Nokia BH-905i review

After trying the Sennheiser MM 550 and returning them, I continued using my good, old Philips SHB-9000 until they fell apart a couple of weeks ago. I tried the Philips SHB-9100 and was close to buying another pair of Philips SHB-9000 until I figured that there must be a pair of Noise-cancelling bluetooth headphones that satisfies my needs.

The Philips SHB-9000 were quite OK, but they didn’t cancel the outside noise and since they were neither covering the whole ears nor particularly soft, my ears hurt after a while.

After searching for a bit, I found the Nokia BH-905i that support A2DP as well as AVRCP and thus are compatible with any mobile phone – not only Nokia devices.

Nokia BH-905i Box

unboxing

They come in a nicely designed Blue box, along with an arsenal of adapter cables for every purpose and a carrying case. Unfortunately, the provided power supply supports only domestic power sockets (with me having bout the german version) and you’ll have to get another power supply to use them in other networks. The Power supply of the Sennheiser MM-550 came with a couple of adapters for several networks around the world. The Nokias aren’t compatible with Micro-USB standard so you also won’t be able to charge them using your computer and you’ll have to take the provided power adapter with you. Further, there are

  • A Nokia Audio-cable to connect it to Nokia Phones (and use the built-in mic as well as the headphone functionality)
  • The same cable in an Apple iPhone/Mac compatible version (Yes, a Nokia accessory with a dedicated iPhone cable)
  • an airline adapter
  • an adapter for windows/linux-based computers that, unlike macs, don’t support audio in/out via one 3.5mm port.
  • a standard 3.5mm cable to use it with any standard audio-playback device
  • a big-to standard TRS connector adapter
  • a small-to standard TRS connector adapter

Nokia BH 905i Cables

Pairing

The BH-905i being wireless headphones, I ignored all those cables and went straight to connecting them with my iPhone 3GS. It worked as straightforward as with the Philips devices. Simply hold down the on-button for about 5 seconds, select them in the iPhone’s bluetooth settings and you’re done.
Just like other Bluetooth headphones, it is possible to use them to remote-control your device’s music playback. there are dedicated buttons for next/previous song as well as play/pause. Having one more button for this than the SHB9000 the user is spared having to hold down the multifunction-button too often and making phone calls is as simple as double-tapping the multifunction-button. Simply pressing the multifunction button once invokes the iPhone’s voice control functionality. Using an iPhone 4S now, it works fine with Siri and’s just great to invoke it using the headphones and doing things like setting alarms or reminders without even having to touch the iPhone in my pocket.
In theory.
In practice, The Headphones tend to disconnect after having invoked Siri or having made a phone call. Usually, they don’t completely disconnect but only the audio playback features stay available which leads to awkward situations where you use your headphones in public places to play music on your iPhone but since A2DP is disconnected, the music starts plaing on your iPhone instead on the headphones and you have to re-connect them by restarting them or using the iPhone’s bluetooth settings.
Sometimes, the headphones also seem to crash completely. Isn’t it great what we have achieved with technology? “My Headphones crashed.” When this happens, the current some milliseconds of audio is repeated in an endless loop (which is quite uncomfortable sometimes when they were loud) and it is necessary to use a three-button combination from the manual to reboot them. This happens about once per week.
The disconnect-bug is way more common and at some days, I have to reconnect the headphones five or more times. Really annoying.

ANC

The ANC is independent from the rest of the headphones. Even when the firmware crashes, ANC is still working and it can be turned on and off at any time, even if the main radio is turned off. This allows you to use them in an airplane, where bluetooth connections are not permitted.
I don’t really know how nokia got to state that these headphones cancel 99% of the ambient noise. They just don’t. Not even close. The ANC is way better than the system in the Sennheiser MM-550. Everything is turned down a bit further and, unlike the Sennheisers’ ANC, it doesn’t noticeably decrease the audio quality.
Writing this post in a noisy train, I agree that the system turns down the volume of ambient noise. It doesn’t shut everything off completely but it makes the difference between rally loud, unpleasant noise and just some background noise you can ignore after a while.
Since we tend  to drown out these ambient noises with even louder music, ANC also helps you spare your ears from the volume since you can turn everything down a bit and the relative volume stays the same.
Nice.

Audio quality

Speaking of headphones, an important factor is the actual audio quality. The Sennheisers were absolutely unsatisfying (especially for 300€) and the Philips I had had a slightly artificial base. The Nokia BH-905i are doing a much better job and are among the best-sounding headphones I’ve ever used and clearly the best bluetooth headphones. They create an immersive world of sound around you with a deep base that is not artificially “enhanced” like on the Philips and quite detailed heights. Mids aren’t as good as many higher-range wired headphones but the Nokias are doing a good job. I can’t complain.

on the go

While I was able to hear a difference between bluetooth wireless and wired connection to my iPhone on the Philips SHB9000, I can’t hear a difference on The Nokias. It’s just the same which makes sense because unlike the Philips, the Nokia BH-905i natively support Apple’s AAC, so, when you’re using an apple Device, the music doesn’t have to be converted into another codec. This does not only improve audio quality but results in less processor work for your iDevice and thus a longer battery life. Activated ANC, however creates a slight buzzing noise in the right earpiece, so there might be situations where the ambient noise to be cancelled is more quiet than the background noise of the ANC system. In most cases, however, activating it’s a good trade. Even when you’re at a train station with nobody around and a road about 100m away from you, the noise cars make on the road is louder than the ANC’s background noise, so enabling it clearly improves your audio-experience.

At home

Being a night owl, I tend to watch movies at times when other sleep sometimes, so I can’t use my 5.1 system and the Nokia BH-905i are doing such a great job as Hifi headphones that I don’t really miss it. Connected to a Playstation 3  (optical to the Z-5400 and wired to the Nokias), they sound great when playing movies BluRay. They also completely cancel the Playstation 3’s background noise and you can even watch a movie under a roof winnow when it’s raining. ANC is just great. not only when you’re on the go.

Phone calls

Nothing to complain about here. Sound quality was good in both directions. The Nokia’s, just like any other microphones are suspectible to wind so you might not be understood any more as soon as a little wind is blowing. Accepting and making phone calls is easy from the headphones (especially with the voice control you can use to speak the name of the person you want to call.) The only problem is that sometimes, after about 10 or 20 seconds since the end of a call, the music stops playing and it’s necessary to reconnect them. That does’t happen all the time but it’s getting annoying after a while and, again, none of the other bluetooth headphones I’ve tried showed similar connection issues.

Wearing…

While the SHB-9000 hurt my ears after a while the Nokias just don’t with their super-soft cushions. However, as a tradeoff, they tend to slide off your ears and it’s necessary to adjust the position once in a while when running with them. Never had this problem with the philips SHB-9000.

The stated operating temperature starts at -15º Celsius. That’s way better than the Philips and Sennheisers and allows you to use them during the winter in countries like germany where it’s just getting cold. To be honest, I also used the Philips when it was -20º and nothing happened, but who knows, perhaps, they’d still be working now if I didn’t?

A note on the status lamp. I don’t really see a reason for headphones having status lamps. It might be useful when you’ve put them somewhere or want to see if they’re still on or charging, but other than that it’s just annoying. In the public, your head will be illuminated unnecessarily which just makes you look geeky and at home, when you, say, just want to enjoy some music in for bed at night, you might notice that the lamps are so bright that their light is reflected from the walls, resulting in a noticeable, regular blinking. Needless to say, this can’t be turned off but it’s a minor problem. I just don’t really see a reason.

Battery life

The battery life is awesome. It. is. just. awesome. I’ve never had a device where the battery life truly satisfied me. My toothbrush doesn’t make it through the weekend and needless to say, I have trouble getting through the day with my iPhone. My 13″ Macbook pro, having above-average battery life still doesn’t run long enough to get through a day of university without worrying or finding an outlet.

Truly great battery life means that you don’t have to worry and with the Nokia BH-905i you just don’t. The ANC and bluetooth connection both have an effect on the battery life but even with both enabled you just won’t be able to drain the battery in a day. So if you recharge every day, you’re fine. The battery is also enough for any kind of long trip you’ll ever make. Three hours of train ride to the airport, 15 hours of flights with two stops and then a 200 whatever-the-local-currency-is taxi ride? You’ll be able to enjoy music all the way and you don’t have to worry the tiniest little bit. With ANC turned off, the battery life is just ridiculously long. Of course, i a couple of years when we all wear headphones with micro-fusion cells, this might sound a bit exaggerated, but really. I just don’t have to worry and that’s a great thing. It reminds me a bit of the old times when we just used our cell phones to make phone calls and we just had to charge when we felt like it.

summary

Unfortunately, even with the sound quality of the Nokia BH-905i being the best i’ve heard on any Bluetooth headphone and the ANC being the best I haven’t while the battery life is just great, I can’t just recommend the Nokia BH-905i. The frequent firmware crashes and freezes are just too annoying. I will keep them and I don’t regret it, but that’s also because there are simply no alternatives with the Philips having no ANC and the Sennheisers sounding like an array of Eee-PCs in a bathtub, especially with ANC enabled.

So if you don’t mind rebooting or re-pairing your headphones every some hours, get them. You won’t find anything better.

5 thoughts on “Nokia BH-905i review”

  1. i still own the SHB9000 and think they are great (battery lasts not days, but >1 week for me)
    it’s true that bass sounds a bit to heavy, but you can disable that “Philips FullSound”-thing.

    What keeps me at them is that the firmware never crashes and the operating range is pretty good for a2dp-stuff. I can even leave my phone at my desk and walk into the next room without problems.

    What i don’t like about them is that they do hurt after some time (as you mentioned) and that after 2 years now they start to fall appart. Some small plastic-part is broken, so i had to “fix” it via some ugly wire and the faux-leather at the earpieces starts to break too.

    My GF owns the SHB6110, that seem to be electronic pretty much identical to the 9000, so maybe that would have been an alternative. (but sacrificing the headphone jack)

    Philips nowaday sells “SHB9100” as successor to the 9000, maybe they would be better. But of course: afaik no ANC.

    1. I bought 2 sets of these hedpehonas for the main purpose of evening TV viewing for both my wife and I once our son was put to bed.I have connected these to the Optical out on my Pioneer AV receiver (thankfully there are 2 optical outs) which is hooked up to my PS3 and HTPC.The sound is simply amazing, the voice is crisp, the surround sound captivates you and the hedpehonas are extremely comfortable to wear. In terms of sound quality, I do not think any thing beats them.The reason I have only given these a 4 star is the lack of features.1) The preset modes (Cinema / Game / Voice) are terrible. The sound produces a cave like echo.2) These do not work well with the Asus HDAV 1.3 via optical out. The sound produces a cave like echo on all settings. I am now using the X-Fi Titanium via optical out, which works fine.3) This is more of an annoying global problem. A HDMI device will not output sound through Optical. You have to connect both HDMI and Optical inputs to receive Video and Audio. (PLease correct me if I am wrong)4) The single most annoying feature, and one that is the cause of 4 star is lack of additional headphone support. Unless someone can correct me, (To which I hope happens) 1 headphone to 1 Processing unit) this is crazy. The MDR DS 6000 allowed additional headsets, why not this? Not all people who use hedpehonas are using them alone. It is a good thing my AV receiver supports 2 optical out puts otherwise I would have had to search for an optical splitter.My conclusion isPros- When paired with the right equipment, the sound is amazing- Comfortable to wear.Cons-No additional headphone support.-Setup is not easy if you want to connect them to multiple devices through an AV receiver.-very small lag between video and audio, just enough to notice.

  2. I was having the same disconnect issues on iphone/ipad but after a bit of searching found that it was related to it connecting as a headset rather than headphones … anyway, turning off bluetooth on the iphone, turning on the headphones, turning bluetooth back on the phone and then pressing play on the headphones forces it to connect as headphones and no dropouts or disconnects.

    you know if it works by pressing the multifucntion button to change the bass booster, stereo widening effects. if you just hear a long beep then its not connected properly, a short beep for one press, two short beeps for two as per the manual means its connected ok

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