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Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 8 review

John Archer

By

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

However revolutionary and convenient they might be, iPods and their kin don’t do much to further the cause of awesome hi-fi sound quality.

Sure, audio compression systems have come a long way in recent years, and you can adjust the amount of compression your iPod applies to your favourite tunes depending on how much memory space you’re willing to let a song occupy. But for the most part, iPod music is never going to rival a good SACD, DVD-Audio, or even high quality CD for sheer, eargasmic sound quality.

Not that this has prevented them selling like the most molten of hotcakes, though, as countless people have become accustomed to sacrificing sound quality for convenience. Which is a bit of a bummer if you happen to be a manufacturer of high-end hi-fi gear.

For the likes of Linn, B&O, B&W and Meridian, the way the iPod (and downloaded music) has gradually reduced accepted standards of sound quality must have created a commercial headache quite separate from the one induced by all that compressed music insulting their finely tuned ears.

Eventually, of course, many of the big hi-fi brands have had to conclude that if you can’t beat them, you really need to join them. Meridian’s had its £1,500 F80 and i80 iPod dock system for a while now, B&W’s got its Zeppelin iPod speaker dock systems... jeez, even marvellously bonkers valve-based outfit Fatman has its brilliantly named iTube Fatdock systems.

It was inevitable, then, that eventually even Bang and Olufsen would have to learn to stop worrying and love the iPod, despite the premium brand’s inevitably circumspect approach to new forms of AV technology. What we hadn’t expected, though, is just how far B&O would go to make its first dedicated iPod product truly memorable.

Once you’ve clapped eyes on the BeoSound 8, it’s not a sight you’ll forget in a hurry. Its design (from the ever-imaginative David Lewis) is a true original, even by B&O’s usually 'out there' standards.

Particularly eye-catching - and promising - are its frankly huge speakers. As well as hitting you in the face with their 10in width, they’re also unusually deep round the back by speaker-dock standards, to give their sound room to breathe. The speakers' design also funnels back to create a cone-like shape that both hides the speaker rears from view when you’re looking straight at the system, and avoids internal parallel surfaces so that the sound won’t be distorted by standing waves.

Given, though, that the iPod docking section of the BeoSound 8 is essentially just a slender but sumptuously solid aluminium bar sitting between and just behind the front of the two speakers, the speakers’ depth would seem to represent a pretty major balancing problem for the BeoSound 8. But B&O has ingeniously turned this problem to its advantage by tucking little feet on the rear end of the speakers so that you simply rest the whole system back onto them. This has the added advantage of tilting the BeoSound 8’s front up, further adding to its aesthetic appeal and potentially helping it deliver a more room-filling sound.

If you prefer, you can also mount the unit on the wall - provided you can accommodate the amount it sticks out!

Matt

January 28, 2011, 3:30 pm

Is it me, or does this dock with an iPad in it look like a 'frank and beans'...

eckers

January 28, 2011, 5:41 pm

The lack of Airplay isn't acceptable at this price point

gagagaga

January 28, 2011, 6:36 pm

Is it just me, or does a lot of B&O stuff look a bit, well, 80s?

purephase

January 28, 2011, 9:46 pm

Total miss for me. Think it looks pretty naff (though that obviously a subjective opinion), and sonically I don't think it's up to the Arcam Cube, which is half the price.

James Reckitt

January 28, 2011, 10:12 pm

At least they ship it with a remote, which is more than can be said for their other systems!





Still fabulously drool-worthy though...

Zero 1

January 28, 2011, 10:54 pm

does this thing fly? for this amount of money thats what i expect lol

Hans Gruber

January 29, 2011, 1:28 am

Looks daft to me too. 1980s? Very. "For mash get smash." That's what these cymbal looking things remind me of. Metal headed alien robots laughing inanely.

Frankf9d

January 29, 2011, 7:14 am

@Matt.





Not sure I understand your comment.

racey1979

January 29, 2011, 1:07 pm

Not too long ago you did a review on the Arcam Cube, which you pretty much said was the best iPxxx speaker dock that money can buy. This is around £400 more expensive so does it sound better than the Cube?

Martin Daler

January 30, 2011, 3:10 pm

I'd love to see some sort of blind testing of these devices. Sure, the aesthetics are important, but maybe you could hide the speakers behind a gauze curtain and have some of your colleagues assess the sound quality and, more importantly, say how much they would be prepared to pay.

Tim Sutton

January 30, 2011, 6:40 pm

@Frank





How about 'twig and giggleberries' instead of 'frank and beans', any clearer? :-)

Frankf9d

January 31, 2011, 5:19 am

@Tim Sutton.





Thanks, I wouldn't describe your comment as clearer, but from my point of view, more polite.

Nav Garayal

January 31, 2011, 8:51 pm

How can anyone compare this to the Meridian F80? The F80 is a complete system playing cd/dvd with radio/DAB and ipod dock. There is no comparison. B&O is not true hifi! Always been style over substance. To give it 7 stars for value is extraordinary. Very lazy review

racey1979

January 31, 2011, 11:55 pm

@Nav. Soooo...you have listened to this dock then?

Nav Garayal

February 1, 2011, 2:06 am

i have owned b&o gear in the past and they are massively over priced and underwhelming from an audiophile's perspective. the review concludes that the dock is good value at £900 compared to the £1500 F80 but the F80 is so much more than just an ipod dock. i own an f80 and it is magnificent.my main system is also a meridian driving b&w 805s speakers and there is no b&o system that can compare - as i said substance over style. i have also owned arcam gear in the past and auditioned the rcube (which is also over rated although the inbuilt battery is genius). i also think the zeppelin is too bass boomy. at the end of the day none of these docks are audiophile and its lazy of the reviewer to suggest otherwise. the f80 can now be bought for £1000 and so as an all in one system which includes an ipod dock the f80 cant be beaten.

jetronic63

February 1, 2011, 6:29 pm

@Nav, I dont agree with your view of B&O being style over substance. They offer a different proposition to a lot of manufacturers, pushing the accepted norms of design, build quality and user interface. In terms of substance, I thing the build quality of their products alone could justify their cost. I have a system 5000 from the mid-80s which functions perfectly with the CD player delivering a very refined and fatigue free sound that was very highly praised at the time of its release. These days, speakers such as their Beolab 5s are as much respected for their sound quality as their design. I cant comment on the Beosound 8's sound quality as I haven't listened to one, but personally I dont like its looks having seen one in a dealers window, I will stick with my Zeppelin thanks (even if the bass is a bit boomy !)

mnap1968

August 14, 2011, 5:18 pm

I can't believe anyone could say that this superb piece of equipment doesn't live up to their expectations. I recently went on a shopping spree to find my perfect ipod docking system and came across this b&o sound system. Well all i can say is don't knock it till you've tried it for yourself. Firstly you won't get a better build quality than this or better style.
Having listened to a number of different systems including the zeplin and the rcube it is quite obvious to me that this comes out on top.
Ok the price is a little steep but look what you get. No other docking station i know of will take the ipad.
The build quality out shines all of it's competitors and it's quite obvious this has longevity, some of the others feel like they will just fall to pieces within about 3yrs or so.
Although i will say some do sound almost as good.
To sum up if you are looking for a docking station that will last for longer than the normal flimsy rubbish then this is for you.
Why would you want a big lump of ugly black plastic?

rev franklin

November 30, 2011, 3:36 am

i am now on my 4th Beo8 -- and continously have a SERIOUS static problem when using my CD player connection. call me an old-timer, but i like listening to my vast colection of CDs -- and for whatever reason the Beo8 just cant deliver. the sales reps admit the problem, and keep replacing but wtf, this shouldnt be happening for the grand i dropped for the system. no complaints about the i-pad pod sound quality. i have changed the cables and cd player same problem on certain cds. any advice ?

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