If you’re at all committed to personal audio – both gaming and other media – then you’ll likely be accustomed to juggling between multiple sets of headphones depending on the task at hand.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could just own one set of headphones to meet all your gaming, music, and media demands?
Meet the B&O Beoplay Portal, an outstanding set of gaming cans that could very well be all the headphones you ever need. At £449, you’d certainly hope so.
Everything everywhere all at once
Bang & Olufsen launched its first Beoplay Portal headphones in 2021, but they were restricted to Xbox and Bluetooth compatibility. This second iteration is way more interesting, especially for pocket gamers.
This time every gaming platform (apart from Microsoft consoles) falls within its remit. A bundled USB-C dongle offers low-latency connectivity with your Nintendo Switch, your Steam Deck, your iPad, or your Android device, not to mention your PS5 and your PC/Mac.
Further to that, the Beoplay Portal features Bluetooth connectivity for a more portable-friendly (if higher latency) connection. Perfect for music and media playback on your phone.
What’s more, thanks to new dual-mode multipoint support, you can connect your mobile and your gaming device simultaneously. This means that you can be splatting all-comers in Splatoon 3 with fully immersive audio, and still take calls on your phone without leaving the action. You can also listen to music from your phone while blasting around Thwomp Ruins on Mario Kart 8.
Set-up is plug-and-play. Just plug the 2.4GHz USB-C dongle into your device and switch on the headphones. Download the B&O app and pair the device through there, and you’re in.
Once connected, the B&O app offers fine control over ANC, multiple sound modes (Gaming, Podcast etc), gesture controls and so on.
Design, comfort, and battery life
These are some seriously comfortable gaming headphones. The Beoplay Portal is relatively lightweight at 279g, yet it’s made from premium materials, with an aluminum band and plush leather earpieces. The latter can encompass even larger ears (like mine) nicely, while the padded yet hard-wearing cloth on the headband prevents discomfort on top of your head during long gaming sessions.
They’re gorgeous to look at too, with a sophisticated, low-key appearance that evokes the serious audio-focused headphones from Sony and Bose rather than gaudy gaming brands. This makes the B&O Beoplay Portal both perfect for grown-up gamers and ideal for taking out and about.
Controls are suitably low-key, with a Bluetooth button on the left underside and a power button on the right underside. Volume control is handled by a touch-sensitive bar next to the power button, while there’s a similar touchpad for controlling the ANC/transparency effect on the left.
The gamer in me would have preferred physical dials for these, but at the same time, I was surprised at how intuitive and reliable they were. There’s also double-tap touch control on the earpieces themselves for music playback.
AUX-in and a USB-C port complete the package, and you’ll find a cable for both in the box – the former for traditional analog audio, and the latter for charging the battery.
Speaking of which, you can expect a solid 19 hours of gaming over than USB-C dongle, and a whopping 42 hours on Bluetooth. No complaints in this department.
If I were to have one criticism with Band & Olufsen’s in-box offering, it would be the provision of a cloth case rather than a hard one. These headphones are good enough to travel with, so it’s a shame they don’t get some proper portable protection – especially for the price.
Sound quality and gaming performance
Sound quality is excellent on the B&O Beoplay Portal, which – along with that lightweight and mature design – is what makes it as well suited to portable audio as gaming use.
It supports the standard SBC and AAC codecs for regular streaming, while Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive codec takes care of your high-resolution streaming options.
Active Noise Cancellation, or ANC, is also supported, and you can play with the levels within the B&O app. It’s not up to the standard of, say, the Sony WH–1000XM3 headphones that I use for my daily audio, but it’s still very effective at deadening outside interference.
More useful in many occasions is the inverse ability to let external sound through. This transparency feature is perfect for maintaining immersive gaming audio whilst still being able to listen out for the door or your partner’s voice.
The lack of a boom mic is an interesting one, further driving home the multi-use nature of the headphones. B&O has implemented its own virtual boom arm, which picks up on your voice and reduces external noise using multiple mics and noise cancellation techniques.
It’s not as good at picking up clear speech as a good set of dedicated gaming headphones with a proper mic arm, but it’s plenty good enough for some idle chatter.
The exquisite audio balance more than makes up for this, too. If the game’s got sufficiently decent audio, you’ll be able to pick up on fine directional signals that you might miss with cheaper, mudier, more bass-forward gaming cans.
The B&O Beoplay Portal is the closest thing I’ve seen to a set of headphones that can do everything a modern gamer needs.
They’re great as gaming headphones first and foremost, with a lightweight and comfortable build, exquisitely balanced audio, thoughtful dual-mode connectivity, and a transparency mode that can keep you connected to your surroundings.
That brilliant audio performance, together with a classy and understated design, also makes the Beoplay Portal ideal for personal audio and other media usage.
There’s no getting away from that price tag, which will be prohibitive for many gamers. However, if you do invest in these premium cans, you probably won’t need any others until they give up the ghost several years down the road.