(Pocket-lint) - Bang & Olufsen is best known for its premium feel and sound - and that's no different when it comes to the company's wireless earbuds.
Despite its line of Beoplay buds following this tried and tested formula, though, they were arguably due a bit of a refresh.
Users - including those on the Pocket-lint team - have repeatedly noted that models like the Beoplay EQ can be a little uncomfortable to wear for long periods, and the shape, though always classy, can often lean a little on the chunky side.
With the Beoplay EX, the script has been rewritten. Bang & Olufsen has given its latest pair of buds a stem and an entirely new shape, perhaps taking inspiration from a certain Cupertino tech giant in the process.
We've been listening to them for a few weeks. Here's how they stack up against the top-end of the market.
The Beoplay EX are a good step forward from Bang & Olufsen without any major downsides - unless, of course, you're not a fan of earbuds with stems.
In the upsides column, meanwhile, you get great microphone quality, an improved fit and the same superb sound we've come to expect from the Danish company.
With an attractive design and solid touch controls, they're a really good package, then, with active noise-cancellation filling out the roll-call of features you'd like to see included in a pair of premium earbuds.
Despite the Beoplay EX ticking plenty of boxes, though, it's hard to escape the weight of that price tag - and the fact you can get earbuds that can match or beat them for around $100 / £100 / €100 less.
If you're a big fan of the brand, that may not matter, but it's worth considering for those trying to decide between a few of the more expensive options.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EX
- Typically brilliant sound
- Improved comfort
- Superb looks
- Solid metal case
- Not the best value
- Still some room to improve on comfort
- Battery life isn't outstanding
A whole new look
- Available in gold, blue and grey
- Weights 65g with both earbuds in case
The Beoplay EQ, a pair that only came out in late 2021, appears to have been the last of an old-style design from Bang & Olufsen - unless the company is experimenting with offering a choice of shapes.
Either way, with the new Beoplay EX, gone is the rounded and bulbous design of older models.
It's replaced by a look that, even with some major differences, is another in the long line that takes inspiration directly from Apple's iconic work on the AirPods. Principally, that just means having a stem jutting out below your ear.
It's got one big benefit, though, in the form of improved microphone performance for calls and recordings, which is great in the age of FaceTime and Zoom. However, the design doesn't stop there. It's also got a substantially smaller in-ear section compared to B&O's older earbuds.
This makes for an easier fit in the ear and a more comfortable one, too - a heartening change given that comfort was one of our few complaints about the Beoplay EQ. You get a welcome five options to choose from when it comes to tips, as well, with various sizes and even one set of medium Comply foam tips.
On the outside of each earbud, there's a lovely tempered glass mirror surface, replete with B&O's logo. This makes the earbuds stand out from the crowd, and our blue pair is really nice to look at, especially given how different light changes their look.
It'll divide people a little, we're sure, but the black version will arrive soon for a more muted look, if desired.
The buds slip nicely into a metallic, brushed-finish case that's got a hefty and premium sense to it, although it does also have a slightly scratch-prone surface. The earbuds are impressively secure when inside, so you don't have to worry they'll fall out. The case charges wirelessly, as you'd hope, but also has USB-C if you prefer a wired approach.
The sound of quality
- 9.2mm drivers
- 20-20,000Hz frequency range
Popping the Beoplay EX into our ears, you can tell that Bang & Olufsen hasn't ripped up the book too thoroughly - its earbuds still sound absolutely great. As always, we test across all genres of music, and the Beoplay EX demonstrate real range.
Their bass is controlled and deep while not overpowering, while mids and highs report in a similarly balanced and delicate way. There's a certain accuracy to the performance that makes them a treat to listen through when you're at home or in a quieter place.
That's not to say they fall short on the go, either. B&O again packs in really excellent active noise cancellation that nicely mutes the bangs and squeals of public transport, and gives you the coveted feeling of being in a bubble as you walk around.
Transparency modes are helpful if you're looking to stay safe as you move around, and the new design also means that you'll get pretty good call quality if you need it - even in windier conditions.
While the Beoplay EX are, in our experience, a real leap forward in comfort levels compared to the older EQ, we've still got a hesitation here, though. They're comfortable for an hour or two, but, after three or four, we did feel them pressing on our inner ear.
For many, that won't matter much (and in truth, we hardly ever listen for that long in one go, either), but it does show that there's still room to improve to reach the heights of something like the AirPods Pro.
Features and experience
- Active noise-cancelling
- Touch controls on earbuds
The ANC that Bang & Olufsen has packed into the Beoplay EX is really impressive, then. You can easily toggle between these modes using handy touch controls on each earbud's glass outer surface, too.
Unlike some other competitors, these glass panels offer a really clear and easy place for you to touch, which translates to a great experience using the controls, and you can get quite a lot done with them.
The companion app B&O has built is also pretty slick, and starts off with an easy pairing process. We downloaded a firmware update with a little fiddling, but the instructions were fairly clear and easy to follow.
It's a solid experience across both Android and iOS, and, with a fair few codecs on board, including AptX for low-latency audio, the earbuds should be a good fit for those who like to watch movies or TV on their devices. Or, indeed, play mobile games.
Battery life stands at about five to six hours on a charge, with a few more in the case, which is solid but not outstanding. And, at this price, you might hope for slightly better - perhaps to the levels of the Sony WF-1000XM4.
That said, we've rarely if ever tried to listen for longer than that in one go, so how much of an issue this is depends on your listening habits.
The Beoplay EX take Bang & Olufsen's earbuds in a new direction, with a stem and better levels of comfort. We're hugely impressed with the sound quality, although there's a question mark about their value, given the competition.