B&O Play E8 Wireless Earphones: Australian Review

Tiny wireless earphones are all the rage right now. Apple, Jabra, Sony, Jaybird, Bose, and now Bang & Olufsen have all joined the race to build miniature 'buds that sit in your ears without cables, and each one wants to be the pair in your pocket. B&O Play's Beoplay E8 takes a fashion-forward approach, but these pint-sized earphones also sound incredibly good for their size.

What Is It?

Bang & Olufsen's youthful, fresh sub-brand B&O Play has a new set of headphones in the $449 E8. They're the first from the storied Danish audio company that are 'true wireless' -- in-ear, earbud-style earphones with built-in Bluetooth and built-in tiny rechargeable batteries, and no wires. The two headphones communicate and sync up using a tech called near-field magnetic induction rather than Bluetooth, and the right earbud is what makes the Bluetooth connection with your smartphone.

The Beoplay E8 is a pair of tiny earbuds -- the right master weighing seven grams and the left slave weighing just six. The charging case, to which the E8 'buds connect magnetically and to recharge their four-hour batteries, weighs 45g -- this is a lightweight package that'll fit happily in a jeans pocket, although not quite as easily as a pair of AirPods. That leather-wrapped case is really quite lovely to behold and to open and use, although its ovoid shape again isn't quite as straightforward as the AirPods or the Jabra Elite Sport. Charging is done over microUSB rather than the USB-C of other B&O gadgets, which is a bit of a pity.

These are, so far, the best sounding wireless in-earphones that I've listened to -- and, apart from the new Sony WF-1000X, I've listened to pretty much all of them. The Beoplay E8 has a fantastically musical sound straight out of the box, with impressively strong bass and nicely crisp treble, and a good amount of detail in the midrange. In its size class, the E8 punches above its weight, although it does carry that significant $449 price tag -- the most expensive true wireless in-ear headphones you can buy at the moment. That typically Bang & Olufsen musical signature remains, which is impressive given the headphones' miniscule 5.7mm speaker drivers and the tiny sub-100mAh batteries hidden away inside.

One of the smartest features of the E8 is its ability to listen in on outside noise using each earphone's integrated mic -- an ambient mode that is customisable to three different settings using the earphones' complementary Beoplay app. You can pause music entirely while you have a conversation, have it playing at a reduced volume while you chat, or have it remain at its original volume while outside noise is boosted, which might be useful for listening to announcements while you're commuting. The same app lets you push an equaliser around to tweak the E8's sound a bit, boosting bass or sharpening treble -- the headphones don't need it, but a bit of extra oomph is nice.

The E8s don't have the ear-wing silicon sleeves that some of its competitors do, but they don't need them -- their fluted design sits comfortably and quite deep in the wearer's ear canal. Three different silicon ear-tips are included in the box, as are a single pair of Comply foam ear-tips that expand in the ear and offer the best passive noise cancellation of any wireless earphones I've tried. You can also buy individual right and left earbuds if you lose one, as well as a replacement charging carry case -- this is the way that wireless earphones should be sold and cared for after purchase.

All of this is wrapped in something that's really, really surprisingly rare for this new breed of wireless earbud -- a bit of style. B&O's new headphones are hands down the most attractive wireless earbuds you can buy, in everything from the carry case to the earbuds themselves. They're extremely well built; the aluminium ring around the circumference of the earbuds is slick, and those touch-sensitive pads on either ears are smooth and easy to tap. Ambient mode switches on with a tap of the left, track play/pause is a tap on the right, a tap and hold on either raises or lowers the volumet Here's a full list of the gestures.

Should You Buy It?

$449 is a lot of money to pay for a pair of headphones. With the B&O E8 you get convenience in spades -- the convenience of a tiny pair of headphones you can carry with you wherever you go and use without having to plug in a cable to your phone. You don't get the incredible booming bass of over-the-ear headphones or the battery-free ease of wired headphones, but that's not what the E8 is about. In the company of other truly wireless brethren, these headphones perform excellently both with calls and with music, which is rare. If you buy a pair of B&O headphones, you're making an investment for years to come, and the E8 is no different.


Comments

    Timely review, thanks. I'm in the market for some earbuds at the moment.

    A couple of questions.. what's the charging capacity of the charging case (ie. the Bose one has 10hrs charging capacity)? Also, how reliable is the BT connection? I've noticed on some of the BT based earbuds, the connection has a tendency to drop out, or it's hard to connect them up when you've restarted them.

    Also, do they have a mic for handsfree calling?

      Hey mate!

      They have a mic in each ear for handsfree, yeah. The Bluetooth is pretty reliable between phone and earbud -- not perfect, but no true wireless earbud is. You can keep your phone in a backpack or back pocket and it'll work, which is my benchmark - I've listened to some where you need your phone in your hand or a front pocket, which is a pain. NFMI is better for communicating between right and left earbud, and it's very good at restarting itself quickly.

      The carry case has another eight hours of listening -- two full charges for each earbud -- built in. So you'd get 12 all up from the charge in the earbuds and the two extra charges in the case.

    Did anyone test how well they stay in while jogging?

    I can't find any information on them having water resistance. For that reason, I am probably going to get the Jabra when my current headphones die.

    @elwyn5150 - I believe that they are not waterproof at all - no jogging in the rain.

    @campbellsimpson - have you tried the Dash, Dash Pro or The Headphone by Bragi. I haven't tried the Dash Pro but have the others - these would compare similarly to the Dash Pro in price - if you could get the custom fitting in Australia.

      The Dash Pro sound just a little beefier (barely!) than the Headphones. Both lack bass and both foam tips (Comply that came with Headphones and the special type that came along with the Dash Pro) suck at noise isolation. I had to use third party foam tips for much better isolation (misodiko, medium, 4mm inner diameter) and fuller bass. Problem is third party tips that are taller (to prod deeper into ear canals) won't fit into the charge case and requires me to remove them each time I need to place the buds into the case.

      Hope the reviewer can shed some light on this particular point (bass & isolation). It'll be a real bummer and waste of $ if the same problem surfaces. If E8 has perfect isolation with the default tips (which I really doubt) AND sound much better with bass and clarity, I MAY consider buying.

      Else, it's not really worth it coz the Dash Pros have onboard storage, regular App updates (one cool feature is tapping once to pause music AND simultaneously activate transparency! Another is double-tapping left dash to know the time which i find useful), water-proof, more juice in the charge case, swipe AND tap controls, doesn't bulge and protrude while in my ears.

    Can you tell me how easy it is to switch between devices. I currently use an Iphone and Ipad and switch between them regularly during the day. With my Sony headphones I always have to remember to go to settings>bluetooth and disconnect them from the device then go settings>bluetooth and connect them to the other device (1st world problems, yes i know) but it's a pain cause let's say I was listening to my Ipad and I put it in my bag to commute and forget to disconnect my headphones I then have to take the bag off my back take the Ipad out while walking in the street (a heavy 12inch Ipad Pro no less) all just to disconnect my headphones then put the Ipad back in my bag, then put the back pack back on, then take out my Iphone to connect my headphones. My Beats x headphones on the other hand are nifty in that even if I forget to disconnect from my Ipad I can simply just go to my Iphone and connect them without having to disconnect from my Ipad. Can you tell me what the behaviour with these would be. This would help alot thanks.

      Actually the Sony WF-1000X works exactly like the AirPods with my iPhone and iPad Pro, both on iOS 11- just click on the device you are switching to, it will automatically disconnect from the previous device and instantly connect to the alternate one, without any need to touch the previous device much less actively disconnect.

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