B&O takes on Apple in the race for perfect true-wireless earphone sound

These Play E8 phones edge ahead by a nose in the devilishly complicated quest for wireless perfection

B&O Play E8, £269
B&O Play E8, £269 | Image: Hugh Threlfall

I went for dinner in New York a few weeks ago with my best – OK, only – billionaire friend. Talk turned to tech. “Should I buy these new Bang & Olufsen wireless buds?” billionaire friend asked. My answer – he was referring to the E8 model – was yes, they sound amazing, although they’re not perfect (I had suffered some irritating sound-dropout problems with them on the flight to New York). Well, technology moves fast and my answer now would be that B&O has got them spot on after a couple of firmware upgrades and some improvements to the once shaky accompanying app, with which you can customise the E8’s sound. 

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The E8 is B&O’s first true-wireless model, by which I mean phones that each have a battery and live independently, one in each ear, not connected by a wire to each other or to the music source. True wireless is 2018’s headphone trend and is technically very complex to make work: designers have to find tiny batteries that can retain several hours’ charge, then ensure the music beams by Bluetooth to one earphone, after which it splits into left and right channels, one of which needs to be beamed to the other earphone with zero lag. B&O uses a system it calls Near Field Magnetic Induction, as employed in some hearing aids.

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What’s not to love about the E8s? They look good. They sound a notch or two better than the wonderful but sometimes slightly harsh Apple AirPods. The E8s work with devices other than Apple. They stay in place even during vigorous exercise. They seal your ears near perfectly, meaning that on long flights they’re as good as noise cancellers. What’s more, their battery life is, I found, a lot better than the four hours per charge advertised – it’s nearer six.

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