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B&O Beoplay EQ hands-on review: Big buds, even bigger sound

Bang & Olufsen has announced the Beoplay EQ, its first pair of true wireless earbuds with Adaptive Active Noise Cancelation (AANC). This clever technology uses the microphones and speakers 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.

Bang & Olufsen has used its Adaptive ANC on its over-ear, highly luxurious, $800 Beoplay H95 headphones already, but the Beoplay EQ cost $399, making them a more affordable and convenient way to access this cool tech. We’ve taken an early look at the Beoplay EQ, and found there is a lot more to these than the swanky ANC.

Beoplay EQ specs

The Beoplay EQ are equipped with 6.8mm electro-dynamic drivers, and a total of six omnidirectional microphones, with two dedicated to automatic adjustment of the ANC during calls. The earbuds weigh 8 grams each, while the case is made from aluminum and is 50 grams. It’s equipped with both USB Type-C charging and wireless charging using a Qi charger.

Beoplay EQ earbuds seen from the top.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

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 earbuds have an IP54 water resistance rating, connect using Bluetooth 5.2, and support AAC and SBC codecs, plus Adaptive AptX. Inside the box are four sets of replacement tips in different sizes, along with a pair of Comply Sport 200 tips.

Big design

The Beoplay EQ 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 a little fiddly to put back in correctly until you get used to doing it. I love the reflective end plates, which add more visual impact to the earbuds.

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.

When you get them out of the case, you quickly notice that these 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. You feel the 8-gram weight too, in that they “hang” out your ear a little, but in the short time wearing them I have not felt any fatigue.

There are touch-sensitive controls on each earbud and a wealth of gestures to learn, which differ for each bud, and cannot be customized in the app. The accuracy isn’t the best, particularly for volume control, which is a tap-and-hold gesture and is hampered by a delayed response. I’m trying the Beoplay EQ ahead of launch, so a firmware and app update may solve this.

Big sound

Boy, Bang & Olufsen didn’t hold back when it came to tuning the Beoplay EQ. The earbuds may be pretty big, but not anywhere near as big as the sound. From the wide soundstage to the deep, impactful bass, and stunning vocal control, the Beoplay EQs sound amazing. 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.

Beoplay EQ seen in the ear.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

It’s Aina The End’s perfectly audible sharp intake of breath at the beginning of Teddyloid’s To the End, the cheeky chuckle hidden away at the very end of Red Velvet’s Monster, and the way the percussion practically tickles your brain at the start of Mat Zo’s The Sky, right before a seriously strong bass thump kicks in. The Beoplay EQ are detailed, precise, and hugely enjoyable, and everything I want, sound-wise, from a pair of B&O headphones.

I’ve had the noise cancelation active all the time (and the volume up because I’m enjoying them so much), and sound from the outside, and the radio on in the same room, are all effectively removed. I’m not sure I could spot any Adaptive changes when I turned on and off the vacuum cleaner while wearing the Beoplay EQ, and this is likely a good thing, as the sound of the music stayed consistent. I have not felt any “pressure” from the ANC, and didn’t feel the need to re-seat the earbuds either. I have not had the chance to test out the Adaptive part of the ANC in the outside world yet.

Price and availability

The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EQ will be available through Bang & Olufsen online and its retail stores from August 19, for $399 or 349 British pounds.

Big competition

Bang & Olufsen is a very respected name, and in this case, certainly seems to have delivered a desirable product worthy of its name, but the $250 to $400 mark is very competitive when it comes to true wireless headphones. The Adaptive Active Noise Cancelation is a feature not widely seen on other models, and is a definite draw here, although it’s becoming more common.

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. The recently announced $150 OnePlus Buds Pro also claim a smart, adaptive active noise cancelation mode, indicating there may be differences between all these systems, and none seem to use Qualcomm’s own AANC system, so we can assume even more will come in the near future.

Anyone looking to spend this much on true wireless earbuds will also likely be heavily influenced by style and sound quality, which plays into the Beoplay EQ’s strengths. But even then, the $299 Master & Dynamic MW08 also look and sound superb, and 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.

This is just an early look at the Beoplay EQ, and the Adaptive Active Noise Cancelation may really come into its own when they’re used in the outside world. For now, the Beoplay EQs deliver what we expect from Bang & Olufsen — a big, beautiful sound wrapped up in a premium case.

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Andy Boxall
Senior Mobile Writer
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
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