You’d be forgiven if you don’t want to spend money on gaming headphones for your desktop, earbuds for your commute, and hi-fi headphones for lounging with some tunes. More specialised equipment has advantages, but it is an expensive and potentially cluttered way of life. But there is another option, and it does not necessitate sacrificing utility or features. The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal headphones are a headset that surprisingly meets, if not exceeds, all of those requirements.
Specifications and Features
The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal headphones are a single headphone with the aptitude as well as attitude of a scout sixer: they’re ready for almost anything. There is a gaming headset that can compete on the desktop, but with a built-in microphone, sleek and compact design, Bluetooth and 2.4G wireless connectivity, as well as active noise-cancelling (ANC), this set of cans is an excellent choice for going out and about. They’ll even connect to your PlayStation 5, saving you money.
Let’s start with the all-important audio quality metric. What good is a portable, multi-purpose headset if it doesn’t sound good? I had high expectations for Bang & Olufsen, and I’m happy to report that they were met by the Portal. I expected some spiky audio with a closed-back design as well as solid noise isolation, but that’s not the case here. They’re surprisingly vibrant and lush, which makes for easy gaming/listening over time.
To come away from a Hunt: Showdown match with the bounty and your life, you need to be able to place footsteps and gunshots, and the Portal absolutely nails what I ask of it. It provides a quick and detailed response that does not interfere with my gameplay, and I’m not afraid to crank up the volume with these headphones because the Portal does not introduce excessive feedback as well as lose quality at higher volumes.
Overall, these cans are excellent for gaming and provide plenty of music. When you put some high-quality audio through the drivers, the Portal performs best with midrange and high tones, which are the most defined and immediately noticeable qualities. However, if you want a punchy bass line to stand out, you should look elsewhere. There is adequate bass response across some of the lower frequencies, but not the depths of bass I require for electronic music or similar applications. You can get a little more kick on the low end by cranking up the volume on the headphones, but it becomes a lot spikier in the mids and highs.
But one thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the cost. At $499/£449, the Portal is priced to compete with both the gaming headset and wireless earbuds it is designed to replace. There’s no denying that’s a hefty price tag, even for a high-end headset, and it’s only slightly mitigated by its capacity to fulfil so many roles in your daily life. Thankfully, it feels as premium as a headset worth this much money should. The interface on the headset is easy to learn, and the wireless to Bluetooth connectivity is wonderful—I can get up by playing music on my desktop, start up Tidal on my phone, as well as continue listening to music without even pressing a button.
In general, I’d say the Portal cans have a great mix of response across the range, with a slight emphasis on the mid to high end rather than the lowest lows. With their plush and comfortable ear pads, these headphones provide adequate noise isolation. However, if you’re vegan, keep in mind that these are made of leather (apparently New Zealand lambskin), which means the Beoplay Portal cans are not vegan-friendly.
However, when it comes to noise isolation, there’s more than just passive padding and baby sheep skin to keep the outside world out and your audio in. For ANC, twin microphones on the earcups’ outer edges, facing away from your head, are used. And this is some truly outstanding ANC. I made several trips on a coach for six hours and thought it would be a good time to put the ANC on these headphones to the test—a good way to block out the shredding, chatting, as well as general road noise from a rattling National Express coach rolling down a British highway. And the Portal cans did exactly that. I couldn’t hear much else but music with these headphones on my head with ANC enabled.
Features like own voice
The features Own Voice as well as Transparency mode are the inverse of this noise-blocking functionality. Own Voice helps feed your own voice back through the gadget while your mic is in use, such as when gaming or chatting on Discord. Transparency mode allows you to hear some of the sounds around you while blocking out repetitive noises. To give an example, while using ANC in transparency mode, you can still hear the doorbell ring. Both transparency mode and Own Voice are controlled by a swipe-action touch slider on the left ear cup. The mode that is active is determined by whether or not the microphone is in use.
In the end, you’re giving up quality for convenience. The Portal is far superior in quality to lower priced headsets with mics built into the ear cups, like the official PS4 headset from back when. It’s simply a different approach than one with a boom arm and a more direct, larger unit, and it has both advantages and disadvantages.
In this case, where this is a one-size-fits-all type of headset, I prefer the compact boomless mic design. That way, I can use this headphone anywhere without having to worry about whether I’ve brought my microphone or looking silly with a mic flipped onto the side of my headphones.
The Portal is the all-purpose headset I want it to be due to its small and comfortable design, a wide range of context- or connection-driven features, and a respectable battery life that will comfortably last a full day of continuous use. It is so convenient to use one headset across all of your devices, and it will easily and stylishly carry out any (reasonable) task you ask of it. With its ability to function as a universal set of cans that you really don’t have to think twice about using with any device, the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal just might be the one and only headset you need for modern life. Although it might not be inexpensive.