The B&O E8 are among the most stylish wireless in-ears money can buy but they come with a hefty price tag
- Beautiful design
- Intuitive, touch-based controls
- Impressive sound quality
- Patchy pairing process
Wireless earphones and headphones come in all shapes and sizes. From the large-sized over-the-ear “cans” as some people might say, to the tiny earphones you pop in your ears. The B&O Beoplay E8 lean more towards a conventional set of wireless earphones, but they come with a twist. There’s no cable that sits between each of the drivers; they’re dubbed as “true wireless” earphones.
This new breed of devices is made for those who want to cut the wire, literally. Much like Apple’s AirPods, the B&O E8 earphones are designed for better comfort and freedom when listening from your phone. They’re typically charged via a special charging cradle, which often also includes its own battery so that you can pop in your earphones and give them a boost even when you’re away from the mains.
B&O Beoplay E8 review: What you need to know
The B&O Beoplay E8 follow this pattern to a tee. They’re Bluetooth headphones with no wire connecting left and right earpieces and they come with a charging pod that can be used to top up the battery on the move.
Being a B&O product, the focus is mainly on sound quality and stylish design. The Beoplay E8 are available in racing green, black and grey with a bronze trim. Otherwise, though, there’s little that obviously sets them apart from the competition.
B&O Beoplay E8 review: Price and competition
At the time of writing the base colours of the B&O E8 can be found for around £209 on Amazon and £219 from John Lewis & Partners. However, if you’re looking to get your hands on the special edition colours, you’ll need to shell out £269 at B&O.
At this price, you can find a flurry of wireless earphones: the Apple AirPods cost £159, the Sony WF-1000X are £132, while cheaper alternatives like the Motorola Stream and Soul ST-XS cost less than £70. If you don’t mind wires, there’s also the impressive Sennheiser Momentum Free that cost around £152.
B&O Beoplay E8 review: Build quality and design
The Beoplay E8 come in two standard colours: “Charcoal Sand” and black. The model on review is the Special Edition “Powder Pink” variant, which has since been discontinued in favour of the, in my opinion, more attractive “Racing Green”. No matter the colour you choose, though, the design and performance attributes are identical.
The earphones have a left and right indicator shown within the inner part of the silicone housing. A plastic enclosure sits towards the edge of the housing, where a metal ring surrounds a touch-based sensor that can be used to perform various basic controls.
Tapping the right ear piece lets you play or pause music, answer and hang-up calls, while a long-press increases the volume. On the left ear piece, a long press decreases the volume, and a tap enables “Transparency”, a mode that mixes audio from the external microphone with your music so you can hear what’s going on around you. The level of transparency is adjustable through the Beoplay app.
For touch controls, these are pretty good, which is more than I can say of the touch controls on rival headphones. They’re responsive, easy to learn and worked pretty much every time I tapped or swiped. The earphones fit snugly, too, and to my surprise, they even stayed in during a light jog. There are no ear hook, though or other means of securing them, so you’ll need to resort to another set of earphones for intense workouts.
Battery life is limited to around four hours of playtime, which might not sound like much, but the leather carrying pod case included in the box houses a secondary battery that can provide a couple of extra full charges for a total of 12 hours. That’s not bad and it only takes an hour between charges, but they won’t suit those who tend to listen for longer periods. The carrying case itself takes around two and a half hours to charge from empty and connects via Micro USB.
As for connectivity, the E8 work over Bluetooth, but they’re not the easiest to pair initially. I initially tried, and failed to pair in the normal way; only once I’d installed and fired up and paired via the Beoplay was I successfully able to connect. Unfortunately, there’s no aptX codec: as the E8s use either SBC or AAC, depending on the device you’re connecting.
There are, however, a few complaints. The right earbud acts as the master driver, which means if you get the right bud out of your ears, the slave driver (left) stops working. This can get annoying if you want to keep listening to music via your left-ear only, though, the opposite side will work.
Another small niggle: if you get the E8s out of your ears, they won’t stop playing – that’s because they don’t have sensors to detect when the earphones are in, or out of your ears. So, you’ll have to pause or disconnect them via your phone.
B&O Beoplay E8 review: Beoplay app
The app plays a key part in the setup process but it also serves a purpose once you’ve got the earphones connected. It allows you to adjust the level of transparency, or alter the E8’s sound signature through its clever Tonetouch controls. Here, you can choose between varying degrees Warm, Excited, Relaxed, and Bright profiles by dragging a small white button around a circular graph.
As you’d expect, the closer you move the button to the outside edge of the box, the more drastic the effect. You can also pinch to zoom to alter the soundstage of the earphones, although I found this particular adjustment had a negative impact on the sound. For my quality tests, I left the button in the centre and the soundstage zeroed in.
Aside from this, the app also has a battery level indicator and a set of basic media controls, plus you can rename your headphones here. Overall, it’s effective, but basic.
B&O Beoplay E8 review: Sound quality
Having heard a few wireless earphones in my time, from the Motorola Stream, through the Soul ST-XS to the Apple AirPods, I wasn’t expecting particularly good sound quality. Most have been deeply average; not so the B&O E8.
Bass is competent with reasonably deep lower bass reproduction and a tight, controlled mid-bass response. By comparison, the AirPods have a near non-existent bass and the Soul ST-XS are uncontrolled.
The lower mids are somewhat pushed back, which make the E8 sound a little warm. They’re great for R’n’B but not so good for live music recordings. The upper mids are also somewhat subdued, with a dip that robs some tracks of excitement. By comparison, the Sennheiser Momentum Free are a lot more lively but the Beoplay E8s aren’t all that far behind.
Arguably, though, the E8’s most impressive trait is its soundstage performance. The B&O E8 have a wide, deep soundstage and, better still, the earphones have great instrument separation, making it easy to pick out individual artists in a recording.
B&O Beoplay E8 review: Verdict
Suffice to say, the B&O Beoplay E8 are the best sounding earphones I’ve heard in this form factor. They’re versatile, simple to operate and sound really, really good.
The only big issue is the price. At the time of writing the B&O Beoplay E8 will set you back £209 a pair, which is a lot of money to splurge on a set of earphones. For less money than this, you can pick up a pair of Brainwavz B400 (£160), which sound far superior to the E8 and if you don’t mind a cord running around the back of your neck, the wireless Sennheiser Momentum Free are an excellent choice and cost only £152.
However, if you’re dead set on eliminating ALL the cables, then there’s nothing that quite matches the sonic and design characteristics of the B&O Beoplay E8. They’re great.