UPDATE: TechRadar was present at the official launch of Beosound Stage in Venice, Italy. We had a chat with Vice President, Head of Product Management, Merchandizing & Brand Collabs, Christoffer Østergaard Poulsen. /Mikael Hansen, Editor TechRadar Denmark
Luxury brand Bang & Olufsen has quite an extensive catalog of audio products under its belt but, until now, it's been conspicuously absent in one product category: soundbars. For lounge room setups, the company has previously relied on its range of free-standing speakers that can be hooked up to your TV.
That makes the new Beosound Stage B&O’s first ever soundbar, and in keeping with B&O's premium branding the company's debuted the new product at the Venice Biennale – an annual arts exhibition in the famous Italian city.
If you thought an arts exhibition is a strange place to launch an electronic device, there is some extra justification here – the Beosound Stage was designed in collaboration with Danish firm NORM Architects and (to this author's eye at least) seems to be both geometrically pleasing and beautifully crafted.
The new soundbar does however enter an already crowded market, so to stand apart from the crowd, B&O has stuffed the Beosound Stage with just about every feature you could ask for in a soundbar in 2019.
Internally, it's equipped with 11 front-firing speakers, each of which is powered by a 50W Class D amplifier. B&O has used four custom-made 4-inch woofers in the center channel to reduce distortion and deliver what it's calling “superbly deep bass”, with the midtones handled by a pair of 1.5-inch drivers and a 3/4-inch dome tweeter.
The main left and right channels are made up of 1.5-inch drivers and the 3/4-inch tweeters placed close to each other at 45-degree angles.
Support for Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD and AirPlay 2 are also on board, along with built-in Chromecast.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity is also available, along with an Ethernet socket and HDMI to hook up a TV. There’s also HDMI eARC (enhanced Audio Return Channel) support to speed up data transfer and ensure there's little to no lag between the soundbar and the TV. Ports for more traditional RCA connectors and 3.5mm audio have also not been forgotten.
There are four dedicated listening modes available on the Beosound Stage – TV, Music, Move and Night Listening – with each of them further adjustable via an equalizer.
The Beosound Stage comes in either an aluminum- or bronze-finish frame, and will set you back $1,750 / £1250/ AU$2,500. If metal isn't your thing, there’s also a 'smoked oak' frame option that comes with an even more premium price tag of $2,600 / £1,900 / AU$3,500. All three designs will be available on shelves late 2019.
Why is B&O launcing a soundbar and why now?
The new soundbar is meant to work a supplement to the existing TV line and has been under way for two years. The explanation of the time of launch is clear. “Because there is a market for it. The screens have become thinner and thinner and the premium segment of +500 US dollars is growing”, says Christoffer.
We obviously wondered if this meant that Bang & Olufsen would withdraw from the TV market and instead focus on sound and sound products such as soundbars. “We still make televisions and currently have three models on the market: Horizon, Eclipse and Harmony – which arrives in October.”
In other words – there is no sign of the Danish company withdrawing from the TV business any time soon. However, it is worth mentioning that B&O partnered with LG back in 2015, whom also supply them with the panels for their OLED-TVs.
The first of many?
Beosound Stage is, naturally, the first soundbar from Bang & Olufsen. But does that mean there are more to come? A good question which wasn’t answered directly. “We’ll see how it does and we still have our other products”, said Christoffer.
What about surround?
You might have noticed the missing mention of surround sound in the press release. Instead B&O mention Dolby Atmos, which is a virtual form of surround sound. We would however have liked to be able to add on additional speakers and in time get a full surround experience.
“From the insights we've received, there is a wish for a simple plug and play solution. It was important for it to function as a multi room system, but it also needed to be a simple all in one speaker“, Christoffer explains. It is therefore clear that it is not possible to add on speakers like with the Sonos soundbars. Instead Christoffer points the attention to their other TV products.
The last important detail is the price. What were the thoughts that went behind it and does this mark a whole new direction for Bang & Olufsen?
“We are looking at the market and how we can place ourselves in it. We have a rather relative rational approach. Vi wish to create the best sound, the best design, and the best craftsmanship", Christoffer replied and elaborated “It is truly a new direction for us, but we focus on what the customers are doing and what is happening in the marktet. Soundbars is an established market and we blieve that vi can differentiate ourselves as opposed to what is already available.”
So how does it sound?
This is where we fall short. Even though we had demonstrations of Beosound Stage, these took place in rooms not very suitable for the purpose. It sounds quite all right, but we reserve the right to a proper judgement until we receive a test unit for further listening. This should happen within a couple of months, so stay tuned and we will update you on the matter.
We did however get close and personal with the speaker and can confirm that it is an incredible well-crafted piece of hardware. We especially liked the most expensive version with an edge of smoked oak which is sure to be a hit when it hits shelves.
Sign up to receive daily breaking news, reviews, opinion, analysis, deals and more from the world of tech.
Sharmishta is TechRadar's APAC Managing Editor and loves all things photography, something she discovered while chasing monkeys in the wilds of India (she studied to be a primatologist but has since left monkey business behind). While she's happiest with a camera in her hand, she's also an avid reader and has become a passionate proponent of ereaders, having appeared on Singaporean radio to talk about the convenience of these underrated devices. When she's not testing camera kits or the latest in e-paper tablets, she's discovering the joys and foibles of smart home gizmos. She's also the Australian Managing Editor of Digital Camera World and, if that wasn't enough, she contributes to T3 and Tom's Guide, while also working on two of Future's photography print magazines Down Under.