Bang & Olufsen Beosound 1 review: The £995 Bluetooth speaker you’ll want to own
Mention the name Bang & Olufsen and the first thing that springs to my mind are those achingly expensive lifestyle systems from the 1980s – vertically wall-mounted CD players, all finished in piano black and brushed aluminium with smoothly motor-driven tempered glass doors – this was the high-end audio system personified. A long way out of reach for a cash-strapped teenager such as myself.
Step forwards 30-odd years and Bang & Olufsen is still ploughing the same esoteric furrow. The days of the overpriced CD player are long gone in 2016, however, and the company’s trademark product is now the exotic cone-shaped 360-degree speaker; the monolithic Beosound 1 brings that technology to the realm of portable wireless speakers.
Not that Beosound 1 bothers itself with the usual Bluetooth speaker riffraff. Oh no. Its price – £995 no less – and gleaming Shard-like profile set it well apart from the hoi poloi, and ensure only those with more money than sense, or at the very least more money than me, will be able to consider buying one.
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Bang & Olufsen Beosound 1 review: Design and features
So, what do you get for your near-as-dammit thousand pounds? Well, visually, a very attractive, lean and minimalist piece of audio furniture. If your kitchen is casually scattered with Alessia accoutrements, you’ll feel right at home. The Beosound 1 is modern-looking, hi-tech and stylish all in one, and the way its top portion appears almost to float, suspended above the larger base below, lends it a futuristic allure as well.
If it’s minimalist in form, however, it’s far from short on features. On the speaker’s flat black top sits a featureless circular touchpad, used to pause, skip and play your music; surrounding it, forming a part of the outer metal casing, is a heavily damped volume-control ring; and hidden within, there’s support for the full gamut of streaming services and standards.[gallery:2]
Just as you’d hope, there’s Apple AirPlay, Spotify Connect and Google Cast support, plus it’s possible to pair directly via Bluetooth for casual listening. The speaker can be added to Bang & Olufsen’s multiroom speaker system, and you can control it via firm’s BeoMusic app as well, where there’s integrated control over Spotify, Deezer QPlay and TuneIn, and the ability to stream from DLNA-networked music sources.
Inside, a pair of drivers produces your audio – one 1.5in full-range driver in the top part of the speaker firing down at a 360-degree deflector plate, and a 4in bass driver at the very bottom. The two together deliver a frequency response of 35Hz to 24.3kHz, and the 360-degree drivers work well to fill a room, without any sense that the sound is coming from one particular point.
There’s also an integrated rechargeable battery capable of delivering a claimed 16 hours of playback at moderate volume (four hours at maximum), and since it has an integrated power supply, you can hook it up to the mains with any standard figure-of-eight mains cable.
Bang & Olufsen Beosound 1 review: Setup and sound quality
Setup is simple enough if you’re an iPhone or iPad user – simply run through the usual process for AirPlay speakers – and pairing via Bluetooth is effortless. The BeoMusic app is nicely designed and easy enough to use, but it doesn’t work well in landscape orientation, so it’s best installed on an iPhone rather than your iPad Pro.
If have no iOS devices setting it up might prove a little more tricky. While the BeoMusic app is available on the Google Play Store it’s actually still in beta, so I’d recommend testing out your phone with it in the shop first to make sure it actually works. Still, with Google Cast and Spotify Connect both available to Android devices (features that aren’t still being tested), that should only prove a problem if you’re planning on streaming tracks from a network DLNA source.[gallery:1]
That’s a shame, but once you’ve queued up a few of your favourite tracks, the Beosound 1 is a joy to listen to. Just like its appearance, it has a rarefied sound that seems almost to add detail the music you’re listening to. There’s more space, atmosphere, separation and soundstage than any portable Bluetooth speaker I’ve ever heard.
Brad Mehldau’s solo piano rendition of “Blackbird” is reproduced with such subtlety and texture you almost feel you can reach out and rub the soundwaves between your fingers. Bass-heavy electronica gets your foot tapping, and there’s such a wonderful warmth and personality to vocals that to close your eyes is to put yourself right in the studio with the singer.
Bass has weight, authority and control, and yet it too has impressive depth and richness to it. The Beosound 1 might be expensive, but it sure does caress the ears.
Bang & Olufsen Beosound 1 review: Verdict
This is normally the part where I agonise over whether a product is good value for money, whether it justifies a premium price or is better than its budget price tag might indicate. With the Beosound 1 such considerations are moot.
A price tag of £995 for any Bluetooth speaker, no matter how good, is beyond the pale and, while it’s probably the nicest portable speaker I’ve ever listened to, other more traditional setups will deliver more scale and superior clarity for less money.
If you do have the cash to spare, however – perhaps you need a speaker for room 16 at your third home in the Cotswolds – it makes one hell of a statement; a gloriously ostentatious Bluetooth speaker from the doyenne of lifestyle speaker systems. I want one.