B&O has come up with yet another stunning high-concept design, but can the BeoSound 5's audio match up to its looks?
You can't get away from the fact that Bang & Olufsen make damn fine-looking kit, and the new BeoSound 5 is no exception. OK, so at first glance it may not be immediately obvious what it actually is, but we kind of like that air of mystery.
In fact, the BeoSound 5 does not come from the flight deck of the Starship Enterprise – it's just a digital music player, but one that'll have your mates dribbling.
Well, we say 'just' - the BeoSound 5 is similar in spirit to more specialist music server products on the market from the likes of Sooloos.
It comes in two boxes: the brains of the operation is the BeoMaster 5 500GB hard-disk with network access and connections to B&O's range of active speakers, while the eyecandy comes in the form of the BeoSound 5 controller.
Flexible music storage
The BeoMaster 5 doesn't include any disc-ripping drive of its own, instead inviting you to hook it up to your PC or Mac via Ethernet and transfer your music into its plentiful hard-disk using the supplied software.
Most digital music file types are supported, including high-quality options like WAV and WMA lossless, and B&O reckons it'll handle up to 1,000 CDs in best-quality form, rising to 6,000 CDs in 196kbps MP3. It'll even support internet radio, photo storage and some video formats.
But it's the controller that's going to get the most attention. A gorgeous 10.4in, 1024x768 resolution affair, it uses a deliciously heavy and tactile aluminium wheel mounted to the side of the unit instead of a touch-panel interface.
It's not just a pretty face, though. The unique design makes the business of searching through your music an incredibly enjoyable, hands-on experience, aided by B&O's clever MOTS (More Of The Same) software, which helps create intelligent playlists automatically.
Sounds as good as it looks
In action, the B&O always sounds good and occasionally great – although as with all digital devices like this, audio quality depends on the file types you store your music in.
Linked to a pair of BeoLab 9 speakers, WAV and lossless files naturally worked best: here, the sound is at once assured and impressively 'hi-fi', and has little truck with the high-frequency hardness that can plague many digital music systems.
It's true you could rival the B&O's sound with a more conventional hi-fi set-up – but would that look so good, be so lovely to use, and generally leave you with such a warm glow every time you used it? We don't think so.
B&O BeoSound 5 review
This is one deeply impressive digital music player – if you can afford it, we envy you