- Good sound
- Lovely design and build
- Good fit (if fiddly)
- Stable connection
- Decent battery life
- Buggy app (optional)
- Review Price: £259
- Splash- and dust-resistant
- Leather charging case
- Touch controls
- Transparency mode for ambience passthrough
- Customisable EQ and sound staging
What are the B&O Beoplay E8?
True wireless earbud-style headphones aren’t exactly a new concept, but ever since the Apple AirPods were introduced, the category has exploded. Now there are countless alternatives available, each model prefaced with the words: ‘like AirPods, but…’.
Our current favourites are the Sony WF-1000X, which are like AirPods but with excellent sound and effective noise cancellation. We’re currently mid-reviewing the Bose SoundSport Free, which are like AirPods but seemingly ideal for getting sweaty.
Today it’s the turn of B&O Play, an offshoot of luxury Danish audio brand Bang & Olufsen. The Beoplay E8, too, are like AirPods – but they look and sound a whole lot better.
Freshly sprouting in spring 2018 there’s also a gorgeous Beoplay E8 Powder Pink Special Edition, inspired by hanami, the age-old Japanese tradition of going out to stare at the cherry blossom in Sakura season. Be warned, though, these pretty pinkies are only being sold in very limited quantities, so be sure to snap yours up for £269 from the Beoplay site quick sharp.
B&O Beoplay E8 – Design
For those uninitiated in the way of B&O, this is a company that consistently puts out beautifully designed products.
So it’s no surprise that aesthetics aren’t an issue here. The design of the Beoplay E8 is nothing short of lush. They’re undoubtedly the nicest-looking true wireless earphones I’ve seen.
Having something sticking out of your ears is always going to look a little silly; this is definitely a category of electronics where less is more. The Beoplay E8 offer a super-subtle design that mixes plastic with aluminium accents. Plus, they also benefit from a slimmer profile, which means they don’t stick out too far of your ear.
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They’re far less attention-grabbing than the ‘dangling toothbrush’ style of the Apple AirPods and the slightly space-age vibe of the Sony WF-1000X.
It’s in the case design that B&O has really been able to show off its skills. It’s a leather-bound pebble-shaped unit, with a braided fabric strap attached. The material adds a warm, tactile element that is generally lacking in electronics. There’s an element of ceremony whenever you decide to take it out of your bag or pocket.
Place the buds into the charging case, and magnets within ensure they fit with a satisfying snap. This triggers a sensor, and the buds automatically power down. The lid, too, is held shut with magnets – but if you’re a belt-and-braces kind of person then you can doubly secure the lid with the fabric strap.
In the box, a handful of different-sized ear tips are included. I’d advise that you experiment with all the available options in order to achieve a decent fit. I found the process a little cumbersome, but once I achieved a good fit, the buds felt secure in place.
Note that it may be easier to insert the earbuds upside down, and then rotate them into place. I’d advise trying the foam ear tips – although I’m not usually a huge fan, in this instance I found them more flexible and comfortable than the standard silicone ones.
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B&O Beoplay E8 – Features
The Beoplay E8 are some of the most advanced true wireless earphones around.
You might not suspect it from the attractive exterior, but the buds are resistant to splashes of water and dust. B&O tells me they’re not designed for sports, but it’s good to know that being caught out in a rain shower isn’t going to bring their life to an end.
The buds use touch-sensitive pads to control music and take calls. Tap the right ear once to pause/play and double-tap to ski a track; double-tap the left to rewind. You hold the right ear to increase volume, and the left to lower it. It takes a little getting used to, but the touchpad is pretty sensitive and works well; it’s far easier than having to fumble around for a button.
While there’s no noise cancellation, there is a ‘Transparency’ feature, toggled on or off by tapping the left ear once. This enables audio passthrough, so you don’t entirely shut the world out. It’s useful for maintaining awareness of your surroundings – when you’re crossing the road, or when you don’t want to be entirely antisocial.
There are three levels of audio passthrough, which you can adjust in the Beoplay app. Once you’ve chosen your setting in the app, the buds will remember it until you change it again. The app also lets you tweak the EQ, plus download firmware updates.
I can’t say that I was a fan of the app. It’s buggy, connecting to the earphones only around half the time, and even then the process could take up to 10 seconds. It isn’t nearly as snappy as the equivalent from Sony. Once you’re in, though, changing the EQ and transparency settings is a doddle.
Updating the firmware isn’t so easy, however. For days, the app has sent notification of an available update, which will take at least half an hour. However, I haven’t managed to stay connected for long enough for the update to take place. I’ve attempted this with both Android and Apple handsets, with the same result.
Thankfully, the app is entirely optional. The Beoplay E8 work just fine without it – just hold the touch pads to enable pairing and your phone will take care of the rest.
As for battery life, you get four hours from a single charge, which is typical of true wireless earphones. A fully charged case holds enough power for a further two full charges, so you’re looking at a total of 12 hours. The case itself is charged via a micro-USB cable, which is included in the box.
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B&O Beoplay E8 – Performance
The Beoplay E8 sound really, really good. That is, as long as you’ve achieved the right fit. I’ll reiterate the need to experiment with those ear tips, because the first time I tried on the E8, I thought they sounded awful. Get a proper seal, however, and they’re among the best-sounding true wireless earphones on the market.
The sound is clean; there’s none of the audible hiss or whine that you get from lesser Bluetooth headphones. Not only that, it’s a transparent listen with plenty of detail and texture across the frequencies.
Tonally it’s a balanced, neutral presentation. That makes for a natural and convincing listen, if not the most exciting – you might want to have a play with the EQ in the app if you like your music to display a lot of kick. That’s not to say the Beoplay E8 are lacking energy or dynamism – there’s plenty of it, but it can vary according to the genre of music.
These earphones are nuanced and insightful enough that you can easily differentiate between files of varying quality, something that isn’t possible with less eloquent headphones. Decent-quality tracks such as CD-ripped 16bit/48kHz WAV files or even hi-res files benefit from great dynamism and space; old MP3 files often sound ‘louder’ but more compressed.
I’d say the Sony WF-1000X offer greater detail and a better sense of attack. The Beoplay E8 aren’t far off, however. If you want good sound quality in a pair of true wireless earbud headphones then you should definitely check these out.
Of course, sound quality is worthless without a good connection. Thankfully, Bluetooth performance here is solid. Sat at my desk or walking around town, I rarely experienced dropouts between the Beoplay E8 and my phone. The signal only stuttered in areas of high wireless signal interference, such as busy train stations and this particular building site near the Trusted Reviews offices. In this area, Apple reigns supreme: the connection between an iPhone and a pair of Apple AirPods is virtually unbreakable.
I’ve also been impressed by the connection between the two earbuds. I’ve never found sound emanating from only one ear – which can happen on occasion with the Sony WF-1000X. This is a result of NFMI (near-field magnetic induction), a tech found in some hearing aids. It’s supposed to create a magnetic field around your head, which is more stable than trying to pass a Bluetooth signal through your skull.
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Why buy the B&O Beoplay E8?
If you want the freedom afforded by true wireless earphones, and you’re design-conscious and appreciate decent sound quality, then there’s plenty to like about the Beoplay E8.
They certainly aren’t cheap, but they sound very good. They’re also easily the most luxurious option out there – there’s an unquantifiable pleasure in handling a beautiful product.
If sound quality and features are a priority over design, then you might want to check out the Sony WF-1000X. They sound better and also feature noise cancellation.
If you’re an Apple user for whom connection stability tops the list then you won’t do better than the Apple AirPods – but the Beoplay E8 look and sound better.
The most gorgeous true wireless earphones available – and they sound great too