There’s nothing more frustrating than expensive, but poorly designed hardware. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what B&O Play’s new Beoplay Earset headphones are. They retail for $299, come in brown and white colors, feature a retro, adjustable earhook design, have 14.2mm diameter electro-dynamic drivers, support Bluetooth 4.2 with the AAC codec, and work with the Beoplay app for audio balancing.
On paper, the Beoplay Earsets sound like an entirely suitable, albeit expensive, pair of wireless headphones you could wear while on a run or commuting.
My main gripe here isn’t that they sound terrible — the audio quality is slightly better than Apple’s Airpods — but poor ergonomics, average sound, and lack of comfort whatsoever make them impossible to recommend.
Most earsets have flexible rubber around the hooks, so when they wrap around a human ear they not only sit comfortably, but conform to the shape of human ears, which are diverse and almost never identical.
The Beoplay Earset headphones take the opposite approach, using stiff, inflexible metal ear hooks covered in a thin rubber material. Once you adjust the height and radius to fit your ear, the Earset’s fit is just mildly uncomfortable, but then transitions to downright painful after a short time.
You could argue they just weren’t meant for my ears, but the fact is they’re inflexible and offer minimal padding to assist with comfort when used for more than an hour, be it stationary or on the move. To make matters worse, the cable connecting the pair is thick, too short, and weighs more on the left side — where the remote is — so the right side ends up playing a tug-of-war if you turn abruptly, unless you adjust the wire when you wear it around your neck.
B&O Play offers four sets of foam tips to cover the Beoplay Earset’s 14.2mm drivers — they’re all the same size — that are thin, but require you to fully stretch them out to fit them onto the drivers. They’re delicate and it’s a finicky process, so I accidentally tore one of the pairs.
The Beoplay Earset’s immersion is middling at best, with outside noise leaking in. These aren’t noise-cancelling earbuds by any stretch, and it wouldn’t be fair to assume that they should filter all outside noise, but my listening is often interrupted by outside interference. This would urge me to crank up the volume to drown out outside noise, but as we know all too well, turning up the volume when using in-ear headphones is especially bad for you.
Thankfully, the optional and free Beoplay app does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to improving or adjusting the sound profile. You can manually adjust the mix, or select from one of four presets: Commute, Clear, Workout, and Podcast.
I listen to a wide range of genres — classical, jazz, EDM, hip hop, lo-fi, and K-Pop to name a few — so more often than not, I have to rely on the bass-boosting “Commute” setting to compensate for the sound leakage and give me a better feel for how it handles sound reproduction.
Battery life is nothing to applaud about, either. B&O Play claims the Beoplay Earset will last five hours on a charge, which sounds about right in my testing, because a full charge only lasts for my morning commute and dies by lunch time. A full recharge with the provided USB-C cable takes around 2.5 hours.
I can’t think of a single reason why you might buy the Beoplay Earset. There are better earbuds and headphones in nearly every category that offer better audio quality, a more comfortable form factor, and for less money. A full $299 is a stretch to pay for hardware like this already; to make them uncomfortable and neglect the whole concept of ergonomic earhook headphones is a definite miss.