Bang & Olufsen Beoplay PC Portal

A few years ago I got my first taste of what Bang & Olufsen’s premium wireless audio sounds like with the Beoplay H9 and I’ve been completely ruined ever since. No wireless headset I’ve tested in the years since has come close to the incredible combination of audio precision, premium build, and stunning design. So imagine my excitement when B&O announced it was entering the gaming space with the exclusive Beoplay portal for Xbox. The company has since expanded the line to include the Beoplay Portal PC/PlayStation so everyone can get the love. I was on the moon.

The gamified version of B&O’s award-winning Bluetooth headset features zero-latency 2.4 GHz wireless, active noise cancellation, Dolby Atmos and is compatible with PC and consoles. Perfect right? Uh, not quite. I’d be more excited except for one problem: the Beoplay Portal PC costs an astronomical $849 AUD. For context, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 cost less than that – assuming you can find one. But if your pockets are deep enough, there’s a lot to like on the Beoplay portal and this is without a doubt one of the best gaming headsets money can buy.

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal Review

One of the reasons for the Portal’s high price tag becomes apparent as soon as you see and feel it in your hand. Designed by Jakob Wagner and the design team at B&O, the portal is absolutely stunning. No other gaming headset comes close. It’s made with premium materials like bamboo fiber headband, polished aluminum frame, and sheep leather. It comes in three color choices – Charcoal Black, Navy, and Gray Mist, which is what I got. Whichever option you choose, be sure you’ll stand out from any crowd, whether it’s a bus stop or a LAN party.

Besides looking gorgeous, the Portal’s premium materials and design make it incredibly comfortable. Weighing just 279g, the earbuds swallow your ears in luxury with just enough pressure to provide excellent passive noise cancellation without hurting. The headband also has a wedge in the middle which reduces pressure on the head. These are helmets you won’t want to take off all day.

The headband uses standard sliding arms for adjustment, but the overall movement is very smooth and yet stiff, so it won’t slide out of place. The ear cups can be rotated 90 degrees to lay flat, allowing them to be stored in a bag. The supplied bag isn’t the best thing in the world and really doesn’t offer anything beyond dust protection. A device this high-end deserves better protection from a hard case.

As a wireless headset, the Portal has all of its controls smartly integrated into both earcups. The outer metal discs are tactile and allow for various swiping and tapping gestures. A unique touch bar on the back of each earbud lets you swipe up or down to adjust volume or ANC. Also, once you’re connected to two devices, the controls change to let you control each device separately. Nice.

Wireless Happiness

Beoplay Portal PC supports dual wireless connection on 2.4 GHz low latency and Bluetooth 5.1 — and it can do it simultaneously. This allows you, for example, to play games on a PC via USB-C while remaining connected to your smartphone to take and receive calls or listen to a podcast. The connection is excellent although I noted that 2.4 GHz has a much shorter range than Bluetooth.

Plus, you can use the included 3.5mm headphone jack to connect to Xbox controllers and legacy devices or even when the Portal runs out of battery. However, at this price, I really don’t see why B&O couldn’t have had one of those dual-mode dongles like the Steelseries Arctis 7X that lets it switch between Xbox and PC/PlayStation.

Now, when you’re talking about dual-mode wireless and active noise cancellation, battery life becomes a very real concern. Luckily, the Portal has decent battery life, averaging around 19 hours when all three features are active at the same time, which isn’t too bad. You can get more out of it by disabling ANC. Also, if you use the headphones with only Bluetooth and ANC connection, you will get an impressive 40 hours. That’s more than any long-haul flight you might find yourself on.

The headphones charge via USB Type-C, which means your phone charger will work just fine, and what’s more, the headphones will still work while charging, which is actually really convenient. This means you don’t have to stop playing just to wait for the headset to charge. And when you need to recharge, allow about 2 hours for the gate to go from flat to full. Again, at this price, I was expecting some form of fast charging that would give me, say, 5 hours of play after only 10 minutes of charging.

Looks like a dream

I loved the tuning that B&O did with the Beoplay H9 and the Portal delivers the same crisp, detailed and punchy sound. By default, the Portal is very flat, not straying into the highs or lows. I was surprised at first, but my previous experience led me straight to the companion app where I could adjust the equalizer to my liking. B&O forgoes traditional EQ sliders for a unique circular quadrant-based system. Simply drag the slider until you find the right sound balance to your liking, then save the profile. Or you can simply choose from one of many presets.

What makes the Portal sound so good are the custom-tuned 40mm electro-dynamic drivers, complete with neodymium magnets. It has fantastic frequency response and some of the cleanest, tightest bass you’ll find on any gaming headset. These cans can hit hard if you want it and you feel the bass more than you hear it. .

In games, expect explosions and gunfire to sound meaty and present. The Portal also captures a wealth of detail with excellent positioning accuracy that will allow you to track enemy footsteps with precision. Even better are open-world games like Dying Light 2 or The Witcher 3 where the worlds sound so rich and alive with details like the rustle of the wind, zombie blends, and dialogue with NPCs. If you like story-based games, you’ll love playing them with the portal. What makes Portal even better is its support for Dolby Atmos which you get for free once the headset is connected to your device.

Listening to music on portals is just a joy. From Snoop Dogg to Johann Bach, music sounds beautifully with rich tonality, powerful bass, and crystal-clear detail. If I was commuting to work, I’d be grateful to listen to some music while the portal’s ANC drowns out the world around me. Comparatively speaking, the portal does not offer the best ANC in the world. That crown still belongs to the Sony WH-1000XM4 that I reviewed last year.

However, the Portal did a pretty good job of drowning out noise from my PC’s fans or dryer. Traffic noise wasn’t really muted as I could still clearly hear cars passing by as I walked along a busy road, which Sony would have easily drowned out. I was also disappointed that the Portals did nothing to dampen the commotion my elementary school children were making a few feet away from me. And I can’t really speak to performance on an airplane, where people mostly want ANC. Portals will at least guarantee you a quiet gaming session, which I guess is the point.

Swipe up on the left Touch Bar and you can enable Transparency Mode which lets you hear your surroundings through the headset. It’s a neat feature that I honestly find redundant because it’s much faster (and easier) to just slide one of the earbuds out to hear what’s going on. For some people there might be a use case for this, but not for me.

Beoplay portal microphone example

Unlike other gaming headsets, the Portal doesn’t have a detachable or retractable microphone. Instead, it uses an array of microphones in the earcups to create a beamforming microphone that’s essentially a virtual equivalent. It sounds good, with fairly accurate capture of my voice, although somewhat distant, as you’d expect with microphones that aren’t close to your mouth. It works great for phone calls, game chat, and Zoom, but don’t expect to live stream with those and get great quality.

Verdict

The B&O Beoplay Portal PC is a dream headset for me and I’m guessing many of you are too. It’s gorgeous to look at and wear all day and it reeks of elitism. From the bus stop to the esports arena, these cans will turn heads. And then there’s the excellent sound performance enhanced by Dolby Atmos and ANC. I love the touch controls, which I generally avoid due to how slick they are. The only challenge is the astronomical price which puts them considerably out of reach for me and many of you as well.

And to be honest, even with everything the portals do right, you can easily get comparative features and performance from a number of much cheaper gaming headsets. The Master & Dynamic MG20, the JBL Quantum 800 or the Steelseries Arctis 9 are a few that come to mind; that cost several hundred dollars less. The other thing to consider is that for most of us, it really isn’t a problem to have two pairs of headphones, one for gaming and one for commuting. Sure, it would be handy to have one headset to rule them all, but only if the price is right and sadly the portal price isn’t.

Bang & Olufsen Beoplay PC Portal

LOVE

Stunning design and craftsmanship

Excellent audio quality

Great battery life

Beamforming mics are pretty good

Versatility with any device

Exceptionally comfortable

Active noise cancellation

DO NOT LIKE

Ridiculously expensive

No Xbox Wireless

No fast charging

9.5

Superb in any case, especially the price


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