After checking through a broad swathe of sports based bluetooth earphones, the time has come to check out what’s going on in the wired realm, and what better way to check than a set of BeoPlay E4 noise cancelling earphones.
Earphones verses Headphones are a personal choice, for me it’s usually earphones – unless I’m travelling, in which case big, over the ear cans are great. At a desk, or on the move however, earphones are for me.
The marketing pitch for the Beoplay E4 earphones is that they’re ‘Premium earphones with hybrid Active Noise Cancellation and Transparency Mode’. Designed by Jakob Wagner, they’re available in a stylish black, and at $380 they certainly fit the bill for premium.
In practice, they’re really good. How good? We’ll need to dive-in a little deeper.
What’s in the Box?
We review a lot of gear here at Ausdroid and occasionally the packaging impresses us – weird I know. When you open the box, the earphones are embedded in a nice foam bed, underneath you’ll find some foam comply ear tips, as well as silicone ear tips in four sizes. The Comply Ear Tips are comfy, but aren’t for me, it was the silicone ones that impressed me more, making for a more secure fit in the ear.
Also included are a flight adapter so you can use them on your next flight, a USB to microUSB cable and a lovely soft carrying pouch with a drawstring that includes a Beoplay branded tag to store everything in.
You’ll also find a user guide for the Beoplay E4, but if you want you can just recycle that and rely on the online user guide you can download as a PDF from the Beoplay support website.
Build Quality and Feel
In terms of what I use, I generally prefer sports based earbuds which are usually rubberised and though they retail around $200 they’re not generally referred to as “Premium”. The Beoplay E4 earphones however just feel premium.
The buds themselves are made of a lightweight, scratch-resistant metal, with a rubberised cable that runs through a control box hanging from the left earphone which is made out of aluminium and rubber. The noise cancelling switch is made out of a lightweight plastic, making it light. Even the 3.5mm adapter is made of a high-quality material.
There’s literally no issue at all with the build-quality on the Beoplay E4.
In terms of ‘earfit’ the word I’m looking for is sublime. The earphones are so comfy in the ear that it’s often easy to forget you have them in. Take a few minutes when you first get the earphones to really try out all the different sizes of eartips, and don’t be afraid to mix and match, your left or right ears may vary in size. Get it right and your listening experience will be better than you can imagine.
The whole package feels premium, but in use there are two problems:
The first is that plastic noise cancelling switch. The switch itself is well made, but it’s still hanging from the end of the cable a few inches from the 3.5mm jack which is fine, even advantageous when you’re at a desk, the short distance means you can plug in that short microUSB-USB cable to charge them, but when you’re out walking though it bounces round knocking the phone or your hand if you carry it, if you put it in your pocket it then hangs outside of the pocket. There’s no clip on the back of the box to clip it somewhere which makes it just awkward.
The second is the control box for pausing/playing audio and controlling volume. As you can see in the user guide, it’s designed for iOS and that means you don’t get the full functionality. Play/Pause works fine, but the volume controls were definitely not working – at least on the Pixel or Xperia XZ Premium I used them on. On a Mac, the volume works, but play/pause doesn’t. Confusing, but that’s the world we live in.
Sound and Noise Cancelling
Bang & Oluffsen are leaders in terms of sound quality and it shines through with the BeoPlay E4. Using 10.8 mm drivers you get a nice, clean sound with a nice balance that’s loud when you want to rock out with a decent bass sound pumping through, but crystal clear mid-range sound when you’re listening to something like a podcast or audiobook where you want to really dial in to what you’re listening to.
It’s surprising that Bang & Oluffsen have managed to build such great quality speakers into these tiny earbuds, and for audio enthusiasts that’s what really counts.
In terms of noise cancelling, it’s pretty good. B&O promise up to 20 hours of active noise cancelling out of that little box – and they deliver, though if you go into a noisy area you’ll find that drops a bit.
While the indicator on the Switch turns red when you get down to 10% battery, what I would prefer is a warning that it was about to run out. The position of the box makes it easy to miss that change in LED status. For future models a voice prompt such as those you get on Bluetooth earphones would be great – just saying.
One thing you get on the Beoplay E4 which impressed me is a ‘Transparency Mode’. Accessed by the switch on the earphones, Transparency Mode lets you switch off whatever you’re listening to and listen to what’s happening around you all without removing the earphones from your ears. I was actually surprised at how much I liked Transparency Mode – it’s damn useful. Noise Cancellation is great, but when those well fitting eartips are in your ears, having the option to flick to transparency mode without removing your earphones is brilliant.
The built-in MicroElectrical-Mechanical System (MEMS) microphone built-in to the control box is great. You get crystal clear sound when talking on the phone…if you still do that these days.
The Beoplay E4 earphones offer phenomenal sound, unparalleled build quality and only two drawbacks – three if you count the $380 price tag. Great quality sound is worth paying for though, as is active noise cancelling – you’ll agree on that once you’ve commuted or travelled on a plane for any length of time and the Beoplay E4 has both of these in spades.
The downsides of being iOS only for controls, and the position of the box with the Noise-Cancelling/Transparency Mode switch are the only things you have to think about, but they’re not deal-breakers.
For me, I loved the Beoplay E4 despite the shortcomings, I even used them at the gym a couple of times, though they’re not sweat resistant so I wouldn’t really recommend that long term.
As I get older, I have come to appreciate the better quality sound that higher-end earphones offer. At this stage, if you’re looking for a treat for your ears then the Beoplay E4 are for you. You can check them out on the Australian Beoplay store website.