As is the case with any AirPlay speaker, the Beolit 12 must be connected to a Wi-Fi network before the wireless music streaming party can commence. This is the only technically involved process, per se, but it can throw you a curve ball if you’re not paying attention to the provided instructions.
Some boomboxes do it by having the speaker act as a Wi-Fi access point, which is then reprogrammed with a Mac, PC or iOS app. B&O opted for the hardwire approach instead, which requires an Ethernet cable connection between the speaker and a Mac or PC computer’s Ethernet port.
B&O’s printed instructions are just fine, but for those wanting a live setup tutorial, the company provides a video on its website. For the most part, the setup process went along as described in the instructions and was pretty brief. However, on our first connection attempt at home, the Beolit 12 positively indicated it was connected to our Wi-Fi network, yet it wasn’t identified by iTunes. After a second attempt to connect, iTunes recognized the presence of the Beolit 12 and we were able to stream music right away… from our PC, anyway.
Like the Klipsch G-17 Air, the Beolit 12 is the unfortunate victim of some sort of compatibility problem that exists between the iPhone 4S and AirPlay hardware. It’s a problem that Apple has promised to fix with its iOS update, due out “sometime in the near future.” So we never got to stream music via AirPlay with our iPhone 4S and neither will you, should you decide to purchase the Beolit 12 prior to Apple’s iOS update release.
B&O does point out a workaround that involves using the iPhone 4S as a remote control for a PC or Mac’s iTunes library. Yes, that’s a convenient feature, but it presumes that the user’s iTunes library will always be available, and doesn’t take into account all the other content that sits waiting on the iPhone.
Nope, we want to be able to stream directly from our device so that we can listen to Pandora, Spotify or YouTube audio on demand through the speaker, but for the time being, that just isn’t possible. Users of the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 or either iPad model should have no issues. Guess we’ll just have to wait for the iOS update like everyone else. Thanks a bunch, Apple.
The Beolit 12 sounds very good; better than we expected, actually. The compact shape doesn’t allow for any stereo separation, so in-room response is pretty localized, but the sound quality is much better than many of the much larger iPod speaker docks we’ve tested.
While the bass response of the Beolit 12 can’t reach down as deep as the Klipsch G-17 Air, it still provides plenty of punctual low end. We appreciate that the speaker doesn’t exhibit bloated, boomy or forced bass. Instead, it rounds out the sonic picture very well and adds a distinctive punch while deftly avoiding the “one-note bass” pitfall common to many other small speaker docks that aim to eke out as much bass presence as possible. We particularly liked how smoothly the speaker transitioned between bass, midbass and midrange tones. The Beolit 12 won’t have your friends looking around for a subwoofer, but the bass-to-size ratio and accuracy is still extremely impressive.
The Beolit 12’s handling of high frequencies was probably our favorite part of the unit’s sound signature. Treble through this speaker was clean, articulate, just a bit airy, and detailed enough to be satisfying. It was not thin, metallic, overextended or artificially bright. Even our coarsely bright recordings sounded really good through this speaker.
Midrange response was very good as well. We felt like there was a little more body and presence to vocals than we experienced with the Klipsch G-17 Air. We also got a bit more crunch to distorted guitar effects and better tone out of the drums, too.
The Beolit 12’s off-axis response isn’t quite as good as the Zeppelin Air or G-17 Air. When you move off to the side or stand above the unit, the treble and upper mids take a bit of a hit. Still, the speaker is capable of some pretty healthy volumes, and does a good job of filling medium-large (say, up to 20 x 20 foot) spaces. And, of course, it works just fine outside as well, where it will likely add a nice musical backdrop to outdoor work.
If we don’t already know how much an item costs before we review it, we avoid finding out until our review is complete. The idea here is that we form an opinion and rating based on how the item functions without regard for the price. Based on this methodology, we were prepared to give the Beolit 12 an 8.5. Then we learned what the intended retail price would be: $799?!
Look, we understand that some people will pay unnecessarily bloated price premiums for something special, and we submit that the Beolit 12’s portability is convenient, and its sound quality well above average for a speaker of its size. However, justifying an $800 price tag is a huge stretch for us.
For that, we could pick up a pair of Paradigm Shift A2, Paradigm’s Bluetooth dongle, and an Apple Airport express and still have enough scratch left over to load our iTunes library up with over 150 songs worth of new music. Sure, the resulting system wouldn’t be portable, but the sound quality would absolutely blow the Beolit 12’s right out of the water. So, the question is: Is the portability worth it to you?
In a time when price-to-performance ratios are moving ever toward the benefit of the consumer, it seems counter-intuitive to produce a product that runs the opposite direction. Unless, of course, the intent here is to maintain that elitist reputation and alienate a large segment of potential buyers.
We scored the Beolit 12 an 8 for excellent performance and portability, but can’t issue our recommended product badge when so many other good sounding portable music options exist for iOS device owners at far lower price points.
- Very good sound
- Highly portable
- Impressive battery life
- Clean, unobtrusive design
- Ridiculously priced
- Plagued by iPhone 4S AirPlay compatibility problems