Freelance contributor, TechHiveMay 2, 2022 3:00 am PDT
Image: Bang & Olufsen
At a glance
Superbly comfortable and secure fit
Outstanding weatherization: IP57 means they can be submerged
Excellent sonic signature with very good bass performance
Mediocre noise cancelling and transparency mode
Lovely to look at, beautiful to listen to, Bang & Olufsen’s Beoplay EX compromise only in terms of active noise cancellation. If audio performance is more important to you than noise cancellation, and the price doesn’t scare you off, they deliver a listen.
Price comparison from over 24,000 stores worldwide
Bang and Olufsen’s Beoplay EX true wireless, noise-cancelling earbuds feature beautiful design, a secure fit, strong wireless performance, great sound, and decent battery life. They’re also entirely waterproof—to the point they’ll survive being submerged in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes. If their $399 asking price doesn’t make you check your wallet, read on and see why they could be B&O’s finest in-ear headphones.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best noise-cancelling headphones, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.
Beoplay EX design cues
B&O audio gear is about form as much as function, and the Beoplay EX certainly make a statement. Once you get past the fact that their stem-shape reminds you of Apple’s Airpod, you’ll marvel at the Beoplay EX’s beauty. They’re designed by Copenhagen’s Thomas Bentzen, whose industrial designs are known for their “simplicity, rationality, and functionality.”
The Beoplay EX are as much a fashion accessory as they are earbuds. I can’t quite explain why, but even after weeks of use, the Beoplay EX’s design continued to draw my attention every time I opened the case or held them in my hands.
Bang & Olufsen
They’re available in three finishes: Anthracite Oxygen, a matte black finish with blue accents; Gold Tone; and Black Anthracite. My review pair came in Anthracite Oxygen. The Beoplay EX’s signature design element is a tinted, mirrored-glass touch surface sporting B&O’s logo and accented with an aluminum ring. B&O says the purpose of the aluminum ring is to offer protection as well as an aesthetic flourish. The aluminum ring is raised a hair above the glass disc, protecting it from abrasion and scratches. Even after weeks of use, the glass remained pristine.
The only downside is that the mirrored glass was prone to collecting fingerprints. I found myself polishing the glass quite often. Perhaps a future iteration could add some oleophobic protection.
Features of the Beoplay EX
The Beoplay EX sport 9.2mm drivers, the biggest B&O has ever used for a true-wireless headphone. The manufacturer says this results in a “significant upgrade in the power of each audio moment.” I don’t typically like marketing hyperbole, but the EX really do sound great with solid dynamics.
These headphones are equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 radios and support the SBC, AAC, and aptX Adaptive codecs. Wireless connectivity was excellent throughout my weeks of use. With my iPhone 12 Pro, I could walk more than 90 feet line of sight and not lose a beat. Going up or down a floor didn’t interrupt the signal either. Perhaps more impressively, I was able to get better reception through walls and doors and around corners than with some other true wireless earbuds I’ve had in for recent review.
The Beoplay EX’s battery life is respectable, but not category-leading, promising to deliver up to 6 hours with ANC and up to 8 hours without ANC. The charging case adds roughly 10 to 12 hours more for a maximum of 20 hours. A 20-minute charge should give you around 1.75 hours of playback.
Bang & Olufsen
The Beoplay EX’s stems house six microphones. Bang and Olufsen says that beam-forming technology can distinguish between your voice and the sounds of the world around you.
Bang & Olufsen’s weatherization works deserves special note. Many premium earbuds top out at IPX4, meaning they’re resistant to sweat or a drizzle of rain, but they probably won’t survive being dunked in a pool. The X designation, meanwhile, means the manufacturer makes no claim for protection from particulate matter incursion—dust or sand, for instance. An IP57 rating means the Beoplay EX will prevent enough particulate matter out to prevent failure, and they can survive being submerged in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. The Beoplay EX aren’t just pretty, they’re remarkably tough.
Setting up the Beoplay EX
The Beoplay EX package consists of the earbuds and charging case, a USB-A to USB-C charging cable, and ear tips. In a departure from the normal small, medium, and large silicone tips, the Beoplay EX come with five sets of ear tips: Large, medium, small, and extra small silicone tips, plus a set of medium Comply TrueGrip TWR-200-B tips.
The Comply memory-foam based ear tips promise to provide you with a superlative seal and come with the company’s “TechDefender” guard. This is a thin fabric that protects the earbud tube from ear wax, sweat, and debris. The Comply tips will be your best companion when you want to maximize noise-cancelling performance. Selfishly, I wish that the included Comply tip came in large. I found the medium size to be a bit too small for my ears.
If you have smaller ears and have been frustrated by the size and fit of true wireless earbuds, the Beoplay EX may be the perfect fit for you.
The large silicone tips fit my ears the best. Once I got the Beoplay EX in my ears, I was hard pressed to find a situation that would cause them to fall out. Putting on a shirt was no problem. The earbuds stayed secure. Running was no challenge. The earbuds didn’t budge. Shaking my head didn’t dislodge the earbuds. Their design is outstanding. I could wear these headphones for hours without fatigue.
Bang & Olufsen
Using Bang & Olufsen’s mobile app
B&O’s companion mobile app delivers functionality where it matters most. I didn’t have to fumble through complex menus or options to get to exactly what I wanted quickly.
All essential controls are at a glance: Playback; noise cancellation, transparency, and adaptive noise cancellation; listening modes (aka EQ settings); call settings; and standby (which turns off the Beoplay EX after 90 minutes of inactivity).
The app shows the battery charge of each earbud and the charging case. I noticed that if the charging case wasn’t open, it would not show up in the app. I had to close the case’s cover and re-open it for the case to appear.
You can instantly engage noise cancellation or transparency intensity from 1-3 (don’t ask me why it isn’t labeled low, medium, or high). Turning on adaptive noise cancellation puts the Beoplay EX’s sensors in control. The sensors automatically determined the amount of noise cancellation required.
The EQ settings are set along an X and Y axis visualized as a circle. You move the central dot within the circle to make the headphones brighter, warmer, more “relaxed,” or more “energetic.” The wheel changes color to indicate an intensity and thankfully signals if you’re increasing or decreasing bass and treble. This is fine for the novice, but more experienced users will have no idea which frequencies you’re effecting.
Bang & Olufsen
The Beoplay EX offer only average noise cancelling
If you’re looking for the best pair of noise-cancelling earbuds on the market today, the Beoplay EX aren’t the earbuds you’re looking for—and that’s just fine with B&O. Over several discussions with B&O representatives over several years and product lines, the company’s strong stance has been to deliver noise cancelling technology that doesn’t interfere with their headphones’ musical performance. From that perspective, the Beoplay EX follow a long-standing tradition.
I used the Beoplay EX during a recent cross-country flight from NY to LA. The Beoplay EX with the silicone ear tips did an average job of cutting down the airplane engine noise. It took the edge off, but no more. Had the included Comply ear tips fit me better, I would have been able gauge how much better the Comply tips aid ANC performance over the silicone counterparts.
Transparency mode is supposed to let the outside world in to let you hear announcements or make you aware of your surroundings. B&O’s transparency mode likewise isn’t magical like the implementation in Apple’s Airpods. The difference with transparency enabled was subtle on the Beoplay EX. Wind is the Beoplay EX’s kryptonite. I found it best to turn noise cancelling and transparency off in windy environments.
I would therefore say that the Beoplay EX are designed for individuals who relish the EX’s other features and don’t require best-of-breed noise cancelling or transparency features.
Making phone calls with the Beoplay EX
Phone calls with the Beoplay EX were solid and reliable. Individuals on the other end could hear me clearly. I’d like to applaud B&O for providing control over how the Beoplay EX behaved during phone calls. I’ve chastised some manufacturers lately for failing to give consumers control over how the headphones behave when you make a call. Some companies stick you in transparency mode or default you to adaptive noise cancelling, where you’ll miss what someone is saying as the earbuds fade the audio to switch modes. That’s not a problem here. B&O’s mobile app lets you take control if you want noise cancelling, transparency, or none of the aforementioned features active while you’re on a call. These are the details that matter when you want to deliver a premium user experience.
Bang & Olufsen
The Beoplay EX’s musical performance
I tested the Beoplay EX with an iPhone 12 Pro using Tidal, Apple Music, and the Roon app connected to my Roon Nucleus server. The Beoplay EX’s sonic signature is sweet and musical. It reveled in delicate to dynamic musical numbers.
I was totally taken aback by the Beoplay EX’s bass performance. I wasn’t expecting the level of control, dynamics, and detail they pumped out. The pulsating bass from the opening of Bonnie McKee’s “Trouble” sends subsonic rumblings through my home when played on my reference speaker system. The Beoplay EX somehow delivered the bass from that song in a way that I experienced it somatically—not just confined to my head, like so many true wireless earbuds. Bass lines from Lorde’s “Royals,” Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” Imagine Dragons’, “Believer,” and Dido’s “Northern Skies” landed with the precision of a hammer striking an anvil. And it didn’t matter what genre I threw at them.
Choral pieces sounded surprisingly big and dimensional. The sense of space was evident on Capella Romana’s “Ode 4 of the Canon of the Precious Cross” from Lost Voices of Hagia Sophia. The Beoplay EX authoritatively rendered organ notes from “Quit Fecit”, the third track on Nidarosdomens Jentekor’s Magnificat performed by the Trondheim Soloists. The bass drums on Aaron Copeland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” performed by Fiji Our and the Minnesota Orchestra, exploded. And if I wasn’t yet convinced, the detail and texture of bass notes on Sade’s “Soldier of Love” sealed the deal.
Bang & Olufsen
The Beoplay EX had no problem rendering microdynamics or complex musical layers. The EX had firm control over each instrument and musical layer on Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal,” “Billie Jean,” and “Beat It.” Closing my eyes and focusing on any musical element was a breeze.
Vocals were dimensional and timbrally accurate. Adele, Bono, Natalie Merchant, Alicia Keys, Robert Plant, Rebecca Pidgeon, P!nk, Katie Melua, and Holly Cole to name but a few sounded fabulous.
In summary, the Beoplay EX delivered a highly satisfying sweet-sound that exhibited the kind of control, dynamics, and dimensionality I don’t typically associate with true wireless earbuds.
Our bottom-line opinion of the B&O Beoplay EX
Bang and Olufsen’s Beoplay EX true wireless earbuds unequivocally demonstrate what happens when form and function merge into a stunning product. The Bang and Olufsen’s Beoplay EX true wireless earbuds are, in my opinion, the best earbuds the company has ever made.
Their design isn’t eye candy, it’s high fashion. Their fit is the best of any B&O true wireless earbud I’ve ever used. The B&O companion app is functional, not frivolous. Their sound signature is exceptionally strong. The only features I found to be middle-of-the-road were the Beoplay EX’s active and adaptive noise cancellation. If you can trade those features for audio performance, you’ll dig these headphones.