Every time a Bang & Olufsen product drops on our desk opening the box is like stepping into another world. It is a world where everything looks great, is styled to within an inch of its life and comes with the proviso that if you need to ask the price you almost certainly can't afford to join the club. With B&O’s BeoLab 3 speakers we can tick off all three of these points as: check, check and CHECK!
Much like the satisfying 'chumph' sound made when you close the door of a luxury car for the first time, the BeoLab 3 is desperate to make a good first impression and assure you that it's money well spent. Shipping exclusively in a 2.0 arrangement the speakers get off to a great start. The styling might be akin to what a bowling ball would look like if it were secretly an alien spy robot, but it's also simultaneously reassuring and radical.
Build quality is fantastic too, with a range of premium materials used. The main body of the speaker is constructed from matt aluminium, as is the silver protruding top (which could easily be confused for the stand), and at 2.6kg it has the reassuring heft of a quality speaker. That said, for their weight the BeoLab 3s are extremely compact. At just 22.3 x 16 x 13.5cm they require a footprint little larger than your average saucer and as such do a great job of being both subtle and eye catching when placed in a room.
In preserving these good looks each BeoLab 3 speaker has the bare minimum of connections, and this is a bit of a snag. Elegantly carved into the back of each speaker is just a figure of eight power socket and B&O’s proprietary Power Link audio cable. Yes, their individual tuning (wall, free standing, corner) and position (right or left) can be set by sliding switches beside these connections, but the absence of a non-proprietary connector means you are tied to using them with B&O’s Power Link-equipped Playmaker (pictured below). Granted the Playmaker enables streaming over AirPlay or DLNA, but they are the only sources it can deliver so forget about feeding the BeoLab 3s from any device which isn’t AirPlay or DLNA compatible.
Of course with such a narrow focus B&O knows the BeoLab 3s need to impress and on paper they certainly do. Like all current generation B&O products, at the heart of the speakers is the company’s famed ‘ICEpower’ amplifier technology. ICEpower has been around for more than a decade, but has only made it into consumer products in recent years. The primary benefit of ICEpower is low-heat production, which means the amplifiers don’t need large cooling spaces inside and so can deliver great power from minimal form factors. In fact, according to B&O a conventional speaker would have to be about "ten times the size of BeoLab 3" to deliver a comparable sound. So does it work?