Bang & Olufsen has recently expanded its range of wireless headphones at a speed that almost makes you dizzy. Among them the lifestyle gaming headphones Beoplay Portal and the high-end flagship Beoplay H95.
Beoplay EQ is a physically much smaller novelty, namely a set of completely wireless hearing plugs. And for the first time with electronic noise reduction (ANC).
Pricewise, it is located just above the Beoplay E8 3rd gen., But even though the E8 is not initially taken off the market, it is difficult to imagine what would make people buy a set of earplugs, the only difference from the top model is the lack of ANC, when the price in practice is the same.
There is no space for buttons on a wireless earbud. Therefore, the operation is done by touch and combinations of touch and gestures on the back of the two plugs. It’s not entirely intuitive, but can not be done very much better with the space available. Unfortunately, this also means that you inadvertently change the number or change the volume when you adjust the plugs to make them fit better. Something that is often needed.
Silicone ear studs in four sizes and a single set of memory foam are included. Unfortunately, there are no stabilization fins like the ones you get for the buds aids E8 Sport.
Battery life is on a par with what you find on completely wireless earbuds today: Depending on whether you use ANC and the hi-fi-friendly audio protocol aptX Adaptive or the simpler AAC, the usage time varies from 5.5 hours to 6.5 hours. The charging case provides two full charges. The case can be charged with both USB-C cable and wireless. Neat.
Bluetooth pairing is often a little more critical with truly wireless earbuds than with regular wireless headphones. Probably because each plug must connect separately and the connection must be perfectly synchronized to avoid echo effects. The connection usually seemed trouble-free during the test period, but occanionally the connection was unstable and one or both plugs lost the connection.
Not for running
Beoplay EQ is not intended for training, as unlike the E8 Sport they are only shower-tight (IP54) and also not equipped with hooks or “horns” in silicone to hold them to the ear during running. In fact, the Beoplay EQ had the least stable fit of any earbuds I’ve reviewed so far. And I had to search for one of them on a busy road, among other things, after it had suddenly and completely without warning fallen out in the middle of zebra crossing.
Unlike the majority of competitors, Beoplay EQ does not have built-in voice control. This is a deliberate omission on the part of Bang & Olufsen, as it would make the product more expensive, and it is not expected that customers demand the function in earbuds. Precisely on completely wireless earbuds, voice control can otherwise be an alternative to the rather confusing sequences of presses and swipes that serves as operation.
On the other hand, it has been possible to equip Beoplay EQ with the wireless transfer protocol aptX Adaptive, which allows for a sound quality that approaches CD quality.
Like other Bang & Olufsen products, Beoplay EQ must be controlled via the Bang & Olufsen app. Here you can adjust the sound balance and also adjust the degree of noise reduction and/or Transparency – where part of the sound from the surroundings is sent into the earbuds, so you can participate in conversations or follow the traffic.
However, we could not test this part as we borrowed a set for review prior to the official launch date. And at the time, stepless adjustment of ANC and Transparency was not implemented in the app at the time of testing. The feature will be rolled out shortly after launch.
The sound quality
In terms of sound, we had high expectations for Beoplay EQ. Firstly because Bang & Olufsen tends to have really good control over the sonic tuning of its products. And then also because one can afford to expect quite a lot from a set of earbuds at such a hefty price!
The bass is the most difficult in in-ears, as they must fit exactly and perfectly close in the ear canal to get reasonable bass reproduction. Once in place, a surprisingly solid bass is obtained from the Beoplay EQs, where there is no lack of level and where it is still possible to hear the difference between the instruments.
However, the midrange reproduction is the best of Beoplay EQ. Voices are reproduced nuanced and well-resolved, and as a hi-fi nerd you can enjoy noticing small details in the production of your favorite test tracks.
The treble is also excellent. As long as you do not use the hearing aids’ biggest selling point, namely the noise reduction.
With the ANC turned on, the soundscape shrinks and air and openness disappear. This “wardrobe effect” is not something that is special to Beoplay EQ, but a problem that can to a greater or lesser extent be found on all ANC headphones. In this case, however, the effect is quite pronounced. Here, however, in the name of reasonableness, it must be emphasized that in noisy environments, music would suffer far more without the ANC.
Bang & Olufsen’s products are notoriously known for their sleek design and exclusive build quality. But it’s hard to stand out on those points with a product that is largely invisible because most of it is stuffed into the ear. In terms of sound, EQ comes in tough competition as almost all alternatives are cheaper. However, there are price-equal competitors – like the Bowers & Wilkins PI7, which remains the king of exclusive ANC earplugs.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EQ are the first ANC earplugs from B&O, but far from the first on the market. Bang & Olufsen enters a competition where there are already many players on the field – and most of them are cheaper. Beoplay EQ sounds and works well, and aptX Adaptive is a quality plus. Without, however, being able to fully explain the pricey price. If, on the other hand, you already had thoughts of buying a set of Beoplay E8, you can get benefit of electronic noise reduction with the EQs at roughly the same price.