Bang and Olufsen BeoLab 50 review

Eivør at Metropolis StudiosI was back at Chiswick’s Metropolis Studios after being invited to hear Bang and Olufsen’s new BeoLab 50 speakers. How could I possibly refuse?

It’s bonkers to think that it is almost two years since B&O unleashed their BeoLab 90 speakers. These were built to celebrate the Danish audio cobbler’s 90th birthday.

Their impressive design packing 18 drivers in an oddly architectural case is not something you will soon forget.

The BeoLab 50, announced last month, however, is said to offer much of the BeoLab 90’s technology in a lighter, more compact package.

Furthermore, a package that won’t demand endless attention by screaming “Look at me! Look at me!”

BeoLab 50 at Metropolis

I do like these studios. headroom has made its home here and I’ve been fortunate enough to have been invited to similar listening events as this previously.

bando boozeAfter a can or two of B&O’s own beer (infused with music by way of plopping in a Bluetooth speaker for the final fortnight of brewing), it was off to have a listen.

We were gathered in the control room on the ground floor. A pair of BeoLab 50 speakers staring right back at us.

B&O BeoLab 50Behind them was a drawn curtain. This prevented us from being distracted if there was something happening in the live room beyond. It also gave the control room a rather awkward half-light.

Beyond the veil

It turned out that the curtains were hiding something or, rather, someone.
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Part of this listening experience was to see if we could discern which track was pre-recorded and which was being performed live. Both versions would be played through the BeoLab 50.

Eivør B&O BeoLab 50 MetropolisI must say that I was really taken by the artiste’s performance, as well as that of the B&O loudspeakers.

The Danish singer, Eivør, was unknown to me before and I was pleasantly surprised to find a CD in the goody bag. I was prepared to buy one anyway as I was that taken by her voice.
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I did manage to get Eivør to sign the CD case though 🙂 I am seriously considering going to her gig at Bush Hall, Shepherds Bush on November 28th.

B&O BeoLab 50 in Metropolis StudiosNow, whether or not this is a helpful demonstration of the speakers is up for debate. Me, I rather enjoyed it as a spectacle. Would I lay down a hefty wadge of cash on the strength of the demo? Probably not.

The speakers did perform really well, to be honest.

BeoLab 50 performance

The BeoLab 50 does look incredibly B&O. Their silver-polished aluminium surfaces and oak lamellae screams their style.

BeoLab 50 material detailPart of their remarkable performance will be down to their Active Room Compensation technology. This calibrates the speaker’s sound according to the shape and size of the room they’re in.

BeoLab 50 with Acoustic LensActually seeing (and hearing) the Beam Width Control tech (borrowed from the BeoLab 90) in action was interesting.

This allows you to “change the width of the sound”. So, if you’re in by yourself (or feeling selfish) you can have the regular ‘speaker sweetspot’. However, should you have friends around you can then open up the ‘cheeks’ of the directional Acoustic Lens for a 180-degree spread of “room-filling” sound.

Sound quality

For all their technology the speakers still sounded musical and natural. There was a warmth to the overall production too. The stereo imaging and clarity is remarkable.

It was difficult to get a true measure of the soundstage as the control room was full of journalists, engineers and cameramen. What I can say is that the Acoustic Lens really does make a difference to the width of the sound.

Set narrowly there is a definite sweetspot. Open the lens to 180-degrees, this gives a really wide projection. However, I would like to get these in a ‘normal’ room in order to really listen to the instrument placement, etc.

I hope to be getting more ears-on time with these speakers soon. Afterwards, I will update this.

Power station

The BeoLab 50 doesn’t share the BeoLab 90’s 8200-watt horsepower and eighteen drivers. What it does have is three amplifiers that push out a more-than-reasonable 2100 watts.

This is split between an Acoustic Lens with 3-inch tweeter, three 4-inch midrange drivers, a front firing 10-inch bass unit, and either side of the cabinet are a further two 10-inch bass speakers.

Can live with it

Where the 90 might have struggled to fit in – or even just fit – in most rooms, the BeoLab 50 will have much more luck.

At 104cm tall, 46cm wide and tipping the scales at 61kg, they are, according to B&O, a floorstander that “fits in anywhere”. Perhaps they haven’t seen my living-room.

B&O BeoLab 50 lifestyleAround the rear of the speakers you’ll find a pair of RCAs for analogue. Taking care of digital audio are the USB and coaxial inputs. These are capable of supporting files up to 24bit/192kHz.

There’s also an optical input for playback up to 24bit/96kHz and, last but not least, wireless connectivity is based on the multi-channel WiSA technology.

Naturally, there’s also an app. The Bang & Olufsen app opens the door to smartphone or tablet control, multiroom functionality. Additionally, the app hands you access to music streaming services like Deezer and TuneIn. Furthermore, it can also be used to wirelessly connect to a BeoVision TV.

Price and availability

The BeoLab 50 is the ‘cheaper’ alternative to the BeoLab 90 at just £22,930.