(Pocket-lint) – In a market where true wireless earbuds are a dime a dozen, companies have to find a way to stand out. For some that way is to offer high-end features in an affordable package. But for others it’s about highlighting the desirability of a brand and going premium.
The latter is the approach taken by Bang & Olufsen with all of its products. Its 2021 flagship earbuds, the Beoplay EQ, deliver a high-end design and materials, combined with great sound and active noise-cancelling (ANC).
But those high-end features and premium materials come with an inflated price tag to match. So is it worth investing in the Beoplay EQ?
- Earbud dimensions: 24 x 22 x 27mm / Weight: 8g (each)
- 1x Comply foam tips, 4x Silicone tips (XS, S, M, L)
- IP54 water- and dust-resistance rating
If there’s one thing that can be said for Bang & Olufsen’s design of the EQ, it’s unlike any other earbuds. And, as with everything B&O, the design looks and feels like a premium piece of audio kit.
But these ‘buds are not small. At eight grams each, they’re not exactly heavy, but they don’t feel as lightweight and nimble as some cheaper competitors. Despite that, they fit comfortably and securely – we didn’t once feel that they’d slip out or lose their fit. Given how big the ‘buds are, and how far they seem to stick out of the ears, that’s pretty impressive.
The secure fit is made even more better when using the included Comply foam tips. These are among our favourite kind of tip, and are always a welcome inclusion with any ‘buds. The soft memory foam expands to fill the available space at the ear canal entry, ensuring a perfect, comfortable fit. There are also four silicone options instead, including extra small (XS) for those with really small ear canals.
Each EQ earbuds’ exterior is capped with a minimalist, round metal panel emblazoned with B&O’s iconic logo. This metal exterior also acts as the touch-sensitive control for playing, pausing, and skipping tracks, and switching between ANC and transparency modes. We didn’t find it overly sensitive to touch – which makes a change from other touch-sensitive panels – and it’s easy enough to get used to using.
With IP54 rating against water and dust, we never had to worry about whether these ‘buds would get ruined in the rain, or be damaged by sand, dust or lint.
We have something of a love-hate relationship with the case though. It’s a compact and classy-looking metal one, with a lovely soft-closing hinge and magnet to give the lid a reassuring feel of class. Indeed, the entire exterior is finished with a soft-feeling anodised finish, making it pleasing to hold. Then, when you open it, your B&O ‘buds are presented, front-on, like a piece of jewellery.
There is a downside though: this approach is very much function over form because – and unlike a lot of other true wireless earbuds – you don’t get that reassuring magnetic pull in each of the earbuds’ cradles. So we found ourselves having to very deliberately place the ‘buds to align with the contact points to charge them. We’d rather just be able to plop them vaguely in the right place and have magnets take care of the rest, like with most other products such as this.
When you do shut the lid and charge them, a single pill-shaped LED on the front subtly pulses orange or green to let you know the battery status. All in all, it’s a lovely design, we just wish it was a bit more convenient when it comes to snapping the buds into place.
Features and performance
- Bluetooth 5.2 and aptX Adaptive support
- 6x microphones & beam-forming mics for calls
- 6.5 hours playback with ANC (7.5 hours without)
- 20 hours total, including case charges
- Wireless charging support
When it comes to pure performance and wireless tech, the Beoplay EQ has it all. There’s Bluetooth 5.2 tech, plus aptX Adaptive support – offering high quality lag-free connections with compatible devices. What’s more, it’s backwards compatible with both aptX and aptX HD, so you should always have a lag-free connection and Hi-Res audio when available. In our everyday testing it meant a solid connection without any drop-outs.
Plus, the earbuds can be used independently – so if you remove one from an ear while listening to music, it’ll stop playing the music in that earbud, but carry on in the remaining one. It does this using a light/proximity sensor built into the casing.
Battery performance outside the case is strong too. With ANC enabled you can get up to 6.5 hours of playtime. That’s certainly more than your longest commute lasts. In reality it meant we never really had to worry about running out of juice.
The only downside from the battery perspective is that the case supports less than two full additional charges. The EQ has a total of 20 hours playtime including the case, which is less than what you get from most other ‘buds – and around half of the total you might get from the longest-lasting on the market.
Still, 20 hours is still enough to get you through a return hour-long commute every weekday for a fortnight. Plus, with both USB-C and wireless charging support, they’re easy to keep topped up whether you have your smartphone cable with you or you have access to a wireless charging pad.
Sound and noise-cancelling
- Adaptive active noise-cancelling (ANC)
- 6.8mm electro-dynamic driver
- 20Hz-20kHz frequency range
When it comes to sound quality, specifically listening to music, the Beoplay EQ is one of the best sounding pairs of true wireless earphones on the market. They sound superb, as you’d expect given the asking price.
It all comes down to balance, clarity and emotion in the end, and the EQ delivers it all in buckets. In its default setting drum kicks can be felt, while bass is tightly controlled yet prominent. Listening to the sampled drums and upright bass in Nas’ One Love, we got to feel the bass drum kick’s impact, without losing the authentic feel of the double bass.
But the best thing is that the higher-end and other impactful sounds are just as controlled. In Maroon 5’s If I Never See Your Face Again there’s crispness and tightness to snare drum hits, with clean electric guitar cutting through and ringing clear, while the vocals don’t get muddied.
Like any good pair of high-end ‘buds, you can also clearly hear some of the more subtle elements in the backing instruments. The subtle plucking or strumming of the rhythm guitar playing in one channel, or strings just playing gently in the background. You hear it all.
Like some of our favourite headphones, the EQ gave us that desire of wanting to go back through all of our favourite songs, albums and playlists, because they elevate the experience that much. It just makes you want to sit on your own, in a quiet room, and soak it up. For the first time in a long time that’s exactly what we did. Tuned out, stuck our EQ buds in, cranked up the volume and listened to music, blissfully unaware of anything happening around us.
That’s aided by the aforementioned Comply foam tips that do a great job of passively cutting out ambient noise, further aided by the adaptive ANC that can adjust based on the noise around you. What we found was that the ANC was effective at cutting out most constant noises. Wear them on a busy train, near a road or even at home, working with kids on summer break, and you’ll find they cut out the worst of the noise when music is playing.
The ANC is powered by six microphones (three on each ‘bud) and they also help with calls, using beam-forming technology to ensure your voice is clear. In our tests, we found them more than adequate for making video and standard voice calls.
The Beoplay EQ is without doubt the best pair of true wireless earbuds launched by Bang & Olufsen to date. They offer a comfortable and secure fit, stunning sound quality, and effective active noise-cancelling (ANC) for keeping you locked away in a world of immersive sound.
There’s a touch of class about the way the earphones and the case are designed, while IP54 rating ensures they won’t get destroyed by daily mishaps. Plus, with sound quality that’s up there with the best consumer ‘buds, and long playtime from the battery, they’re great to use on a daily basis.
It would be nice if the case’s cradle action was less fiddly and if the case held more spare battery too, but on the whole the EQ is a pair of earbuds that are otherwise difficult to criticise. Well, other than how much cash they’ll set you back – you’ll just have to decide how much that premium design and sound is worth to you.
Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Bose’s sound signature is a little more breathy than Bang & Olufsen’s, but with a comfy fit and market-leading noise-cancelling, there’s a lot to love about the QuietComfort Earbuds.
Sony WF-1000XM4 review
Sony’s last couple of earbuds have been among the best on the market, especially when it comes to noise-cancelling. There’s no aptX support, but the Hi-Res support and noise-cancelling are up there with the best.
Writing by Cam Bunton. Editing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on .