The renowned Danish manufacturer is expanding its Bluetooth headphone range with the B&O Beoplay EX wireless in-ears, which can be operated via touch-sensitive glass surfaces and are dust- and water-resistant in accordance with IP57. The precise, powerful basic sound, as well as the attenuation and amplification of external noise, can be adjusted via the Bang & Olufsen App.
The Beoplay EX, available in black-grey, grey-blue and gold, come with silicone ear tips in four sizes and a Comply foam variant. This enables individual optimisation of the fitting characteristics and promotes a high level of wearing comfort. As the earpieces are protected from sweat and moisture caused by the weather, the system also appears to be ideally suited for (outdoor) sporting activities, even if these in-ears are not suitable to be exposed to strong vibrations. This kind of use would require additional stabilising brackets or hooks like those used by sports in-ears. However, the fit embeds them successfully into the ears, providing sufficient support for a jog. Although the housings protrude somewhat and are not flush with the ears, the earpieces, which weigh seven grams each, could be worn under a loose-fitting hat during the winter months.
With a slightly raised playback level, the Beoplay EX achieved a runtime of six and a half hours in basic mode, which was reduced to five and a half hours when the maximum noise-cancellation setting was used. The in-ears can be fully charged twice and then charged for a further 60 per cent in their handy aluminium case, which weighs in at a pleasantly light 52 grams. This provides a total runtime of 23 hours in standard mode before an external power supply is needed, while about 18 hours and 30 minutes are available with active noise cancelling. The charging cycle of the headphones is completed quite quickly in about 70 minutes, and thanks to a quick-charge function, listening times of up to two hours are possible after a charging time of 20 minutes. The case can be powered either wirelessly via Qi or wired via a USB-C connection. Charging via the included USB-C to USB-A cable takes one hour and 50 minutes.
These wireless earpieces support Bluetooth standard 5.2 and offered a range of a good ten metres within an urban environment during our test. A multipoint connection with two devices is provided, so a smartphone and laptop or tablet can be connected at the same time, and single-sided use is available for single-mode.
While the first pairing of the Beoplay EX can be done directly by opening the charging case during start-up, pairing mode must be activated manually when connecting additional devices. This is possible via the app; alternatively, pairing can be activated by holding the touch surfaces down while the in-ears are in the charging case.
When a wireless connection is established, tapping the right earpiece controls playback, while the left one can be used to switch between noise cancellation, ambient mode and basic sound. Holding them down controls volume, with the left earpiece being used to reduce it and the right to increase it. A double-tap allows track selection, with the right earpiece surface being used to go forward and the left one to go back. Telephone calls can also be accepted with a single tap and ended or rejected with a double-tap, and this can be done on both sides. A tap on the left earpiece surface switches between Own Voice technology for transmitting your own voice, ANC and basic mode during a call. However, voice assistants cannot be activated via the Beoplay EX, and neither is it possible to switch the earpieces off and on using the touch surfaces.
Bang & Olufsen app
The app for these Bluetooth headphones (for iOS, Android, Huawei and Baidu) is well-organised and, in addition to firmware updates, it provides the option of playback control and volume control. Furthermore, it is possible to switch between noise cancelling, transparency and basic mode as well as activating and deactivating adaptive noise cancellation. If the static ANC mode is used, the intensity of the attenuation can be adjusted to the environment using three levels. The same applies to the amplification of external noise and the Own Voice technology within the call settings. For sound adjustment, there is a choice of preconfigured pre-sets including “Podcast”, “Sport”, “Commute” and “Clear”, while custom settings can be saved via the Beosonic function. However, the B&O app does not offer classic headphone settings such as personalising the touch control or the standby function, which in this case is set to 90 minutes. We also noticed connectivity problems with an iPad, as the Beoplay EXs were not detected by the app after the initial configuration, but this was not the case in conjunction with an iPhone and should be fixable with an update.
In a relatively quiet environment, the speech intelligibility in a phone call was impeccable, especially as there was a decidedly natural conversation situation when the own voice monitoring was switched on. On the open street in the hustle and bustle of the city, however, there were limitations, as louder background noises were distinctly noticeable by the caller on the other end of the line, despite the beamforming technology being used.
Noise Cancellation and Transparency Mode
The Beoplay EX’s noise cancelling is automatically active when switched on and effectively attenuates low and high-frequency external noise. No major differences were found between static ANC mode at the maximum setting and adaptive noise cancellation, which analyses the environment in order to use the appropriate algorithm. The highest ANC level appeared slightly more effective than adaptive noise cancelling, but only in the lower frequency range. Voices, on the other hand, remained perceptible with both variants and they were attenuated with a lower intensity but faded more into the background.
Both the noise cancellation and the amplification of external noise worked without noticeable background noise. However, in both modes, there was a significant boost in the low-frequency range, which resulted in a more substantial sound reproduction, which to some extent stood in the way of an increased perception of the surroundings when in transparency mode. During paused playback, it was possible to have a conversation without having to take the headphones out, and announcements were also understandable. However, during playback, the benefit was rather limited, as external awareness was only made possible at moderate volume levels.
The Beoplay EX feature large, dynamic 9.2mm neodymium-driven drivers and offer an appealingly expansive soundstage that has basic warmth and, for closed-back True Wireless in-ears, a remarkably free and open stage. This was reflected in an atmospheric reproduction of live recordings with a realistic sense of space that encourages immersion. The vivid reproduction of soundscapes and soundscapes was also impressive and captivating. The recent album “Alles in Allem” (2020) by the experimental sound explorers “Einstürzende Neubauten” was reproduced with great precision and excellent localisation: Starting with the slamming of travel suitcases on “Taschen”, which act as percussion instruments, and ending with the field recording that introduces “Wedding”.
The basic sound of the Beoplay EX also has a crisp bass response that has some substance and didn’t necessarily feel flat but seemed tight and decidedly controlled. In ANC and transparency mode the low-frequency reproduction was more concerned with an enjoyable, fun listening experience, so that modern, bass-oriented productions were reproduced richly and with the necessary punch. The lower to mid-range bass in particular sounded more massive, which gave the energetic reproduction a corresponding assertiveness in the open.
A present, organic midrange had a tidy presentation which was contoured and airy with open spaces between individual instruments, even in complex arrangements. Guitar riffs and synth lines convey the intended bite, and ethereal elements and voices have a gentle, pleasing charm. No matter what, there was a flawless, high level of speech intelligibility.
Compared to the Beoplay EQ, the basic sound of the Beoplay EX seemed much more balanced and confident, as the consistent treble reproduction always set fresh and lively accents and ensured a targeted spatial illumination. Thus, the overall sound reproduction benefited from the playfulness and lightness that the upper realms conveyed and this can unfold its full potential at both low and high playback levels.
It was a pity that these high-priced headphones don’t have premium audio codecs such as LDAC, as this might be considered a bit of a disadvantage. However, in addition to Bluetooth standard SBC, AAC format as well as aptX and aptX Adaptive are all supported.
Where Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EX seem to need improvement is in the headphone’s personalisation options, especially as customisation of the touch control via the app would make a desirable update. While the noise cancellation gave a fairly solid impression, the efficiency of the transparency mode suffered somewhat from an amplified low-frequency range compared to the basic sound, which was itself exceedingly pleasing. From a sound perspective, these weatherproof Bluetooth earphones are highly recommended thanks to their harmonious, powerful basic tuning with a realistic spatial presentation, especially as their comfortable, stable fit makes them versatile – for everyday use, listening while travelling and during sports.
- IP57 dust and water resistant
- Handy aluminium case
- Fast charging
- Case with wireless charging option via Qi
- Multipoint connections
- Support aptX Adaptive, aptX and the AAC format
- No LDAC
- Cannot be switched on and off manually
- No voice assistants are supported
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 22.000 Hz
- Impedance@ 1kHz: 32 Ohm +/-3,2 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)@1 kHz / 1 mW: 108 dB +/- 2 dB
- Weight without cable7g each, inkl. Case 52 g
- Cable length50 cm
What's in the box
- 4 pairs of silicone ear tips (XS, S, M, L)
- 1 pair of memory foam ear tips (M)
- USB-C charging cable
- Charging case
- Available in black anthracite, gold, anthracite oxygen
- BT version: 5.2
- BT codecs: SBC, AAC, aptX Adaptive
- Made for iPhone (MFi); Microsoft Swift Pair; suports Apple Watch Interface; Google Fast Pair