent listening has been with the v-moda M100, Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro, Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear, Bose OE2i, ATH ESW9a, and the B&W P7. With the H6-AG I'm hearing detail I haven't heard since I had the Shure 1840 or since I last used my Sennheiser IE800 IEM's, although the M100 and to some extent the B&W P7 do have nearly as much upper range detail, when the bass is reduced or better controlled with a good headphone amp. I don't want to exaggerate my description of the H6-AG soundstage, but after playing a few hundred music tracks, I can say with confidence that it's very, very good. I played a series of test tone sweeps with a number of discrete tones as well, and everything seems very well balanced. It's easy for me to say that I love this sound, but what's more important is for readers to understand how it might sound to them.
The one quality of the H6-AG that I'm most certain of in terms of how potential customers will relate to it is the bass. The H6-AG bass is not light like the very pricy Shure 1840, nor does it have a lot of strength above neutral. I find the bass to be very good on nearly all of my music, which covers a wide range of genres, but users who need an extra bass kick should look elsewhere. In theory you should be able to use a bass boost whenever you feel the need, but whereas I've had good results with some headphones with a treble boost or with bass reduction, I've never had a satisfactory experience with bass boost, unless there was a bass boost feature on one of my headphone amps that had a better tone curve than what the Apple i-devices have. Bottom line: the H6-AG bass is perfectly suited to classical and acoustic music, jazz, soundtracks, acapella, and most of the other 'refined' genres, but rock, metal, urban and other such genres may be better served by a bass-boosted headphone.
Isolation with the H6-AG is average or better for a good closed-back headphone, and although leakage is fairly low, it's not low enough to play music loudly in a quiet office in a cubicle next to other cubicles. If the office is very quiet, I think you'd have to keep the volume to a moderate level. The H6-AG's physical design is one of the most perfect (if not the most perfect) that I've ever seen. The agave green color over brushed aluminum is elegant, no part of the headphone bulges away from the head when wearing it, the earcups fold flat and pull down far enough to wear comfortably around the neck all day long when not in use, and the earcups are large enough to completely surround my medium-or-larger ears in perfect comfort. The H6-AG is an unusually comfortable headphone, and the relatively light weight and light headband clamp will keep it that way.
The H6-AG single-sided cable is detachable with standard 3.5 mm straight miniplugs on either end, however those miniplugs are the extra-connector Apple type, and when I tried substituting a non-Apple generic cable, the plug going into the earcup would not make a proper connection. If Radio Shack or other electronics dealers have any cables with the extra-connector Apple-style miniplugs, those cables might work, but I can't be sure. The cable is ~1.5 m long, which is nearly perfect for portable use. Much of the H6-AG design seems to target it for portable and outdoor use, but outdoors is where many users prefer the extra-bass types of headphones, and the H6-AG is bass-neutral. Some of the portable headphones come with hard carry cases that provide good impact protection, but the H6-AG comes with a cloth bag only, which doesn't offer any impact protection. The H6-AG does fit into my Grado** carrycase perfectly given a slight squeeze to the earpads to tuck them in.
**The Grado carrycase is sold only in Britain as far as I know, but it's orderable for a modest shipping fee.
The music tracks listed below are new for this review, and are a random sample selected from the 400 most recent tracks I've acquired. Since these tracks cover a wide range of genres, and were selected when I was using several different headphones, there won't be a bias toward the H6-AG headphone with this music. My suggestion is instead of reading each comment below as an absolute unto itself, you could compare these notes to other reviews as they get posted, and see how the H6-AG compares with each individual track.
Ana Victoria - Roxanne (Pop Vocal): Spacious sound, good instrumental tone - the vocal sounds very natural. Excellent reproduction by the H6-AG.
Ben Goldberg - Root and Branch (Jazz): Realistic you-are-there sound with great instrumental reproduction. The H6-AG plays this extremely well.
Benedictines Of Mary - O Come Emmanuel (Medieval/Female Choral/Acapella): Very spacious sound and natural reverb for a large recording venue (cathedral). The H6-AG makes the voices come alive.
Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Excellent instrumental detail - the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The H6-AG plays this music very smoothly, and the lack of strong bass doesn't unbalance the treble.
Candy Dulfer - Lily Was Here (Jazz): Narrow soundstage, but excellent detailed instrumental tone. The H6-AG gives this a reasonable sense of space, but in spite of being a modern recording, the net effect is only slightly better than enhanced mono.
Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The H6-AG plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural.
Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The H6-AG plays this high treble energy recording with perfection - the voice and instruments are highly detailed but very smooth.
Daft Punk - Lose Yourself to Dance (Electronic/Disco): Less than hi-fi quality recording, but the voices are very good. There's a decent amount of bass weight, but the bass lacks detail.
David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The H6-AG reproduces the instruments perfectly with a you-are-there ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed.
David Lynch-Lykke Li - I'm Waiting Here (Soundtrack/Vocal): Dark, moody song - Lykke's voice is very detailed, the strong bass impacts are very good, but most of the instrumentation is soft and kept in the background. The H6-AG plays this music very well given the sonic limitations.
Dream Theater - Take The Time (Metal): The sound quality here is limited, but the H6-AG is smooth enough to bring out the details in this very busy music without verging on harshness.
Genesis - Follow You Follow Me (Pop/Rock):The H6-AG plays this old and less-than-ideal recording well enough to enjoy, but the soundstage is fairly narrow.
Giant Drag - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): Annie Hardy's version of the Chris Isaak hit has a lot of energy, but the quality is limited - still the H6-AG pulls out enough detail to be a pleasant listen.
Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The H6-AG makes this an outstanding listen.
Hubert Kah - The Picture (New Wave): This track has great bass detail and weight at the same time, which I find unusual for this type of 1980's pop music. The H6-AG plays this music very well.
Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The strong deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce well with the H6-AG, but have just enough weight for average indoor listening. In a noisy environment, especially in or near vehicle traffic or on public transport where bass is easily absorbed, the bass here will lose most of its impact. This is a perfect recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass is tuned for high fidelity listening, or tuned to play in venues that have an excess of ambiant low-frequency energy.
Korn - Another Brick In the Wall (Rock): Aggressive rock that's very satisfying for hard-rock fans. The H6-AG plays this perfectly, which is to say, with proper edginess and bass impact, yet without unintended sonic harshness.
Kunika Kato - Fur Alina (Vibraphone): A very unusual instrumental - the tone quality is unlike anything I've heard before. Recording close-up is part of the magic here, but the H6-AG does the rest in reproducing the full harmonics of this amazing instrument.
Michael Buble - Nice 'n Easy (Easy Listening/Jazz): This is the only track I bought by Michael Buble, but it's a great recording and vocal performance. The sound of the backing band here is rendered extremely well by the H6-AG, and the voice isn't pumped up for Loudness Wars thankfully.
Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone, brought to life by the H6-AG. There are some very deep bass impacts here starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, but as with the Hugo Audiophile track above, the impacts have just enough weight to be appreciated in a quiet listening environment.
Muse - Madness (Rock): The bass in this track has great impact and detail with the H6-AG, but the voice is so forward that I have to keep the volume lower than what's ideal to appreciate the track's bass line.
Phaeleh - Afterglow (feat. Soundmouse) (Electronic/Vocal): The instrumental sounds that begin this track are played very nicely by the H6-AG, but the voice tends to overwhelm those background sounds - until the heavy bass impacts kick in. If there is any doubt about whether the H6-AG will play heavy impactful bass with good detail (if such sounds are really in the recording), this track is the proof. If you were to begin your H6-AG listening with this track, you might think you were listening to a headphone that has a very boosted but tight and detailed bass. Simply amazing.
Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The H6-AG conveys as much of that experience as is possible on headphones. The tympani also have excellent impact here.
Sargis Aslamazian - The Sky is Cloudy (Classical/Armenian): The National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia has a great classical program, and the H6-AG plays this music with good separation, tone, and big-orchestra precision.
Satri-Tomoko Sonoda - All The Things You Are (Jazz): This track came from Bakoon Products, who make high-quality audio amplifiers. There's a lot of upright bass plucking in this track, and the H6-AG plays it well, although it's recorded pretty close-up and may sound slightly boomy at times.
Tommy Smith - Johnny Come Lately (Jazz): Small-combo jazz; sax, piano and drums. The sound is fairly close-up but well-recorded, and sounds very nice with the H6-AG, although the wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are not as extended as on the David Hazeltine track above.