Following the release of their Xbox compatible headphones, the Danish audio brand is making its headset more broadly compatible.
While one can easily scoff at the very notion of paying $499, as much as a current-gen console mind you, simply for a headset to use with said console, Danish Bang & Olufsen has always kind of existed in a realm of their own. For one, their design, material selection and quality assurance is pretty much unmatched, and so is their sound, at least to some ears.
But the Bang & Olufsen Portal paved the way towards something other manufacturers have been wanting to do for years, they created a headset which is as desirable to take with you on a daily commute as it for playing Halo Infinite with your friends online on a Friday night. That versatility was, partly, what you paid for, and while that of course is possible with a wide range of cheaper competitors, there's just something about B&O that makes that proposition more tantalising, be it sound quality, comfort or perhaps just as a status symbol. You want to use them, and now you can - in every scenario.
But, with last year's Xbox headset those scenarios were still limited, seeing as it utilised Xbox's proprietary Wireless Protocol. Now though, it's out in a PlayStation-centric version, but that not only ditches aforementioned protocol, but introduces a USB-C dongle. That means it can now pair with a PS4, a PS5, a PC, even a Switch. It also allows for some pretty interesting upgrades.
First off, some of these upgrades will come through a software update to the Xbox Series version too, such as improvements to the already excellent virtual boomer arm for the microphone. They'll even begin bundling in the protective pouch in this most recent production run. But there are some innovations that simply can only come through ditching Xbox's protocol for a more open platform. For instance, you now get a Dual Audio Mode, which allows a direct pair with two units at once, such as a smartphone and a PC. It also allows for much better battery life, up to 19 hours (which actually fits the two times we were able to grind it down), rather than the Xbox variant's 12 hours.
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Other than that, it's all still here. The 40mm Electro-Dynamic drivers are back, so are the comfortable memory foam cushions covered in lambskin, the cowhide covered top brace, and the single piece of milled aluminium on the cups. It still also weighs about 279 grams, making it robust, but not cumbersome to wear. Finally, you still get a Dolby Atmos license, as well as three years worth of warranty.
And the sound continues to be sumptuous, and truly in a different league than most gaming headsets, or even headsets in general. B&O still has a warmth in their tuning, which makes soundscapes seem broader, something which perfectly translates from Frank Ocean to Horizon Forbidden West. While it does not specifically support Sony's 3D Audio, it was kind of hard to notice. Your senses are mostly preoccupied with the active noise-cancellation doing its thing, and the quality of the sound produced.
And if you really want to get into it, there's now more granular control with the touch-based cups, offering up more settings in the accompanying app.
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You still have to be thoroughly in love with the versatility, and the wish to use the Portal everywhere, as your single headset across many activities, including gaming. They very much fulfil that broad role to near perfection, which makes the sky-high price a tad more palatable. We'd still wish they would've gone for more tactile buttons on the side of the cups, seeing as there's currently touch on both the side and surface of each cup currently, but it does work. If you like what B&O is offering here, you'll get the jack-of-all-trades of your dreams. That's for sure.
9 / 10
Great build quality. Better battery life. Broad connectivity. Audio quality is top-notch.