Guys – get your credit cards ready. This Ex is high maintenance!
The Bang and Olufsen Ex aren’t Ex-actly your typical true wireless earbuds at $399.. Let us say that again… $399. Yeh – they Ex-pensive! So, Ex-pect an Ex-tensive review.
🎧 Buy the Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay EX: https://geni.us/BeoPlayEX
🎧 Buy the Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay EQ: https://geni.us/BeoPlayEQ
🎧 Buy the Sony WF-1000XM4: https://geni.us/SonyWF-XM4
🎧 Buy the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds: https://geni.us/BoseQCEarbuds
🎧 Buy the Technics EAH AZ60: https://geni.us/TechnicsAZ60
🎧 Buy the Edifier NeoBuds Pro: https://geni.us/EdifierNeoBudsPro
🎧 Buy the SoundCore Liberty 3 Pro: https://geni.us/Liberty3Pro
🎧 Buy the Nothing Ear (1): https://dhrme.nl/nothing.html
🎧 Buy the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro: https://geni.us/SamsungGalaxyBudsPro
🎧 Buy the Earfun Free Pro 2: https://geni.us/EarFunFreePro2
🎧 Buy the Apple AirPods Pro: https://geni.us/AAPro
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BUILD / DESIGN / COMFORT: Extrinsic Extrusions
We’re gonna start with what Bang and Olufsen’s known for. It’s design. And color us underwhelmed. It’s understated, but so understated that it is subterranean. I mean sure – the aluminum ring with the glass touch surface is nice. Until you touch them. At that point it’s fingerprint land. And this anthracite blue color is cool. But guys – this is still a regular stem-shaped earbud! So it’s pleasant looking, but not exactly mind blowing. The case seems like good ol’ plastic and is very run of the mill. Not very compact, not very eye-catching. But it does have wireless charging. An d it does retain about 20 hours of charge with 6 coming from the buds themselves. Those are the numbers with ANC on. Not a bad number, but not top-of-the line either.
And that glass earbud – it comes with touch controls. Glass works well for touching and we’re pretty happy with the controls the Ex has over us. Besides play-pause and track controls, you can also change volume and toggle between the ANC modes. It also has a different touch control scheme if you’re using just one bud on its own – in that case you’re stuck with play-pause and track controls only! But here’s the thing – you can’t Ex-actly change these controls if you don’t like them. The Ex just doesn’t want you to make any changes. Typical.
When we dig deeper though, it’s clear that Bang and Olufsen have been listening. The EQ were not the most secure fitting buds in our ears. The design also protruded out of the ears quite a bit. Bang and Olufsen’s gone and changed the EX to a stem shaped design and man does it make a difference. You get 4 sizes of silicone tips and one medium sized Comply tips. At this price, we’d expect to get a personal butler to make tips for us, but nope. Just one size of Comply tips. Comfort always depends on individual earholes. We found that about after an hour or so of wearing them, we needed to take a break because of just how well the silicone buds sealed our ears. The buds do sit Ex-tremely well in the ear. We found them to be very secure. And that’s important for one thing – workouts.
At an IP57 rating, these are about as good at resisting dust and water as I am at resisting exercise. They can handle more liquids than the ordinary human body can produce and have a very decent dust resistance too. But here’s the thing – when I’m working out, I want buds that I’m ok with losing in case I’m running near a ravine or something. Don’t Have Ravine Minimization Expectations with these! I would rather lose my phone than these earbuds. It feels like that. Who wants to have one half of a $399 set of earbuds! They won’t sound as good as $200 earbuds, I can tell you that much!
And hey, we know you wanted to hear about the sound. But before we go there, here’s a mid-roll ad. Hey, a guy’s gotta eat.
Ex-perience the Sound Quality
These earbuds… well they sound… perfect? All right, nothing’s perfect. But you know we’re big fans of the dual-driver setup on the Edifier NeoBuds Pro. There are of course problems with those buds, but at about a 100 bucks they are easily our favourite sounding at that price. But the Beoplay Ex – it’s like a slightly warmer version of the Edifier NeoBuds Pro – but with absolutely nothing wrong with it.
Starting with the sub-bass – the Neodymium, 9.2 mm diameter drivers produce a nice rumbly sub bass that does not overpower anything. Very controlled as well. Exactly as you would want sub bass if you’re looking for a relatively balanced sound.
We must note that there is a very small difference between ANC on and off. The ANC on gives you a noticeable punch in the sub bass and a bit of recess in the mids. With ANC enabled, the overall sound is a bit on the warmer side and more bass heavy than I expected. It’s perfectly fine for me since I’m a basshead, but we can imagine audiophiles scoffing at the overbearing nature of the bass here. For them – the non-ANC mode would work better. But you know what – I always test earbuds with classic Billie Eilish to see how the bass performs. You want to feel that oomph but you also want to hear separation between sub-bass and mid-bass as well as the rest of the track. It’s a tricky balance, but the Ex brings it.
When it comes to mids – voices sound exactly as they should, no unnecessary glassy edge. Whereas when the guitarist switches to their single-coil bridge pickup, the deliberate glassy edge on the strings comes into focus in just the right way. The tuning in that sense is just immaculate. All genres sound fantastic and the timbre is realistic.
If anything, the treble is not the star of the show even though it is very clear and accurate. If you need that ear piercing Liberty 3 Pro style treble, you won’t find it here. But the finesse is there, the presentation is nice. Acoustic guitars sound exactly as they should, with no weird resonances or frequencies.
In terms of volume, 80% on Android was fine. But 100% of your Patreon or YouTube membership contributions will go towards supporting our channel. It’s a lot of hard work and gear to test every product that comes our way, so any contributions would make us EX-tatic.
Back to the sound – the curious thing I found is that at low volumes, these earbuds sound a bit more plain. They really shine and open up at slightly higher volumes. So if you’re a low volume listener, you won’t be able to discern too much of what we’ve just said.
But what can you do if you don’t like the sound signature? The Ex doesn’t give you EQ capabilities. Just like the EQ before it. Confusing. We know. It has presets using the listening modes, and they are just… muaah – blows kiss-.
You want unnecessarily high bass? Choose the Sport. You like your teeth being on edge with higher frequencies? Commute works well. Want to turn the bass all the way down, use ‘clear’. What’s wonderful is that all the presets… do something good. They’re useful. They have a clear purpose. And the CD-like listening mode puck may not be to everyone’s taste, but we’ve said before as well that we like it. Usable. And yes before you spec heads start shouting about how this is not LDAC, we think APTX Adaptive is to our ears one of the best codecs – stable with fairly good resolution. Especially when coupled with good drivers.
Active Noise Canceling: Extinguish the noise
Now how well do these EXclude and EXtinguish noise? Well the active noise canceling as it turns out isn’t EXtreme. It does better with lower frequencies than higher ones. The overall sound attenuation isn’t as good as the Bose or Sony. In fact, not even as good as the Airpods Pro or the Edifier NeoBuds Pro. But it’s closer to something like the SoundCore Liberty 3 Pro. Which is to say – the noise cancelling is… fine. There’s an ANC slider between 1 and 3. What is very nice is that with ANC on, the white noise is VERY low compared to some other earbuds we’ve tried.
In terms of wind noise reduction, the ANC and transparency modes aren’t great. We just stuck to the passive seal or the ‘neutral’ mode. And because these earbuds don’t jut out of our ears, we thought they performed quite well in moderately windy conditions. There’s also adaptive ANC in the app. We didn’t feel like it did much though.
The story is the same with transparency. Very low levels of white noise. But overall amplification of sound is not on par with the top dogs like the Samsung, Sonys and the Bose. Even the Nothing Ear(1) is a better bet. In our view, if Bang and Olufsen is charging such a premium price, it needs to come up with its own noise canceling tech to race past the competition and not just use off-the-shelf chipsets like they seem to be doing right now. I mean, you’re getting better performance with the Lypertek Z5 or Soundcore Liberty 3 Pro. The Edifier NeoBuds Pro destroys the Bang and Olufsen for ANC and transparency quantity. Sure there’s more white noise, but come on… at least get up to the 2 year old Airpods Pro, Bang and Olufsen!!
Calls: Ex-press yourself
Now let’s talk about calls. We’ll have samples for you at the end of this video with some of the top competitors and you can hear and judge for yourself.
What was our Ex-perience for phone calls?
Well we would be happy to pick up the EX in quiet or noisy conditions. A quiet environment is hard to get wrong. In the noisy environment before Rohan started talking you could hear almost all the background noise. But the moment he started popping those popsicles you could tell that the noise suppression kicked in and you could hear him quite clearly. You can still tell he’s in a noisy environment, but a short call is very doable. In windy conditions, we wouldn’t prefer to use these buds. They’re ok when Rohan was speaking loudly, but when he started speaking softly it was barely understandable.
Let’s talk vakman controls. They’re good! Apart from being able to mute calls on the buds directly, you do get the basics of answering, hanging up or rejecting a call. You also get volume controls and the ability to toggle between ANC modes. The latter are either full noise canceling, neutral or hearing your own voice. Interestingly, the neutral and ‘own voice’ sounded exactly the same to us. But the noise canceling definitely toned down background noise. Note that this is for you when you’re talking on the phone, it doesn’t affect how the listener hears you. But all in all, an above average set of call controls!
The Bang and Olufsen comes with multi-device and we’re happy to report that it works pretty well. We must especially compliment them for including not only Android Swift pairing, but also freaking Microsoft’s version of quick pairing. I mean who uses Microsoft WIndows? Spoiler alert – we do. And the pairing process with Windows was very smooth. I must say that pairing with Android and MacOS was a bit more fidgety, but hey once it worked we were happy with it. Pause on one device, press play on the other and this Ex does just fine with two partners.
While working with the Mac and Android, the music automatically paused on the Android phone when I got a notification on the Mac. But hitting play resumed the music correctly.
The app by itself is ok. But we’ve got beef with it – you’re forced to sign up for a B&O account to use it. Not cool. It’s not the most feature rich, but in our view does well at just distilling the basics down to its essence. It tries to be very Apple-y by not giving you customization on sound using EQ or touch controls because hey – the Ex always knows better. It does, however, let you make different customizations on sound. As well as basic ANC and transparency strength customizations. We would have loved to see a connections list like the Sennheiser Smart Control app has, but alas – peanut butter.
You also get the bells and whistles of an in-ear sensor to automatically play and pause your music, using either bud on its own and a personal valet. Well not that last one, but you SHOULD get one!
Fixability and Future-proofing: Extended Existance
Does your Ex care about your future? Well we asked but never got an answer. On their website B&O curiously doesn’t have a sustainability report for 2022. But going through the 2020/2021 report we see they’ve made changes to the packaging by reducing the weight and volume to lower their carbon footprint. They also use more paper material in their packaging, allowing buyers to sort their recycling better. They do also stand behind a select number of UNs sustainability development goals.
Comparing the Ex
Moving on – how does the Ex stack up against the other potential partners for your ears?
In many ways the BeoPlay Ex is the rank opposite of the Sony WF-1000 XM4. The Sony sounds fine, but not great. Its ANC and transparency modes are top-notch. Pretty great battery life. A very compact case. A very complete app. The Ex flips that story on its head.
The Ex also doesn’t have any additional ‘smoothing’ in the mids like the Technics AZ60 and the bass performance on the Ex is marginally cleaner and better. So is the grain in overdriven guitars – it isn’t smoothed out to a ‘pleasant’ sound.
The Bose QuietComfort sound pretty good, with some resolution issues in the treble region. They still dominate EVERY OTHER BUD for pure noise cancelling. Almost headphone levels of sound isolation. But that massive case isn’t winning any beauty contests.
What else? The SoundCore Liberty 3 Pro. It’s feature-rich and has a fantastic app. For me the treble on the Liberty 3 Pro is too aggressive. I’ve tried to tame it using the flat preset from SoundCore, but I feel that there’s something unnatural about the treble. And even if I tame it, I found myself moving to different presets for different genres.
Then we have the Edifier NeoBuds Pro. The Edifier NeoBuds Pro is a bit rough around the edges. Sometimes there are connectivity drops. Strange app permissions. Weird artifacting while calling and in transparency mode. But still – great noise cancelling and transparency. Decent at calls. A more v-shaped experience and a more thundering bass that is a little less controlled. Definitely imperfect. But man, even after all this time, we still love these! Still our biggest $100 recommendation.
The closest these come to in terms of sound is the Lypertek Z5 and Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. The Buds Pro has a great airy, treble presentation. And certainly comes very close to the BeoPlay Ex. But the Ex edges it out again. The Samsung of course has the best transparency mode we’ve seen in any true wireless earbud to date.
The Z5 has some slight sibilance issues and lacks the sub-bass thump that the Ex can provide. Also no multi-device. But their ANC and transparency is very comparable and dare I say slightly better than the BeoPlay Ex. And… this may not matter to many, it has the best hinge.
So – what does the EX stand for? Extraordinary and Exclusivity or Exploitive and Extortion?
Well, it’s for the person who wants the best sounding true wireless earbuds and cares about that EXtra last 1% for sound. Or if you’re a Bang & Olufsen fan. That’s it.
But look – here’s the thing. Nothing about these earbuds is ‘BAD’. Sure the ANC and transparency are not best-in-class and you should expect that at this price point, but there are no real glaring mistakes. Maybe the lack of a gaming mode might be something you look for. But other than that it’s not that they skipped an in-ear sensor or that multipoint is missing or the case is super massive. So if you’re the kind of fanperson we just said, you won’t really be disappointed with these buds.
At the end of the day though – you know we could say other things like comfort, water and dust resistance but… you can get that and much better for a quarter of the price. You can buy 4 Liberty 3 Pros or Edifier NeoBuds Pros. Heck you can even buy 2 Airpods Pros or Sony WF-1000 XM4s on discount or 8 Earfun Free Pro 2s… you see where we’re going with this?
So the deal is this – the person buying these buds will buy these buds. For everyone else… there’s Mastercard?
You’ve been wondering if our Ex was worth it and we’ve been DHRME. Namaste! (Oh and watch the video for the call samples!)