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B&O H3: Bang for buck?

A Review On: Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H3

Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay H3

Rated # 371 in Universal Fit
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Recent Pricing:
Review Details:
Audio Quality
Comfort
Design
Value
Purchased on:
Price paid: $299.00
a_recording
Posted · 1375 Views · 4 Comments

Pros: Warm, pleasant sound, open natural soundstage, fine metal finishing

Cons: Poor quality cable, lacks some definition, relatively pricey

This written review was essentially my script for the following video review, so the information contained in both is more or less identical. If you want a closer look at the H3, watch the video review! :)

 

 

INTRO

 

The H3 was something of an aspirational purchase for me, as ever since I began getting interested in audio I was always fascinated by Bang and Olufsen’s fantastic speaker and telephone designs. In recent years Bang and Olufsen have been releasing products targeted at a younger market under the ‘Beoplay’ name, and the H3 is the company’s first in-ear earphone in this range. It has a recommended retail price of $299 Australian or $249 American dollars, which actually seems faintly reasonable for a company that makes $50,000 dollar televisions.

 

BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN


One of Bang and Olufsen’s signatures is precision metal crafting, and the earpieces of the H3 show this off in style. They look and feel beautiful , with these tiny pin-prick vent holes and detailing which is pretty exquisite. One disappointment though is that the driver capsule appears to be made out of 3 different parts, most of them plastic - B&O didn't craft the nozzle out of a single piece of metal like some other premium earphones (EX1000, Westone ADV Alpha) or even some cheaper earphones (HiFiMan RE-400, JVC FXD-80, Yamaha EPH-100), and as a result this part of the earphone feels less durable and less fancy.


The cable on the H3 is not detachable and comes with a simple 3 button remote for Apple devices. The cable itself is also a bit of a disappointment. It’s a bit thin and not very supple, meaning that it tends to retain memory and develop ugly kinks, especially when you use the nice cable winder case that Bang & Olufsen provides. There are no strain reliefs  at all on the Y-splitter, which is worrying, and the straight angle jack on the other end feels a little insubstantial.

Overall build quality is okay but you would expect better given the brand and the price. One thing to note is that Bang and Olufsen offer a 3 year warranty on the H3, and given that they have retail stores in some major cities around the world, getting good after sales service from B&O would probably be easier than most other brands.

The H3 has a traditional design that can only be worn down. This means cable noise is a minor problem, but not too bad. The H3 is relatively comfortable, but the curved part of the earpieces does sit in the outer ear so depending on your ear shape they may not sit right. With this many vents on the back, you would expect external noise isolation on the H3 to be quite poor - and it is. Forget about using the H3 on a bus or a train, these earphones are made for quiet environments.

SOUND

The one word that describes the sound of the H3 is: natural. The H3 has quite an inoffensive sound, which is slightly warmer than neutral and quite a substantial bass response. It’s balanced and clearly Bang and Olufsen have done their homework with the tuning, because the H3 just sounds pleasant, if a little unexciting. One really nice aspect of the H3 is that they have quite a natural, open soundstage, which is probably due to the extensive venting. They aren’t as open as something like the EX1000 but they strike a nice balance and have more bass than the Sony ear hanger designs, if that’s what you are after.

I have two issues with the sound of the H3 - one is that at times, the treble can get a little sibilant. This sibilance is quite minor though and it can be tamed by replacing the stock H3 tips with Sony Hybrids with a smaller nozzle aperture. The hybrid silicone is also a little more comfortable than the stock tips B&O provides.

The other issue with the H3's sound is that at times the bass can sound a little blunted and uncontrolled, again probably due to the venting. This isn’t to say that it sounds bloated, but at this price point or even cheaper I have heard tighter and more controlled bass.

 The closest earphone i can compare the H3 to is the HiFiMan RE-400, which is also a very neutral earphone that I recommend strongly for $99. The H3 and the RE-400 actually sound very similar, though the H3 has a bit more bass, a bit more sibilance, and a much more open soundstage. At the same time though, the RE-400 sounds a fair bit more cleaner and tighter, especially in the bass.

Now I think the RE-400 is a fantastic earphone and probably underpriced for $99, and that’s why I recommend it so much. In contrast, I think the H3 is a little overpriced for what you get. It’s not a bad sounding earphone, and it’s one of those earphones where I’d be very happy to listen to it for hours without noticing its deficiencies, until I put it up alongside something else and then feel a little disappointed.

 

OVERALL


I can’t really recommend the H3, both because I think the price could be lower, the build quality could be higher, and it’s not an earphone that is tremendously practical to use because of the lack of noise isolation. That said though, I don’t think it’s a terrible earphone and if you want something with some gorgeous metal finishing and a natural, easy to live with sound, you could do a lot worse than the H3.

4 Comments:

Thanks for the very informative review. After reading it, I'm (still!) interested in H3, but after listening to H6 today (just to have an idea of the brand's sound), I'm now very scared about the bass. I'm in no way a bass freak, but H6 wasn't able to render any bass. Apparently, they absolutely need an amp. Mids, highs and clarity was really great though. Which equipment were you using for your H3's review? I hope they are nice directly plugged into a mobile device (iTouch5), since I don't want to use portable IE with amp/DAC etc. I try to collect to most information possible, because spending 210 $CAN on earphones you can't test, nor returning if you don't like them could be a dangerous decision! So, any more info you may have will be welcome!
I've had the H3 for 8 months now, and it has maybe more than 200 hours of playback. In my opinion the sibilance disappeared after 20-30 hours.It is the most comfortable pair of headphones i own( and i am not referring only to the fact that you don't feel them on your ears, but also how easy it is to put them on, and fit them. For me, until now, it is the only pair that justifies it's price ( i also own Klipsch X10, Sony XBA 30ip, Future Sonics Atrio M5 with mg7 pro driver, Grado GR10 , and an open can Allessandro MS1). Some people may prefer the sound signature of the sony, or the Future Sonics, but for me , the H3 has found the perfect balance. I actually went to the B&O store to buy the H6, but i was put down by the weak bass. If you search for analytical listening, you will be better with the Grado GR10 which has a fantastic instrument separation, but every time i put the H3 , i get a huge smile.It is so much fun and enjoyable. I drive them with a iPhone 5s or the Macbook Air, which are good enough, but recently i bought the Audioquest Dragonfly DAC+Amp, and from all my phones, the H3 showed the biggest improvement. the bass is much better controlled, and all instrument are much better defined, but i think like you loose a little soundstage and that airy feeling. Anyway, for portable use, IMO the H3 are perfect. I even used them in the airport, or on the bus, and as long as you don't listen some slow piano sonata, you'll be ok.
I was far from your post in the "Press release" thread about these and H6, but I immediately jumped to it. All was said, and you superbly convinced me! I will still use my cheap (but reliable) DR-EX12ip until I get the H3. I can't wait being shook all night long by these ;)
 
Thanks for your help!
I own a pair of B&O H3 earphones. It's the worst product I've ever used. They work fine for a few months. After that the control unit behaves erratically resulting in a hard to replicate problem. Both B&O in Bangkok as well as in Denmark do not honor their warranty saying if we can't find your issue there is no problem. Testing was done by a kid that fiddled around with the piece a little bit and said its fine. It's an over prized product from a flashy brand that has no brand values. Don't buy it. 
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