SmartHouse - - FIRST LOOK | B&O - Writ­ten by Fer­gus Hal­l­i­day

While they might have failed to light the world on fire in the way that Ap­ple prob­a­bly hoped they would, the de­but of their Air Pods last year can def­i­nitely be seen as the fir­ing shot in a new re­tail war be­tween wire­less and wired ear­buds. With the lat­ter now be­com­ing both more prac­ti­cal and af­ford­able, the bat­tle is on for tra­di­tional wired earphones to pro­vide a stronger ar­gu­ment to jus­tify them­selves.

Even if, more of­ten than not, that ar­gu­ment is go­ing to boil down to style ver­sus sub­stance, it's still shap­ing up to be an ar­gu­ment that'll drive up in­no­va­tion and gen­er­ate bet­ter op­tions for cus­tomers. The Beo Play E4 is an apt man­i­fes­ta­tion of this idea.

While B&O do have a set of semi-wire­less in-ear head­phones, they've yet to fully cut the cord and de­liver some­thing akin to Sam­sung's Gear Icon X or Jabra's Elite Sport buds. The E4 sees the com­pany make a strong case for why don't need to go down that path in or­der to de­liver a prod­uct that's worth your at­ten­tion and, of course, your hard-earned dol­lars.

De­sign-wise the E4 keep things pretty sim­ple. On the sur­face, there's not a huge amount of aes­thetic dif­fer­ences be­tween the E4 and last year's H3 ANC buds. The noise can­cel­la­tion don­gle in­volved comes in a more an­gu­lar shape but apart from that, the two earphones feel like they come from the same school of thought.

The E4 keeps things sleek and com­pact, with some de­gree for cus­tomiza­tion via a set of al­ter­na­tive ear-tips (four sizes in all). They've even thrown in a set of Com­ply Mem­ory Foam Ear Tips for good mea­sure. The only real down­side here is the weight of the don­gle, which oc­ca­sion­ally tugged the ear­buds out of my ears or the 3.5mm con­nec­tor out of my phone's head­phone jack. All in all, it's a pretty min­i­mal­ist ap­proach to the cat­e­gory that will ei­ther suit you or it won't.

The bot­tom line here is that E4 lever­ages a lot of the same tech­nol­ogy found in B&O's flag­ship H9 wire­less head­phones, specif­i­cally when it comes to noise can­cel­la­tion. In prac­tice, lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ences sound great. The E4 sup­press up to 15dB more lowfre­quency noise than the com­pany's pre­vi­ous ef­forts and fea­ture a trans­parency mode that (when tog­gled) reg­is­ters in­com­ing am­bi­ent noise and mu­sic from the earphones, sep­a­rates the two and gen­er­ates a sig­nal that blocks out the un­wanted noise.

There's a longer tech­ni­cal ex­pla­na­tion for this fea­ture but, ba­si­cally, this fea­ture al­lows the E4 to de­liver au­dio ex­pe­ri­ences that sound al­most as crisp and clear as those you'll find in over-ear head­phones.

A fully charged unit will net you a neat twenty hours of use, which is one key area where the E4 of­fers up an­other clear ad­van­tage over its com­peti­tors.

How­ever, this as­pect of the pack­age is ar­guably bal­anced out by an­other im­por­tant one: price. B&O do sweeten the deal a lit­tle by bundling in a charg­ing ca­ble, a flight adapter and a carry bag. Un­for­tu­nately, at an Aus­tralian price-point of $350, it's still a tricky sell for ear­buds that feel like they'll wear and tear as eas­ily as any other.

When it comes to per­for­mance, the E4 de­liv­ers a solid ex­pe­ri­ence that's easy to rec­om­mend. How­ever, it's def­i­nitely worth weigh­ing up how much the B&O brand is worth to you be­fore buy­ing in. What­ever way you cut it, $350 is a lot of money for old-school wired earphones – even if they do hold up as some of the best sound­ing ear­buds we've ever tuned our ears to­wards.

RAT­ING 7.2/10

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