I've run T3's best gaming headsets coverage for over half a decade now and, let me tell you, I've had a lot of quality gaming headphones on my ears in that time. I have tested the finest gaming cans from the finest gaming headset makers.
And that's why I've been surprised to find myself massively shook at just how badly I've been ambushed by the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal gaming headset for Xbox, which has left my jaw well and truly on the floor.
Bang & Olufsen for the uninitiated is one of the world's absolute finest audio-visual firms and, as testified in numerous T3 buying guides and reviews, such as the 5-star rated Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage, it is an audio master.
I knew this, but it still didn't stop me from being shocked at just how effortlessly Bang & Olufsen has delivered a simply superb gaming headset here for Xbox gamers. Where at times gaming headset makers make bringing a great sounding, comfortable, feature-packed gaming headset to market seem like drawing blood from a stone, here Bang & Olufsen have made it seem ludicrously simple.
And the crazy thing is that it's done so while also delivering its owner a top-tier set of headphones for listening to music and watching movies and TV shows, too, as thanks to dual-wireless connectivity you can use these with any Bluetooth-enabled device as well as an Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S console.
How has B&O achieved this? From my perspective, it's a mixture of quality tech and the sort of know-how that comes with its pedigree in making top audio products for a very, very long time. I firmly believe it is the latter that elevates the Beoplay Portal.
Highlight Beoplay Portal specs and features include 40mm electro-dynamic drivers with neodymium magnets, Dolby Atmos for Headphones, a virtual boom arm mic, Bluetooth 5.1 and aptXTM Adaptive, as well as a Bang & Olufsen app with customizable sound EQ and presets.
But there's plenty of headsets that deliver that sort of package on paper if truth be told. Where the Beoplay Portal separates itself is in the quality of its tuned acoustics (guess what happens when expert acousticians tune a gaming headset?) and incredibly high level of comfort, the latter largely delivered by its super light weight (282g).
Indeed, the construction on the Portal is just first rate, with lambskin leather ear cushions and a milled aluminium frame combining fantastically to create premium aesthetics and ergonomics. I could literally sit and play games for hours on end without a single drop of discomfort wearing these cans. The Portal is definitely one of those headsets that you forget you're wearing due to its incredibly natural fit.
The audio delivered is incredibly immersive. I was particularly blown away playing Assassin's Creed Valhalla through the Portal. Market scenes where a myriad of different sounds and voices converge did so with fantastic precision not just in terms of clarity but in positioning, too. Combat was audibly visceral and impactful, while the game's impressive epic soundtrack was a sweeping pleasure to listen to.
Simply put, there is great definition across the soundstage and when you partner that with Atmos' enveloping spatial audio and active noise cancellation tech, the Beoplay Portal deliver a very special gaming and listening experience.
The virtual boom is something to write home about, too. Most gaming headsets come with a fixed, extendable or detachable boom mic for communications in games. This often leads to ugly designs or the inability to use the headset for anything other than gaming.
The Beoplay Portal, though, uses beam-forming microphones to isolate and amplify the wearer's voice without needing a physical boom mic at all. This means that the Portal just looks like a pair of high-end headphones, not a gaming headset, and this plays perfectly into its ability to be used just so, with the Portal used on Xbox (or PC with an included dongle) one minute, and then out and about with a mobile phone for example the next.
Almost as if waking from a glorious gaming headset dream, though, the Portal do come with an obvious downside – the price.
The Portal cost $499 / £449 and that means that they not only ring in right at the top end of the gaming headset pricing spectrum, but they cost as much as an Xbox Series X console. Indeed, the Portal out-price even the most expensive gaming headset competition by a notable margin.
That, though, is seemingly the price you have to pay to get the best and, well, if you can afford the Portal then you'd be stupid not to consider it. As, remember, the Portal are both high-end noise cancelling gaming headset and high-end noise-cancelling headphones in one product, and when you look at them like that, the price becomes easier to stomach.
What have I learned from my time so far with the Portal? We definitely need more high-end audio firms making gaming headsets.
I feel that with the Bang & Olufsen Beoplay Portal gaming headsets just levelled up.
- These are the best gaming chairs to sit in while using the Beoplay Portal