Bang & Olufsen Beolit 12 Review

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.
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.
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.

Highs

  • Very good sound
  • Highly portable
  • Impressive battery life
  • Clean, unobtrusive design

Lows

  • Ridiculously priced
  • Plagued by iPhone 4S AirPlay compatibility problems

Editor’s Note: We make mention in our video review that the Beolit 12 had to be manually reconnected to our Wi-Fi network each time it was powered up. B&O has since informed us this will be changed with a firmware update that will be available by the time the unit is available in the US.

Most folks have, at some time or another, run into a Bang & Olufsen (B&O) product. The company’s recognizable take on electronics design has produced some unique-looking and historically upscale products, which have enjoyed a glut of product placement love from the TV and movie industry. The Beocom 2, for instance, appeared in Sex in the City. The BS9000 is practically a staple for any recent production involving Hugh Grant. We’re pretty sure there was a B&O product somewhere in The Devil Wears Prada, and remember the TV hit series Friends? B&O was all up in that, too.

That being the case, it’s easy to understand why B&O gets pegged as a “lifestyle” brand and is often lumped in with other such companies (we won’t mentioned any names) that often prioritize style over performance. You know, the kind that produce electronics regarded as “elitist” by the US public, and ridiculed by high-end audio enthusiasts.

Such a broad characterization is rarely fair — even the other “lifestyle” company we elude to has turned out some genuinely decent-sounding products from time to time. And, in the case of B&O, it is probably especially so. Some of B&O’s past products may have been unnecessarily expensive, but they actually sounded (and looked) quite good.

With that attitude in mind, we approached B&O for a review sample of its newly unveiled Beolit 12 AirPlay speaker. B&O got one to us very quickly and we got into evaluating it straight away. In our B&O Beolit 12 portable AirPlay speaker review, we discuss its good and not-so-good design points, evaluate its sonic performance, and rank it against the likes of the B&W Zeppelin Air and Klipsch G-17 Air.

Out of the box

The Beolit 12 is smartly packaged without any unnecessary fluff. The bright red box it sits in is outfitted with a carrying strap, echoing the strapped design of the Beolit 12 itself.

In the box we found the Beolit 12, an AC power cord, Ethernet cable, a 20-inch long ⅛-inch patch cable, quick-start guide and user manual.

The unit measures 9.1 x 7.4 x 2.2 in inches, and tips the scales at just over 6 pounds.

Features and design

The factor that most distinguishes the Beolit 12 from other premium AirPlay speakers such as the B&W Zeppelin Air or Klipsch G-17 Air is its portability. Inside the Beolit 12 is a rechargeable battery which B&O claims can power the unit for up to eight hours with a wired connection or up to four hours via AirPlay. It charges iOS devices, too.

To enhance its portability, a leather carrying strap affixes to opposite ends of the speaker cabinet with round lugs. It hugs the left side of the speaker when lowered to minimize its appearance and help the speaker keep a clean look.

Bang-&-Olufsen-Beolit-12-black-front-2

The top of the speaker is recessed and lined with a rubbery anti-skid material. This provides a sort of “tray” for phones or other small portable media devices. B&O also uses it to hide the unit’s four touch capacitive buttons for power, toggling wireless, and turning the volume up and down. The bottom of the speaker has four round rubber pads for stability.

The back of the speaker bears a pop-out door that hides the speaker’s AC power port and Ethernet port. A small cutout in the door allows cables to be passed through. The right side of the speaker has a small recess at the bottom, where we find the speaker’s USB port and ⅛-inch mini-jack for direct connection of an iOS device (or any other audio device, really).

The front of the speaker is comprised primarily of an aluminum grill. The only B&O logo we found is on the lugs that attach the leather strap to the speaker. Otherwise, the front face of the unit is exceptionally clean. In fact, the speaker is kind of reminiscent of an oversized lunchbox or a small picnic basket. To be sure, it looks like anything but a portable speaker, which we think could resonate with all sorts who want an audio solution that blends in to its surrounding decor. With that said, the opinion of those in our office varied greatly. Some liked the Beolit 12’s appearance while others were not huge fans.

Bang-&-Olufsen-Beolit-12-rear-ports-open
  Bang-&-Olufsen-Beolit-12-top-controls   Bang-&-Olufsen-Beolit-12-side-ports   Bang-&-Olufsen-Beolit-12-rear   Bang-&-Olufsen-Beolit-12-bottom  

Under the clean-looking facade hides a 120-watt digital amplifier, which powers a single 4-inch mid-bass driver and two 2-inch tweeters. This may not sound like a lot speakers, but the tweeters in use are larger than most and could potentially be designed to efficiently cover much of the upper midrange frequencies. That leaves the 4-inch driver to cover the mid-bass and bass frequencies without the added hassle of tackling the whole midrange band on its own.

At this point, we have no major gripes to report on, save, perhaps, the absence of a remote control. This may seem ironic, considering we’ve commented in the past that such a thing seems redundant with an AirPlay speaker, since the iOS device itself functions as the remote. However, having toted the Beolit 12 around outside of our home and office (and away from a Wi-Fi network) with our iPhone hardwired to the speaker, we have to say a small remote would have come in pretty handy.

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