Bang & Olufsen makes a $400 splash in the in-ear headphone market with the Beoplay EX! It's brave to charge so much money for a product category that is known for disappearing into manhole covers or drains without any hope of recovery. However, I will tell you in this review whether the insane purchase price is a sound decision (heh!) in terms of audio quality and ANC performance after spending close to two weeks with it under various circumstances.
- First class sound with fun EQ
- High quality ANC
- Firm, comfortable fit
- High-quality workmanship
- Multi-point pairing
- Strong wind noise in transparency mode
- No control over voice assistants
- Occasional connection problems
- No tracking feature
The B&O Beoplay EX in a nutshell
Are you about to sell a kidney just to pick up a $400 pair of true wireless earbuds? Well, okay: The Beoplay EX are the best quality in-ear headphones available as of May 2022. However, they are only worth their money to a certain extent. This is because models like Sony's WF-1000XM4 show that premium sound and industry-leading ANC is also possible for less than $300.
The $400 earbuds are also not without their faults. In the review, I noticed rather strong wind noise while riding the bike or even when walking in transparency mode. Furthermore, you do not have any control over voice assistants. While these are minor issues, the occasional connectivity problems would bother me at such a high recommended retail price. I will shed more light on the matter over the course of this review.
Design & comfort: EXtremely high quality
Bang & Olufsen relies on premium materials for the construction of its Beoplay EX. The charging cradle is made from aluminum, the earbuds rely on high-quality plastic and have recessed glass elements. Designer Thomas Bentzen, who also designed the Beoplay EQ, was responsible for this. What I found to be particularly pleasing apart from the various silicone attachments, the Beoplay EX also comes with foam tips. You will have to pay more for these if you were to purchase them separately.
What I liked:
- High-quality materials that provide a premium feel.
- Very good and firm fit.
- Comply foam tips included.
What I disliked:
- Charging tray gets dirty quickly.
- Only IP57 certification.
- No pairing button.
If you offer customers in-ear headphones for $400, there should be no compromises in terms of comfort, period. Indeed, the earbuds sit remarkably well in the ear. The feeling when inserting them reminds me a bit of plugging in a plug, it seems as if the Beoplay EX were always meant for my ears. If you don't have that feeling, there are three different silicone attachments to remedy the situation.
The build quality is also higher quality than cheaper alternatives in the market. This is due to high-quality materials like glass and aluminum, which are sensibly used on the earbuds and the charging cradle. Despite the high-quality materials, the earbuds are IP54 certified, so you can freely use it under light rain and when you sweat it out during an intense sports session without missing a beat.
What is very welcome is the inclusion of a pair of Comply foam tips. You may be familiar with these from premium in-ear headphones or the WF-1000XM4. For focused music listening, I prefer the more soundproof attachments. The fact that you can switch back to the more comfortable silicone attachments for on-the-go listening is something I found to be really well thought-out by the Danish audio professionals.
I do have two minor negatives though. The charging cradle, which is made of aluminum, is not only rather large in size, but also susceptible to dirt. Beyond that, I would have liked to see a physical pairing button that would provide a bit more security when connecting to new devices.
App & convenience functions
You can find the "Bang&Olufsen" app in the AppStore and Google Play Store, which you can use to control the Beoplay EX. You will find rather unconventional equalizers as well as a control for active noise cancellation. However, the comfort features are rather shallow compared to other models.
What I liked:
- Fun, intuitive equalizer.
- OwnVoice technology for telephony is very pleasant.
- Pretty, well-designed app.
What I disliked:
- Too few comfort functions.
- Inaccurate equalizer.
The B&O app is the prettiest companion app I've seen for in-ear headphones to date. It's so detailed that you can even change the color of the virtual Beoplay EXs displayed to match the color of your models. At the same time, it's logically laid out, giving you control over sound, ANC and features, as well as controls for active music playback.
Bang & Olufsen's equalizer works differently than other established models. You can move a slider around in a circle and choose between the selections, Bright, Warm and Relaxed. These let you intuitively adjust the sound to your own preferences. What I would have liked to see in addition, however, is a full-fledged equalizer to be able to adjust the frequencies more precisely.
On the software side, however, a big plus in my books is the OwnVoice technology. This is something which I would like to see in all headphones and earbuds. It allows you to hear your own voice naturally when you're on the phone. This is especially important during longer phone calls with ANC headphones, where I notice that my voice becomes scratchy at some point because it's hard to judge how loud I'm talking. So that's a plus point for B&O.
Apart from active ANC control and OwnVoice technology, the only convenience features are multi-point Bluetooth and wearer recognition. I find that to be a bit lackluster for earbuds in this price range. Other models offer 3D audio or the option to access voice assistants at the push of a button.
Sound & ANC
Here are a few numbers to satiate the audio nerds: B&O relies on 9.2 millimeter neodymium drivers in the Beoplay EX, which can reproduce a frequency range of 20 to 20,000 hertz. Furthermore, the earbuds support adaptive ANC, which can rely on six omnidirectional microphones. Bluetooth 5.2 works via SBC, AAC, and aptX adaptive codecs.
What I liked:
- Broad sound image, balanced sound.
- Very good ANC.
- Suppprts the latest Bluetooth standard.
- Great for phone calls.
What I disliked:
- Strong wind noise in transparency mode.
- No HiFi data sheet.
Before the review, I pondered over the hardware specifications and the price tag of the Beoplay EX. After all, the frequency range and the supported codecs are anything but impressive for a pair of $400 earbuds. But at the end of the day, it's the sound quality that counts, and that's definitely what the Beoplay EX does right.
Sound is very balanced right out of the box, and it is fun to listen to even without adjusting the equalizers. The broad sound image that keeps all instruments finely separated from each other is particularly striking. From the neutral standard configuration, you can then adjust the earbuds based on your preferences or the genres you listen to via the equalizer. By doing so, the Beoplay EX is able to bring you on an audio adventure that is in accordance to your liking!
During the review period, I heard everything from hip-hop tracks by OG Keemo, Kendrick Lamar and Tyler the Creator to rock songs by Primus and CCR, to poppy tracks by Harry Styles or Paolo Nutini. The Beoplay EX can also adapt to jazz and classical music, so the earbuds are surprisingly flexible overall. This is an advantage over cheaper models like the Beats Studio Buds, which tend to drown all tracks in quivering bass.
ANC is also important for high-quality music enjoyment when it comes to in-ear earbuds in 2022. The active noise cancellation performance can be adjusted across three levels, and there are also "Transparency" and "Normal" modes, where the ANC is disabled. The effectiveness is impeccable, especially with the insulating foam attachments. I was able to block out 80% of the road traffic, but I find using the Beoplay EX on a bicycle to be borderline in nature.
And that's a problem, as the transparency mode is plagued by nasty wind noise. I noticed this not only while I was on the bike, but also when walking in the midst of medium winds. The automatic control of the ANC works, but it did bother me in everyday life. So it's a win that you can turn the feature off.
Finally, I do have one criticism of the Beoplay EX. Over the two week review period, I encountered around five connection problems when using it with an iPhone SE 2022. Only one of the two earbuds worked and I had to place the earbuds in the charging cradle again to solve the problem. That is inconvenient and would clearly bother me when I had forked out $400 for this pair of earbuds.
Battery: All requirements met
The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EX lasted for six hours with noise cancellation enabled, and it is possible to coax up to eight hours of listening pleasure by disabling ANC. That amounts to a full workday for most people, and you can add another 13 hours if necessary thanks to the charging cradle for a total runtime of 21 hours. The headphones are charged via USB-C or wireless charging according to the Qi standard.
What I liked:
- Fantastic battery life for everyday use.
- Wireless charging supported.
What I disliked:
Bang & Olufsen's high-end earbuds meet all the requirements I have for the runtimes of expensive true wireless headphones. So you don't have to worry about encountering an empty battery before a workday is over. Combined with the charging case, you remain independent of power outlets for up to 21 hours, which is equivalent to a complete weekend trip to your favorite getaway!
The integration of Quick-Charging is very pleasing, even if the manufacturer barely mentioned it on its own homepage. Here, a 20-minute charge via USB-C cable is enough for another 1.75 hours of listening pleasure. Such features are especially handy if you like to jog like me and do not care enough about the charging status of your device.
Bang & Olufsen rounds out the flexibility of the eabuds in terms of charging with wireless charging support. If your smartphone supports reverse wireless charging, you can also charge the earbuds conveniently via the phone.
Very good, although too expensive
The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EX is truly among the best in-ear earbuds that are available in 2022. They surpass most models in terms of sound quality, ANC effectiveness, and wearing comfort. Technically, I'd place them on par with the Sony WF-1000XM4, which are considered the industry leaders in almost every feature. However, the Beoplay EX are of higher quality and offers a prettier companion app.
However, B&O is charging $120 more at launch than Sony did when it introduced the WF-1000XM4. If you don't care about the brand, there's no real justification for paying so much more, especially since Bang & Olufsen made a few slip-ups that are painful at this price level. For example, I could notice strong wind noise in transparency mode and had to grapple with connection problems.
Furthermore, as a rather scatterbrained buyer, I would like to see a tracking function like those found in the AirPods Pro. After all, losing true wireless earbuds that cost a whopping $400 because they slipped out of your pocket will ruin the day or even the week, never mind that you pull in a handsome income each mind.
Thus, the B&O Beoplay EX are very good headphones at the end of the day, which also serve an additional purpose as a status symbol or jewelry. A Rolex is also functionally inferior to the Garmin Fenix 7, but looks better on the wrist. The manufacturer might also print its logo on the glass elements of the earbuds for this very reason.