Bang & Olufsen’s long-awaited Xbox headset is finally here, launching as the Beoplay portal earlier this month. Despite B&O’s reputation for high-end audio products, it’s safe to say that there was one thing that caught everyone’s attention immediately: the eye-watering $500 price. That’s right up there with the cost of an Xbox Series X, putting it in a heretofore unheard-of range for a gaming headset.
That separation is by design. Ever since B&O began teasing its partnership with Xbox in 2020, the company made clear that it was aiming to fill a gap in the high-end segment of the best Xbox headsets. It’s also backed up by premium materials and construction, along with B&O’s audio pedigree.
What, exactly, does $500 get you, then? We’ll have a full review coming later from Windows Central headset guru Jez Corden’s perspective. But here’s an early look at our initial impressions of the Beoplay Portal headset for Xbox consoles.
Beoplay Portal: Materials, look, and feel
Immediately taking the Beoplay Portal headphones out of the box, you’ll see and feel what B&O means by premium materials. The headset feels super solid, but incredibly light. Looking around the headset, there aren’t any cut corners or “cheap” feeling materials to be found.
The earcups are made of a soft memory foam covered in extremely supple lambskin. It feels great in your hands, and even better on your head. That touch extends to the headband, which features a leather top with a plush bamboo fiber-covered cushion underneath.
The rest of the headset is made of aluminum that looks and feels great. The outside of the earcups features a metal, touch-enabled panel that handles pausing and playing music over Bluetooth. The bottoms and backs of the earcups are where you’ll find your ports, power button, Xbox Wireless/Bluetooth toggle, and touch controls for volume, active noise cancellation (ANC), and in-game chat mix.
On each side, you’ll also see two small holes cut for the “virtual boom” mic setup.
Overall, I have zero complaints about the look and feel of the Beoplay Portal. For $500, you expect the best of the best and a certain level of comfort, and the Beoplay Portal checks those boxes. When wearing the headset, it’s incredibly light and comfortable with plenty of give in each earcup to avoid any pinching or excessive pressure.
Beoplay Portal: Premium sound
Price tag aside, the B&O name on a headset comes with certain expectations. Namely, the sound quality should be tremendously good. There’s still more testing to do, but B&O appears to have nailed it here in my short time with the Portal headset.
Upon first donning the headset, you’ll notice that the sound feels very flat. That’s a good thing, as it gives you an excellent baseline to start from when adjusting the EQ to your needs. Thankfully, B&O has included several EQ presets for specific settings, ranging from podcasts and music to movies and gaming.
The range of sounds you can get from this headset feels incredibly robust with good separation between highs, mids, and lows. The 40mm speakers doing the work here sound great, giving a great audio experience whether I was dodging the chaos of bullets in Borderlands 3 or listening intently for a killer’s footsteps in Dead by Daylight. The inclusion of Dolby Atmos support is also fantastic to see; there’s nothing like being able to precisely place the direction of enemy fire in Borderlands 3 and other games that support it.
Of course, if you’re not one for presets and want to customize the EQ to your liking, you have all the room in the world to play around here with your own, custom settings.
Beoplay Portal: Mobile app, features & more
One place I didn’t expect to be impressed with the Beoplay Portal was the companion app. You use it to set up the headset, and the process is pretty fast, requiring just a few screens. Once you’re set up, you can dive inside the app at any time to change audio profiles, switch between Xbox and Bluetooth modes, and tweak the volume, ANC, and chat mix settings. It’s an incredibly intuitive experience.
The ear cups already do a fair amount of work in isolating you from outside noise, but the ANC is the cherry on top for intense gaming sessions. It’s not the best ANC I’ve experienced in a set of headphones, but it’s no slouch either. Ambient noise, particularly any droning white noise, was completely eliminated with the ANC on. The only exceptions were sudden, loud noises, which still bled through.
What’s especially nice about the ANC is that you can granularly control how intense it is at any time; it’s not just on or off. You can do this either through a slider in the app, or through the unique touch panel slider on the left earcup. Getting that kind of control over how much noise you’re filtering out isn’t something you get on every set of headphones or headsets.
The volume control on the right earcup works in much the same way. It’s a thin strip that lets you swipe up to increase volume, or down to decrease. Typically, I’ve found these sorts of setups finicky, but B&O seems to have dialed in the feel to a good level here. You always feel like the volume went up or down exactly as much as you intended with each quick swipe.
The ANC slider does double duty in Xbox Wireless mode as your chat mix control. Dialing it all of the way up will give you all voice chat and no game noise, while going all of the way down will do the opposite. Again, sliding your finger across the strip feels as responsive as the volume control.
Finally, there are the gesture controls available by tapping the outside metal panels on the earcups. These are barebones, letting you quickly tap to pause or play music. I didn’t notice any accidental taps registered during my short time with the headset, but I’ll be keeping an eye out as I test them more.
Beoplay Portal: What’s not so good
Despite everything that B&O appears to have done right here, there are some particularly puzzling omissions. They may be deal-breakers for some, while others won’t be bothered. However, if you’re about to drop $500 on a headset, they’re worth keeping in mind.
I was shocked upon opening the box that B&O doesn’t include a travel case with the Beoplay Portal headset. For anything above $300, it’s basically an expectation that you’re going to get a carrying case in the box. For as pathetic as it is, even Apple threw one in with the AirPods Max.
I realize this is a gaming headset that’s likely to spend 90% of its time in a living room. However, this is clearly a headset that was designed to also be taken on the go. The least B&O could have done is thrown in a carrying case to keep them safe.
While it’s great that the headset can connect to both Bluetooth and Xbox Wireless, it can’t really do them both at the same time. Well, it can, but that Bluetooth connection only allows you to tweak settings from the app while you’re in Xbox Wireless mode. So far, I haven’t figured out a way to pull dual-source mixing to, say, take a phone call with game audio still piping through. Given that’s something the $99 official Xbox Wireless Headset can do, it feels odd to be missing here.
That said, the headset is incredibly quick at switching between sources with the press of a button, so at least you won’t be waiting long to jump from one to the other.
Lastly, the mic quality is just okay. It sounds perfectly fine over Xbox voice chat. However, the “virtual boom” setup B&O has used here won’t blow you away.
Beoplay Portal: More to come
The Beoplay Portal definitely feels like it’s in a category of its own, which was clearly the intent here. The materials and construction are far and above what I’ve come to expect from an Xbox headset. Moreover, they sound amazing no matter the genre of game I’ve jumped into so far.
The combination of good looks and solid sound also mean these will make an excellent set of on-the-go headphones. The estimated 24 hours of battery life over Bluetooth should mean you won’t have to constantly top up, too. Just be careful if you’re coming off of a gaming session: Xbox Wireless battery life is estimated at around 12 hours, which roughly lines up with what I’ve achieved so far.
Still, there are some weird omissions and, ultimately, we’re talking $500 here. The price alone will knock the Beoplay Portal out of competition for a lot of people. If you’ve got the spare cash, though, these are definitely intriguing.
Stay tuned to Windows Central for a full, long-term review after we’ve had some more time with the Beoplay Portal. For now, you can currently pick up the Beoplay Portal for Xbox for $500 in Black Anthracite. Navy Brass and Gray Mist colorways are expected to launch in the coming weeks.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal
The Beoplay Portal headset is definitely a premium product, with excellent materials, amazing sound quality, and a fantastic mobile app. It has some puzzling oversights, and that price is hard to swallow. But those looking for the best of the best will be happy here.
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