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Bang & Olufsen Playmaker - Performance, Value and Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly



Our Score:


B&O PlayMaker - Performance

Follow the instructions (and/or one of the workarounds) and the PlayMaker performs very well. AirPlay performance is excellent as you would expect for a lossless standard while the two-second response time to music control is as low as we have seen from the standard. Quality will depend entirely on the bitrate of your source files and the performance of your speakers, with the PlayMaker providing no bottleneck.

PlayMaker 2

DNLA requires specific codec support with Flac lossless streaming available, though MP3, AAC and WMA are restricted to 320k-bit this is unlikely to be detrimental to anything but the most high-end of speaker setups. Lag time is entirely dependent on the speed of your network and typically, like AirPlay, no more than a few seconds however the absence of 5GHz support in its 802.11n wireless streaming is disappointing considering both 2.4GHz and 5GHz are offered by AirPort Express. Unlike AirPort Express the PlayMaker also cannot act as a wireless signal extender and so does not boost wireless reception around the home from wherever it is positioned.


There is a further complication. While the PlayMaker has both B&O’s proprietary connectivity and phono ports there is no way to switch sources and the B&O cables always override, so the PlayMaker is purely designed for one set of speakers.

B&O PlayMaker - Value

All of which brings us to a key factor, price. While the PlayMaker offers the crucial addition of DLNA, compared to the £79.99 AirPort Express it's twice the size and weight, cannot drive passive speakers without an amp, lacks 5GHz Wi-Fi, omits optical and 3.5mm auxiliary outputs and cannot extend wireless signal. Which brings us back to the core of the statement made in the introduction to this review, because B&O has priced the PlayMaker at an eye watering £349.

PlayMaker 3

At this price you can buy four AirPort Express units (and have change left over), hook them up to speakers and docks all around your home and toggle between them at will. There are also DLNA streamers available for a fraction of the cost. For example, the more powerful and flexible Sonos Connect and Connect Amp units cost £279 and £399 respectively. Why would you buy the PlayMaker then? Quite simply for non-B&O speakers you wouldn’t, but the PlayMaker is the only way to output audio via its BeoLab 3. A self-made problem? Completely.

B&O PlayMaker - Verdict

The PlayMaker is a bamboozling product. It is essentially a crippled AirPort Express that costs more than four times as much. Even the bonus of DLNA connectivity cannot remotely offset this excessive cost. As such its role only adds considerable cost to B&O’s own BeoLab 3 speaker, which could have simply built both standards in and thus avoided the problem. The PlayMaker's dreary design, poor build quality and cheap construction materials are also considerable cause for concern. Products like the brilliant BeoPlay A9 have seen B&O go on a great run, however the PlayMaker falls well short.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Design 4
  • Features 6
  • Sound Quality 9
  • Usability 6
  • Value 4


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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