Anyone that says you only need one pair of headphones is a lying liar who you shouldn't listen to. There are so many needs to be filled, and my needs are more than most.
Enter: the B&O PLAY Earset (RRP AU$449) - a pair of wireless earphones that cradle your ears with articulating hooks.
I didn't have a pair like this yet, and I was so ready for them to fill a need I didn't know I had.
B&O PLAY is a sister company to Bang & Olufsen, and produce premium (and very expensive) consumer audio equipment. The Earset is an evolution of a previous, successful design.
They consist of two earpieces, joined by a short cord, which feels decently thick. In reality, it's not any thicker than a standard charging cable, but because of how it sits across the back of your neck and catches on hair and clothing it can feel more cumbersome.
There is also a metal barrel with three control buttons on the left side. While this feels sleek and premium, it can actually be difficult to discern where the buttons are just by touch. The shelf which joins the metal barrel into the plastic flat feels much like a button bump. It takes a bit of fiddling to be sure you're touching the intended button.
One of the classiest in-line remotes I've ever seen, but it's mildly tricky to discern buttons by touch alone. Photo: Angharad Yeo.
You can get the Earset in black, white, or graphite brown (pictured). The graphite brown is gorgeous, giving ultra classy looking accents to a sleek black device. I cannot in good conscience recommend anyone ever buy white headphones - especially if they have a cable component. In the words of Gizmodo Australia Editor Rae, you're just preordering yellow electronics.
The earpieces have tips that go in your ear and rest somewhat on the outer area of your inner ear. Unlike many other earphones, this placement isn't solely responsible for ensuring the tips don't fall out. Articulating hooks pass up and over your outer ear, cradling the back for a secure fit.
While on or over ear headphones are a fairly universal experience, earphones tend to be much more divisive and subject to one's individual ear. I know people who would rather sit in silence than subject their ear to the wrong kind of earphone.
To talk appropriately about the Earset, we have to speak in strange detail about my ears. With a design like this, your ear's personal likes and dislikes come into play more.
When it comes to earphones, I usually prefer in-ears as they feel more secure and comfortable. Earphones which sit on the outer part of your ear always feel to me like they'll just fall out, so I don't think I could ever bring myself to get a pair of AirPods.
It should be noted that I have extremely, almost uncomfortably, soft ears. The consistency of my ears is akin to a warm gummy lolly, and are so unusual that sometimes at a party I will invite guests to feel my ears if there's enough of a lull in the conversation. They lack the rigidity which so often causes other people to feel pain in their outer ear.
This means that the clip works comfortably for me. My malleable ears easily make way for the stiff hooks, which are made from metal covered in thin rubber, but I would still rather they be made of softer stuff. Someone with harder ears could likely find these painful and unpleasant.
The articulating arm feels solid, made of beautiful aluminium. Movement is smooth and tight, and everything stays where you left it. As an added bonus, it makes a zip sound as you move it up and down. It is the closest to ASMR I believe I will ever get. I love that zipping sound.
Unfortunately, it's not quite as adjustable as I'd like. You can only move the hook up and down from two different points, or side to side. I would love to be able to rotate the hook for a nicer cradle fit.
Unlike my outer ear, my concha (as I am told it is called by a Google search of "ear anatomy") is firmer, much more like the common man, and it takes less kindly to the constant pressing of some earphones.
This was the part of me that got fatigued with the Earset the most quickly. My concha started to ache after perhaps 2 hours, though with 5 hours battery life you won't be in danger of wearing these too long anyway.
There is a thin foam cover for the eartip, but it provides little cushioning. I also wouldn't be surprised if you rip these, as fitting requires much stretching.
The overall fit of the Earset is adequate. With a bit of fiddling, I can usually get it to clasp on securely enough, and can happily listen for a few hours with no issues. They also let ambient sound in so you can hear the outside world.
But with ambient sound in, so often comes earphone sound out. Expect that everyone around you will be able to listen in to all your questionable music choices (Travis Tritt - Where Corn Don't Grow, on repeat. Get on it.)
The Earset boasts "Bang & Olufsen Signature Sound". But here's the kicker - I don't much like this signature sound. Overall I find it too muddy and unbalanced. The bass is rather thin and flubby, the highs are brash instead of sweet, and the mids are overpowering.
I also find the Earset lacks the clarity I desire, sounding a bit like listening from behind a woollen blanket. Some of this can be solved to a degree, with the Beoplay app allowing you to personalise the sound with a basic EQ system. However, I still couldn't get them to wow me.
I've also got a pair of Beoplay H9's, which I feel similar about. It's not that they sound awful - they're perfectly adequate for commuting (when you're not really paying attention to the sound quality). However, I expect a whole lot better from a pair of earphones that are so expensive, and you should too.
Even in my search for headphones for every occasion, I can't find a strong place for these. They're not a solid choice for commuting, plane travel, exercise, covert listening, sleeping, or as an emergency pair - and I bet that's more categories than most people bother seeking headphones for. At best they're small, lightweight, and connect quickly, so I'm happy to keep them in my bag as a wireless emergency pair.
Or just so I can hear the zip sound of the height adjustment.
- Beautiful, refined look. High-quality materials and solid build quality.
- Bang & Olufsen Signature Sound, which I find muddy and lacklustre.
- In-app sound profile adjustment can tweak sound more to your liking, but not enough to make them shine.
- Earphone design can be unyielding and painful, although the hook mechanism is impressively smooth and tight.
- Very, very expensive.