The gaming headphones market continues to be saturated with plenty of choices, but that isn’t stopping premium audio companies from dipping their toes into the growing landscape. Bang & Olufsen (B&O), known for its beautifully-sounding speakers and classy aesthetics, is the latest to ride the wave with its gaming-focused Portal series of headphones.
Enter the B&O Beoplay Portal gaming headphones, which offer either Xbox or PlayStation console support, while also boasting PC compatibility. The PlayStation/PC model was used for this review, and actually comes highly recommended for those who aren’t diehard Xbox enthusiasts.
Right out of the box, the device cuts a handsome figure, sporting clean lines, touch-enabled metal plates on the outside of the ear cups, a padded headband, and soft, comfortable ear cups that feel sublime over the ears. It weighs 279 grams, so these headphones don’t sit heavy around your head and offer a comfortable experience instead, accentuated by the bamboo fibre material of the headband, which adds ample relief over periods of long use.
Tap twice on either ear cup, and you’ll be able to play and pause your audio, or mute your microphone while on a call or during gaming sessions. The ANC (Active Noise Cancellation) and Talk-Through modes can be adjusted on the left slider in Bluetooth mode, while the right side allows for volume control. At the bottom are a host of buttons and connectivity options, including a USB-C port, power button, and a 3.5mm audio jack.
The Beoplay Portal isn’t just a good looker, however. When put through its paces, the set of cans performed excellently where sound quality is concerned, offering prominent, finely-tuned bass that didn’t drown out other audio elements. The mids and highs were pronounced without being too overpowering, with the phrase “dynamic balance” repeatedly coming up over the course of the review period.
While designed primarily for gaming with Dolby Atmos, streaming music from an iPhone or Android phone made for a very enjoyable listening experience. In fact, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that these headphones sound richer than Apple’s AirPod Max headphones, and are even capable of besting the Sony WH-100XM4.
The ANC technology also proved to be equally impressive and when turned on, the Beoplay Portal was able to kill most of the surrounding noise, with the Talk-Through mode allowing users to hear all around them without the outside world sounding synthetic. It doesn’t quite beat the AirPod Max in the latter category, but they do hold their own as one of the better ANC solutions out in the market.
Audio immersion is further enhanced with great wireless connectivity. You’ll be able to hook the headphones up to two other devices at the same time, and enjoy low-latency Bluetooth connection with two dongle options: USB-C and USB-A, both of which have been included in the box. Like most headphones nowadays though, the device isn’t standalone, in that the Beoplay Portal relies on the B&O app to realise its potential, and that comes with some slight connection issues at times. Fortunately, Bluetooth connection to various devices was quick and reliable, though there’s always the option to go wired. A USB-C cable and 3.5mm cable have been set aside in the box as well for direct connection, but do note that doing so will drain the headphone’s battery more than Bluetooth does, so B&O recommends the dongle as the choice pick. Should you have to carry it around, a provided premium cloth pouch can be used to protect the cans from scratches, even if it doesn’t do much for drop protection.
And if you’re constantly on the go, battery life would be a concern. Thankfully, the Beoplay Portal is able to last 19 hours with wireless, Bluetooth, and ANC enabled, 42 hours with Bluetooth and ANC activated, and an impressive 60 hours with Bluetooth only. Charging time clocked in to be about two hours from an empty tank to a full one – a claim we can attest to from our usage.
Where the headphones falter slightly is in the microphone category. While B&O’s effort to keep them free of boom mics and microphone attachment as an extra accessory is commendable, its two-mic set-up in each ear cup results in a quieter and unclear voice quality. Putting them in gaming and phone call situations yielded subpar microphone audio, which may be a deal-breaker for gaming enthusiasts who rely on voice chat or participate in conversations on Discord, Slack, and other conference apps. However, it shouldn’t be a problem for those who only use mics sparingly.
The other factor that may hold potential buyers back would be the price. The Beoplay Portal headphones are priced at S$799 (US$499), putting them at a similar price range as the AirPod Max. With a gaming audience, though, this price tag is as much as a PlayStation 5 console, and that’s likely to deter some in the community from getting them. For those who want a great sounding gaming headset, here’s your best bet.
While designed primarily for gamers, the B&O Beoplay Portal headphones impress with their all-in-one capabilities to offer great audio, flexible multipoint connectivity, stellar noise cancellation, other ANC technology, lasting comfort, and exceptional battery life. They come highly recommended for both gaming enthusiasts and non-gamers alike, with the exception of two groups: individuals who rely on and want a solid microphone performance, and those looking for some additional RGB effects to their products.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The Bang and Olufsen Portal Headphones are easily the best sounding and most expensive gaming headphones currently on the market. However, while called a “gaming headphone”, casual listeners who appreciate quality and that iconic B&O sound will be more than satisfied with the Portal.
Aesthetics - 8.5/10
Build Quality - 9/10
Performance - 8.5/10
Value - 7/10
Geek Satisfaction - 9/10