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LG delivers BEO H3 to its ideal audience

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The BEO Play earphones have a new lease on life thanks to a partnership with LG. MARCO LERENA takes them through their paces.

BEO play, launched in 2012 by Bang & Olufsen, promised to bring the high-end audio company’s core values of design, performance and quality to the digital generation by focusing on an ultra-convenient experience. More typically, the brand  is known for its comprehensive integrated audio and video solutions built for the home.

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The H3 in-ear headphones were officially released in early 2013 but have been given a second shot at the limelight. When LG unveiled its new V20 smartphone, it allocated a free pair of H3s to early registrants for the phone. The partnership was a solid marketing choice for B&O to bring the vision for their line of BEO Play products to the mainstream market.

So, convenient luxury targeted at the digital generation? We put it through the Gadget User Test to find out if if delivers on its promise.

1. Comfort 

First, a disclaimer: In the past, I have found in-ear headphones – particularly the gel tipped variety – pretty uncomfortable. However, I do recognise their practicality for inconspicuous listening at work or extra motivation in the gym. But it was a while before designers took the shape of the earpods into consideration and, by that time, I’d indulged in over-ear headphones and never looked back.

However, the H3 is the perfect example of how far in-ears have come in recent years in terms of comfort. Seeing they were originally released in 2013, nearly 4 years ago, their ergonomic shape was definitely ahead of its time. The off-axis positioning of the earbud contours the funnel of the human ear perfectly and allows for long listening sessions without discomfort –  or the worry of them leaving your ears.

2. Design

The overall arrangement of these wired in-ear headphones is nothing new, featuring a standard 3.5mm jack and basic black wiring splitting evenly at the centre into the left and right ear.

However, Bang & Olufsens’ s knack for the contemporary shines through in the design of the pods:  The smoothly finished cut of stainless steel that makes up half of each ear pod’s housing gives the unit a unique look of casual elegance. The 26 finely drilled air vents that surround the B&O logo effortlessly complements the angular shape of the housing.

While being practical, the off-axis positioning of the earbud itself definitely reinforces the playful nature the BEO brand is pursuing. The H3 also features an inline remote for easy volume adjustment and pause play functionality. While a nice addition, one would expect something with more of a premium feel than the basic black plastic.

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3. Quality

The sound quality of the H3 is expansive yet inoffensive: best described as well balanced, with no sound over-accentuated or over-suppressed. That makes it an ideal choice for the target market of mainstream consumers, as opposed to the audiophile.

Light-weight steel on a pair of in-ear headphones earns the H3 more than a few points in terms of build quality. Bang & Olufsen is known for its craftsmanship, and the smooth finish on the H3 housings is no exception. Again, the inline control could use more of a premium feel to match the luxury of the pods themselves. After a bit of use, the control lost some click when changing the volume – which was expected, due to the plastic used.

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4. Value for money

It’s questionable whether or not the casual listener would find it justifiable to spend around R2 700 on a pair of in-ear headphones. But if you have the money and are looking to up the style and sound quality of your on-the-go listening experience, it’s definitely worth the buy.

In conclusion 

BEO Play crafted exactly what it intended: a pair of casual yet elegant-looking in-ear headphones with great sound for the target audience.

Arts and Entertainment

Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist

Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.  

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Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.

The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela.  It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.  

“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time.  We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”

The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba.  It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.  The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.

Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.

“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”

This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.

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Sports streaming takes off

Live streaming of sports is coming of age as a mainstream method of viewing big games, as the latest FIFA World Cup figures from the UK show. Africa isn’t yet at the same level when it comes to the adoption of sports streaming, but usage is clearly moving in the right direction.

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England’s World Cup quarter-final against Sweden was watched by just under 20 million viewers in the UK via BBC One. While this traditional broadcast audience was huge, it was streaming that broke records: the game was the BBC’s most popular online-viewed live programme ever, with 3.8 million views. In Africa, the absolute numbers are lower but the trend towards streaming major sports events on the continent is also well under way.

According to DStv, live streaming of sports dominates the usage figures for its live and recorded TV streaming app, DStv Now. The number of people using the app in June was five times higher than a year ago, with concurrent views peaking during major football and rugby games.

Since the start of the World Cup, average weekday usage of DStv Now is up 60%. The absolute peak in concurrent usage for one event was reached on 26 June, during the Nigeria vs Argentina game. The app’s biggest ever test was on 16 June with both Springbok Rugby and World Cup Football under way at the same time, resulting in concurrent in-app views seven times higher than the peaks seen in June last year.

The World Cup has also been a major reason for new users to download and try out the app. First-time app user volumes have tripled on Android and doubled on iOS since the start of the tournament.

“While we expected live sports streaming to take off, it’s also been pleasing to see that the app is really popular for watching shows on Catch Up,” says MultiChoice South Africa Chief Operating Officer Mark Rayner. “Interestingly, some of the most popular Catch Up shows are local, with Isibaya, Binnelanders, The Queen and The River all getting a significant number of views.”

With respect to app usage, the web and Android apps are the most popular way to watch DStv Now, with Android outpacing iOS by a factor of 2:1.

“We’re continuing to develop DStv Now, with 4k streaming in testing and smart TV and Apple TV apps on their way shortly,” says Rayner. “The other key priority for us is working with the telcos to deliver mobile data propositions that make watching online painless and worry-free for our customers.”

The DStv Now app is free to all 10 million DStv customers in Africa. The app streams DStv live channels as well as supplying an extended Catch Up library. Two separate streams can be watched on different devices simultaneously, and content can also be downloaded to smartphones and tablets. The content available on the app varies according to the DStv package subscribed to.

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