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  • Cheryl Tan

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EQ Review: Really Better Than The Bowers & Wilkins PI7?

The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay EQ has been compared to the Bowers & Wilkins PI7 for a while now, so you know right off the bat that the sound quality out of this will definitely be a notch above most other earbuds out there.

Let’s talk design. The EQ originally came in two colours, sand and black, and for the first unit I borrowed, it was in sand and I actually liked it more than the black. There's now a new Nordic Ice colour though, and I love them. The icy silver is beautiful, and on the inside, it’s a very soft lilac/lavender colour on both the earbuds as well as the inside of the case. Very gorgeous. The case itself is metal, and it feels really good in the hand. It’s not hefty per se, but it definitely feels premium. There’s a USB-C port on the rear, although I never used it, opting instead to use wireless charging. The bottom of the case is rubber to allow for wireless charging as well as provide some grip.

The earbuds have the same soft touch coating on them, and the faceplate is a silver metal one, which is the same shade as the case, just slightly less textured. The earbuds though, are pretty bulky, but still relatively comfortable. I could wear them for two to three hours on end without too much discomfort.

You’ll want to download the B&O app for sure, but there aren't actually a lot of features. You get a few presets for EQ, although you don’t get to see actual adjustments, just change between energetic, relaxed, bright or warm and such.

You get battery levels for the individual earbuds, a toggle for ANC and an auto standby option to turn off the earbuds after 15 minutes of inactivity. B&O allows you to choose the colour of your earbuds to make sure the photo in the app matches your earbuds, which is a nice touch. And that’s about it. No touch control customisation or anything like that.

Moving on to touch controls, there aren’t any single taps here to avoid false inputs. A double tap on the left earbud cycles between ANC on, off and transparency. A double tap on the right is for play pause, and a double tap and hold on the left earbud lowers the volume while a double tap and hold on the right raises the volume.

These run on Bluetooth 5.2 thankfully, although I did notice a couple of weird quirks. Notably, the right earbud would occasionally start playing music before the left earbud kicked in, and I did notice the right earbud drained faster than the left, although it’s not by a lot, around 5% or so at the most.

I did also encounter a stutter once, but it was when I was walking in a mall with plenty of interference, so I think connection is still relatively solid.

These support SBC, AAC and aptX, which is really nice.

Battery life is pretty decent, B&O claims 6.5 hours with ANC on and up to 20 hours total with the charging case if the earbuds are playing at a “moderate volume”. Now, that’s really subjective, and the amount of battery life I got out of the earbuds were actually only around 4.5 hours because I found myself playing music at a pretty high volume on the iPhone. More about that later though.

You get IP54 dust and water resistance, which means these will hold up fine in most conditions that you’ll use them in, although I’m not sure you’d want to use them for exercise since they’re actually pretty big.

ANC, though, is actually not all that great. It does help to reduce some rumble during commutes, but I could hear people opposite me on the bus talking, I could hear cars whooshing past me very clearly when walking along streets and it’s just kind of disappointing. Maybe I’ve just been really spoilt by powerful ANC earbuds, but yeah.

As for sound quality, wow. These earbuds sound incredibly dynamic, and they’re pulling out details that I completely forgot about or glossed over in songs. For example, I went back to Ed Sheeran’s Kiss Me and there were parts where, with other earbuds, his humming was more recessed and not quite as forward, but with the EQ, it was right there.

As for bass, there’s definitely a bit more punch here as opposed to previous offerings like the E8.

The midrange has a very good amount of clarity and as mentioned previously, it’s not too recessed, so you still hear instruments and vocals in a more forward position.

Treble reproduction is very accurate, although I would have liked a bit more energy.

Imaging and separation though, was very good. Soundstage is also slightly above average, but don’t expect anything really wide.

Something odd is that Dolby Atmos tracks on Apple Music sound incredibly soft on these. I mean, those tracks already have a propensity to be softer than usual stereo tracks, but it’s on a whole new level with the EQ, I had to raise the volume to almost 80% for it to be at my usual listening level. Stereo tracks were okay at 50%, although I could have gone to 60% without any discomfort and I did find myself doing that frequently because the ANC just wasn’t strong enough to get rid of chatter and the likes.

On Android, it’s definitely slightly better. I found myself listening to music at around 40-50% volume, so yeah, maybe it's just an iPhone thing.

I’ll be honest though, these are pretty pricey. At US$399 or S$629, they’re around the same price as the Bowers & Wilkins PI7. When I tried those out, I thought the ANC on those were already rather lackluster. I didn’t expect the EQ to have around the same level of ANC performance. Perhaps it’s a trade-off for the excellent sonic quality these earbuds offer, but it’s just a bit of a tarnish on a pair of otherwise-sparkling earbuds.

So the question is, are they better than the PI7? In some ways, yes. It certainly feels more premium in the hand, and I think the case and earbuds do look better. But if you’re just looking for the ultimate sound quality, I think the PI7 was more impressive off the bat, although the EQ definitely does better in terms of vocal forwardness. Noise cancelling between the two are pretty much equal, though I’d say the PI7 wins by a hair. It’s really very close though, and as always, I recommend going to a shop to try both of them side by side before making a purchase decision.

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