BEO play, launched in 2012 by Bang & Olufsen, promised to bring the high-end audio company’s core values of design, performance and quality to the digital generation by focusing on an ultra-convenient experience. More typically, the brand is known for its comprehensive integrated audio and video solutions built for the home.
The H3 in-ear headphones were officially released in early 2013 but have been given a second shot at the limelight. When LG unveiled its new V20 smartphone, it allocated a free pair of H3s to early registrants for the phone. The partnership was a solid marketing choice for B&O to bring the vision for their line of BEO Play products to the mainstream market.
So, convenient luxury targeted at the digital generation? We put it through the Gadget User Test to find out if if delivers on its promise.
First, a disclaimer: In the past, I have found in-ear headphones – particularly the gel tipped variety – pretty uncomfortable. However, I do recognise their practicality for inconspicuous listening at work or extra motivation in the gym. But it was a while before designers took the shape of the earpods into consideration and, by that time, I’d indulged in over-ear headphones and never looked back.
However, the H3 is the perfect example of how far in-ears have come in recent years in terms of comfort. Seeing they were originally released in 2013, nearly 4 years ago, their ergonomic shape was definitely ahead of its time. The off-axis positioning of the earbud contours the funnel of the human ear perfectly and allows for long listening sessions without discomfort – or the worry of them leaving your ears.
The overall arrangement of these wired in-ear headphones is nothing new, featuring a standard 3.5mm jack and basic black wiring splitting evenly at the centre into the left and right ear.
However, Bang & Olufsens’ s knack for the contemporary shines through in the design of the pods: The smoothly finished cut of stainless steel that makes up half of each ear pod’s housing gives the unit a unique look of casual elegance. The 26 finely drilled air vents that surround the B&O logo effortlessly complements the angular shape of the housing.
While being practical, the off-axis positioning of the earbud itself definitely reinforces the playful nature the BEO brand is pursuing. The H3 also features an inline remote for easy volume adjustment and pause play functionality. While a nice addition, one would expect something with more of a premium feel than the basic black plastic.
The sound quality of the H3 is expansive yet inoffensive: best described as well balanced, with no sound over-accentuated or over-suppressed. That makes it an ideal choice for the target market of mainstream consumers, as opposed to the audiophile.
Light-weight steel on a pair of in-ear headphones earns the H3 more than a few points in terms of build quality. Bang & Olufsen is known for its craftsmanship, and the smooth finish on the H3 housings is no exception. Again, the inline control could use more of a premium feel to match the luxury of the pods themselves. After a bit of use, the control lost some click when changing the volume – which was expected, due to the plastic used.
4. Value for money
It’s questionable whether or not the casual listener would find it justifiable to spend around R2 700 on a pair of in-ear headphones. But if you have the money and are looking to up the style and sound quality of your on-the-go listening experience, it’s definitely worth the buy.
BEO Play crafted exactly what it intended: a pair of casual yet elegant-looking in-ear headphones with great sound for the target audience.