(Pocket-lint) - The Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage is the first soundbar from the Danish manufacturer. Although it's late to the party, it certainly hasn't shown up empty handed.
This all-in-one unit boosts the kind of sleek styling you'd expect from B&O, which is its real selling point. But that's not to suggest it's lacking in tech smarts: this 'bar offers Dolby Atmos for immersive 3D sound, along with Apple AirPlay 2 and Chromecast, for easy connection of your favourite content.
If you're looking for a single box solution, is the Beosound Stage the ultimate soundbar choice?
- Soundbar: 1100 x 77 x 170mm; 8kg
- Available in silver/black, bronze/taupe, and smoked oak/grey
The Beosound Stage is a stunning piece of industrial design, courtesy of Danish studio NORM Architects. The soundbar combines simple geometric shapes and a distinctive minimalism in order to fulfil its main purpose as a speaker, while also being extremely easy on the eye.
The elegant frame is rectangular, curved in the corners, and runs all the way around the outer edge of the soundbar. At the top left or front right (depending on how you mount the Stage) there's a seamlessly integrated engraved touch-sensitive control panel.
The frame is available in natural aluminium (as reviewed), bronze tone aluminium or smoked oak. The first two are each composed of a single piece of forged aluminium; the smoked oak version - which costs more money, by the way - benefits from dovetail joints thanks to some artful Scandinavian carpentry.
There's a removable Kvadrat fabric grille covering the drivers, which comes in a choice of black for the natural model, taupe for the bronze version, and grey for the wooden unit.
- 3-channel configuration
- Dolby Atmos
- BeoLink Multiroom support
The Beosound Stage uses a three-channel fully active DSP-based (that's digital signal processing) speaker system with a sealed cabinet. The three speakers are composed of a total of 11 drivers, each with its own 50W amplifier, and the soundbar has a claimed frequency response of 44Hz to 22kHz, meaning very low bass frequencies right through to edge-of-hearing high frequencies are all covered.
The centre channel uses four 4-inch woofers, which are designed to reduce distortion and allow for greater movement, thus providing improved bass performance. The mid frequencies are handled by two 1.5-inch midrange drivers along with a 0.75-inch dome tweeter.
The left and right channels use speakers optimised to deliver a more dimensional soundstage. There's a 1.5-inch midrange driver and a 0.75-inch tweeter at each side, which are placed close together at a 45-degree off-axis angle in a baffle designed to create a 3D sound effect.
All this sonic wizardry is intended to deliver a front soundstage that not only has width, height, and deeper bass, but also clearly defined dialogue. The Stage offers two orientations: either flat on a solid surface in front of the TV; or wall-mounted upright against the wall beneath it.
The Stage supports Dolby Atmos object-based audio, and uses psychoacoustic processing to create a more immersive aural experience from the soundbar's three speakers. Sadly there's no decoding for DTS:X (another object-based format), although this format isn't as widely supported.
There are four different listening modes, all optimised for the material to which you are listening: TV, Music, Movie, or Night Listening. After selecting the listening mode, you can then fine-tune the sound to precisely suit your mood using the ToneTouch interactive equaliser.
As a Bang & Olufsen product, the Stage supports the company's BeoLink multi-room system, allowing you to play music from different compatible devices around the house. Unfortunately there are no expansion options, so you can't add a separate subwoofer or wireless rear speakers.
In the box, along with the Stage, is an HDMI cable, brackets, felt pads and a template for wall mounting, cable holders and a tool for removing the grille.
Connections & Controls
- HDMI input; HDMI output with eARC
- 3.5mm analogue input; 2 x Ethernet
- Wi-Fi; Bluetooth 4.2; Chromecast; AirPlay 2
- Control via TV remote; B&O App; or optional BeoRemote One
The Beosound Stage houses all its connections behind a removable cover in a recessed area at the rear or underside (depending on installation). There's an HDMI 2.0 output that supports eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel, which allows for higher-quality audio transmission), and a single HDMI input that can handle 4K HDR and Dolby Vision.
Surprisingly there's no optical digital input, but you do get a 3.5mm auxiliary input, and a pair of Ethernet ports for a wired setup. As far as wireless connections are concerned, there's a choice of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2, plus there's support for Google Chromecast and Apple AirPlay 2.
The Stage doesn't come with a dedicated control, so out of the box you have a choice of using the controls on the soundbar itself or the B&O remote app (for iOS or Android). If you've connected to your TV via HDMI-ARC, you can also adjust the volume using your TV's remote. Alternatively you can buy the optional BeoRemote One, which is a sleek, beautifully machined and rather expensive metal wand.
The Beosound Stage is a great example of what can be achieved with a 3.0-channel system, especially when the fundamentals are expertly handled. There's no substitute for high-quality drivers or power in the amps, which this soundbar has in spades.
When it comes to music the left and right channels dominate, with a lively delivery that makes full use of all the available grunt. There is a dedicated Music listening mode - but this seemed to rob the system of its sonic openness, so we think you're better off selecting no processing instead.
There's definitely a sense of stereo width with this soundbar, resulting in some excellent imaging and placement of instruments. Vocals are delivered with a pleasing clarity, and the system is capable of producing prodigious amounts of low-end presence.
The second track of Ben Watt's new album Storm Damage has some deep bass notes that the Stage was able to handle with surprising ease considering the lack of any separate subwoofer. The airiness of the recording and the wistful nature of the guitars was also delivered with subtlety.
This impressive performance extends to TV broadcasts, which the Stage handles in classy fashion. The TV mode works well, keeping dialogue clear and focused on the screen, while rendering music with width and delivering any effects with an exacting precision.
By getting the basics right, the Stage is able to handle more complex soundtracks with aplomb. Select the Movie mode, and a spooky Dolby Atmos mix like The Haunting of Hill House delivers creaks and bangs to great effect. It's enough to give you the heebie-jeebies.
A more aggressive mix like Godzilla: King of the Monsters is handled equally as well, with the Stage really stepping up when it comes to this film's suitably monstrous LFE (low-frequency effects) track. There's plenty of low frequency impact to give the battling behemoths an impressive amount of size and weight.
The use of DSP creates a more immersive experience from three speakers, but has its limitations. This is made clear with a highly directional mix like Gravity, where the sense of immersion is less noticeable. Sounds are placed around the screen, rather than from directly behind or above.
However, the effect still enhances the visuals, and the Stage is capable of creating a more dimensional sound field with Dolby Digital, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos and DTS. The lack of DTS:X support is disappointing, though, as is the inability to add rear speakers or separate sub.
The Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage is an impressive first soundbar that's clearly aimed at discerning owners with fairly deep pockets. It leverages all the things that B&O does well, from the minimalist design and elegant cool to the superior speakers and powerful amplification.
The result is a product that oozes style and sonic class, ensuring that whatever you're listening to the results are sure to please. The soundstage has width and depth, the centre speaker delivers crystal clear dialogue, and the processing adds greater dimensionality to soundtracks.
Best of all there's a serious amount of bass for an all-in-one unit, allowing you get the most out of today's LFE-heavy sound mixes. The lack of an included remote control is a shame, and it would be nice if there was support for DTS:X and the ability to add a separate sub, but otherwise the Stage is hard to fault.
This massive single-unit soundbar takes a similar approach, with high-quality drivers and a shed-load of amplification. Sennheiser then gives it a massive injection of steroids to create one of the biggest and best soundbars ever made. It ain't cheap, but it sounds awesome, delivers an incredibly immersive experience, and the deepest bass imaginable from an all-in-one system.
Costing about the same as the Stage, this soundbar uses a wireless subwoofer and rear speakers to deliver a full 7.1.4-channel system. There are upward-firing drivers that bounce sounds off the ceiling to create the overhead channels, and the result is a highly immersive experience. Add in support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, and this is currently the object-based soundbar to beat.