The market of iPod speakerdocks is one of the most competitive in the audio market and with a range of products going from only tens of euros to products that would take away your vacation to Turkey. The B&O Beosound 8 is, with its price tag of 845 euros, part of that last category. We of course expect a high end piece of equipment for such a high end price tag. Whether we'd be catching our flight, or getting a Beosound 8, remains to be seen. Read on to see which we chose.
It all started in 1925 as a cooperation between a certain mr Peter Bang and a certain mr Svend Olufsen. They started out by building a radio. Today their company has evolved to a Danish high-end audio and videoproducer: Bang & Olufsen. As producer of 'the better audio equipment', it must be annoying to see (or hear) how the iPod-generation has dragged the norm of acceptable sound quality downwards. Even more so since technology has progressed to make music in pocket size sound excellent. B&O are somewhat late with their speakerdock, for people that love music and their iPod, iPhone or iPad.
The Beosound 8 is a premium speakerdock that catches the eye immediately. The oversized 10 inch speaker housing with a 1.3 liter volume dominate the front view and give a somewhat cumbersome appearance, yet others love it. The area the Beosound really makes an impression in is the details. The brushed aluminium for instance, or the remote control which is a carbon copy of the button layout on the device itself, or the different coloured speakercovers that are available. Simplicity is what it's all about with this B&O.
Specs and features
If you're ever planning on mailing a Beosound 8, make sure you've got a 66.1 x 23.9 x 16.4 cm (26" x 9.4" x 6.4") box, suited to carry 4,25 kgs (9.45lbs). Obviously we don't see any reason for you to mail it. If you are curious, you'll find a 5 inch woofer and 0.75 inch tweeter under each cover, controlled by a class-D amplifier of respectively 70 and 35 Watts. Ecologically minded? If you're playing music the Beosound uses roughly 10W, and when it's idle it only uses 0.4W.
On the back of the device there's a mini-USB to update the software and an RCA input for external sound sources hidden behind a big flap. If you look closely you'll see a small switch which denotes whether the device is in the corner of a room, against a wall or on its own. The switch modifies the bass display slightly to counteract sound wave interference against the walls. This feature is great for people wishing to mount the Beosound to a wall and still keep an optimal sound.
Also worth noting: a 30 pin dock connector. It's completely seperated from the housing, which makes sure there's no trouble connecting your iDevice, in contrast with deeper connectors. One downside of excellent connectors is that they break off quite easily, especially if you use an iPad. They're also quite a bit less stable. Because of this the Beosound 8 has a support you can turn to the front or the back which locks every device - whether it's got a cover or not - in place.
The remote control B&O supplies look very smooth and feels nice. The range is roughly 15 meter, and thanks to LEDs you will know exactly which button you pressed and what's happening. One downside is that you can only change the volume, and pause/skip the songs. You can't scroll through playlists, however we feel this would undo the simplicity of the design. And let's face it: who changes playlist through a remote? You use the screen for something like that.
How does it sound?
In short: rather impressive. When you press the round play-button you hear a nice neutral sound. This is not a boombox designed to blow people away with bass. It's a speaker dock which might take a while for you to appreciate. Listening in a busy display area doesn't do it justice either. You need to take your time, place it in a quiet room, close your eyes and listen to your favourite music. Only then you'll realise the Beosound displays the entire soundspectrum nicely with clear highs, nice mids and decent bass. Very important: the bitrate of your music needs to have a certain treshold. Despite having its own amplifier and circumventing your iDevice's, it doesn't perform miracles on low quality songs. Whenever you play songs with a bitrate of 192kbps, and most certainly 128kbps, you will leave a big part of the Beosound's potential unused.
There are other things to do with the Beosound 8 as well, such as having a party. Open the volume completely and you'll immediately have dancing friends and complaining neighbours. A very nice thing is that the sound never distorts and will always sound balanced (compared to the majority of the competition). The volume coming from the relatively small speakers is plenty to fill a 100m2 room. Don't let this be the main reason to buy a Beosound 8 however, because the device has so much more to offer.
There's AirPlay after all
B&O also has the BeoPlay A8 on offer: the same device, but with AirPlay and detachable dock connector - which adds to the looks. However, you can count on a surcharge of 300 euros. This leads to the BeoPlay A8 being nearly double as expensive as the majority of its competitors, which also have AirPlay. This makes those competitors very interesting all of a sudden...
The B&O Beosound 8 is without doubt one of the best iPod speaker docks on the market. With an eye-catching look, high end finish and quite impressive sound it makes a very good impression. If the lack of AirPlay or the price don't bother you, you'll get the best all-rounder available with the Beosound 8.
+ detailled and natural sound
+ can fill big rooms with sound
+ stylish, even in detail
+ iPad compatible
- limited controls
- AirPlay is 300 euros more