When a company refreshes a product range and simply puts a lower-case letter at the end of the product title, you know you're in for a minor update. This is the case with the latest high-end stereo Bluetooth headphones from Nokia, the BH-905i. They look identical to the headphones that preceded them, with the few updated features existing below the surface.
In style, design and physical dimensions, the BH 905i is a dead ringer for the former model. Nokia has managed to shave 8g off the unit's weight and slim down its profile when folded flat, but otherwise you'll have great difficulty telling them apart. The sales package remains equally generous, with a huge range of cables and adapters covering all possible use cases for these headphones, including an aeroplane adapter and a dedicated iPhone cable.
The fit of the BH-905i is comfortable to begin with, but we found that over the space of about an hour the heat of the pleather ear-cups, along with the gentle pressure of the headband, build up to produce a slightly unpleasant experience. If you're considering the BH-905i to drown out engine roar on a long-haul flight you'll want a chance to test these for yourself first to see if you find them more comfortable than we did.
One of the key selling points for these headphones is active noise cancellation, delivered with the help of eight microphones and activated by a switch on the underside of the left-hand side speaker. This feature works impressively well; the almost imperceptible white noise blocks outside noise so well that you'll feel like you're in a sensory deprivation tank even when you're on the bus or train.
The Bluetooth connectivity of this headset works great as well. Pairing is reasonably simple and there isn't as great a loss in audio quality or volume like we sometimes find with stereo audio headphones and speakers. We tested the BH-905i with a range of smartphones including a Nokia E7, an iPhone 4 and an HTC Desire Z, and the experience was consistent.
The only let-down for us was in the most important aspect of our testing: the actual quality of the audio we've heard through the headphones is better than average, but not as great as we'd expect from a set of headphones with a price tag of AU$350. All elements of the sound we heard during our tests were well represented, with audible low, mid and high range frequencies. However, the delivery of these elements is a tad muddy. When compared to a similar pair of headphones from Sennheiser in this price range, the deficiencies in the Nokia cans is all the more apparent.