Onkyo H500BT review: These Hi-Res cans are a great listen
Onkyo isn’t the first name that comes to mind when you think of high-end headphones. It’s better known for its home-cinema receivers and surround-sound systems, but its H500BT headphones are part of an extensive range covering everything from basic £30 in-ear headphones to its top-end, £230 over-ear H900M units.
The H500BT is an on-ear model that sits near the top of Onkyo’s range, and the headline specification is support for hi-res audio. What does this mean? Simply put, the H500BT can, with the correct source material (MP3 files, WAV or FLAC files encoded at a sample rate of 96kHz or above, for example), represent audio tones from 7Hz right the way up to 40kHz. With most headphones maxing out at 20kHz, this is a good thing, right?
Not necessarily. First, you need to be listening to an audio file that’s been encoded and recorded with high-resolution playback in mind. Second, you’ll need to connect the headphones via cable (since Bluetooth doesn’t support hi-res audio, only reaching 23kHz here), and second, you need to have incredibly good ears to hear anything above 20kHz, and most people’s hearing falls short of that anyway.
Still, regardless of the label, these wireless headphones are a decent pair of headphones. They’re comfortable, with memory-foam cups creating a comfortable yet surprisingly decent sound seal around the ears. There’s support for both aptX and AAC codecs in addition to the standard SBC, so all your bases are covered on that front. The outside of the right cup has a touch-sensitive surface that allows you to skip tracks, adjust the volume and pause, plus you get a built-in mic so you can take phone calls. It also has NFC for simple and quick pairing.
Most importantly, the sound quality is excellent, with loads of low-end punch, richness in the mid-band, and plenty of detail at the upper end of the audio spectrum. These headphones aren’t analytical in the way they present audio. Music sounds very warm and cosy on these headphones, wrapping your ears in a veritable duvet of sound, but once you get used to the sound signature, you’ll find them a very easy listen.
Most importantly, they’re nicely balanced, never sounding over-bassy or too enthusiastic at the top end. The only disappointment, perhaps, is the lack of noise-cancelling, but at this price, it’s usually a choice between noise cancelling or Bluetooth wireless, not both.
If all you’re after is a comfortable pair of wireless on-ear headphones that sound great, the Onkyo H500BT fit the bill rather nicely.