True wireless earbuds might be one of the biggest things in headphones right now, but we’re yet to see the big players settle on a form-factor that makes sense for everyone.
Sony’s WF-1000X, for example, feature just a single button that allows you to control playback, but leave you without the ability to raise or lower the volume.
Apple’s AirPods have gone even further by featuring a grand total of zero buttons. You control playback and volume entirely through using your voice to speak to Siri, with the only physical control being the ability to pause music by taking a single earbud out of your ear.
B&O’s first true wireless earbuds, the BeoPlay E8, have perhaps the neatest control scheme out of the true wireless earbuds we’ve had a chance to try. Their touch sensitive pads might only be able to understand taps rather than swipes, but with a bit of clever design it handles more or less everything you’d need it to.
Take back control
Here’s how the control scheme works. Each of the earbuds has a touch sensitive panel that you tap or hold to activate various commands.
Getting the hang of the tap was a little bit difficult for us at first (it required a firmer prod then we were initially willing to provide), but pretty soon we’d mastered the amount of pressure needed and we were away.
Tapping the right earbud is your basic play/pause command, while double tapping skips forward a track and holding raises the volume.
Meanwhile, double tapping the left earbud skips backward a track, while holding it down lowers the volume.
Tapping the left earbud a single time puts the Beoplay E8s in ‘transparency mode’ where they take in the sound of the outside world via their microphones and play it through the earbuds.
It’s pretty handy if you need to quickly hear what someone is saying without taking the earbuds out of your ears, which incidentally is perfect for product demos like this.
A special mention should also be made of the charging case. Its capacity is fairly standard (12 hours total with 4 hours held on the earbuds themselves), but the strength of the magnets mean there’s little chance of failing to put the earbuds in properly, as they get firmly held in place. We even tried giving the charging case a good shake while held upside down and the earbuds stayed put.
A standard stereo sound
The earbuds are just as firm when you get them into your ears. They should be more than capable of surviving the bounciest of runs.
If anything we felt like they protruded a little too far into our ear canal, but if you’re a fan of this level of noise isolation then this might be more to your liking.
Get some music playing and the quality won’t disappoint you, but nor will it entirely blow you away.
The sound is generally rich and full, with a nice amount of crispness in the mids and trebles. The bellowing showfloor of IFA is hardly the best place to get a good guage of sound quality, but we’re looking forward to giving the BeoPlay E8s a more thorough run to get a better idea of their capabilities.
With many companies struggling to include the same amount of controls on true wireless earbuds as their over-ear counterparts, its great to see the Beoplay E8s achieving so much with such a small control pad.
The controls feel easy and intuitive to use, the charging case is beautifully functional and simplistic, and the earbuds feel snug and secure in the ears.
Now the only question that remains is sound quality, so we'll be looking forward to getting the headphones in for a more long-term test soon.
- IFA 2017 is Europe's biggest tech show. The TechRadar team is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and hands-on first impressions of new phones, watches and other tech as they're announced.