The Bang & Olufsen Beolab 8 follows in a long and proud tradition: exquisite design, flawless finish and audio quality that, despite its many and various qualities, doesn’t get within touching distance of justifying the asking price. This, I am confident, is not the first time you’ve read very similar sentiments about Bang & Olufsen equipment…
Expansive, substantial and insightful sound
The usual Bang & Olufsen control app
The usual Bang & Olufsen standards of build, finish and covetability
Can sound rather relentless at volume
No voice control
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Bang & Olufsen Beolab 8: Two-minute review
The Bang & Olufsen Beolab 8 is, in many ways, about as Bang & Olufsen a product as it’s possible to imagine. As far as its broad functionality is concerned, it’s ‘just’ a wireless speaker with a fairly unremarkable specification (if you ignore the ‘Mozart’ platform that offers a degree of technological future-proofing). It doesn’t do anything that any number of more affordable alternatives can do.
What very few alternatives can do, though, is look quite so decorative, so elegant and, yes, so expensive while they’re doing, though – in fact, I can really only think of Devialet’s ‘Phantom’ range of speakers that have anything like the visual drama of the Beolab 8. So if you want a speaker that looks, as well as sounds, the part, stick with me…
Play to its strengths and the Beolab 8 is an energetic and energising listen, able to balance considerable attack against deft detail resolution with real skill. Where the most visceral aspects of music-making are concerned, this Bang & Olufsen is one of the best wireless speakers around. If you try to lumber it with some more soothing, less lively content, though, you’ll find it’s rather intolerant. And no matter what you listen to, don’t listen to it at big volumes – that can skew the speaker’s sonic balance a little.
There’s an elephant in the room, though – and just because it was introduced early on, that doesn't make it any less elephant-like. The Bang & Olufsen Beolab 8 is stunningly expensive compared to the best wireless speakers, which means you’ll have to do some negotiating with yourself before any of the other stuff becomes a consideration…
Bang & Olufsen Beolab 8 review: Price and release date
- Release date: November 2023
- Price: $2,749 / £2,199 / AU$4,499
The Bang & Olufsen Beolab 8 is on sale now, and it sells for a minimum of $2,749 in the US, £2,199 in the UK and AU$4,499 in Australia. That’s for the ‘natural’ aluminium chassis with grey ‘mélange’ grille and table-stand though.
Things being what they are at Bang & Olufsen, of course, it’s possible to spend plenty more than this if the fancy takes you. The version I’m testing, for instance, is in ‘natural’ aluminium with slatted natural oak cover and table-stand – and it sells for £2,699 in the UK.
It’s worth noting that the Beolab 8 has very little price-comparable competition, even at its most affordable. It’s really only Devialet (a company just as distinctive as Bang & Olufsen, at least in some ways) and its bonkers Phantom wireless speaker that competes in anything like the same area of the market.
Bang & Olufsen Beolab 8 review: Features
- 300 watts of Class D power
- 24bit/192kHz DAC
- Wired and wireless connectivity
As seems only reasonable, given the asking price, the Beolab 8 is a sensibly and thoroughly specified device. Your options for getting audio content on board, for instance, are numerous. There are wired and wireless options available, naturally. Dual-band wi-fi and Bluetooth 5.3 (with SBC and AAC codec compatibility) take care of the wireless stuff, and you also get the option of Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast and the ‘Connect’ versions of both Spotify and Tidal.
On top of this, the control app features access to Bang & Olufsen Radio, which brings a huge number of broadcasts from around the world into the Beolab 8’s orbit. There’s DLNA compatibility too, so any content on a local server is available too. Wired connectivity runs to a couple of Ethernet sockets and a USB-C input, all of which are just slightly fiddly to access at the rear of the cabinet.
No matter how you access your content, though, it’s pored over by a DAC chipset of 24bit/192kHz resolution and compatibility with most worthwhile file formats. It’s then delivered by a 15mm tweeter, 76mm midrange driver and 136mm bass unit – the Bang & Olufsen has a total of 300 watts of Class D power available, with the bass driver taking 200 watts of that and the remaining 100 watts divided equally between the other two drivers.
Before you get to the point of actually listening to music, though, the Beolab 8 would like to optimise its performance to your specific environment. There’s an ‘advanced room compensation’ routine available in the control app - it takes next-to-no time to maximise the output of the speaker. ‘Adaptive bass linearization’ [sic] does something similar, but with greater emphasis on the possibly problematic low frequencies. After that, it’s simply a question of deciding which of the ‘beam width control’ options (‘wide’ or ‘narrow’) you prefer – and then you’re in business.
During the early part of 2024 Bang & Olufsen will introduce a feature of interest to those who are running a couple of Beolab 8 as a stereo pair. ‘Fluid sweet spot’ intends to use the position of your smartphone to optimise the stereo image to suit, which sounds like an intriguing idea.
The Beolab 8 is built on Bang & Olufsen’s increasingly ubiquitous ‘Mozart’ platform, which gives it compatibility both forwards and backwards. Because the platform is adaptable and modular, the Beolab 8 has been proactively designed to be easily upgradable to take account of new technologies not currently on the radar. And because ‘Powerlink’ is part of the ‘Mozart’ platform, the Beolab 8 is compatible with Bang & Olufsen audio and video products dating back three decades and more.
Controlling the Beolab 8 can be done in a couple of (well-implemented, reliable) ways. The glass top-plate is home to some illuminated capacitive touch controls – they’re woken by a proximity sensor. Here you can take care of ‘play/pause’, ‘volume up/down’, and ‘skip forwards/backwards’ - and it’s also where you can access your four presets, and where you can initiate Bluetooth pairing.
The real action, though, lies with the Bang & Olufsen control app that’s free for iOS and Android. It remains one of the more useful and better-looking examples of its – and it covers every eventuality. For instance, EQ adjustment is available both via ‘bass’ and ‘treble’ sliders and via the lovely ‘target’ graphic alternative. Playback controls, software updates, forming a stereo pair or creating a multiroom system, running the ‘room compensation’ calibration routine, accessing presets, switching between ‘wide’ and ‘narrow’ sound dispersal characteristics… you name it, the app has it covered.
There’s no voice control available here, though. Given how effective the control app and the touch controls are, it’s not a massive miss - but then again, I can’t help but think that All This Money ought to buy as many niceties as are available…
Features score: 4.5 / 5
Bang & Olufsen Beolab 8 review: Design
- 290 x 189 x 165mm (HxWxD)
- 4.1kg (without stand)
- Several stand options
Obviously, whether or not you enjoy the design of the Beolab 8 is very much a matter of taste. But there are some aspects of ‘design’ I feel able to discuss without fear of contradiction.
For instance, there’s no arguing with the impeccable nature of the way this speaker is built and finished. It’s hard for a piece of audio equipment of this sort of size to justify its asking price where the look (and, for that matter, the feel) is concerned, but Bang & Olufsen has nevertheless given it a shot. At 290 x 189 x 165mm (HxWxD) the Beolab 8 is big enough to look purposeful, but small enough to be either decorative or discreet depending on your preference.
As mentioned, the £2,199 I quoted at the outset buys you a speaker in ‘natural’ aluminium with a grey ‘mélange’ grille, sitting on a table-stand. Of course, you may prefer the slatted oak grille of my sample (it’s a finish that features on quite a few Beolab models) - this can be yours along with the ‘natural’ aluminium finish for £2,699. This is also the price that ‘gold tone’ with light oak grille or ‘black anthracite’ with dark oak grille will set you back.
There are also options where stands are concerned. A wall bracket and a floor stand are both available - and both make a lot of sense if you’re running a stereo pair of Beolab 8 or (for the extraordinarily well-heeled) using them as rear speakers in a surround-sound set-up. The wall bracket (which can also be a ceiling bracket) adds £100 to the price, the floor stand is an extra £200.
Design score: 4.5 / 5
Bang & Olufsen Beolab 8 review: Sound quality
- Detailed, energetic sound
- Good low-frequency presence and control
- Can get a little toppy at volume
Has your Beolab 8 calibrated itself to your specific environment? Have you experimented with ‘wide’ and ‘narrow’ beam width? Investigated your B&O Radio preferences and given the control app access to all the music you have stored on a common network? Well then, you’re good to go.
A 24bit/96kHz FLAC file of Los Campesinos’ You! Me! Dancing! gives the Beolab 8 ample opportunity to explain a fair bit about the way it goes about things, and the news is almost entirely positive. From the get-go, the Bang & Olufsen strikes a balance between ‘forcefulness’ and ‘deftness’ that brings the song vividly to life.
It summons impressive low-frequency presence, for example. Bass sounds are deep, properly shaped and textured, and carry plenty of fine detail regarding tone and timbre along with a serving of straight-ahead punch. Control of the bottom end is good, which means rhythmic expression is confident, and the speaker maintains the momentum of the recording in fine style. Bass sounds stay carefully in their lane, and leave the midrange alone to get on with doing its thing without sticking their oar in.
‘Its thing’ turns out to be communicating in a pretty direct and eloquent style. There’s an absolute stack of character and attitude in the tune’s vocal line, as well as some endearingly approximate technique, and the Beolab 8 makes it plain without sounding in any way analytical or judgemental - it’s an engaged and engaging listen where singers are concerned, and it allows a stack of detail to emerge. There’s an articulacy to the way the Bang & Olufsen handles the midrange that’s by no means a given in any speaker – even one as optimistically priced as this one.
The story is similar at the top of the frequency range, at least where detail levels, control and insight are concerned. The top end attacks with crisp determination - there’s about as much brightness to treble sounds as is acceptable, but unless you’re really pressing on in terms of volume everything remains disciplined. If you enjoy bigger volumes, though, the top-end reproduction here gains quite a lot of ill-deserved confidence, and the result is a skewing of the frequency balance towards the top - and there’s hardness and edginess there as a result.
The entirety of the frequency range is quite smoothly integrated, with scant suggestion of handover at any of the crossover points. The Beolab 8 is a quite spacious and well-defined listen, able to describe space between the competing elements of a recording while maintaining focus at the same time. Dynamic headroom is considerable, and the distance it’s capable of putting between the quietest and the loudest moments in a recording is considerable. It’s similarly attentive to the more minor, but no less significant, dynamic and harmonic variations apparent when listening to an unaccompanied voice or solo instrument.
There’s a definite sensation of directness and positivity to the sound the Beolab 8 makes, no matter the attitude of the music it’s playing. In most circumstances, this works just fine - it’s not as if the speaker is feral in its delivery, but it most certainly knows how to attack. On occasion, though, its determination to impose its ‘up-and-at-’em’ attitude bumps up against recordings that require a gentler, less forthright touch - something like a 24bit/96kHz FLAC file of Arooj Aftab’s Last Night, for instance - and the result is a compromise that doesn’t really suit either party.
Sound quality score: 4 / 5
Bang & Olufsen Beolab 8 review: Value
- Priced beyond its performance...
- ...but Bang & Olufsen customers tend not to mind
- Looks as distinctive as it sounds
Obviously you can buy comparable sound quality for a fair bit less than this. So the question of ‘value’ really rests on how much you enjoy the Beolab 8 aesthetic, and how much you admire Bang & Olufsen’s commitment to premium materials and individualistic design (as well as its determination to make its products both future-proof and compatible with its older models).
Value score: 3.5 / 5
Should I buy the Bang & Olufsen Beolab 8?
Buy it if...
Looks are as important as performance
It seems unlikely anyone could ever confuse the Beolab 8 as a product of any other company but this one.
You enjoy a vigorous sound
‘Lively’ is too weak a word to describe the attitude the Beolab 8 brings to music – it’s a vibrant, front-foot listen.
You know a good control app when you see one
As a combination of clarity, usability and predictably upmarket design, it’s hard to lay a glove on the B&O Music app.
Don't buy it if...
You demand value for money
There’s plenty of slightly more intangible stuff to admire about the Beolab 8, but you can’t pretend it’s any kind of bargain.
You enjoy laid-back music
The Bang & Olufsen isn’t especially tolerant of music that doesn’t share its ‘party on!’ attitude - which might be problematic.
You want to listen in stereo
It can be done, of course - but there’s no kind of discount available for buying two Beolab 8 speakers at a time.
Bang & Olufsen Beolab 8: Also consider
Devialet Phantom I
Never knowingly understated, Devialet may be the only speaker brand currently operating that has a change of outBang & Olufsening Bang & Olufsen. The Phantom I is a gold-plated powerhouse of a speaker with just as much visual drama as the Beolab 8 – and, if anything, an even more hedonistic approach to music-making…
Bang & Olufsen Beosound Level
It seems very much like Bang & olufsen is involved in an arms race with itself. Take the company’s Beosound Level, for example - it’s a fair bit more affordable than the Beolab 8, sure, but that’s not the same as being actually affordable. It’s got the design credentials, though, and is a very agreeable listen indeed.
How I tested the Bang & Olufsen Beolab 8
- Tested in different positions in my home
- Tested with a variety of digital audio file types…
- …and with a variety of genres of music
I used the Beolab 8 for well over a week, and it occupied quite a few different positions in my home during that time - always on its table stand, of course. As the review makes plain, this speaker has its preferences as regards the type of music you ask it to play - but it turns out to be admirably unfussy about the quality, or resolution, of the digital audio information you feed it. And as long as you don’t position it on a shelf with another shelf directly above, it’s not all that bothered about where you place it, either.
First reviewed in December 2023
Simon Lucas is a senior editorial professional with deep experience of print/digital publishing and the consumer electronics landscape. Based in Brighton, Simon worked at TechRadar's sister site What HiFi? for a number of years, as both a features editor and a digital editor, before embarking on a career in freelance consultancy, content creation, and journalism for some of the biggest brands and publications in the world.
With enormous expertise in all things home entertainment, Simon reviews everything from turntables to soundbars for TechRadar, and also likes to dip his toes into longform features and buying guides. His bylines include GQ, The Guardian, Hi-Fi+, Metro, The Observer, Pocket Lint, Shortlist, Stuff T3, Tom's Guide, Trusted Reviews, and more.