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Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 3 - Performance, Value and Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly


Our Score


Review Price £2,900.00

B&O BeoLab 3 - Performance

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).

BeoLab 3 6

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.

BeoLab 3 2

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.

BeoLab 3 5

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.

B&O BeoLab 3 - Verdict

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.

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March 1, 2013, 5:21 pm

Entertaining and excellent review as always Gordon... it's good that products on this level make it onto TR. However, I think that somewhere along the line you missed out the whole "point" of the product.

It's not so much about providing good sound and convenience for listening to your itunes collection... but more about buying into the B&O "lifestyle"...

David Trotter

March 1, 2013, 5:29 pm

sorry accidentally posted before I was finished..

So as I was saying.. the price is justified by B&0 as they don't consider it as a speaker, but instead think of it as a piece of "art" for those who value taste, style and quality above price.

However, in my opinion, it's for those who have deep pockets and like to show off about it.

Gordon Kelly

March 2, 2013, 3:25 pm

Hi David, I actually thought I spelt that out quite clearly: beautiful design, excellent performance, bonkers pricing and buy it only if you accept you are paying an astronomical premium for style.

That said B&O, while undeniably expensive, isn't always quite so extreme. As I pointed out with the A9 (while make the same style/premium argument): http://www.trustedreviews.com/...

The A9 pulls it off, but the BeoLab 3 is too far out of touch. Ferrari make £150,000-£250,000 cars but should they release one which costs £900,000 without anything different to its usual proposition it becomes fair to balk at the price.

David Trotter

March 4, 2013, 9:50 am

Yes the A9 does seems to offer more for your money! Perhaps because it's a more unusual design and has a lower WAF (wife acceptance factor).

Peter Campbell

March 6, 2013, 7:51 am

Gordon, your article is incorrect when it says the beolab 3 speakers must be used with the B&O Power Link equipped Playmaker. I purchased a set of Beolab 3's and B&O supplied a Power Link to stereo audio cable to my requested length. This means these speakers can be used with any audio source. I in fact run them off an Apple airport express to stream my music collection. Yes they are expensive and yes they do sound incredible but they are not as limited in there compatibility as you report.

Gordon Kelly

March 6, 2013, 9:47 am

Hi Peter I'll investigate this as I was doubled with B&O's PR agency at the the of the review. Incidentally can you let me know how much the cable was?

Peter Campbell

March 6, 2013, 6:18 pm

Gordon, the cable was provided free of charge. I explained that i wanted to use the Beolab 3's with an Apple airport express and they made up the required cable locally in the B&O shop. I should point out that using this cable just provides the audio signal to left and right speakers, it doesn't connect them to a B&O source via "power link"

Ian Grace

March 8, 2013, 7:20 am

Gordon, if I may offer a little advice on the basis of owning morethanAV, a global pre-owned B&O reseller - these speakers can work seamlessly with any third party-amp with a pre-out in LINE mode, can work directly connected to anything with a headphone jack output since they are active, can work with any B&O product that has a Powerlink connection - also worthy of consideration is the residual value. I agree with your main point and that is that the cost is very very high, hence Companies dealing in pre-owned stock such as my own. For any connectivity clarification for B&O products in the future try contacting steve@soundsheavenly.co.uk who I am quite sure will be happy to assist.

Ian Grace

March 8, 2013, 7:35 am

B&O pricing will always be contentious - Beolab 9's for £6500? Beolab 5's £15000? You have to adopt a different mindset when considering the marketplace for B&O products - often these products are put into minimalist apartments or very stylish environments and for the purchaser a speaker that looks like a speaker and sounds like a speaker and is a speaker just won't do! Consider that I use a pair of Anthony Gallo Ref 3.1's which together with a Yamaha aventage RXA 2010 cost about the same as the Beolab 3's...... for some they hit the spot, although many like your review make a fair point that they are very good speakers for their size at an astronomical price. People who buy B&O generally tend not to read reviews and are more interested in the mounting and colour options - if they did the allure of buying a speaker which is overpriced might very well compel them to buy!! How many Genelec pre-owned resellers can you find for example? Would love to hear the 6010A's though.....

Gordon Kelly

April 3, 2013, 9:26 pm

Ah, that makes a significant difference. It's a solution of sorts, but not ideal.

Gordon Kelly

April 11, 2013, 9:46 am

Entirely fair points. That said I do want to shake people who spend this kind of money on speakers and have more interest in the colour options.

We aren't talking Ferraris or Aston Martins, which at least out perform cars a fraction of their price in both performance and build quality/finish. It's branding pure and simple and while the BeoLab 3s are good, we can't raise scores for 'lifestyle'.

Braden Eyre

April 24, 2013, 11:47 pm

Bang & Olufsen makes a power link to RCA cable.
There aren't to many devices without RCA outputs.
Since the beolab 3's are amplified speakers you would also need a volume control.
And there you have it. 2 of the three cons taking care of.
As far as the pricing, you get what you pay for. And looks isn't all that your paying for.
Show me an active speaker thats even close the same size that will put out like the Lab 3.
If it was out there i would own it.


June 4, 2013, 9:23 am

I think you misunderstand. It's a "solution", period. This has all come about in my opinion because of the fact that B&O decided to omit the simple line-in RCA/Phono jack on each of their speakers some years ago. But the fact remains, by using a simple and cheap powerlink to phono jack adapter you *can plug ANYTHING with a line level output into these speakers*. You would, of course, control the volume on the device.

At that point, the only advantage to powerlink would be A). Daisy-chaining to alleviate some wire clutter, and B). agnostic L/R selection that comes with the Powerlink standard. But no other powered speaker would work any differently.

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