B&O Beoplay Portal ANC headphone review: For audiophile gamers

Bang & Olufsen—B&O—is about to show the headphone world on finish with the launch of its Beoplay Portal, a high-end noise-cancelling headphone whose meticulous industrial design, pristine audio efficiency, and underlying expertise make it the primary premium headphone that can simply fulfill the audiophile, the street warrior, and the hardcore gamer with a single product.

B&O despatched me a evaluate pattern in time for me to publish this evaluate on the day of the $499 Beoplay Portal’s world debut—and I liked it. However earlier than I get too far forward of myself, let’s see why you would possibly need to put the Beoplay Portal on your headphone quick record.

This evaluate is a part of TechHive’s protection of the very best noise-cancelling headphones, the place you’ll discover opinions of the competitors’s choices, plus a purchaser’s information to the options it’s best to think about when purchasing for the sort of product.

Beautiful industrial design, premium supplies

The Beoplay Portal represents the top of B&O’s legendary industrial design. My evaluate pattern got here in black anthracite, however the Portal can also be obtainable in gray mist and navy.

Lifting the Beoplay Portal out of the field is a sensory-confounding expertise. Your eyes see an aluminum and leather-wrapped headphone that you recognize from expertise ought to have density and weight; however your tactile senses maintain one thing that’s impossibly mild at a mere 282 grams (9.95 ounces).

beoplayportal closeup Bang & Olufsen

The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal headphone pulls double obligation as a gaming headset that’s significantly efficient when used with Microsoft’s Xbox gaming console.

The whole lot concerning the Beoplay Portal screams excessive finish. The highest of the headscarf is roofed in a beautiful, sturdy cowhide, whereas its memory-foam earpads are wrapped in real lambskin. The ear pads are thicker than I’ve seen on different B&O headphones I’ve reviewed, making a deeper cavity on your ears. They’re additionally tapered and supply an additional tight seal throughout your head.

I’ve been constructively vital of previous generations of B&O headphones for being uncomfortable to put on for lengthy listening classes, however that’s not the case right here. B&O wrapped the underside of this headband with a bamboo-fiber textile that’s each sturdy and breathable. Gone are the times when a B&O headphone would trigger me fatigue or ache from the highest of its headband. The Beoplay Portal incorporates a distinctive offset padding to alleviate any stress on the highest of your head. The truth is, if you take a look at the headscarf, you’ll see the offset as a slight V-shaped notch on the headband’s midpoint. I spent hours and hours carrying the Portal—together with falling asleep whereas carrying it—with no discomfort in any way. Kudos to B&O’s design workforce.

The Beoplay Portal’s brushed-aluminum arms develop—no, glide—with a smoothness that I’ve not skilled with some other headphone. It’s pure butter. There’s no clicking, no stuttering of any type. Let the arms go and voila, they lock solidly into place like pure magic.

calf leather headband on bo portal Theo Nicolakis / IDG

Whether or not you employ it for gaming or music listening, the Beoplay Portal is an opulent headset.

The aluminum discs on every ear cup exemplify B&O’s give attention to kind and performance. Gentle appears to bop throughout them; and on nearer inspection, you’ll discover that the sunshine spreads right into a refined coloured gradient. In low mild or gaming environments wealthy with colour LEDs, you’ll be drawn to the eye-catching results the supplies create. B&O instructed me the corporate used a proprietary anodization method it first developed for its Beosound One NY Version loudspeaker.

As with previous-generation B&O headphones, the discs have a purposeful facet too. Faucet twice rapidly on both ear cup to pause and twice once more to play. For those who’re on a name or utilizing the Portal along side Zoom or Groups, tapping twice mutes/unmutes the decision.

Oddly, the Portal doesn’t include any form of carrying case. B&O sometimes accessorizes their headphones with an opulent carrying pouch of some kind, however not right here.

The Portal sports activities Bluetooth 5.1 and multipoint Bluetooth. You may add as much as eight gadgets and have two gadgets paired at a time. Notice that gaming connections take precedence.

gradient disc on bo portal Theo Nicolakis / IDG

The anodized aluminum disc has a refined gradient because of a producing course of that B&O developed.

Contact Bar quantity management

Every ear cup incorporates a vertical Contact Bar that’s (for my part) some of the excellent options of the Portal and is, for now, distinctive to this headphone. As soon as you employ the Contact Bar, you’ll by no means need to return to buttons or gesture-based controls. This vertical bar is mounted flush on the left and proper ear cup, with a small bump on the finish that orients you to the sliders’ boundaries. The fitting slider controls the headphone’s quantity. Slide your finger as much as enhance quantity and right down to lower. The left slider controls the Portal’s adaptive noise cancelling and transparency. Slide up for transparency and down for ANC. If you’ve hit the restrict of both, the headphone will provide you with a definite, light immediate.

Essentially the most sensible half is the fine-tuning B&O has carried out. Not solely does sliding your finger up or down really feel fully pure however the velocity at which the amount will increase or decreases is Goldilocks excellent—and it labored each time. I attempted to see if I might get the Contact Bar to misfire by laying down on a pillow or rubbing my head on a headrest. The Portal would have none of it.

volume control on bo portal Theo Nicolakis / IDG

No buttons right here. The Beoplay Portal incorporates a Contact Bar that easily adjusts the amount as you slide your finger over it. 

Noise cancelling and transparency options

Lively noise cancelling is a contemporary marvel; however when executed unsuitable, it may wreak havoc on a headphone’s sonic efficiency. In my expertise, B&O has by no means had the finest noise cancelling efficiency, however they’ve at all times delivered superior sound because of their tuning. The Portal improves upon the corporate’s ANC efficiency whereas sustaining a excessive bar for audio replica. You received’t hear any overt hiss, and the underwater impact that so many rivals endure from will not be an element right here. My evaluate unit had two energy settings for transparency, and two for adaptive noise cancellation. A B&O consultant instructed me a future firmware replace will enhance this to 5 gradients for every, permitting you to fine-tune every setting to your atmosphere and choice.

With ANC enabled, the Portal supplied a black background from which music burst. I examined this headphone within the presence of noise generated by HVAC methods, boilers, air purifiers, and extra. In every occasion, these cans did an outstanding job of decreasing ambient noise so I might focus my consideration on the music. I didn’t, nevertheless, have a possibility to judge B&O’s new ANC algorithm on an plane. And all that stated, Sony and Bose—in that order—nonetheless do energetic noise cancellation even higher.

The Portal comes with a three.5mm analog cable and a 6-foot USB-C to USB-A cable that does double-duty as a charger and as a digital audio transport for a pc, good machine, or gaming console. I discovered the arduous manner, nevertheless, that you would be able to solely use the Portal as an energetic headphone. If its battery runs out, you’ll be able to’t change to the three.5mm analog jack and use it like a plain ol’ headphone.

lambskin earpads on bo portal Theo Nicolakis / IDG

The contoured lambskin ear pads match completely to the form of your head. 

Constructed with avid gamers in thoughts

Avid gamers—significantly Xbox house owners—will dig the Beoplay Portal as a result of it takes benefit of Microsoft’s protocol for secure, low-latency, uncompressed, wi-fi audio with an Xbox Collection S/X or Xbox One. Plug Microsoft’s $25 Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows 10 into your Home windows 10 laptop and also you’ll get the identical assist on that platform. Must you need to use the headphone with a cellular Android machine, there’s assist for the aptX Adaptive codec through Bluetooth. The AAC and SBC codecs are additionally supported.

Bang & Olufsen has changed some of the ubiquitous options of gaming headsets—the increase mic—with what it calls the “digital increase arm.” As a substitute of mounting a single mic on the tip of a versatile stalk, the Portal makes use of an array of microphones that use directional beamforming expertise to isolate and amplify your voice whereas screening out background noise. Whether or not you’re trash-talking an opponent, making a cellphone name, or taking part in a video convention, your voice will come by way of clear as crystal. And a characteristic known as “Personal Voice” will use the Portal’s mics to pipe your personal voice by way of the headset, eliminating a standard annoyance with headsets of all kinds.

beoplay portal eq settings Bang & Olufsen

B&O’s cellular app options EQ presets for several types of video games in addition to for voice calls and flicks. You can too create your individual and save them.

I did, nevertheless, expertise an occasional anomaly with my iPhone 12 that I couldn’t fairly pin down. When lifting/shifting one of many ear cups off my head and inserting it again once more, individuals on the opposite finish of the decision might not hear me except I broke after which restored the wi-fi connection to my iPhone.

B&O was not in a position to present me with the newest model of its cellular app, which has been up to date with distinctive options for the Beoplay Portal. However I did get a one-on-one briefing as to what you’ll be able to anticipate from the up to date software program. When you pair the Portal to the Bang and Olufsen app, you’ll have the choice to activate certainly one of three gaming DSP modes: Gaming, FPS (first-person shooter), and RPG (role-playing recreation). It was inferred that extra gaming DSP modes will turn out to be obtainable down the street. Within the meantime, you’ll be able to create customized EQ profiles of your individual. In case you’re questioning, the Portal does not characteristic audio head monitoring.

Very good high-end sound

beoplay portal app with dolby atmos Bang & Olufsen

The Beoplay Portal helps Dolby Atmos for immersive film watching.

The Beoplay Portal headphone sounds wonderful. For those who’re a fan of B&Os voicing—a crisp prime finish, a pristine midrange, and a decent backside finish—you’ll expertise it in full right here. I used a mixture of high-res music information and streamed content material through Tidal, all performed by way of my Roon Nucleus media server.

The Beoplay Portal reveled in creating deep, wealthy musical layers that aren’t generally skilled by way of headphones. Going by way of my limitless Rolodex of feminine vocalists: Adele, Alicia Keys, Holly Cole, Norah Jones, P!nk, Sarah McLachlan, and Suzanne Vega to call however a couple of, I at all times heard crisp, clear, and full bodied vocals.

The close to sub-sonic bass strains on Bonnie McKee’s “Hassle,” Sade’s “Soldier of Love,” and Natasha Bedingfeld’s “These Phrases” have been distinctive. B&O’s stability between killing exterior noise and delivering intoxicating musical replica is among the many finest I’ve heard. Switching between varied ANC modes, I might barely discern any impression on the music in any way. In contrast to a few of the competitors, whose ANC will uninteresting the highest finish or muddy the midrange, there was none of that with the Portal.

Conclusion

The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal is a triple-threat wi-fi headphone that everybody can love: The discerning music listener, the street warrior in search of sonic isolation on the go, and the hardcore gamer rocking the newest console or PC hardware. The Portal actually can do all of it: Leisure, rest, and productiveness. However what seals the deal for me is the head-turning design, luxurious really feel, and that killer Contact Bar quantity management.

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