The answer to the question of whether the ICEpower technology inside the BeoLab 3's can produce a sound ten times as powerful as the speaker dimensions would otherwise dictate is 'yes'. B&O claims each BeoLab 3 speaker can produce an enormous 125W at both the bass and the tweeter and this is backed up with a wide frequency range of 50-23,000Hz. Inside both speakers are a 4-inch bass driver, 3/4-inch tweeter and two passive bass radiators that function like the tuned ports of a bass-reflex system. B&O also throws around proprietary technology terms like ‘Acoustic Lens Technology’ (ALT) and ‘Adaptive Bass Linearisation’ (ABL).
The result is a pair of speakers which certainly punch far above their weight and project loud, clear and rich sound around even large rooms. There is detail in high frequencies, depth in the mid-range and a warm bass which oozes emotion. But there is a but and that is while the BeoLab 3 speakers are indisputably superb, they are not in a league of their own.
Most noticeably our attention was drawn to Genelec’s similarly diminutive 6010A active speakers. While rated at just 12W each and fitted with a 3/4-inch tweeter and smaller 3-inch bass driver they are certainly a match for the BeoLab 3s, which once again proves wattage has little to do with determining actual real world performance. For those happy with a more conventional look a pair of Monitor Audio BX2 speakers will also give the BeoLab 3s an equally good run for their money.
B&O BeoLab 3 - Value
This brings us back to one of the main considerations of whether to opt for a Bang & Olufsen product in the first place: price. The BeoLab 3 are undoubtedly phenomenal speakers – right up until you add the words “for the money”. BeoLab 3s retail for a stratospheric £2,835 per pair and this comes without anything to stand them on. The BeoLab 3s have round bottoms so they will require either ‘rings’ to sit on a table or shelf (£65 per pair), wall brackets (£140 per pair), tablet stands (£190 per pair) or floor stands (£400 per pair). In addition, there's the additional cost of the Playmaker (£350) to factor in too. B&O does offer a promotional bundle of the BeoLab 3s, plus table rings and the PlayMaker for £2,900 but even that remains more than most of us likely spent on our first car.
By contrast Genelec’s 6010A and Monitor Audio’s BX2 speakers retail for £380 and £250 per pair respectively and each has standard connections and the option of 5.1 arrangement when combined with their dedicated subwoofers (the £390 5040A and £450 BXW10). It is possible to pair the BeoLab 3s with B&O’s dedicated BeoLab 11 sub, but that further input of power and style retails for £1475.
There is no doubt B&O is both a master of design and a true acoustic innovator, and the BeoLab 3 speakers undoubtedly represent a continuation of this legacy. Perhaps more than any B&O product we can remember, however, what haunts these speakers is their price. Yes the BeoLab 3s are among the very best speakers of their size that we have tested, but rival products from the top of the audio pile can be had for eye watering 8-12x less. With this in mind feel free to purchase the BeoLab 3 speakers in the knowledge you are getting a superb product that is beautifully built and styled, but be prepared to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat over the price you paid for them.