Tuesday, November 7, 2017

B&O’s Beoplay E8 totally wireless earbuds really are the total package

Bang & Olufsen’s headphones tend to stand out from the crowd, and their new fully wireless mode, the Beoplay E8, is no exception. The E8 is easily the best totally wire-free headphone I’ve used thus far, with comfortable earbuds that should fit regardless of your ear shape, good battery life of around four hours per charge and the best sound quality of any true wireless buds I’ve tested — and I’ve tested a lot.

The Beoplay E8 are diminutive and understated, making for a far better in-ear look than Apple’s somewhat ridiculous-looking AirPods, and they come with a charging case with a full recharge for the buds built in, making for total unplugged play time of 8 hours before you have to find an outlet. The case itself is head and shoulders above the competition, too, with a sleek, pebbled leather outer and no fiddling required to get the buds inserted within for a good connection to their charging contacts.

B&O has also done a great job with the companion app for the Beoplay E8, offering easy presets and manually configurable equalizer settings so you can tune the sound based on your preferences or the type of content you’re using them to listen to. The app also uses Bluetooth LE for a super easy out of the box pairing experience, which is only marginally more challenging than Apple’s W1-enabled near-field pairing for the AirPods.

In the box, B&O also crucially includes Comply isolating foam earbud tips for the headsets themselves, which really up the game in terms of audio quality. I generally recommend using Comply tips if you want to be able to focus on sound quality with any pair of earbuds, but often they’re only available as an aftermarket add-on, so it’s great to have them included right alongside the other tip options here.

Another big benefit here versus some other options are intuitive, touch-based controls built right into the headset. You don’t have to press a physical button into your ear as a result, and the top controls are easy enough to manage once you follow the in-app instructions to learn how to use them to control playback, volume, transparency modes and more. Speaking of transparency, that’s another standout here: You can tap once on the left bud to enable audio passthrough, ensuring you can go about your business during the day without theoretically ever having to take the earbuds out, while, for instance, shopping or paying for a transit ticket.

The Beoplay E8s come in either a black or a charcoal sand color; I reviewed the black ones and they’re ideal for anyone hoping to get the most out of truly wireless buds while remaining relatively discreet about their use. Either look is good, however, and the matching case is also terrific to look at.

The E8s are also very capable when it comes to using your phone’s virtual assistant, including Siri, and when making calls. People I spoke to reported good sound quality on the other end, using the built-in microphones on the small buds.

B&O’s offering is a bit pricier than some of the other options out there, including AirPods, at $299, but they deliver unmatched sound quality in this category for that price, as well as reliable, rock-solid connectivity and great sound customization features. If what you’re after is truly wireless earbuds, and your primary qualification in making a buying decision is that they be the best available all-around, the Beoplay E8 definitely fits the bill.

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