These days, earbuds are kind of like a pair of shoes. They’ve got to fit. They have to be my style. They need to come in a color that I like. They need to be comfortable and, goodness knows, they shouldn’t fall off when I walk or run. Lucky for me, the generous folks over at Bang & Olufsen let me review their EarSet 3i this week. These babies are the Italian Leather Oxfords of the earbud world.
Before I tried the EarSet 3i, I found the idea of earbuds having a long list of features to be a bit odd. I mean, they really just go in your ears and play music…right? I am ecstatic to say that I was way off base with this assumption. The Bang & Olufsen EarSet 3i does, in fact, have a lengthy list of features that will blow.your.mind.
- Constructed from Aluminum and Rubber
- Available in Black and White
- Electrect Condenser Microphone
- Intra Concha Earphone
- Frequency Range: 50-20,000 hz
- 3.5mm Mini-Jack
- SUPPORTED PRODUCTS
iPod shuffle (3rd generation and later),
iPod nano (4th generation and later),
iPod classic (120GB, 160GB),
iPod touch (2nd generation and later),
iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4
Noise Cancellation and Getting Rid of the ‘Buzz’
When reviewing any given product, I like to have something to compare it to. For this review, I got out my generic white earbuds that came with my iPhone. As a ‘next step up’ in quality, I also brought out a pair of run-of-the-mill SkullCandy earbuds to compare, as well.
To start, I played the same song from beginning to end through each set of earbuds. I chose a classical piece for this trial because it didn’t have any extreme treble or bass. The even tones and fluidity were able to give me a good idea of how the EarSet 3i fared in outside noise cancellation and clarity, without having my opinion skewed with heavy bass or screechy treble.
After trying out the earbuds that I already owned, I played the song through the EarSet 3i and the difference was absolutely astounding. One of the first things that I immediately noticed about Bang & Olufsen’s earbuds, was that the annoying “buzzing” that usually accompanies the use of earbuds, was completely gone. I even turned the volume up to max just to see if I could get them to produce any kind of back noise, but there was none.
I also compared the three for external noise cancellation. For this test, I had music playing loudly from a stereo in the room while I listened to the classical piece through the earbuds. The iPhone earbuds and the SkullCandy earbuds fared about the same. The classical music, when played loud, cancelled out some of the external sound, but the classical piece was much to loud to listen to comfortably by the time it reached a sound-cancelling level. It didn’t have anything to do with the actual sound cancelling quality of the headphones, but rather the sound level of the music.
Next I tested the EarSet 3i, using the same method. It may sound as though I am exaggerating, but I was incredibly shocked at the sound cancelling ability of the Bang & Olufsen earbuds! I got the volume of the classical piece up to about half of the max volume when I noticed that I could no longer hear the external sound. The cancellation of the external sound didn’t seem to have anything to do with the volume of the music coming through the earbuds, but had more to do with the customized fit of the earbuds themselves. While the EarSet 3i fit my ears perfectly with out any help, Bang & Olufsen had the foresight to include tiny rubber ‘sound funnels’ that compensate for any sound leakage that might occur when the users ear is larger than the earpiece.
A Custom Fit For Everyone
Although it may not sound possible for the same product to fit everyone in a custom way, it most certainly is! For this portion of my review, I did not even need to try on my old earbuds. As a general rule, both the Apple and SkullCandy earbuds have the terrible habit of falling out of my ears when I jog or even walk fast. The combination of a poor fit and jarring movement make for a really annoying run on the tredmill. So much so, that I had stopped using my iPod while I run or jog. The EarSet 3i earbuds are worth purchasing if for no other reason than this: I did a cartwheel in the middle of my living room and they didn’t even budge.
You read it right. I had a full-blown gymnastics session and the EarSet 3i went along for the ride. The reason for the incredible ‘custom fit’ feeling is based solely on Bang & Olufsen’s engineering genius. Instead of just cramming them in your ear and expecting them to stay put, the EarSet 3i is customizable in every way possible.
The behind-the-ear piece of the EarSet 3i fits the wearer just like a pair of glasses. A unique rubberized coating makes the fit comfortable and unobtrusive. This piece pivots and bends to adjust to any wearer’s comfort level. Coming down the side of the ear and extending from the ‘glasses-like’ behind-the-ear portion of the earbuds, is a hydraulic-like pole that allows the actual earpiece to rise and fall according to the wearers ear size. Not only does the earpiece move up and down, it also pivots from side to side, becoming the culmination of a truly custom fit and with a weight of only 8 grams, the wearer will forget they are even there.
The Perfect iPod (or iPhone) Companion
While I would tell anyone that the EarSet 3i is the perfect pair of earbuds no matter what device they are using, I would especially reccomend them to anyone who uses Apple’s iPhone or iPod. Why? Because the EarSet 3i was developed with Apple’s products in mind. They offer a wide range of hands-free features to the iPhone/Pod user such as skipping a song on your playlist or answering or denying a call, all without taking your device out of your pocket. From athlete to businessman, these features are of the most ultimate convenience.
The Bottom Line
What can I say? If you can’t tell by the review, I am in love with the EarSet 3i. I will never be able to use standard earbuds again without daydreaming about the 3i’s custom fit and sound cancelling qualities. I would encourage every professional athlete and hobbyist runner to invest in a pair as you will wonder how you ever survived without them. I am also happy to say that when tested with music featuring heavy bass, there was no grainy buzz; just crystal clear sound that made me wonder if B&O might not mind letting me review a set of car speakers. Bang & Olufsen has truly thought of everything that could possibly be wrong with normal earbuds, and made it right again. Now, off to the treadmill!