The BeoSound 8 also carries a stereo phono auxiliary input in a hidden section on the rear of its metal bar, so you can attach other makes of MP3 player, as well as a USB input that can a) play music stored on USB drives or b) stream music from your PC.
The one part of the BeoSound 8 that we would have expected from the outset to be impressed by is its sound quality. We can’t think of any B&O product we’ve seen, including its flat TVs, that has had anything less than stellar audio – and the BeoSound 8 is no different. In fact, the impact it has on your humble compressed iPod/iPad/iPhone music is at times little short of miraculous.
For instance, it almost completely removes that sense of a diminished dynamic range and overloaded mid-range usually associated with compressed music, combining deep, well-rounded bass with open and natural trebles and hiding 95 per cent of the sibilance and distortions that MP3 and, to a lesser extent, AAC files can suffer with when pushed hard by a track.
Take ”Hiding All Away”, on Nick Cave’s ”Abbatoir Blues” album. This track features a huge bass riff undercurrent, Cave’s trademark dominant and often aggressive vocals, a regularly repeated harsh electric guitar riff, loads of percussion, female backing vocals, and repeatedly ‘goes to 11’ in terms of the density of its mix. Yet the BeoSound 8 handled the entire track effortlessly from an iPhone, easily matching the mix’s epic scale and reproducing levels of detail we’d actually thought from hearing the track on lesser devices had been squeezed out by the compression process.
The BeoSound 8’s also more than in touch with its sensitive side, though, as it delivered a genuine hi-fi sensibility to Bach’s Baroque Brandenburg Concertos – despite these only being compressed with a fairly standard 192kbps setting.
The BeoSound 8’s ability to make compressed music sound like a good quality CD is matched by its efforts with Internet radio, which at the very least end up sounding like a perfectly tuned FM radio broadcast.
Really, the only negative we could find about its audio performance is that the sound becomes just a bit harsh if you really crank up the volume. But we’re talking about a volume level well beyond what most people would need for a normal domestic environment.
The BeoSound 8 is arguably the coolest and most ‘now’ product B&O has made for years. What’s more, when you consider the relative prices of other B&O kit and the rival speaker dock from Meridian (£1,500), it even feels like decent value – and we can’t remember if we’ve ever been able to say that about a B&O product before!
Ultimately, the relative affordability of the also very good B&W Zeppelins, Arcam rCube and the lack of fully integrated Wi-Fi are enough to make us squeeze the BeoSound 8’s overall mark down to an 8. But this shouldn’t disguise the fact that it’s a truly exceptional product that deserves to find a much wider audience than B&O’s usual devoted fanbase.