B&O EarSet 3i review: Fashionable, well built earphones with clear sound

Bang & Olufsen has built its brand around extremely well constructed products with a signature look — lots of brushed aluminium and glossy black accents. The new B&O EarSet 3i headphones are no different, and their sound quality is of a high standard as well. Electronic music junkies will be disappointed with the relative lack of bass from the EarSet 3i, but we’re guessing that’s a demographic that will baulk at the hefty price tag.

Bang & Olufsen EarSet 3i: Design

The B&O EarSet 3i headphones are very well built. They’re mostly constructed from aluminium, and the rear ear-hooks are finished in a glossy rubber that’s soft and pliable. The headphones’ Y-shape 1m-long cord, which terminates in a four-pole 3.5m headphones jack that supports all recent iPod and iPhone, is connected to the earphones securely — we don’t think there’s any risk of damaging the B&O EarSet 3i by pulling on the cord.

There’s a huge range of adjustment for the B&O EarSet 3i’s earpieces. You can lift the rubber ear-hook through a wide range of motion, as well as adjusting the vertical and horizontal angle the earbuds sit at. Whatever size your ears are, the EarSet 3i should sit without pinching or squeezing. However, the size of the earbuds is something that can’t be changed and we found them quite large. This might prove painful for any small-eared wearers; we recommend you try them before buying if possible.

The EarSet 3i is so named for its compatibility with Apple products like the Apple iPod touch and Apple iPhone 4, which it can control with its in-line remote. The remote is simple — there’s volume up and down buttons and a central multifunction button that works like Apple’s own (tap once to pause, twice to skip past a track, three times to skip back a track, and so on).

Bang & Olufsen EarSet 3i: Sound quality

The B&O EarSet 3i headphones have good sound quality to back up their good looks, but they're light on bass and this means the headphones aren’t as well suited to heavy beat-driven music as other high-end headphones like the Creative Aurvana Air. However, mid-range and treble frequencies are very well handled — we really noticed the pipes in Incubus’s Aqueous Transmission and the richness of the piano section in Sigur Ros’s Saegopur. Even at maximum volume, which is un-listenably loud, the B&O EarSet 3i headphones don’t have any distortion.

The EarSet 3i headphones can tend to sound a little crisp and clinical if no equaliser is applied. In most of our moderate volume listening they benefited from a slight bass boost and mid-range attenuation, which gave them more punch. Doing this doesn’t rob the B&O EarSet 3i of their ability to display plenty of detail in high quality audio — our FLAC and Apple Lossless recordings sounded excellent; detail was not as nuanced as the Sennheiser HD 800, but we were still able to hear delicate background noises in our test Beethoven, Mahler and Schubert tracks. A new favourite, the soundtrack of The Social Network, also sounded great in FLAC.

Bang & Olufsen EarSet 3i: Conclusion

The Bang & Olufsen EarSet 3i is a very well constructed set of earphones with generally good sound quality (although it’s a bit short on bass for our liking). Adjustability is great but the size of the earbuds means comfort should be confirmed before you buy.

Bang & Olufsen EarSet 3i: Specs

  • Intra concha earphone
  • Electro-dynamic loudspeaker
  • Electrect condenser microphone
  • 50 - 20,000 Hz frequency range
  • iPod/iPad supported
  • 1m cord
  • 35 x 59 x 14 mm 23g.
  • Intra concha earphone
  • Electro-dynamic loudspeaker
  • Electrect condenser microphone
  • 50 - 20,000 Hz frequency range
  • iPod/iPad supported
  • 1m cord
  • 35 x 59 x 14 mm 23g.

OUR VERDICT

B&O’s iPhone- and iPod-friendly EarSet 3i earphones look great, are well built and have clear sound. If ‘that B&O look’ is what you’re going for the EarSet 3i earphones are perfect, but they’re a little light on bass and might be uncomfortable for some ear types even after adjustment.

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