Bang & Olufsen A8 Earphones review
This week, Pocket-lint is gearing up for the ski season with plenty of gadgets to keep you kitted out on the slopes. If you're a skier or boarder and you can't bear to be parted from your tunes, then you'll be needing some earphones that don't fall out at the first sign of any movement. Can B&O's A8 earphones cope with an active lifestyle?
The earphones are designed to fit the indvidual and so have been developed to match the countours and curve of the ear, says the manufacturer. Our review sample was of the black variety, but the earphones are also available in a selection of bright, sporty colours - white, green, orange and yellow. Crafted from anodised aluminium and hard rubber, the earphones certainly feel sturdy, while the sleek and semi-matte metal finish also gives them the look and feel of a premium product. Although the maker doesn't make any claims of the product being waterproof or indestructible in any way, they do feel pretty robust.
Measuring 35 x 59 x 14mm, the earphones are about as compact as they can possibly be, given their design. Each earphone weighs just 8g, while the complete set weighs 22g overall, so you'll barely notice that you're carrying them and they shouldn't overheat your ears or begin to feel heavy after prolonged use.
Several elements can be adjusted to find the perfect fit. Firstly, the curved black bar that sits around the back of the ear is hinged at the top so that you should be able to fit each ear unit fairly closely to your ear and adjust the bar to make sure that they're secure. Secondly, the actual earphone slides up and down so even if your lugholes are little on the large (or small) size then you should be able to find a setting to suit you. Thirdly, the earphone rotates 360 degrees so that you can find an angle that feels comfortable and makes sure that the majority of the sound goes straight in your ear, rather than being leaked out around the sides.
The headphones are easy to fit although the numerous degrees of flexibility inevitably mean that they might take a minute or two of fiddling with the settings to get them just right. Earphones with bars that go around the back of the ear aren't everyone's favourite style (us included), and can be a problem for those wearing glasses, but we found B&O's version to be surprisingly comfortable partly due to how light they were and partly because of the flexibility offered by the adjustable settings.
The 1.2m cord allows for quite a lot of movement in everyday life and will certainly be long enough for some during more strenuous activities such as jogging or biking. However, depending on your height (and the amount of leeway you need) and which pocket you keep you music player in, you might want to get yourself one of B&O's extension cords. While they're ok for riding your bike or a spot of jogging, these probably aren't the ideal earphones for taking on the slopes. Although the design means that the earphones will sit on your ears fairly securely despite a fair bit of movement, anything particularly high-impact is likely to dislodge them. And as the wire is fixed to the headphones, if you catch the cord then it'll pull the earphones from your ears.
If you are planning to take the earphones on a trip away with you then the supplied leather pouch will provide a safe place for them when they're in your bag. You can also get yourself one of B&O's inflight adaptors if you fancy using them on the plane.
According to B&O the earphones "contain many of the same acoustic competences found in our larger loudspeakers, just miniaturised". The audio quality is certainly impressive, with music taking on a confident and rich tone, while the bass performance is satisfyingly strong for a set of earphones. The sonics are even surprisingly stable at higher volumes although the bass does drop off somewhat when the volume is lowered, but that's not unusual with earphones.
The B&O A8 earphones are designed to be robust and flexible and that's certainly the case, thanks to the solid build quality and various adjustable elements. While the earphones are not necessarily designed for sport, they are fairly secure, making them a good option for low-impact activies like bike-riding. The fact that they're small and lightweight is also to their credit.
The £115 price tag is likely to be a stumbling block for many and we can't help feeling that you're paying for the B&O brand name more than anything else. Having said that, the earphones do offer some pretty slick aesthetics as well an impressive audio performance, so if you've got the cash to splash and you like the design then we say, go for it.