Updated: Aug 21
This is the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal and it’s the company’s first gaming headphones designed for the Xbox.
Just that sentence alone, makes this quite interesting.
Bang & Olufsen or B&O is probably a name that you’ve heard of if you’re into audio, and even if you’re not, you’ve probably heard of them because they’ve been around for close to a hundred years now. They make high-end audio products for the premium market, ranging from lighter stuff like your earphones or headphones all the way to hefty things like your standing floor speakers or even television speakers.
So that’s B&O in a nutshell and their products do sound fantastic. But even for a premium audio brand like them, these headphones are their first-ever gaming headphones, a segment that they are not really part of.
As these headphones are part of the Designed for Xbox Limited Series, we’re going to compare them to the Xbox Wireless Headset. Hopefully, by the end of this review, you’ll be able to decide for yourself which one you prefer and are willing to spend money on.
With that we start with arguably the single most important point: Price.
Now if you’re just looking for the best gaming headset you can get for your Xbox experience and you don’t want to empty your wallet, the Xbox Wireless Headset is honestly a bargain, especially for what you’re getting out of it. This headset costs S$149.90 or US$99.99. That’s a very agreeable price which most of you would be able to afford and you’re really getting a ton of features out of it, which we’ll touch upon later.
As for the Beoplay Portal, it is definitely very different from most gaming headsets out there. B&O doesn’t even call it a gaming headset, but rather a gaming headphone. Now, it does offer a much better audio experience, a premium audio experience even. But with that, it also comes with a premium price. These headphones cost S$799 or US$499. Essentially five times the price of the Xbox Wireless Headset. To that end, it’s actually also more expensive than the Xbox Series X itself. Just some trivia.
Is it expensive? Obviously, yes. But is it overpriced? Not really, no.
Now for design. If you just glance at the Beoplay Portal, it is a really sweet looking pair of headphones with the quality we’ve come to expect from B&O. It has a leather-wrapped headband with fabric cushioning, brushed aluminium on the adjustable sliders and plush leatherette earcups. It doesn’t look anything like your typical gaming headset but more akin to high-end headphones from the likes of Sony, Sennheiser and of course, from B&O themselves.
Build quality and looks alone, this is definitely far ahead of the Xbox Wireless Headset which is primarily made out of plastic. But that’s not to say that the latter is bad because I do quite like the Xbox Wireless Headset more so than other comparable gaming headsets from brands like Razer or Astro. Despite being a gaming headset, it is still relatively minimalistic yet still retains a little bit of that gaming character. And you can adjust the volume simply by rotating the dials on the earcups. This function? Really nice.
But I do have to also mention that comfort-wise, the Beoplay Portal wins hands down. The main difference is the pressure in which the headband exudes on the top of your head. Due to the design of the cushion on the Beoplay Portal, this is pretty much entirely eliminated. I could wear the Beoplay Portal for hours on end without feeling much fatigue if at all, while on the Xbox Wireless Headset, I would tend to get uncomfortable after about 2 to 3 hours of usage. It also helps that the Beoplay Portal is lighter than the Xbox Wireless Headset, 282 grams against 312 grams, which is about 10% lighter.
Okay, before we get into the audio quality of these two headphones, let’s go through some of the features.
For the Beoplay Portal, there are two primary modes that the headphones can be in at any one point in time. Daily Use or Xbox Mode. In Daily Use Mode, a double tap on either ear cup will play or pause music or accept an incoming call when there’s one. The touch slider on the right ear cup adjusts volume while the one on the left adjusts the balance between Transparency or Own Voice and ANC. In Xbox Mode, a double tap on either ear cup will mute the microphone, while the left touch slider will adjust the balance between chat and game volume instead.
For the Xbox Wireless Headset, it is much simpler. The right earcup adjusts volume while the left earcup adjusts game and chat balance and muting the mic is done through a dedicated button found on the back of the boom mic.
In terms of codecs and connectivity options, the Beoplay Portal has Bluetooth 5.1 and the proprietary Xbox Wireless connection while supporting aptX Adaptive, AAC, SBC and has Dolby Atmos support. The Xbox Wireless Headset uses Bluetooth 4.2 and the proprietary Xbox Wireless connection while supporting only SBC, but it also has support for Dolby Atmos, Windows Sonic and DTS Headphone:X.
Now, both feature USB-C for charging, but the Beoplay Portal has a 3.5mm jack so you can use it wired whereas the Xbox Wireless Headset does not. So you do get about 15 hours of battery life on the Xbox Wireless Headset, while on the Beoplay Portal, you can get about 12 hours of battery life on Xbox Mode with ANC on and about twice that on Bluetooth, also with ANC on.
As for apps, the Beoplay Portal has support via the B&O app on your smartphone which can do a variety of things like switching between EQ profiles, adjusting the ANC and customisation of gestures. For the Xbox Wireless Headset, you’ll mainly be adjusting EQ profiles and power settings via the Xbox Accessories app on the Xbox.
Now, let’s talk about the audio experience.
Both are running 40mm dynamic drivers. Both have a relatively low impedance of 24 and 32 ohms for the Beoplay Portal and Xbox Wireless Headset respectively, and they even have a very similar frequency response with the Beoplay Portal being able to cover an additional 2000 hertz on the high end. While specs on paper seem really similar… they definitely do not perform the same, at all.
The Xbox Wireless Headset is tuned with an emphasis on the bass. This is generally the case for most gaming headsets, as an emphasis on the low end makes things like explosions, gunshots and overall sound effects just shine and perhaps even rumble a little. Depending on the genre, it might even feel a little more immersive. But the downside is that it definitely sacrifices the mids and especially the highs, and is especially evident when just listening to music.
The Beoplay Portal, on the other hand, definitely isn’t bass-heavy. It is tuned much more like higher-end audio products in general, and rightfully so. Now don’t get me wrong, the bass is still there and plenty impactful, but it isn’t overbearing. It definitely also provides much more clarity and detail in the sound, be it for gaming or just listening to music. Everything just feels crisper and it feels like you’re actually listening to how the developers intended it to be. You also do get ANC, so it makes for a great pair of travel headphones.
Overall, it is a much more enjoyable experience, but that’s not to say that the Xbox Wireless Headset is bad. Because it’s not. When using it for games, it still sounds plenty great. It’s only when you use it outside of gaming that you start to really notice the shortcomings. For the Beoplay Portal, however, you can literally use it for anything and pretty much enjoy it. And that’s how B&O designed it in the first place.
The Beoplay Portal is a pair of headphones that can be your daily driver for listening to music but also capable of taking care of your gaming needs, while the Xbox Wireless Headset is mainly targeted towards gaming and gaming only.
And at this point, you might be concerned about the microphone as well, especially since the Beoplay Portal doesn’t have a physical boom mic. Despite that though, there are two microphones on each side and it still sounds pretty good.
But with that said, the Beoplay Portal does have one major flaw, especially for a Designed for Xbox Limited Series. It doesn’t support dual connectivity at the same time.
On the Beoplay Portal, the connection for Bluetooth and the proprietary Xbox Wireless are strictly separate. This means you can’t listen to music or use Discord using your phone or PC while playing on the Xbox. While on the Xbox Wireless Headset, all that I’ve just mentioned is very much possible.
This is quite the oversight for B&O in my opinion, especially when, let’s say, I want to talk to my friends while gaming, who aren’t necessarily playing together with me, or even just listening to some music in general while I’m grinding in an RPG.
So we now come to the question… If you have to choose between these two, which should you go for?
The answer is pretty simple actually. Just two things. Which headset fits your situation and gaming scenario? The second question is, how much are you willing to pay?
If you only want to play games on your Xbox, I can’t recommend the Xbox Wireless Headset enough. Overall it has a decent build quality, looks pretty good for what it is, sounds great for games and has support for dual connectivity, Dolby Atmos and more. Not to mention you’re getting all of that for a reasonable price of S$150 or US$100.
Now if you want to not only play games on your Xbox but also listen to music, watch movies and just straight up have one pair of headphones that can do it all, the Beoplay Portal might be what you want to take a look at. The sound quality is what you can expect from a brand like B&O and it, of course, doesn’t look gamer-ish at all. But again, do note the strict separation of the two connection modes and of course, that price tag.
In all honesty, though, both headphones are equally incredible in their own rights and it’s up to you to see which best fits your scenario.
Content by Soon Kai Hong