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Nokia BH-905i Review – Spoiler: It’s Phenomenal

on November 23, 2010 – 11:59 am6 Comments

I’m sitting now, at the Costa coffee shop, with about 30 customers around, 3 tables nearby with heated discussions going on, and I can’t hear a thing from them. It’s like watching a Charlie Chaplin movie, I swear, people move, coffee machines go on and off, lips open and close, chairs are pulled away and back, and I don’t hear any of it. I’m not deaf, I just have the Nokia BH-905i headphones on, and I’m loving every second of it. They’re a review unit and I swear, this is the first time I feel that I don’t want to send a review unit back.

The BH-905i were announced during Nokia World 2010, back in September 2010, as a follow-up to the majestic Noise Cancelling Stereo Bluetooth headset that was the Nokia BH-905, and in this review, I will try to see how they measure up in comparison to their predecessors, as well as on their own.

Headphone Tour

If you’ve had the BH-905 in your hands, the BH-905i will make you feel right at home.  The BH-905i exude charm and superior build the moment you hold them. They’re made from sturdy plastics, metal and high quality padding.

On the top of the headband, a padded strap lets you wear the BH-905i comfortably on your head. A metallic Nokia engraving is added on the visible side of the strap.

The headband itself is expandable, helping accommodate any shape or size of head. When you’re wearing them, these extensions stay in place, so you won’t find yourself with a shrinking or growing headband.

The ear pieces swivel around the headband axe, with a 90 degree rotation outwards, and about 30 degree rotation inwards, this makes sure that you can place them flat on any surface, and that you could do the DJ-headphone pose (you know, around your neck, one headphone held by your shoulder, the other not) if you so wish.

The earpieces can also tilt against their main axe, which helps them fit perfectly the shape of your ears relatively to your head. The inside is padded to an extensive expense, making wearing the BH-905i a pleasant experience. The outside has a brushed aluminum feel to it.

Each earpiece has 4 built-in microphones divided in 2 slots, making for a total of 8 microphones on the BH-905i. These are required for the Active Noise Cancellation, as they will register the surrounding sounds and cancel them out. This is where all the magic on the BH-905i resides, and it’s pretty, well, magical.

The right earpiece, with an R engraving, holds most of the controls. There’s the power button, which when clicked for a little longer puts the BH-905i in discoverable bluetooth pairing mode, the Play/Pause, Forward and Rewind buttons and the volume controls. There’s a 2.5mm headset plug, which helps transform the BH-905i into wired headphones. There’s also a light indicator for charging status (red for empty, green for full) and pairing mode (flashing blue for discoverable, blue for paired).

The left earpiece has the Active Noise Cancellation switch and notification light, as well as the regular Nokia 3pin charger.

In comparison to the BH-905 – The BH-905i’s headband is smaller and more streamlined to fit a human head, as evidenced by the picture below taken by ClintonJeff. The rest of the headphone does not change much, but the redesigned headband makes all the difference in the world. I had the BH-905 a year ago for review, and I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing them outside my room. With the BH-905i, I came to Costa and sipped coffee while enjoying music and looking at people confidently as if to say “look, I got great headphones!”.

In box accessories

The BH-905i come with a nice carrying case that holds them, as well as a small inside case to carry the rest of the tips and accessories. The big case is well designed to hold the BH-905i in place and the small one. The small case has two compartments divided by a vertical double-sided zipper. Inside, you will find the charger, an airline adapter, a 2.5mm to 3.5mm wire and an extension to that, the adapter that converts nokia’s 3.5mm to regular 3.5mm (really don’t ask me what that is, but for some stupid reason, Nokia’s 3.5mm plug only works on Nokia phones, you will need this if you want to plug the headphones into a computer, an iPod or other gadgets), and a few other adapters that I never needed (you might).



Compared to the BH-905i – The addition of the small case is a welcome improvement, I was always afraid of loosing those small tips with the BH-905 and now they have their small thing to be carried in safely. The fact that Nokia stubbornly keeps using their proprietary 3.5mm plug on the wire is really annoying, they should have fixed this from a year ago when the BH-905 was out, but they didn’t. Needing an extra tip should not be necessary.

Comfort and usability

As I mentioned earlier, the BH-905i are very comfortable to wear. Everything that touches your head to some extent is padded. However, they are on the heavy side, so I usually found myself a bit tired from wearing them continuously after 2-3 hours.

Compared to the BH-905 – The BH-905i are lighter and smaller, they’re more stylish and less alien-looking to wear around.

Pairing, Bluetooth and wired use

The BH-905i are easily sent into pairing mode by long pressing the Power button, the passcode is like always 0000. They were easily recognized by all my Nokia devices as well as my Macbook and iPod Touch 4G. However not all functions were fully supported on all of them

On the Nokia N8 for example, almost everything works. The music blasts via bluetooth, you can pause, FF, RW, and control the volume. However one annoying thing is that the volume control is not synchronized between the BH-905i and the N8, meaning if you lower the volume on the BH-905i, the overall output will be lowered but the N8 will still show you a high volume. I’m used to Nokia headsets synchronizing volume changes at least with the Nokia phones and this wasn’t the case here.

On the Macbook, the situation is quite similar to the Nokia N8, everything works well with iTunes, playback controls, bluetooth streaming, and volume control (although not synchronized).

On the iPod Touch 4G however, I was never able to get past the pairing stage. Yes, everything pairs well, but when I connect the two together and play music, I hear nothing through the BH-905i although the iPod thinks it’s playing music through bluetooth. Such a shame.

You can also use the BH-905i as wired headphones, thanks to the 2.5mm to 3.5mm connection cable. This one works well with the different Nokia devices, but if you want to connect it to another brand, like the Macbook or the iPod Touch, you will need the 3.5mm tip that I discussed earlier. Wired use is an advantage as it lets you save battery life instead of connecting over bluetooth, and it works with the iPod Touch. However, one major drawback is that the music playback and volume controls won’t work, not with Nokias, not with the Macbook, not with the iPod.

Compared with the BH-905 – I don’t remember all the details, but I think the experience is quite similar between the BH-905 and BH-905i. However, the BH-905 were able to connect to my iPod Touch 2G, although the connection wasn’t always reliable and music playback controls weren’t supported.

Sound Quality and Active Noise Cancellation

If there is one reason for the BH-905i’s existence and one area where they excel, it’s this. Sound quality is a wonder, you won’t hear a hiss or a stutter or a distortion if your music’s quality is good. I’m not an audiophile at all, but I wasn’t able to fault the BH-905i at anything, sound-wise. I’ve used them for hours on end for the past couple of days, listened to a lot of different music genres and everything has been rock solid. The most uplifting experience was hearing Take That’s The Flood (with Robbie Williams finally joining back the band) on them, there’s a positive energy that emanates out of this that it’s almost entrancing. I also watched yesterday the movie August Rush, it’s a music-filled movie, the soundtrack is breathtaking, and the video was surround enabled. Needless to say, the BH-905i shone through it all. Simply fantastic.

As for Active Noise Cancellation, the BH-905i reminded me why I love this feature. See, other than sitting in Costa, listening to music and drowning out the crowd, the BH-905i have been very welcome lately. I’m exercising on a treadmill placed right next to the TV room and for some reason I can’t understand, my folks are all about watching crappy politics talk shows. I hate politics, to an extent I could NOT describe, especially Lebanese politics. So when I’m exercising, despite my regular headphones, the sound of those talk shows still leaks itself into my head, and I have to actively try to ignore it, which isn’t that easy. With the BH-905i, I don’t have that problem. I can exercise as long as I want, they can watch whatever they want, and we co-exist in peace. Love. It.

Compared to the BH-905 – It’s been a year since I last tried the BH-905, and being the non-audiophile that I am, I can’t recall any major difference in terms of sound performance, or active noise cancellation between the two. If it exists, then it’s probably only for sound maniacs to notice.

Overall

As I spoiled it in this review’s title, the BH-905i are phenomenal. You can’t fault the build quality at anything. They provide amazing sound quality, the active noise cancellation is a feature that is extremely appreciated, and they work mostly well with different devices, the lack of iPod support being probably due to the lack of compatible profiles in the iPod’s firmware. The versatility of changing between a bluetooth connection and a wired connection is handy, and the carrying pouch and small case for the accessories are great to have. However, despite their small footprint, they’re on the verge of being heavy, and 2-3 hours of constant wear will get your ears and head aching. If you want a full-day solution, you probably should look elsewhere.

Compared to their older brothers, the BH-905, the BH-905i bring one major improvement, which is the redesign of the headband. This is very very very welcome, as it makes them look more streamlined and in harmony with your head, people won’t look at you like you’re crazy if you wear them in public, and you won’t be ashamed of walking out of your house with them on. Also, they’re much more elegant on a girl’s head compared to the BH-905.

The BH-905i are still not available for purchase online, but stay put as we will definitely tell you when they will. The price tag is still unknown, but if the price of the BH-905 is any hint, we should expect it to be around the 300€.

What do you think of this pair of stereo bluetooth headphones? Do they look good to you? Were you interested in the BH-905 before but hated their huge form? Is the new design of the BH-905i enough to sway you in favor of a purchase? Or do you think that paying this much for a pair of headphones is heresy?

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  • Jouni

    Hi Rita,

    Thank you for a really extensive and cool review :-)

    Here are couple of additional hints related to the new BH-905i headset when used with wired connection:

    The BH-905i sales package also includes an “iPhone type” cable (CA-182U). It can be used to connect BH-905i to iPod, iPod touch, iPhone and many other MP3 players and the good news here is that with this CA-182U cable there is typically no need to use the extra 3.5mm (4 pins) to 3.5mm (3 pins) AD-63 adapter. Furthermore if the CA-182U cable is used then speech calls should be possible (e.g. with iPhone) as the CA-182U cable also features 4 pins (the one extra pin is needed for the microphone signal in speech calls). Headset controls will not work though since Nokia and Apple use very different system for sending button commands over the wired connection.

    Then again if using the BH-905i together with Nokia phones the best cable choise is the original Nokia AV cable (CA-143U). It will allow speech calls and also enables the control buttons in the headset to control the Nokia phones music player and volume level. The adapter AD-63 is not needed in this particular case and would actually even prevent the microphone signal and headset buttons from working.

    Hope these hints help to make the wired use of BH-905i even more pleasent and fun!

    • http://dotsisx.blogspot.com Rita

      Thank you for the clarification Jouni. Actually, my review unit came as is, with only the pictured accessories, and not even a box, so I’m guessing a few items were missing.

  • Ian Chong

    Can the 905i be used for tel calls on phones OTHER THAN NOKIA & iPhone? Will the headset controls work on non-iPhone mobiles?

  • V

    Is anyone using these headsets with HTC Hero or other HTC/Android-phone? Is the mic and buttons working with it with cable or with bluetooth?

    I have big trouble finding good (or even WORKING) headset for Hero. It would be mainly for calls but also for music. Does any of you have experience and could recommend such?

  • http://evevoltech.com/ Relton Rodrigues

    Hi, thanks for the review, now will post a good review of my own.

  • Buttons Up

    I’m keen on buying a pair, but I find it quite strange that these headphones would have conflicting connection protocols with the iPhone.

    I’ve been using a BH214 with my iPhone 3gs and the phone always responds to all the controls on the headset wirelessly, apart from the volume synchronisation (i.e. you can turn the volume on the headset all the way down to mute but the volume output of the iPhone stays the same, but this doesn’t matter at all really).

    Another ‘perk’ is that, you can also use the BH214 as a wireless remote and route the audio to it whilst the iPhone is connected to an AV dock with the video being routed to a television.

    Surely a cheaper headset shouldn’t defeat a much more expensive one. But if somebody would be able to show that they can do with the BH905i what I can with my cheaper BH214 then I’m willing to pay the price just to have one.