While the rest of the tech world is still catching up to our wireless demands, it’s in audio we’re seeing continuous strides forward as more and more truly wireless earbuds are launched. B&O Play is the latest on the scene, as we discover in our Beoplay E8 review. Although it’s far from the first company to launch a pair of in-ear wireless headphones, Beoplay is making sure all the usual B&O Play features are in place. We spent some time with the E8s just before launch, and got to listen to them shortly afterwards, and we liked what we saw.
They’re tiny, inconspicuous, and as you’d expect from a B&O Play product, stylish too. This is a feat in itself, as packing in the battery, speaker, and associated tech often leaves fully wireless earbuds looking bulbous, misshapen, or downright odd. The E8 slip into your ear very precisely, and remain there without a problem. We’re certain only the most vigorous forms of physical exercise will dislodge them. They’re comfortable too, and if you’ve often disliked other wired Bluetooth headphones for how the cables pull on your ears after a while, this type of earbud avoids all of that.
Like most wireless earbuds, each bud is housed inside a special charging case, this one cloaked in leather and smaller than a matchbox. The case’s internal battery provides 12 hours of total use from the E8, while B&O Play claims the buds themselves last about four hours per charge. Four hours of playback of is middling for truly wireless earbuds at this stage, and it’s less than you’ll get from top contenders like Apple’s AirPods or Bragi’s The Headphone, which each last around five to six hours. Charging time, though, is about the same at a claimed two hours. We haven’t spent enough time with the E8 yet know whether B&O Play’s claims are accurate. The earbuds magnetically clamp inside their respective sections with a satisfying click, and the case itself has a magnetic catch to keep it closed. Everything about the E8 earbuds is high quality, and a very tactile affair.
Gesture controlled systems split opinion, but are a necessary evil for such tiny earbuds.
The E8 very effectively isolate sound from the outside world, which you want when listening to music, but not when you’re listening out for announcements while at the train station. Like Bragi’s Dash and Dash Pro, B&O Play has added a transparency mode, which operates like noise cancelation in reverse: It lets sound from the outside world into the headphones, so you remain aware of your surroundings. That feature, along with sound profiles, are controlled through the B&O Play app for your phone.
Like B&O Play’s other Bluetooth headphones, such as the H8 and H9 models, the E8 have a touch control system. Tap the left earbud to turn the volume down, and the right to turn the volume up. A series of double taps will pause or play the music. These touch controlled systems split opinion – and splitting volume control between left and right buds is a first in our experience — but such controls are a necessary evil for such tiny earbuds. B&O Play told us it took about two days average use for testers to become familiar with the controls, where they weren’t having to think about what to do before doing it.
Bassy, balanced sound
Having loved the design and comfort of the prototype E8 buds we saw just before launch, we couldn’t wait to hear them. Our opportunity came at the IFA 2017 tech show in Berlin. The company is very particular about the audio its products produce, and had taken considerable time to get final sound exactly right. We’d been promised B&O Play’s signature natural, realistic sound signature, and are not disappointed — they sound wonderful.
A selection of tracks from Spotify wowed our ears. Vocals are crisp and clear, but aren’t pushed to the front of the soundstage, and instead blend perfectly into the mid-range. Bass was the big surprise here. Earbuds sometimes struggle to produce bass you can feel, due to not creating the best seal in your ear; but the E8s have bass-to-spare. This is undoubtably helped by the supreme in-ear fit. This was the second time we’d worn the E8 buds, and again, they slipped in and stayed put. This time the experience was complete, as the audio sounded superb.
Standing at busy B&O Play’s booth on a hectic Saturday at IFA 2017, we became lost in the music played by the E8s, and that’s exactly what we want from a pair of earbuds.
The Beoplay E8 in-ear wireless headphones will reach stores in October and cost $300, or 250 British pounds. B&O Play products are never cheap, and this is twice what you’ll pay for Apple’s AirPods, and Bragi’s Headphone, both of which have made our best wireless headphone list.
Should you pay more? The E8 earbuds have superb build quality, are genuinely small, and really are comfortable — meaning they check several boxes from a truly wireless earbud wish list. They also look cool, and avoid the quirky design of the AirPods. The sound produced matches the silky smooth, wonderfully defined audio we love from other B&O Play products, so if you’ve got the money, these are definitely ones to audition on your quest for true wireless sound.