2017 will be remembered as the year that true wireless earbuds came of age. When a lifestyle brand like B&O takes on this genre, you know this is the way people will listen to music in the future. True wireless earbuds, as the name suggests, do not have any wires connected to the two earbuds. One major bugbear for such product is battery life, but B&O PLAY has made the BeoPlay E8 last four hours on a single charge while the cradle allows two additional anytime.
The anytime itself has got to be the most compact and well-thought-out among the current field of true wireless audio earbuds. Lightly clasped with magnets, the egg-shaped leather-wrapped encasement opens easily without much force. A functional elastic braid allows the E8 to be strapped around the wrist or a bag.
Audio is transmitted from the audio device to the right earbud via Bluetooth 4.2 and synced between the two earbuds using NFMI (Near Field Magnetic Induction) technology. As the earbuds detect the proximity which is around 20cm, there are interesting interactions available. For instance, both earbuds touch panel must be pressed to activate Bluetooth pairing, which can occur any time during the operation, without the need to turn off and on again like most Bluetooth headsets require. When the left earbud is out of range beyond 20cm, the audio will be cut off from the left earbud.
Besides listening to music, the E8 has a Transparency Mode, which is activated by tapping the left earbud. This mode turns on the microphone to let the user hear his or her surroundings. There are three preset options: Ambient mutes the music, Social lowers the music volume, while Commuting increases the music volume. The selection has to be done within the Beoplay App. When making calls with the E8, Transparency Mode is auto-activated so that you can be more aware of the surrounding while in a tele-conversation.
Since there are no physical buttons, control of playback is done with both earbuds. Adjust the volume by press-and-hold the earbuds – left to decrease, right to increase. Change the tracks by double-tapping – left to go previous, right to go next. Touch control is less accurate than physical buttons, but B&O had to sacrifice functionality for form.
Driven by 5.7mm electro-dynamic transducers, the audio quality is bright and transparent, creating a spacious forward-staging sound that is B&O’s signature. Using the Beoplay app Tone Touch feature, the audio balance can be personalised by tapping on the quadrant marked as ‘warm’, ‘excited’, ‘relaxed’ and ‘bright’. As I prefer the sound to have more substance in the midrange, I tweaked my sound by positioning the marker slightly towards the ‘warm’ quadrant.
Perhaps the only major flaws of the E8 is the lack of support for the latest Bluetooth audio codec. The result is a rather obvious audio compression to my trained ears. The E8 is also more susceptible to signal interferences that occur in crowded places.
B&O never disappoints when it comes to designing the most premium-styled earphones that money can buy: indeed, the E8 is the best-looking true-wireless earbuds for the urban creative professionals. It has all the essential features one looks for in true wireless earbuds, and they don’t sound bad either, too.