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. Plus it is the only dock on the market that can be used with an iPad! Finally!
However, revolutionary and convenient they might be, iPods and their kin don’t do much to further the cause of awesome hi-fi sound quality.
Sure, audio compression systems have come a long way in recent years, and you can adjust the amount of compression your iPod applies to your favourite tunes depending on how much memory space you’re willing to let a song occupy. But for the most part, iPod music is never going to rival a good SACD, DVD-Audio, or even high quality CD for sheer, eargasmic sound quality. Yes we just said eargasmic.. deal with it !
Not that this has prevented them selling like the most molten of hotcakes, though, as countless people have become accustomed to sacrificing sound quality for convenience. Which is a bit of a bummer if you happen to be a manufacturer of high-end hi-fi gear.
Once you’ve clapped eyes on the BeoSound 8, it’s not a sight you’ll forget in a hurry. Its design (from the ever-imaginative David Lewis) is a true original, even by B&O’s usually ‘out there’ standards.
Particularly eye-catching – and promising – are its frankly huge speakers. As well as hitting you in the face with their 10in width, they’re also unusually deep round the back by speaker-dock standards, to give their sound room to breathe. The speakers’ design also funnels back to create a cone-like shape that both hides the speaker rears from view when you’re looking straight at the system.
Given, though, that the iPod docking section of the BeoSound 8 is essentially just a slender but sumptuously solid aluminium bar sitting between and just behind the front of the two speakers, the speakers’ depth would seem to represent a pretty major balancing problem for the BeoSound 8. But B&O has ingeniously turned this problem to its advantage by tucking little feet on the rear end of the speakers so that you simply rest the whole system back onto them. This has the added advantage of tilting the BeoSound 8’s front up, further adding to its aesthetic appeal and potentially helping it deliver a more room-filling sound.
If you prefer, you can also mount the unit on the wall – provided you can accommodate the amount it sticks out!
Obviously, the key question with the BeoSound 8 has to be if any iPod dock can ever really be worth £895? But its aesthetics and remarkable build quality do much in themselves to start justifying such an outlay.
Even the actual dock point on the BeoSound 8 is a work of art. A lovely-looking circular white ‘prop’ looms beyond the aluminium crossbar, onto which you rest your iPod as you slide it onto the slightly raised docking slot. This is mighty cool already, but the little prop also has a very handy trick up its sleeve: namely that it doesn’t just support iPods. It can also comfortably hold iPhones and best of all, iPads. While Arcam’s rCube supports the iPad via a wireless connection, the BeoSound 8 is, to our knowledge, the first speaker dock able to handle an iPad slotted straight into it. In fact, not only can it support the iPad’s extra size and weight without any problems, but it even manages to still look drool-inducingly lovely while it’s doing it. Our music Editor actually had to be rushed to Hospital for dehydration he was drooling that much when he saw it.
Yet more coolness – as you can see, it’s really got our tech geek adrenaline pumping – comes from the circular ‘rocker’ control panel hewn into the centre of the metal bar dock mount. As well as looking and feeling rather lovely, this minimal approach to control works a treat.
The circular shape raised hopes that it might support the classic ‘circular swipe’ control system pioneered by Apple’s portable music products, but even though this doesn’t prove to be the case we seldom found ourselves feeling frustrated by the controls available.
Naturally the BeoSound 8 also ships with a remote – and wouldn’t you just know it, this remote is a lovely little ‘cut out’ replication of the circular metal-fronted control panel on the main unit. We’re so sad about this sort of stuff that on a couple of occasions we actually found ourselves just fondling this ultra-cute remote even when we weren’t actually using the BeoSound 8. Tragic, we know, but there you go.
The BeoSound 8’s iPad compatibility isn’t its only feature claim to fame. For a start, it also carries a facility that lets it adapt its sound to different rooms. Even better, you can now download a free BeoSound app for your iPhone or iPad that lets it stream Internet radio channels into the BeoSound 8 when docked.
Overall it gets a solid 8/10 from us!
Written by : Callum Walker