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Bang & Olufsen Playmaker review

Gordon Kelly

By

Reviewed:

1 of 7

PlayMaker 1
  • PlayMaker 1
  • PlayMaker 2
  • PlayMaker 3
  • PlayMaker 4
  • app
  • settings
  • PS4 logo

Summary

Our Score:

5

Pros

  • Excellent DLNA & AirPlay Streaming
  • Supports B&O's proprietary audio cables
  • Touch sensitive volume and mute facia controls

Cons

  • Ugly design and cheap build quality
  • No optical or 3.5mm auxilliary outputs
  • No way to switch output destinations
  • Chronically expensive

Key Features

  • AirPlay & DLNA streaming
  • B&O proprietary cable connections
  • Phono Ports
  • Touch sensitive volume controls
  • Manufacturer: Bang & Olufsen
  • Review Price: £349.00

Introduction

Technology is a wondrous thing. It evolves at a breakneck pace, offering more for less every year. Technology fans can find it a full-time job just trying to keep up. Then again there are times when it confuses us and with the Bang & Olufsen Playmaker, this is one of those times…

PlayMaker 1

Bang & Olufsen Playmaker - Design

The head scratching begins the moment you take the Playmaker out the box. Bang & Olufsen is famed for its radical design and swooping curves, but the Playmaker is flat and square. In fact at 157 x 136 x 120mm and 512g, and available solely in white it looks somewhat like a bathroom ceiling extractor fan.

Hands-on, this unflattering comparison continues as the Bang & Olufsen Playmaker is also constructed from cheap moulded plastic with a pop-off back that reveals its connections. It looks like nothing from the current B&O range. All in all, it's the kind of product that's most likely to elicit the reaction: "What on earth is it?"

PlayMaker 4

Bang & Olufsen Playmaker - Features

The answer to this question is quite straightforward: the Playmaker is B&O’s answer to Apple’s AirPort Express – that is to say a wireless streaming device that lets you play music stored on your tablet, smartphone, desktop PC or media server to any connected room in your house. Naturally enough, being a B&O device it also comes with a neat twist: as well as adding AirPlay wireless streaming support to speakers, it also caters for non-Apple owners with the addition of DNLA.

This brings most modern smartphones, laptops and TVs out from the cold along with games consoles. Another neat aspect is that the front of the PlayMaker is touch sensitive with a circular volume dial and a central mute button that help to bring the wow factor common to much B&O kit.

Setup is simple too. Much like AirPort Express, switch on the Bang & Olufsen PlayMaker and it puts out an 802.11n 2.4GHz wireless signal to which you connect and provide the settings of your wireless network. You can input these either via a browser-based settings page, or B&O’s dedicated Android and iOS apps. Once recognised on the network the Bang & Olufsen PlayMaker offers itself as an output to AirPlay and DLNA devices respectively. At this point, you can connect some speakers.

settings

Sadly, it's at this point that we find ourselves scratching our head again. Predictably, B&O fits a pair of its own proprietary speaker ports for the likes of the BeoLab 3 (review coming soon), however there is no standard optical output or 3.5mm auxiliary as on an AirPlay Express device, just phono ports. Furthermore as all B&O speakers are active (meaning they contain a built-in amplifier) the PlayMaker has not been fitted with its own amp meaning the phono ports will only work with other active speakers. Connecting the PlayMaker to a HiFi is one solution, but for regular passive speakers you’ll need to connect the phono cables to a separate amp and the amp to the speakers making it somewhat messy and expensive (more on this later).

ISO2000

March 2, 2013, 6:50 pm

"Chronically expensive"....

Chronic: persisting for a long time or constantly recurring. Often contrasted with acute.

So it has been expensive for a long time?

Guest

June 27, 2013, 4:18 am

I think he meant "comically"

Henrik jespersen

August 1, 2013, 11:32 am

"cannot drive passive speakers without an amp". No, Airport express can't do that either.
"but the PlayMaker is the only way to output audio via its BeoLab 3". WRONG!!! BeoLab 3 Works with all B&O-products and all other non-B&O pre-amp-outputs via an adapter cable.
"It is essentially a crippled AirPort Express that costs more than four times as much." Yes its pricy, but the sonic performance of the analog audio output of the PlayMaker is lightyears better than the, excuse me, crappy performance of the Airport Express.

You should buy the PlayMaker if sound quality matters to you and you need both DLNA and AirPlay support. So, calling it crippled is, to me, highly incomprehensible.

Peter Lassen

September 3, 2013, 7:42 pm

The phono ports are for line in, not line out.

Fernando

September 4, 2013, 6:35 pm

I think the reporter is right, With his salary it is expensive and I don't think this brand was aiming at pleasing his income range. If you like this brand there is a reason to spend on it and if you don't then it is not for you.

Nagraboy

September 17, 2013, 10:23 am

The writer obviously knows very little about B&O speakers and hasn't read the Playmaker manual properly. Beolab 3s can be connected to ANY volume-controlled source - simple buy the required cables which are very cheap.

He also totally fails to read the manual where he would have seen that the Playmaker has Line Inputs (unlike an Apple Airport Express which he fawns over...) which enable connection of pretty much any standard audio device. Instead we get a load of chat about the 'phono outputs for active speakers and no built-in amp'. No-one in their right mind would want an amp built in to this product - it's made to hide away if required - and most would want to choose their own amp anyway.

Seems that the Playmaker has been marked down here because it isn't an all-round solution for everyone. In fact, for it's purpose it is very good. If you have B&O speakers this is a really great product.

Please try to be more objective in future and think about who the product is intended for.

Guest

November 3, 2013, 4:53 am

Quite a stupid comment there Fernando. Admitedly the reporter has missed the point of Playmaker's functionality and intended use, although not all B&O clientele are snobs you know. No need the shoot the guy over his salary range either.

Playmaker is fantastic and B&O's answer for a wireless audio codec system to provide higher quality reproduction- it's a propriety solution for a propriety system and WOW! It makes the world of difference, I've noticed over the year, particularly when playing 320k streams via Spotify, Pandora or FLAC 24-bit /96khz.

It's certainly brought further appreciation into the skills of B&O engineering/design into what they can achieve combining both the aesthetics and sound reproduction, which generally don't go hand in hand.

If you haven't yet acquired the playmaker for your B&O system, I highly recommend you spare change and do so. You'll certainly appreciate the difference it makes in years to come.

David Torres

December 13, 2013, 8:16 pm

I really like how my Playmaker complements my Beolab 5's. I find only 1 flaw—its aesthetic design. Its so ordinary I just hide it out of sight behind the stereo console instead of proudly featuring it on our living room like the rest of our B&O equipment.

michaelpellis

July 2, 2014, 6:04 pm

A fairly uninformative review. The main purpose of this product is to provide wireless audio from a range of devices into (most usually but not exclusively) B&O active speakers. There are a range of devices out there that can do this. I myself am using the Crystal Accoustics BluDAC (It too has it's strengths and limitations, cost=£80).

If one is to compare this with an Airport Express, the issues of most interest to anyone prepared to pay for quality audio reproduction, are the specifications and performance of the DAC. How does it sounds when used with a pair of Beolabs and how does that compare to other wireless DACs?

From this review I doubt any effort was made to assess the sonic performance.

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