In its almost 100 year history, Bang & Olufsen may have never made a product that could be mistaken for anything but Scandinavian. True to its DNA and modern expectations, the Beosound sub-brand was created to accommodate a wider range of products that are smarter, more connected, and relatively easier on the wallet. You know what the keyword is.
Back to school
The Beosound 2 isn’t a new speaker, having been around since 2017. But it has been updated now to heed to your voice commands via OK Google, integrate with a Chromecast or AirPlay network, and be paired with kin to make for a really futuristic looking wireless stereo system. Wireless meaning without a source, mind you, the Beosound 2 isn’t portable so will still require to be plugged into a wall outlet.
Through the B&O app, you can choose different locations where the Beosound 2 is mostly going to be used so the DSP can mildly alter its frequency response, but you could also just use it as a Bluetooth or AirPlay speaker without ever needing the app.
Of course, one of its biggest updates is the new “smart” status, and for this, you will be required to use Google Home and the B&O app in conjunction to set up the voice assistant. It however seems too sensitive to the kind of Wi-Fi band you’re on, and I had to repeatedly keep resetting it and go over the process multiple times.
Switching from the 5GHz to the 2.4GHz band helped keep it more stable, but then the AirPlay pairing was lost. It was almost like a tug-of-war between one kind of connection and the other, making me appreciate the simplicity of smart speakers from the tech giants like Amazon and Apple a lot more. To make things more awkward, the reset button and the mic on/off buttons are located in a crevice around the base of the speaker, so it’s not the most elegant or pleasant experience for something that looks so so sophisticated.
Sound for the soul
Once synced with your desired music service and transmission method, things start looking up for the Beosound 2. The beautifully crafted aluminium exterior conceals a 3-way speaker system that includes a down-firing 5.25in woofer, a pair of 2in midrange units firing in opposite directions for maximum coverage, and an inverted tweeter mounted right under the control knob that fires into what B&O calls the Acoustic Lens.
This contraption has done duty on many of the higher-end B&O speakers and it’s designed to dissipate the output of the tweeter in an omnidirectional pattern, very much unlike a typical forward-facing tweeter that beams sound like a spotlight. While audiophiles might sneer at this sort of arrangement, in the realm of smart speakers, it works just as the designers intended.
Even with a single speaker, the sound projected goes far and wide across the room with hardly any tonal shift. You could keep the Beosound 2 on a table, floor, or anywhere in between and it sounded enjoyable, intelligible and punchy in any orientation. Of course, you can’t bend the laws of physics, so the utmost clarity will be heard only at ear level or slightly below, it is much more forgiving of location than any other smart speaker I have heard.
Play You Really Love Me by Cedric Burnside and the sharp plucks of the guitar strings are rendered with crispness but not edginess. The vocals aren’t muddled by the ample yet controlled bass, giving the entire presentation a very even-handed tonal balance. It may not be the most accurate of speakers, but it certainly is thoroughly enjoyable and fun to listen to, at any volume and virtually anywhere in the room!
It plays loud too and if your tastes run into hip-hop/dance/electronic, the Beosound 2 will have no problem in keeping up with the beats or playing them loud. It sounds coherent even at high SPLs, which is typically a downfall of most smart speakers that use small drivers aggressively controlled by DSP. The 3-way driver system really gives the Beosound 2 enough headroom to be considered as a primary speaker, especially if your budget allows another unit to make a stereo pair.
Google voice assistant works as you’d expect (when and if you get it working) giving you updates on your day, solving simple life problems or playing your preferred tunes via partnering apps like Spotify, YouTube Music and more (no Apple Music though).
Connectivity-wise, you do get an ethernet port and even a 3.5mm line-in if you want to extract maximum fidelity and perhaps even lossless audio via an attached digital audio player or iPhone! The volume control atop the unit has a lovely tactile feel, urging you to take manual control just to feel the precise movement but the swipe gestures are a bit erratic and take practice to get it right.
Even the proximity sensor which is supposed to detect an approaching person and illuminate the virtual buttons had mood swings, only reiterating what Bang and Olufsen is better at. Moulding metal into impossibly beautiful and precise shapes AND making sure it serves as a functional device too.
An avant-garde aesthetic deserves avant-garde sound, and the Beosound 2 delivers on both those fronts. If you’re a sucker for great design or just a fanboy of B&O, there is plenty to excite you here.
Like all things from the Scandinavian marque though, it’s so far overpriced beyond any other traditional smart speaker that it orbits around its own axis. IF and WHEN you stop comparing it to any other brand or value proposition, the Beosound 2 comes into its own and really amazes you with a satisfying sound that has way more weight and clarity than any other smart speaker I’ve heard. If you got it, flaunt it!