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Amazon’s Echo Dot 2 is the cheap, voice-controlled smart home hub all your rooms need

Only $50 • Alexa does everything the Echo does • Small and compact design • Save $20 if you buy two together
Weak • tinny-sounding speaker
The Amazon Echo Dot still does everything the Echo does, now at an even lower price and it’s not exclusive for Echo or Fire TV owners.

Mashable Score4.0

Amazon’s second-generation Echo Dot is everything the first-generation of the miniature smart speaker should have been: smaller and cheaper.

Even though the Dot is the cheapest Echo device in the lineup, it’s still a surprisingly powerful and convenient voice-controlled smart home hub.

Compared to the second-gen Echo and Echo Plus, the Dot is squatter and glossier. Plus, if you buy two at once, you’ll get a $20 discount. It’s not as sweet as the six-pack of Dots Amazon offered briefly in 2016, but buying two still means you can create dual-room setup for less than the second-gen Echo.

The Echo Dot (second-gen) next to the Echo Dot (first-gen).

The Echo Dot (second-gen) next to the Echo Dot (first-gen).

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

The Echo Dot comes in glossy black or glossy white. Amazon also sells customizable cases in a variety of fabrics and colors to decorate your device with. You know, to better blend in with your home decor.

Functionally, the Echo Dot works exactly the same as the old one. You can summon Alexa with your voice to play music, check the weather, read the news, control your smart home devices like Philips’ Hue smart lights, call an Uber, order a pizza, read you a Kindle e-book, send and receive hands-free calls and voice messages, etc.

The number of “skills” that Alexa knows continues to grow at an extraordinary rate, connecting her with new services and devices. As of the spring of 2018, Alexa knows more than 30,000 skills.

The new Echo Dot is $50 and you’ll actually be able to buy one.

It has the same seven built-in microphones to hear your voice from across a room. During my testing, I didn’t notice any difference in responsiveness between the old Echo Dot and new one. 

The Echo Dot has a feature called Echo Spatial Perception (ESP). If you have multiple Echos or Dots set up in your home, ESP prevents all of them from going off at once when you say the Alexa command; only the one closest to you should activate. 

For the most part, ESP works well… if your Echo devices aren’t too close together. In my small one bedroom apartment in New York City, ESP didn’t work as well as I would have liked. Calling for Alexa on the Echo Dot in my bedroom still often woke up Alexa on the Echo in my living room about 30 feet away. Speaking in a softer voice helped resolve this issue. Another workaround is to change to give each Echo a different wake word. For example, you could have the Echo Dot respond to “Alexa” and other Echo devices to “Amazon,” “Echo.” or “Computer.”

The rotatable volume ring is gone. On the new Echo Dot (left), there are volume buttons on top.

The rotatable volume ring is gone. On the new Echo Dot (left), there are volume buttons on top.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

In streamlining the Echo Dot, Amazon removed the rotatable volume ring and added two volume buttons to go with the mute microphone and push-to-talk Alexa buttons up top. Honestly, I like this new change since I never use the rotatable volume ring on my Echo; I just tell Alexa to increase and decrease the volume. There’s still a light ring around the top and it still glows blue when Alexa is activated.

The glossy black finish is a fingerprint magnet, but it’s not an issue after you’ve set it up since most people aren’t going to move it around much. The Echo Dot also comes in a glossy white finish, which looks equally slick.

Shorter glossy second-gen Echo Dot (top) vs. matte first-gen Echo Dot (bottom).

Shorter glossy second-gen Echo Dot (top) vs. matte first-gen Echo Dot (bottom).

Micro-USB for power and a 3.5mm audio jack for connecting to your own speaker system.

Micro-USB for power and a 3.5mm audio jack for connecting to your own speaker system.

How about the speaker? Well, it’s still kind of average. The first Echo Dot’s speaker emitted hollow and tiny sound. The new Echo Dot is slightly louder with fuller mids and a teensy bit more bass, but it still makes your ears cringe at the highest volume setting.

Just like the first model, you’ll want to plug the new Echo Dot into your own speaker with the included 3.5mm audio cable or pair it with a Bluetooth speaker. Both of these options will give you much better sound. 

The Echo Dot’s built-in speaker is really meant for Alexa to respond to you and not for music playback.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Past the mediocre sound, there’s really nothing not to like about the new Echo Dot. It’s the same as the old Echo Dot and extremely affordable.

The low price makes the Dot the easiest way to set up a smart home based around Alexa. Amazon also sells an Echo Dot Kids Edition for $80, which comes with a color case, a year of FreeTime Unlimited, and a two-year warranty. As Mashable Tech Editor Pete Pachal put it:

“Other than the Dot itself, you don’t need any of that stuff. The only bit that’s arguably worth the extra expense is the year of FreeTime Unlimited ($36 value), but, if you don’t have a Kindle Fire tablet to enjoy the children’s books, mostly means just some extra songs and playlists.”

So yeah, skip the Dot Kids Edition if you, well, have kids. It’s just not worth the extra moola.

The Dot’s main competition is the Google Home Mini, which is also $50. Personally, I think Home Mini is more attractive with its soft fabric surface and more intelligent Google Assistant, but which one is right for you ultimately comes down to which platform you want to embrace. 

For newcomers who just want to dip their toes into building a smart home, the Echo Dot is the perfect device to start with. It’s only $50. You can use the extra money saved from not buying the full-sized Echo to buy some smart light bulbs or a Bluetooth speaker.

This review has been updated to include the Google Home Mini as a competitor, a more significant number of Alexa Skills, new Alexa features, and current discounts on the Echo Dot.

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Google Home Max is the best smart speaker if you love your music loud

Max volume is loud AF • Does everything Google Home and Home Mini does • Sick bass
Google Assistant can’t hear you well when speaker’s set to highest volume • Finicky touch-sensitive control strip • Twice the size of HomePod
Google Home Max is the most powerful Google Assistant-powered smart speaker with the loudest volume and deepest bass.

Mashable Score4.25

There’s only one reason to buy the Google Home Max and that’s to crank the volume up… all the way up.

Otherwise, it’s like having a crazy powerful and expensive gaming computer with the best graphics card, but only using it to play Minesweeper. It’d be a complete waste of your money.

With a $400 price tag, the Home Max is the most expensive smart speaker, when compared to an Amazon Echo ($100), Google Home ($130), and even Apple’s HomePod ($350). The hefty sticker price is worth it, though, if you want to feel the bass… because you will feel it.

Since the launch of Google’s Home speaker in late 2016, the tech giant has expanded its Google Assistant-powered smart speaker family with the Home Mini ($50) and Home Max. 

The Home Mini is great if you’re just starting out with a smart home, but sound quality isn’t a top priority. The Home is still Google’s best value for both a smart home hub and good, room-filling audio. The Home Max occupies its own class with the loudest sound and deepest bass in the group.

One big speaker

The Google Home (center) is huge compared to Apple's HomePod (left) and Google Home (right).

The Google Home (center) is huge compared to Apple’s HomePod (left) and Google Home (right).

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Whereas the Home and Home Mini are compact and blend in with your home decor, the Home Max is a big honking speaker. It’s nearly twice the size of a HomePod and about as large as a Sonos Play:5. There’s no hiding it in any room.

The Home Max is also heavy, weighing 11.68 pounds, which means you’ll want to carefully consider where you place it. Delicate bookshelves are a no-no.

A better look at how massive the Home Max (center) is.

A better look at how massive the Home Max (center) is.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Google offers the Home Max in two colors: Chalk (white case with gray fabric front) and Charcoal (black with black fabric front). Both look fine, but I feel like Google missed an opportunity here to make the fabric fronts customizable. You can swap out different bottoms for the Google Home so why not on the Home Max? 

Props to Google for rounding the corners and keeping the design as clean as possible. Frankly, there are only so many ways to make a directional speaker and the Home Max’s design is one of the least visually offensive once you’ve figured out where to put it.

The touch-sensitive strip is as responsive as physical buttons or voice controls.

The touch-sensitive strip is as responsive as physical buttons or voice controls.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Like the Home, buttons, controls, and ports are kept to the bare minimum. Up top is a touch strip for controlling playback. Tap it to play and pause and swipe on it to control the volume. 

Considering how responsive the touch-sensitive controls on the Google Home are, I was a little disappointed to find the strip on the Home Max to be inferior. On several separate occasions, the strip failed to register my taps and swipes. 

You’re better off just commanding the Google Assistant to do all of these things, which is what you’ll be doing most of the time anyway. But I still think it’s funny how the voice controls are more responsive than the physical controls.

Every smart speaker should have a physical mute switch somewhere. Thankfully the Home Max has one.

Every smart speaker should have a physical mute switch somewhere. Thankfully the Home Max has one.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Around back, there isn’t much, but what’s there is important. In the center is a microphone mute switch. And in the lower left corner is a socket for power, a USB-C port for connecting an ethernet adapter, and an aux audio port. The power cable’s a pastel green on the Chalk version and though it gives the speaker a little pop, I think it’s is an odd color choice to pair with the speaker’s white and gray colorway.

Turned up to eleven

Your home might not even be able to handle the Home Max's highest volume.

Your home might not even be able to handle the Home Max’s highest volume.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

With a name like Home Max, you don’t even need me to tell you it’s a loud-ass speaker. Inside, Google’s packed in quite the sound package. 

The speaker’s got a pair of 4.5-inch woofers for your bass and dual 0.7-inch tweeters for your highs. There are also six Class-D amplifiers, two for each of the woofers and one for each tweeter. 

Combine these beefy specs with six far-field microphones for picking up your voice and measuring the acoustics of the room it’s in for auto-sound calibration and, well, you’ve got one powerful speaker that’ll raise the roof.

Compared to a Google Home or Amazon Echo, the Home Max is in another realm of loud. Apple’s HomePod gets pretty darn loud at its highest volume, but the Home Max is louder.

The Home Max plays audio in stereo, except when it's positioned vertically. Then, it switches to mono.

The Home Max plays audio in stereo, except when it’s positioned vertically. Then, it switches to mono.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

The Home Max can get so loud you can sometimes feel it. No joke, the hairs on your arm will stick up. Its vibrations will rattle your furniture, and it’s no wonder a rubber pad for the speaker to sit on is included in the box.

If you live in a house and want to rock out, the Home Max will not disappoint. However, if your living situation’s like mine — a post-war apartment complex with wafer-thin walls, floors, and ceilings — you won’t be able to get much out of the Home Max’s maximum volume setting. Not if you want to continue living in your apartment without getting visits from angry neighbors or the cops.

If you live in a spacious house and want to rock out, the Home Max will not disappoint.

At 100 percent volume, sound quality breaks just a little. To my ears, there’s more distortion compared when the Home Max is playing at max volume than on HomePod. Apple’s smart speaker is somehow able to maintain a cleaner sound separation at higher volumes, which I value more than pure resonance.

If you somehow have the dough for two Home Max speakers, you can pair them together for even louder sound. I didn’t get to test this out, but at SXSW Google had an an activation where they had two Home Maxes paired together inside of a custom lowrider. And holy sh*t, it double the loudness.

Of course, this is not to say the Home Max doesn’t sound good when it’s playing at “normal” room volume, because it does. 

Like HomePod, the Home Max is a warm-sounding speaker. Listening to “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato, her vocals are crisp and prominent and don’t get drowned by the track’s beat.

“Closer” by The Chainsmokers definitely sounded clearer than through an Echo or Google Home; the song’s gentle claps and synths never overpower Halsey’s verses. On punier smart speakers, the same song is more muddled and you don’t get as much dynamic range.

You can pair two Home Maxes together for even louder volume.

You can pair two Home Maxes together for even louder volume.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

Where the Home Max really shines is with bass. Oh, man, does it bring the bass. In a blind listening test with several Mashable colleagues, they unanimously crowned the Home Max the champ for bass-heavy tracks, blowing away the HomePod and Sonos One.

I played “Hotline Bling” by Drake and “Yeah!” by Usher, Lil Jon, and Ludacris for each of them, and every single one agreed that, at a 50-80 percent volume level, the Home Max is able to produce a thick low-end. At max volume, you can feel the bass lightly punching through the air if you’re standing a 1-2 feet in front of the speaker. 

Sick sound first, smarts second

Don't forget the Home Max can control your smart home, check the weather, and all those other great things the Google Assistant does.

Don’t forget the Home Max can control your smart home, check the weather, and all those other great things the Google Assistant does.

Image: raymond wong/mashable

The Home Max is a smart speaker, which means it’s powered by the Google Assistant, which can do all the things the Assistant does on the smaller Google Home or Home Mini. It can play your music, tell you the weather, search for things on Google, and control your smart home devices — to name just a few of the many skills it’s capable of.

These are all great — the Assistant is more intelligent than it was when the Google Home launched and it’s far superior to Alexa and Siri when it comes to understanding context and voice commands.

But I’d argue the Assistant is of secondary importance on the Home Max because if you’ve got the cash to drop on this smart speaker, you’re doing it because you care about sound quality. Especially at deafening levels.

The Google Home Max has some minor flaws like the sometimes wonky touch strip and the Assistant has trouble hearing a “Hey Google” voice command over loud-playing music unless you shout. But neither of these are deal-breakers. The Home Max is overkill for most people, but at least it’s an option if you’re all about that bass.

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Netflix is getting rid of written user reviews

Netflix is sunsetting written reviews on its platform.
Netflix is sunsetting written reviews on its platform.

Image: istock / Getty Images

Looks like the next generation of movie reviewers are going to need to find a new outlet to hone their craft. Or, more likely, trolls are going to need to find a new place to complain about the ruination of their childhoods thanks to the next Star Wars film.

Netflix has announced that as of July 30, users will no longer be able to leave a written review on the movie or TV show they just watched. Following that, by mid-August users will no longer be able to read the reviews they have already posted as they will all be removed from the platform. The thumbs up/thumbs down rating system will remain.

The streaming media company has started informing users who have recently used the written reviews feature via email:

“You contributed a review on Netflix within the last year. We wanted to let you know that this feature will be retired on July 30th due to declining usage. 

We appreciate you taking time to write a review. All of your reviews will be available at netflix.com/reviews through July 30th.”

Last year, Netflix removed another user rating feature when it phased out the five-star rating system. However, unlike the star rating feature, written reviews were much less prominent throughout the media company and didn’t influence Netflix watch recommendations to its subscribers. Users could only read and write reviews on the Netflix website and the written review feature was not implemented in any of its apps. Also, as Engadget points out, most third party Netflix apps completely ignored the written review feature.

While, Netflix is blaming declining use of written reviews as the reason for the feature’s coming removal, it is noteworthy that the streaming service is removing yet another way for users to voice their opinions and critiques about the movies and shows on Netflix. The company is notorious for not sharing data related to how content on its service is performing with outside tracking organizations. These changes also come at a time when Netflix is focusing resources into its own original content.

So, if you are a Netflix subscriber that took full advantage of the written reviews feature, make a copy of all your reviews as soon as you can. Soon, the only way you can voice your opinion on the streaming service’s Bright sequel – at least on Netflix itself – is giving it a thumbs down.

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These are the headphones that make dongle hell worth it

Swanky design • Excellent sound • Long cable with well-placed controls
Some distortion at higher volumes • Requires a dongle for some smartphones
The 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones deliver such great sound that you might reconsider your switch to wireless headphones.

Mashable Score4.0

“Where’s my dongle?” was my first thought when I received the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones. Turns out, it was worth finding, as these wired headphones deliver an impressive listening experience even if you’ve cut the cord ages ago.

I reluctantly made the switch to wireless headphones after upgrading to the current generation of Android smartphones, many of which no longer brandish a headphone jack. I wasn’t thrilled with this idea, considering every pair of headphones I’ve ever owned has been wired.

I’m also prone to losing things, and I know I’m not alone in that. And if you’re like me, the inconspicuousness of wireless headphones can spell trouble, sending you on panicked searches through all your pockets to figure out where you left the dang things. 

That’s why it’s reassuring to see that long, braided fiber cable running down the 1More. As long as my headphones tend to be physically tethered to my listening device, I’ll run less of a risk of misplacing it.

So, about that dongle. I found it, and now we’re in business.

Design and accessories

I enjoy packaging details, and, as a person who still buys only physical books, I really appreciated the tactile experience of the 1More headphones’ packaging, which was a book-like package. 

Just pop the tab up and open the cover to reveal the 1More, nestled with its carrying pouch and an embarrassment of ear tip options. There’s a tip for any ear and any canal size. There are nine options in total (six silicone and three memory-foam options) ranging from 10mm to 14.5mm.

Image: Charles Poladian/Mashable

There are also some subtle design choices that make the 1More one comfortable pair of headphones. For starters, the headphones are angled to better fit your ear canal. It’s not something you’d notice on the outside, but the design has a reassuring snugness to them. They’re also very comfortable, which makes them an easy choice for wearing all day. Considering how many tip choices are included, you should experience a similar fit and feel.

The muted rose gold aluminum-alloy body adds a subtle bit of polish to the headphones that are also found on the in-line controls. Those metallic elements are sandblasted so there are no unsightly fingerprint smudges.

There are three buttons to control the volume, music, and calls, and 1More places the mic and buttons in a way that’s convenient. I don’t typically notice that sort of thing unless it’s wildly out of place, but it does look like the ideal spot, and the buttons are easy enough to locate. You’ll find yourself pressing the center button quite often (twice to skip a song and three times to go to the previous track). Phone call controls are relatively simple, with one press to answer or hang up, and a long press to decline the call.

Image: CHARLES POLADIAN/MASHABLE

My favorite bit of subtle design work by 1More is in the cable itself. How many headphone wires have I torn after throwing them in a bag, getting them tangled in one of a million different ways, or just snagging them on something during my commute? Luckily, that won’t be the fate of the 1More as the design includes a braided fabric wire. A layer of Kevlar protects the wires inside, and I like the subtle blue dots sprinkled along the cable.

I’m usually not a fan of headphone pouches. I know this could solve a lot of my issues with headphones, but I’m a grab-and-go kind of person. If it’s trying to leave my house or getting out of a crowded train, I don’t want to add a step to stowing my things away.

However, a travel pouch can come in handy when you’re on an airplane, especially with the 1More. That’s because it comes with a rose gold dual-prong airline adapter, a nice and unexpected touch. So, I’ll make an exception in this case just so I can keep that adapter handy. The branded shirt clip, on the other hand, is a pass for me. You might have more of a need for this, but, for me, it’s definitely something that will get lost as I shuffle and move around during my commute. 

The wire is also a generous length, which is ideal for a more stationary listening experience (which we’ll get to in a second). I can see myself lounging in a chair with a bourbon in one hand, a book in the other, and the 1More plugged into my home theater as I listen to some jazz on vinyl.

To recap: The 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones retails for $99.99, and it’s built and sold as a premium product. Luckily, it passes the first test through thoughtful design and accessories. There’s a lot going on that will go unnoticed during daily listening, but not unappreciated. Come for the lightweight ergonomic headphones, stay for the bonus memory foam tips and airline adapter. You’ll get compliments on its looks and bold choice to stay connected even as the world goes wireless.

Sound that packs a punch 

You don’t spend $100 for a pair of headphones on looks alone. There’s usually the promise of great sound, dynamic bass, or something else. In the case of these headphones, the name gives it away: three drivers are in each earbud to deliver on good sound.

The 1More packs two balanced armature drivers and a third dynamic driver in each earbud to deliver a great listening experience. By using balanced armature drivers, 1More can add multiple drivers in a relatively small body. Additionally, the triple-driver design lets 1More’s sound engineer — in this case, Grammy winner Luca Bignardi — tune the drivers to create the best listening experience. 

Image: CHARLES POLADIAN/MASHABLE

There’s another certification to let everyone know that these headphones sound great. 1More claims to be the first headphones to be THX certified.

That’s a lot of claiming. But if you’re not convinced 1More’s approach is good for overall sound quality, just listen to the headphones.

The 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones deliver on a balanced listening experience. You put the earbuds in and the quality comes through loud and clear — it’s rich and full and exactly what you want when you’re listening to music. The bass is very present and nothing ever sounds muddy. Even at extreme volumes, the sound holds mostly true.

There may be times when things feel a little too busy, but that’s if you’re really trying to suss out all the instruments in the mix and figuring out the highs and lows at a louder volume than you would be listening to during your commute. Everything on Spotify’s “Today’s Top Hits” playlist, for example, sounded exactly like you would hope it would sound. My personal preferences, usually in the rock or folk category, get treated well by the 1More.

Image: CHARLES POLADIAN/MASHABLE

There’s an overall fidelity and joy that you should experience every time you listen to music. You might not be able to leave the office, but, with great sound, you should be able to close your eyes and feel like you’re in paradise with a great beat. And the 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones can get you there at a pretty reasonable price.

Are they worth $100?

To recap: The 1More delivers in the sound department, and I never felt unsatisfied by how the headphones performed on any particular song or genre. Through it all, the bass booms while everything else stays nice and clear. You can probably find a few things you don’t like at louder volumes, but at the levels where most people listen, the 1Mores are outstanding.

I’ve worn these headphones on my commute, plugged them into my laptop, and back into my phone (with my dongle never too far away) and never thought twice about that experience. I even got a little nostalgic for cables. I also didn’t have to worry about charging them — another perk of wired headphones I had forgot about.

When I’m looking for an everyday pair of headphones, I’m thinking about convenient design, good-to-great sound, and general build quality. The 1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones check all those boxes. They’re not cheap at $99.99, but there’s a lot of value. And you’ll forget all about the price after they become a regular part of your daily routine.

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Beoplay H4 review: Pricey, but you can hear what you pay for

Balanced sound • Beoplay app lets you customize audio • Ear cups provide passive noise cancellation
Build quality could be better • Poor microphone placement makes the H4s not the best option for phone calls
The Beoplay H4 headphones sound great and have a simple, elegant design. They deserve to be considered alongside models from Bose and Beats.

Mashable Score3.75

Bang & Olufsen is known for premium design, and the high-end audio company takes it very seriously. While B&O Play is the company’s millennial-focused brand, design is still extremely important.

The Beoplay H4 represents the entry level for headphones from the company, pairing the unique Danish design language with a well-sounding experience at a high price tag of $299. 

So how do the H4’s hold up?

A simple design that mixes plastic and metal

Image: jake krol/mashable

Bluntly, I’m a big fan of the Beoplay H4’s look, as it combines simplicity with a metallic design. Beoplay offers the headphones in a range of colors including Steel Blue, Black, Tangerine, Vapour, and Charcoal Grey. I’ve been testing out the Black models, which blend well with pretty much anything. I have to admire the boldness of anyone who would go with Tangerine.

An area of disappointment is the partially plastic build. Both the left and right ear cups are plastic with a shiny metal circle on the outside. The circles glimmer in direct light, which looks cool. You also have the small B&O logo on either cup, which is nice and subtle.

Connecting the ear cups to the top band are pieces of metal, with a brushed finish. It gives the H4’s some structure, but they can still flex to fit on any size head comfortably. Along with these metal pieces, there’s an exposed braided cable that goes from the bands to each ear cup. That, of course, provides connectivity and gives you an idea of how far you can extend the ear cups down. 

The padding on each cup and the top of the band is lambskin leather, affirming the high-end design. The cups themselves are comfortable and have ample padding. They’re circular, unlike the oval design that manufacturers like Bose opt for. Each ear cup swivels flat (though not fully 360-degree) so you can more comfortably wear them around your neck.

Controls, a jack for an audio cable (if you’re not a fan of wireless), and the micro-USB port are all found on the right ear cup. The included audio cable doesn’t have any in-line controls, but of course it’s entirely optional as the headphones are wireless first. You also get some reading material and a micro-USB cable in the box. Surprisingly, there is no carrying case or even cloth bag included, and at a $299 price point, I was at least expecting something to carry them in.

A customizable sound experience

Image: jake krol/mashable

Bang & Olufsen has been doing audio for a long time, and the sound quality of the H4 is great. You get a well-balanced experience that keeps high and low tones at a similar level with a slight emphasis on deeper bass tones.

The Beoplay app for Android and iOS is where you can customize the listening experience. Through the ToneTouch section, you can manually control the sound profile by tapping anywhere on an array that’s divided into four quadrants: Warm, Excited, Relaxed, and Bright. The spot you prefer will vary depending on your taste as well as the material, and you can save your selection as a preset.

Can’t choose? Bang & Olufsen has also created four presets for you: Commute, Clear, Workout, and Podcast. Each preset puts a dot in a specific place on the Warm/Relaxed/Excited/Bright array. Depending on where the dot is, the high tones, low tones, and bass will change.

If you’re the type of listener who likes an earth-shaking bass experience, choosing Excited will lower all tones, but Warm and Bright will do the opposite. For balanced sound, I’d suggest setting the dot to right between Excited and Bright. I found myself navigating to Warm for most music, with pleasing sound for many genres, including pop and rock ‘n’ roll.

The core everyday use that disappoints is taking phone calls through the headphones. Bang & Olufsen put the microphones on the ear cups, as there is no inline control on the audio cable (a traditional location for this). This leads to varying results, since, if you don’t speak loud enough, it may be hard to hear you on the other end, depending on the ambient noise. 

Using them in real life

Image: Diamond Naga Siu/Mashable

My primary concern with over-the-ear headphones is that they always have the potential to cause discomfort after extended use, especially since I wear glasses. However, I can confidently say the B&O H4’s didn’t feel uncomfortable to wear, even with a full day of use, with a wide variety of activities, from taking a train to walking a dog. The ample padding underneath the leather made them quite comfortable.

Bang & Olufsen promises up to 19 hours of battery life over Bluetooth; I found that it came pretty close. It got through a full day of listening at various volumes and frequent changing of sound profiles. I found that using the included microUSB cable with a regular power outlet, I could get a full charge in just under 3 hours. Unfortunately, fast charging with the H4s isn’t possible.

I was impressed with the sound quality, especially with using them in public places or while commuting. The H4’s don’t have active noise cancelation, but they are isolating: With the volume at about 35% I found that I couldn’t hear everyday noises and even people having a conversation quite close to me.

The headphones can also play plenty loud, with very little distortion even at maximum volume.

Final thoughts

Image: jake krol/mashable

If you’re spending $299, you should expect a high-quality experience from your headphones. Given the price point, I still think B&O should include some kind of case, but in “real life” I found myself not really missing it. Instead of packing them away, I’d usually just wear them around my neck when not listening to music, and thanks to the swivel ear cups that was a non-issue.

The design screams simplicity, and they look fantastic. The padding in the ear cups and top band leads to a comfortable experience on long days. Most importantly, they sound outstanding. In the end, the Beoplay H4 headphones live up to their eyebrow-raising price tag.

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