Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 review: Not worth it
Bang & Olufsen (B&O) is one of those companies that a lot of people know of, but most people don’t. Which is a shame, because the its products usually look and sound great. Today, we’re looking at one of the first pair of true wireless earbuds the company made: the gen. 1 Beoplay E8. These have been out for a few years now and there are new version of this, but is the original still worth picking up in 2020? Spoiler alert: nope.
Editor’s note: This post was updated on December 31, 2020 to add links to the Spotify songs we mentioned in the sound quality section.
Who are the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay E8 for?
- Commuters. Because of the long battery life and the transparency option that lets you hear what’s going on around you with just a tap of the left earbud, these are a pretty solid choice for commuters. Transparency is now a fairly common feature, but these were one of the first to get it right.
- People who prefer to be discreet. If you don’t want to look like Rudy Giuliani when you wear true wireless earbuds, these have a more discreet design.
How’s the build quality?
The build quality of the Beoplay E8 is premium, as you’d expect from Bang & Olufsen. The case itself is gorgeous with a pleather exterior has an elastic band that make it easy to wrap around the key chain holder in your bag, so you always know where it is. It’s also pill-shaped like the one that the Samsung Gear IconX comes in. However, B&O engineers actually thought about how it would look in your pocket—unlike Samsung—and made the case more flat and elliptical than it is round. That means when you pocket the case, it doesn’t look like there’s a giant tic-tac in your pocket. It’s the attention to the little details like this that makes them great at design.
The earbuds sit squarely in the center of the case which can be opened fairly easily.
The earbuds have a pretty simple design and are made entirely of plastic, which keeps them lightweight. The right and left earbuds weigh only 7g and 6g, respectively. The right is a gram heavier because it’s the master earbud which sends audio data to the left earbud. They’re also more squared off than some of the other ‘buds I’ve tried, which results in an aesthetically pleasing product that unfortunately doesn’t seem to fit properly in my ear.
The earbuds have a squared off part that’s supposed to wedge itself in your ear for a better fit.
The Beoplay E8 ‘buds don’t fall out; they actually stay in nicely. The problem is that it doesn’t take long for them to become uncomfortable. After an hour I had to take them out to let my ears relax, and I was definitely aware that I was wearing them the entire time. It’s not painful, just annoying.
Are the Beoplay E8 waterproof or sweatproof?
Unfortunately, the gen 1 Beoplay E8 earbuds are not waterproof or sweatproof so if you’re looking for a pair of earbuds for the gym, you might want to look elsewhere. That’s not to say that you couldn’t use them in the gym, you just shouldn’t. There’s no mention of sweat-resistance from B&O and these don’t have an official IP rating which is the official standard used to determine how water-resistant a product is.
How do you pair to the Beoplay E8?
The Beoplay E8 true wireless earbuds come in a small and discreet case that’s easy to pocket.
Pairing the earbuds was fairly easy. All that you need to do is:
- Remove the earbuds from the case to power them on.
- Hold down the touch-sensitive part of the earbud until you hear it enter pairing mode.
- Navigate to the Bluetooth settings of your source device and select “Beoplay E8” from the list of available devices.
The entire process is fairly simple, but what isn’t as smooth is the B&O app. It has a hard time finding the earbuds, even when they’ve already been paired. Once it does determine that you’re connected you’ll get access to extra features like some EQ presets and something that B&O calls transparency mode, which is basically the opposite of active noise cancellation. Instead of using built-in microphones to cancel outside noise, transparency uses microphones to let in sound from around you.
There are three different transparency presets you can choose.
There are three different presets you can choose from that each let in a different amount of noise. It doesn’t pause your music, instead, it just lowers it so you can hear what someone is saying. As someone who spends plenty of time on public transportation, I really like this feature. It lets me hear what the conductor is saying without needing to take out the earbuds. It also came in handy while waiting to hear my name called at Starbucks for my vanilla sweet cream cold brew. I don’t care; judge me. They’re delicious. It’s very similar in function to what you’ll find on newer models like the Sony WF-1000XM3 and the AirPods Pro, but these were one of the first to get it right.
The Beoplay E8 earbuds are small and discreet, and you won’t look ridiculous wearing them.
How’s the connection strength?
I did have some other issues with connectivity. For one, the Beoplay E8 don’t seamlessly auto-connect once you open the case and take them out like some other true wireless earbuds do. Thankfully, I never had to go through the dreaded unpair/repair process, but I was tempted to. The only way I was able to get these to reconnect every time was by going into Bluetooth settings and tapping on “Beoplay E8.” In this day and age, this is unacceptable. On the bright side, they do automatically disconnect when you put them back in the case.
As far as connection strength goes I didn’t have any issues with that either. I read a lot of other reviews saying these had a problem with dropouts, but I never experienced a dropout in regular usage. Only when testing the limits of its range did music falter and skip, but as long as my phone was within 20-ish feet of the earbuds, the connection was fine.
The A/V delay is awful.
On the other hand, if you’re going to be watching videos with these, you might want to reconsider as the delay is awful. It seems like the audio comes a full second or two after the video. This is surprising due to these being compatible with both SBC and AAC, but as our testing shows AAC just doesn’t play well with Android. Either way, that’s something to keep in mind if you watch a lot of video on your device. But to complete my good-bad-good sandwich, let’s talk about the playback controls because. Although they are a little complicated, they work perfectly. The right and left earbuds share some controls and differ in others. But once you memorize the correct amount of taps and holds, the touch-sensitive earbuds are easy to control.
How’s the battery life of the Beoplay E8?
Unfortunately, these charge via micro-USB and not USB-C so be prepared to carry around another cable.
Another positive to these earbuds is the battery life. B&O claims about four hours of constant playback and nailed it. In our testing, we got around 4 hours and 27 minutes. While that has been far surpassed in the intervening years since this product came out by something like the Powerbeats Pro which got upwards of 10 hours of constant playback, it still isn’t bad and puts it right in the average battery life of most true wireless options. If you have a long commute these will have you covered. Then you can just toss them back in the case which will give you another two extra charges before it needs to be recharged via the micro USB port on the back.
But make sure that you put the earbuds back in the right way, or you’ll end up like me opening the case the next day only to find that one earbud didn’t properly charge. The case uses magnets to hold the earbuds in place and also to keep the charging case closed properly. This worked fine for keeping the case closed, but the problem is that putting the Beoplay E8 earbuds in the case and closing it, doesn’t mean that they’re properly in place. You have to take an extra second to make sure it’s actually charging (you can tell via two small LED lights on the back of the case).
How do the B&O Beoplay E8 earbuds sound?
Easily the strangest note emphasis tested, the B&O Beoplay E8 emphasizes mids and highs. Though Bass notes are fine, using the foam tips will help them shine more.
In the B&O app, you can tweak the way your music sounds via a screen that lets you drag a ball between four options: warm, excited, relaxed, and bright. Very descriptive… What’s a little more helpful are the presets. They’re self-explanatory with names like commute, clear, workout, or podcast. For the purposes of this review, I kept all of these turned off, so I was only listening to music the way they sound fresh out the box.
The more I listened the more I enjoyed the low end.
At first, listen the low-end seemed to be a little weak for my liking, but the more I listened the more I enjoyed it. Don’t get me wrong it didn’t do justice to the sub-bass in Summertime Magic by Childish Gambino, but the alternative for earbuds this small is an artificially exaggerated low-end that ends up masking more important notes in the mids (like vocals). Though the lower notes weren’t strong, they’re still clearly audible.
Some vocals sound like you’re listening to them from behind a stage curtain.
But where the low end manages to scrape by without sounding fake, some vocals end up sounding like you’re listening to them from behind a stage curtain. It’s not exactly muffled, but you don’t get some of the details that make the vocal performance great. For example, during the first chorus of Gimme All Your Love by Alabama Shakes (about 1:05 minutes into the song) Brittany Howard chuckles in the background, and I completely missed it on my first listen because of everything else going on. I had to rewind the track and give it another go to catch it behind everything else going on. That said, I found that the treble reproduction surprisingly good (considering the 5.7mm drivers making all the sound).
Throughout the song Katie Queen of Tennessee by The Apache Relay there’s plenty of cymbal play throughout, and though you can hear it, they don’t exactly sound like they’re providing a sense of space. They’re easy to hear which is good, but because of the lack of soundstage, or perceived 3D space, they aren’t able to fill the space how they should.
Should you buy the B&O Beoplay E8?
As I’m updating this today, the answer to this is no, you shouldn’t. The Beoplay E8 sound pretty good considering they are true wireless earbuds and they were one of the first to get the passthrough feature down, but that didn’t make them a must-have back when they first came out and it doesn’t now. They’re held back by their uncomfortable design, annoying connection process, and subpar charging process which sometimes leaves one earbud uncharged.
What alternatives are there?
I like the mint-like shape and design of the earbuds but I can see how they might not be for everyone.
If you’re really set on having a pair of true wireless ‘buds from Bang & Olufsen then you might want to check out the 3rd generation of these earbuds, or any number of other options that are also great for less money than the newest E8 model.
The WF-1000XM3 earbud nozzles are angled which alleviate pressure along the ear canal.
If you’re really sold on good sound and the transparency feature, definitely take a look at the Sony WF-1000XM3. These are widely regarded as one of the best true wireless earbuds you can get thanks to a good sound and great noise canceling technology. They also have a decent battery life and touch controls. The downside is that they are way more expensive but if you want the best it might be worth looking into.
The AirPods Pro silicone sleeve pops into a divot surrounding the nozzle, which ensures a more stable connection between the pieces.
Speaking of wanting the best, you’d be making a mistake if you didn’t at least seriously consider the AirPods Pro, at least if you’re an iOS user. While you can use these on Android you’ll get the most out of them if you’re already in the Apple ecosystem. It’s no secret we didn’t like the original AirPods here at Sound Guys, but the AirPods Pro made us believers thanks to swappable ear tips that allowed for a better fit and a functional stem that lets you control playback.
Anker Soundcore Spirit Dot 2
The Anker earbuds don’t look like anything special, but looks can be deceiving.
For those not looking to leave the sub-$100 category but still want a good pair of true wireless earbuds make sure to check out the Anker Soundcore Spirit Dot 2. These have a fairly standard design but if you can get past that, you’ll get an IPX7 waterproof build, USB-C charging, quick charging, and a nifty carrying case that slides open.
There are still plenty of other choices
If none of these spark your interest don’t worry, there’s tons of true wireless earbuds for you to choose from. You can also check out the Jabra Elite Active 75t earbuds instead which were recently updated via a software update to include noise canceling. For any Android users who want the equivalent of AirPods for their Android phone I’d also recommend checking out the Galaxy Buds Plus or the new Pixel Buds, both of which are great true wireless earbuds with their own strengths and weaknesses that are better than the Beoplay E8 earbuds.
B&O Beoplay E8 wireless earphones review
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Exceptional audio meets intuitive design
The Beoplay E8 is a tiny yet impressive piece of audio tech. While the four-hour battery life can be a bit frustrating for all-day users, it’s certainly not something we’d hold against the E8. The touch controls are responsive, and we just can’t get over how gorgeous these things look. Yes, you’re going to be paying a higher price, but for this kind of premium finish and audio quality, it almost seems worth it.
TODAY’S BEST DEALS
Good audio quality
Easy to setup
Can feel a bit snug
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Let’s not pretend here, the B&O Beoplay E8 are probably the best-looking and most expensive wireless earphones on the market that you can buy right now.
Sure there are plenty of cheaper options, and plenty of more expensive ones. You can throw in a bit more money and splurge for one of our favorite headsets, the Bose QuietComfort 35, which will give you better battery life and a richer sound.
But if you’re looking for a something smaller, stylish and have cash to burn on your next pair of buds, then the Beoplay E8 are your best option.
- B&O Beoplay E8 (Black) at Amazon for $119
- Stylish carry case
- Easy pairing via Bluetooth
- Audio tweaking via Beoplay app
Before getting to the earphones themselves, we have to appreciate how B&O have designed the compact carry case. A gorgeous clamshell-designed leather rechargeable leather case provides plenty of protection for your E8s, while simultaneously keeping them charged at all times. The Beoplay E8 will give you about four hours of playback on a single charge, while the case holds an additional two charges, so you’ll get close to twelve hours of total playback time. On a fully depleted battery, the case will take about two hours to full recharge the E8s, or you can pop them in for about twenty minutes to get roughly an hour’s worth of playback. The case firmly holds the E8 in place during charging, and even a few test drops on the floor didn’t cause the case to spring open, which is a great plus point.
The leather carry case is stylish and offers two additional 4-hour charges
The earphones themselves clearly exude B&O’s design details, with no physical buttons in sight. Instead, the touch-sensitive pads on each bud give you all the control you need through a series of taps. It takes a little getting used to, and you have to remember how many taps you require for a particular action to trigger, but it’s something that easy to learn after regular use. For example, you can tap and hold on either earpiece to control the volume, or tap on the right to pause a song. Tap three times to invoke Siri or Google Now, or tap once on the left earpiece to enter Transparency mode (more on that later). You get used to not having to fumble around for buttons, but the one thing worth noting is that because the Beoplay E8 sits so far into your ear canal, frequent taps can start to really annoy you as it feels like you’re pushing them further into your ear (even with light taps).
The earphones are easy to pair via Bluetooth and can be further tweaked via the Beoplay app
In the box you’ve got a microUSB cord for recharging the case, as well as a selection of interchangeable eartips for the best fit. There’s also one pair of foam tips, which we found to be the most comfortable for our ears, so it’s strongly suggested that you try them out to see which ones work best.
The Beoplay E8 comes with a long charging cord and several ear tips
The Beoplay E8 pairs via Bluetooth, but what B&O are saying makes the E8 different is the fact that the earphones communicate with each other on a separate NFMI technology (the same used in hearing aids) to maintain a consistent connection with each other. This was done to reduce audio dropout, which is fairly common with these kind of Bluetooth earphones. One you remove the earphones from their case, you simply hold down both touch surfaces to put the Beoplay E8 into pairing mode, and then just select them from your device. Out of the box the Beoplay E8 offers excellent audio quality, but we would recommend that you download the Beoplay app to further tweak the E8.
B&O Beoplay E8 Specs
Form factor: In-ear
Weight: Right 7g, Left 6g
Battery life: 4 hours
Bluetooth Version: Bluetooth 4.2
The app allows you to update the E8’s firmware, but also gives you access to two specific features. The first is ToneTouch, which functions like a visual equalizer. You drag a dot around four areas – warm, excited, relaxed, and bright, and the audio experience changes accordingly. You can pinch to increase the size of the dot, which then changes the effect on the audio. Presets are also available to quickly adjust things, and we found that overall this was a much more friendlier way to tweak your audio than fiddling around with a standard equalizer setup.
The Beoplay app allows you to update firmware as well as tweak audio and Transparency settings
The second feature you’ll get access to via the app is Transparency. This nifty feature on the BeoPlay E8 allows you to quickly tap on your left earpiece to allow outside audio to be heard. The E8 provides a decent amount of noise isolation because of their snug fit, so this is a quick and easy way to hear something from your environment or if someone is talking to you, without having to take an earpiece out. There are three Transparency modes you can choose from: ambient, social, and commuting, and you can toggle between them via the app. We found ‘social’ to be the best for when we were listening to music in the office – we could quickly tap to hear what a coworker was saying, and then tap again to resume normal music volume.
Comfort and Audio Quality
- Comfortable and snug fit
- Excellent audio
- Clear call quality
Wearing earphones for a prolonged period of time can be a bit uncomfortable, and while the BeoPlay E8 is quite lightweight, it feels slightly bigger when placed in your ear, and they do tend to protrude out just a little bit more. We found that our ears were ever so slightly more sensitive after wearing the E8s with the normal ear tips, but when we switched the foam ones, we could wear the E8s for much longer with zero discomfort. They also didn’t feel like they would fall out at any time, and since they’re dust and splash resistant, you could wear these while jogging or doing a quick workout in the gym.
Despite how small these earphones are, the audio quality was actually really good. Even without tinkering around with ToneTouch, the E8 sounds crisp and clear. Bass feedback will depend on how snug you’re wearing the E8s, but was acceptable for earphones of this size. Things were much improved when using the ‘warm’ preset, while orchestral pieces sounded much crisper with ToneTouch turned off. Vocals really came through when we mixed both ‘relaxed’ and ‘bright’ modes, so we’d recommend making a few presets of your own if you really want certain types of music to shine through. When paired with your smartphone, you can also use the E8 for phone calls. Voice clarity is very good, and though extremely windy environments will introduce a slight bit of noise, that’s entirely forgivable.
If you’re able to look past the price point, then then Beoplay E8 is a great investment. It’s super compact, offers great audio, and looks great – what more could you ask for?
- Don’t miss our round-up of the best noise-cancelling headphones
B&O Beoplay E8: Price Comparison
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A former IT & Marketing Manager turned full time Editor, Nick enjoys reviewing PC components, 3D Printers, projectors, and anything shiny and expensive.