B&O has unveiled its first wireless speaker range that uses its new wireless standard at 5GHz for, it claims, the best sound available. We got a closer look and listen to decide if they are worth the hefty price tags.
BeoLab 17 and 19
These speakers and sub are not cheap. At £2,590 for a set and £2,195 for the sub you're going to want nothing but the best both in sound and looks. After blasting out some big Iron Man explosions we can attest to their abilities with volume although this was with the sub attached. What their bass abilities are without that are still unknown. Although with 6-inch midrange and three-quarter inch tweeters with 160-watt amp in the 2.8 litre capacity they no doubt plenty powerful alone.
The looks on both speakers and sub are stunning. Brushed extruded aluminium has been used for the case which, close up, has a fantastic finish. It also feels strong, which you don't usually expect from wireless speakers. To overcome the metal housing four antennas have been used for the 5.2-5.8Ghz connectivity. The use of this range means that the signal can be transmitted at 24-bit, uncompressed native sampling rates up to 96Khz, thanks to the Wisa's wireless standard. There was no lag whatsoever and the sound quality was indistinguishable from wired speakers - just without all the clutter.
The speakers and sub will, of course, need to be plugged in for power. But attaching some speakers to a socket on one side of the room without having to run a cable back to the TV is great. To now be able to do that without lose of quality is a great thing for audiophiles.
The BeoLab 17 speakers come with interchangeable front and top panels with white, black and blue options. They're easy to slip out and in taking only a few seconds so you could change them as often as you like. The sub comes with as is matte black, white but with that absolutely solid look and reassuring weight you wouldn't want to change it.
The original BeoLab 8000 speakers are the highest-selling of the B&O range. But since their designer has passed on it was down to his protege to try and reinvent his master's work. That's where the BeoLab 18, with all new parts, has come from. The lamella front is pretty striking in its oak form (and should be for an extra £750). This fanned front also acts as an audio aid in spreading the sound evenly through the room. There is also an acoustic lens tweeter on top to deliver that "sweet spot sound", as B&O calls it, wherever you are in the room. The £3,990 price for the black version is a worrying amount but with design smarts that go this deep it will clearly offer a lot. Although in this instance we didn't get to hear them individually playing so you'll have to wait for our review for a performance analysis.
At the moment the speakers will only work with third party devices if you buy the £345 Transmitter Box. And if you want to use your mobile for AirPlay or DLNA you can get a PlayMaker adapter that plugs into the Transmitter Box.