As an enthusiast-driven brand, Bang & Olufsen has exceedingly high design standards. Any product that comes off the line has to have that polished, modern B&O look—sleek aluminum, polished black control screens, striking shapes. Maintaining such standards is difficult, but it has benefits. You get to charge a premium, for one (and B&O very much does). Also, strong design creates the perception that the care given to the visual aspect of the product extends into everything else about it. In the case of speakers for example, people see something amazing and automatically think, well, that must sound amazing too.
Which brings us to Bang & Olufsen’s new, $1,495 BeoSound 1 portable wireless speaker. The speaker’s conical, aluminum design jumps out from across the room. From certain angles, the top fifth or so of the speaker appears to float above its base. The BeoSound 1 looks nothing like a speaker, which is a benefit if you want to make a modern visual statement in your home. It’s wireless and battery powered, so you can move it around the room, place on the patio, or even schlep it to your Swiss chalet for slope-side serenades. Music streaming over AirPlay, Bluetooth, and Google Cast is supported, so you can pump tunes in from your phone in whatever way makes sense. Support for Spotify, Deezer, TuneIn, and QPlay (for China) is built in as well.
The distinctive design of the BeoSound 1 really is a showstopper. And its engineers’ attention to design does transfer into the speaker’s usability and functionality. The BeoSound 1 does a lot, and it’s all easy enough to do.
Setup is simple, and afterward, the speaker is easily controlled from B&O’s BeoSound mobile app. Volume can also be manually controlled by rotating the top of the speaker, which is just a big knob. You can also skip songs with a quick finger swipe of the speaker itself. There’s a 40-watt amp for the midrange speaker and a 20-watt amp for the woofer, both powered by a built-in battery that lasts 16 hours if you listen at a normal level (4 hours if you crank it).
While the build and usability of the BeoSound 1 are impressive, the audio quality of the speaker leaves a bit to be desired. The BeoSound 1 can be played loudly—louder than expected. One sign of a truly great speaker is that it retains clarity at high volumes. The BeoSound 1 distorts pretty significantly up the volume curve. This is compounded by the fact that it’s easy to accidentally crank the volume to eleven when using the manual knob control. Even at lower volumes, the sound is simply good enough, with the high end in particular showing signs of the distortion that becomes more apparent as the volume gets louder.
6/10 – If visual design and usability are important to you, the BeoSound 1 can get the job done. Just be careful not to crank it up too loud.