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Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EQ review: Big buds, big sound — big price

The Beoplay EQ case open with both earbuds removed.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EQ review: Big buds, big sound — big price
MSRP $399.00
“Bang & Olufsen's Beoplay EQ true wireless earbuds cost $400, so is the high price justified? Yes, if you value heritage, excellent build quality and construction, and a distinct sound signature.”
Pros
  • Distinct signature sound
  • Long range, reliable Bluetooth
  • Wireless charging
  • Quality metal components and case
  • Effective adaptive ANC
Cons
  • Earbuds don't always seat properly in the case
  • No customization for touch controls
  • No virtual assistant support

There has been some chatter at Digital Trends recently about not really needing to spend hundreds of dollars to get a good pair of true wireless earbuds. I’ve recently enjoyed the $99 Nothing Ear 1 earbuds, while my colleague Simon Cohen has tested a host of similarly priced models and come to the conclusion that, unless you’re a real audiophile, $100 is more than enough to bag you a great pair of true wireless earbuds.

Where does that leave the $400 Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EQ? It’s all about heritage, audio appreciation, and the very big sound they deliver that’ll get your wallet opening up just that little bit more.

Design

It’s immediately obvious the Beoplay EQ are not small earbuds. The body is considerably larger than an Apple AirPods Pro bud, and even larger than the Beoplay E8 bud. This means they do protrude from your ear quite a lot and are definitely not subtle. Each one weighs 8 grams, so you feel them in your ear more than a lighter bud like the Apple AirPods Pro. But the metal body and shiny end caps, complete with noticeable B&O logo, look ace. There are four silicone ear tips in the box, giving a flexible range of sizes for even the smallest ears.

Beoplay EQ earbuds on top of an iPhone 12 Pro.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

However, I initially had trouble keeping the Beoplay EQs secure in my ears. The large silicone tips were too big, and the medium ones were a little too small, resulting in one quickly working its way loose during activities. Luckily Bang & Olufsen includes a pair of Comply Sport 200 foam tips in the package. They’re really excellent and solved the issue around fit immediately. Additionally, they helped minimize the effect of the weight too, and I found them supremely comfortable to wear for long periods, with slight fatigue only becoming evident after about four hours.

The earbuds are kept inside a swish aluminum case in either Black Anthracite or Sand Gold colors. It’s a subtly designed piece, with Bang & Olufsen branding on the case top, and a grippy base to stop it sliding off the table. It looks really classy. The buds are held at an angle inside and are very easy to remove, but putting them back in is a pain. They’re magnetically held in place, but you need to be very precise with placing them in correctly, otherwise the buds don’t seat and charge. It only needs to be slightly out of alignment too.

I often listen to podcasts to fall asleep, and in my half-awake state messing around with the case and earbuds was frustrating, and most of the time I’d wake up in the morning to find one earbud wasn’t in correctly and hadn’t charged. Once you know to double-check this probably won’t happen, but it’s not something I have to do with any other pair of true wireless earbuds, suggesting the pretty case is all form over function.

Holding the Beoplay EQ case.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

There’s a tiny LED light on the outside indicating the charge status, but the case top doesn’t appear to have a magnet to keep it securely closed, or if it does it’s quite weak. It’s compact though, and much more practical than the Beoplay E8’s leather-covered case as the aluminum body should look better for longer.

You’re certainly paying a premium for the high-quality build and materials, along with the brand name, but there’s nothing really wrong with that, especially when the product is as stylish, portable, and classy as the Beoplay EQ.

Controls and features

The earbuds connect using Bluetooth 5.2, which has excellent range and rock-solid reliability here, and use Qualcomm’s AptX Adaptive codec so they work to deliver the same sound quality as AptX and AptX HD, but depending on the audio source and your environment will adapt to play the best quality possible. The earbuds also support AAC and SBC codecs too.

Beoplay EQ with app on the iPhone 12 Pro.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

You interact with the EQs using touch-sensitive controls, which have a wealth of gestures to learn, differ for each bud, and cannot be customized in the app. There are a few too many double-tap commands and the earbuds get confused. For example, you double-tap the left bud to switch between Active Noice Canceling (ANC) modes, but also double-tap and hold to lower the volume. It’s fine when you’re sitting still, but difficult to modulate when moving around. Due to the sensitivity of the controls, it’s also much too easy to pause playback when you’re momentarily adjusting the fit of an earbud.

The Beoplay EQ are Bang & Olufsen’s first pair of true wireless earbuds with Adaptive Active Noise Cancelation (AANC). This clever technology uses the six omnidirectional microphones inside the earbud to adjust the ANC in real-time, based on the ambient sound in your surroundings. Think of it as a more personalized version of normal ANC. I’ve used the EQs in the house and outside, and really not noticed the adaptive part working, and consider this quite a good thing. Most of the time it kept ANC active, and only slipped into Transparency mode a few times. As one of these times was when I was having a conversation outside, it seems to work well. A feature B&O calls Own Voice made me sound less echoey in my ears using Transparency mode too.

Beoplay EQ earbud in ear.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

I found the ANC mode’s isolation very effective, minimizing all sounds in my home and on the street, even when just listening to spoken word. I didn’t notice additional pressure in my ears, but there is a little hiss with ANC on and nothing playing. The adaptive part can be disabled in the app if you prefer manual control over the ANC. I also like that you can use just one earbud at a time, which is handy for calls.

The accompanying app has an adjustable equalizer mode, a battery indicator for each earbud and the case, and a few other settings including switching on an Automatic Standby mode where the earbuds turn off after 15 minutes without use. Unusually, there’s no option to use a virtual assistant with the Beoplay EQ, which is a feature found on the vast majority of competing earbuds regardless of the price.

Sound

The Beoplay EQ are equipped with 6.8mm electro-dynamic drivers, and Bang & Olufsen didn’t hold back when it came to tuning them. The earbuds are pretty big, but the sound is bigger. From the wide soundstage to the deep, impactful bass and stunning vocal control, the Beoplay EQs sound amazing. I’ve listened using an iPhone 12 Pro, an iPad Pro (2020), a OnePlus Nord 2, and an Asus Zenfone 8.

The old Beoplay H8 were the first pair of headphones I really loved, and the Beoplay EQs remind me why: They’re full of the same depth, energy, warmth, and detail. I far prefer the sound here to the Beoplay E8s, which for some reason never quite hit the sweet spot. What do I mean? It’s when everything comes together in exactly the right way. I noticed it especially when listening to Nogizaka46’s Yasashii Dake Nara, where the sweet yet powerful vocals shine, but aren’t quite so forward in the sound stage as, for example, headphones from Audio-Technica, letting you appreciate the orchestra in this particular track even more. The Beoplay EQs get it just right.

CloZee’s Inner Peace demonstrates both the wide soundstage and detail, along with the sheer power of the Beoplay EQ. There’s lovely, thick bass throughout, with all of the track’s synth madness remaining clear and defined. The complex bassline in Red Velvet’s Queendom stays controlled and never overpowers the vocals, while continuing to provide the required level of warm thump. To my ears, I find the way B&O’s tunes bass preferable to Sennheiser’s, for example, with more authority and a harder punch.

You’re paying plenty for the Beoplay EQ, but this is why. You’re not getting an off-the-shelf audio tune from a newcomer, you’re getting all of Bang & Olufsen’s 95 years of experience inside beautifully designed and constructed earbuds. Big and bold, yet filled with delicious detail, the EQ’s deliver all of that notable heritage right into your ears. If that appeals to you, then you’ll be very pleased with your purchase.

Battery and charging

B&O states the battery will provide approximately 6.5 hours of playback with ANC, or 7.5 hours without. The case stores enough energy for two additional charges, and itself takes an hour and 40 minutes to recharge. The EQs seem to get very close to B&O’s quoted times in my experience, coming in around six hours use before needing a recharge with ANC on.

The charging port on the Beoplay EQ case.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The case has a USB Type-C connector on the back, or you can use a Qi wireless charging pad to charge it up. I’ve used the base plate on the Belkin Boost Charge 3-in-1 and it worked without a problem.

Price and availability

The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EQ are available through Bang & Olufsen online and its retail stores now for $399 in the U.S., or 349 British pounds in the U.K.

Our take

If your mission is to pay the least for a new set of true wireless headphones, the Beoplay EQs are not for you. What do you get for four times the price of, say, the Nothing Ear 1? Coming up to 100 years of musical knowledge and high-quality product design. Much as I like Nothing’s earbuds, the quality is nowhere near the Beoplay EQs. The finishing on the case, the feel of the metal, and the security and comfort provided by the included Comply tips mark the EQs out as a quality product, even before you listen.

The sound is tuned almost to perfection, ready to provide a bombastic or relaxing listen, depending on your mood and choice of music. The ANC kept the outside world away from my ears, and the transparency mode isn’t overbearing or too artificial. The 6 hours of use and two additional charges from the case means they’ll last you for a couple of (working) weeks if you use them for a couple of hours or so a day.

You’re paying for quality throughout the Beoplay EQ, from the design and construction, to the sound and battery life. Not all of these aspects are essential requirements for everyone, but the Beoplay EQ neatly brings them all together in a very desirable package for those that do want a little more from a pair of headphones.

Is there a better alternative?

The high asking price of the Beoplay EQ means you really have to be taken with the brand its style. Anyone just wanting a pair of true wireless earbuds would be wise to look at the cheaper options, including the Nothing Ear 1, but if you value a higher sound quality and a distinctive audio signature, and have more money to spend, then the Beoplay EQ’s are a good choice, but there are others to consider too.

The $280 Sony WF-1000XM4’s are our current top true wireless earbud choice, and are notoriously hard to beat in sound quality, plus they also have adaptive active noise cancelation. Anyone looking to spend this much on true wireless earbuds will also likely be heavily influenced by style and sound quality, and the $299 Master & Dynamic MW08 look and sound superb, plus the boutique audio brand has a distinctive and always highly enjoyable sound signature all of its own, much like B&O. That’s before considering Apple’s AirPods Pro, and a host of others.

How long will they last?

The earbuds have an IP54 water resistance rating so are protected against sweat and dust, and should be fine to use in the rain as well. The aluminum case hasn’t picked up any scratches yet and will certainly keep the earbuds well protected. Bang & Olufsen has already delivered one software update since the mid-August launch, which is applied using the app. All this along with the excellent sound means you should be happy with the Beoplay EQs for years after purchase.

Should you buy it?

Yes, if you value brand heritage, quality, and a distinct signature sound the Beoplay EQ are worth the indulgence.

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