Wireless earbuds have been around for some time. But of all the earbuds we’ve tested, all have an abundance of issues, ranging from connectivity to sound quality. So when Bang & Olufsen released the BeoPlay E8 earbuds, we were hopeful but skeptical. At S$429, they aren’t the cheapest around. Apple’s AirPods cost S$238, Jaybird’s Run are going at $299 and Bose’s SoundSport Free are just under S$250. But after testing them, we are officially sold on the E8.
The Danish company has been producing high-end audio-visual electronics for over 90 years. It’s renowned for both its impressive quality and aesthetic style. British designer David Lewis worked on some of its greatest products until he passed away in 2011. In 2012, the company introduced B&O Play, a more accessible platform for new products.
B&O Play is designed to be portable in nature, elegant and powerful. Scandinavian designer Jakob Wagner has been responsible for most of the B&O Play product designs. He’s kept true to the brand’s legacy of creating outstanding and minimalist objects that are simple to use. Wagner also put his touch on the E8’s form.
The E8 comes in a rounded leather-bound charging case which is incredibly light at 45 grams. The earbuds weight 6 and 7 grams – no explanation is given for the difference in weight. Because of its pebble-shaped design, it does create a slight bulge when you carry it in your pocket. As we’ve mentioned, Wagner has gone with simple, natural curves and a sleek all-black form for the E8. Both ears have touch panels and single, double or triple taps all do different things. It’s rather intuitive and 15 minutes in, I was breezing through controls.
The first thing we tested was the range. Bluetooth 4.2 and NFMI are connectivity methods for the device. NFMI stands for near-field magnetic induction communications, using a chip and low-power transmissions to ensure connectivity stays consistent. It’s great especially to sync both earbuds. We tested a maximum distance of 20 metres from my iPhone SE before the sound began to stutter. We also tested separating the two earbuds, and that maxed out at 5 metres before sound faded. (A comparison test published by iDownloadBlog listed AirPods at 30m before the same issues occurred.)
One issue we did note with the E8 was how quickly it zapped power from the phone. In an hour of listening to music, my phone’s battery life dipped between 15 and 20%. (I did take a couple of calls and answer emails during this time.) In all likelihood, you’re more likely to run out of juice before the E8 does.
But where Apple’s AirPod designs have been mocked endlessly by blogs, there’s little to dislike about the E8. It fits snugly in and securely, without any pressure on the ear. And since it’s light, that makes it great to wear. Because the in-ear silicone fits do form a slight seal around the ear, things are muffled around you when the sound is off. Which can be nice. It does look incredibly modern and stylish. The E8 is splash and dust resistant and so you can take it for a run. Just don’t swim or shower with it.
Bang & Olufsen informed us that the earbuds would last 4-8 hours on a full charge and my experience was closer to 4.5 hours. It’s tough to say if charging cycles will last throughout its lifetime. The charging and carrying case offers up to 2 extra charges, and it takes up to 2 hours to recharge them fully. Charging is simple – just stick them into the case and it works. If the case is out of power, you can charge both directly from a USB. A little LED indicates when it’s charging and done.
Where it truly stands out, however, is the sound. Bang & Olufsen has made audio devices across all sizes and the E8 offers an outstanding soundstage. Drum beats were solid, not overwhelming or tinny whether the volume was maxed out or at 50%. We tested out some really tough tunes for mids and highs and it delivered without fail. Even the Diva Dance Opera from The Fifth Element sounded as if we were listening on much more robust headphones than a Bluetooth in-earbud.
Great DSP and sound tuning meant music sounded like it was presented at an arena, not delivered directly to your eardrums. Even at its loudest, at no point did I sense any distortion or strain on the dynamic speakers. And it wasn’t just me. Everyone in the office who had a sample of it as well were impressed by its sound.
Other songs we tested included Brainkillers’ Screwface, At Night by Dave Spoon, Giorgio, Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life. We also flipped our way through the Pet Shop Boys’ Super album, a couple of Chopin piano pieces, some Bach and Sebastian Tellier. All were streamed at 320kbps at 100% volume and 50% for comparison.
The BeoPlay App
Extra controls are available on the BeoPlay app that’s on both iOS and Android. There are number of things you can control from here, including the sound stage you prefer. There are also different sound profiles you can use for various functions such as listening to podcasts or working out. Firmware updates are also via the app. The most interesting function here is the Transparency feature, that you can fix a value for and enable on a tap on the left earbud. So you can hear your colleagues without having to un-bud.
We’ll be the first to admit that the BeoPlay E8 does not come cheap. But then again, neither does an iPhone X. In the case of in-earbuds, the E8 has one of the best high-fidelity sound we’ve heard to date. It really does speak volume. If you’ve got a nice bonus for the year or are planning a surprise present for Valentine’s, this would definitely do the trick.