Is this the ultimate portable speaker?
- Huge, well-balanced sound
- Projects a wide 360-degree soundstage
- Looks and feels gorgeous
- Neat design touches
- Excellent battery life
- Not cheap
- Bluetooth aptX
- 3.5mm aux input
- 2 x 35W class D amplification
- 3 x 1.5-inch tweeters, 2 x 4-inch passive bass radiators, 1 x 5.5-inch full-range driver
- Up to 24 hours’ playback from 2200mAh battery
- USB-C charging
- W23 x H18.9 x D13.5cm, 2.6kg
- Manufacturer: Bang & Olufsen
- Review Price: £449.00
WHAT IS THE BANG & OLUFSEN BEOLIT 17?
Bang & Olufsen’s new Bluetooth speaker combines portability with the Danish brand’s trademark design panache and premium materials – then squeezes in a whole lotta wattage.
There’s the promise of 70W of class D power and 24 hours of battery life from this little stunner. But you’d hope for no less for the hefty £449/$499 price tag.
Thankfully, the Beolit 17 is way more than just a pretty face. In fact, it could be the best portable speaker around right now.
BANG & OLUFSEN BEOLIT 17 – DESIGN AND FEATURES
I’m not really sure what the Beolit 17 reminds me of. There’s something slightly domesticated about the design, as if it’s been made for a kitchen – but one you need to be on some kind of exclusive list to enter. And where you’re not allowed to open the fridge unless you have a special wristband.
Wrapped around the outside and joining at the back is a metal grille, which hides an impressive speaker array of three 1.5-inch tweeters, two 4-inch passive bass radiators and a single, 5.5-inch full-range driver. All of that’s driven by 70W of stereo class D amplification, with 35W per channel.
The moulded rubber top is quite deeply dished and non-slip, which serves a useful purpose. If you have a phone or PMP connected to the Beolit 17, you can pop it on that concave roof, pick up the speaker and carry the whole lot around without worrying about your mobile device sliding off and onto the floor. Very neat indeed.
On that top you’ll also find the controls: a row of five flush-fitted round buttons for power, volume up and down, Bluetooth pairing, and a special, customisable ‘one-touch’ button. The latter can be used so that, if you set an alarm via the app, for instance, you can assign the button to snooze or deactivate the alarm. You can also opt to press it to get back to the last thing you listened to on Spotify, or to go to a particular EQ preset. Or you could just leave it as a play/pause control, which is its default setting.
A leather carry handle is slung diagonally across the upper part of the Beolit 17, fastened over a couple of classy B&O-branded metal fixings on the front-left and right-rear. It’s beautifully done, with a clear nod to the fashion industry.
The Beolit 17 is available in a Stone Grey finish – which is the almost-black one I got to test – or the gorgeous Natural, which is silvery and comes with a tan leather strap. The Stone Grey is nicer in the flesh than I expected, but I still think Natural is the way to go.
Around the back-right, near the very bottom, are a 3.5mm line input and a USB-C charging port. A 2200mAh Li-Ion reachargeable battery promises to offer up to 24 hours of music playback from a 2.5-hour charge.
As is the case with most portable B&O products, the Beolit 17’s EQ can be tweaked via the Beoplay app, or you can stereo-pair it with a second Beolit 17. The app can also be used to check the speaker’s remaining battery life, which is particularly useful.
B&O doesn’t claim any level of splash- and dust-resistance for the Beolit 17 – probably because of those exposed sockets near the bottom – but it gives the impression that it might survive a spot of unexpected rain. It’s also very easy to clean.
BANG & OLUFSEN BEOLIT 17 – SOUND QUALITY
The Beolit 17 doesn’t just sound good, it sounds huge. There aren’t many Bluetooth speakers or radios that are small enough to carry but don’t also sound obviously small.
With the beautiful acoustic folk of Joe Purdy’s title track from the ‘Canyon Joe’ album, the vocals and gently twanging guitar release into the room with wonderful realism. As with all decent hi-fi, the Beolit 17 enables you to just listen to the music, without the spell being broken by the performer sounding like they’re trapped in a tiny box.
‘Homecoming’ from Josh Ritter’s ‘Sermon on the Rocks’ shows off the Beolit’s vast soundstage, although revealed that the default EQ was maybe a touch warm, resulting in the kick-drum losing its impact. I found the best balance came from going into the app and setting the EQ just slightly off-centre, on the line between Bright and Excite.
Moving on to Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, the Beolit 17 proved that it really can project an impressive 360-degree soundstage. ‘Time’ even displayed some decent stereo effect, which is always tricky from a small speaker.
It can also manage a healthy serving of bass for its size, and keeps distortion to a minimum, even at the loudest volumes.
SHOULD I BUY THE BANG & OLUFSEN BEOLIT 17?
The Beolit 17 has no right to sound as good as it does. You shouldn’t be able to carry around something with such huge, impressive sonics. Add beautiful, neat Danish design and excellent battery life to that great audio quality and you have just about the perfect portable speaker.
The price tag might be on the high side, but the Beolit 17 justifies it through sheer brilliance at what it does.
If you’re looking for comparable sound quality from another Bluetooth speaker, the B&W Zeppelin Wireless is right up there, but a little more expensive and it isn’t portable. The awesome-sounding Ruark Audio MR1 Mk2 can be made portable, but not in nearly such a neat package as the Beolit 17.
There’s also the Harmon Kardon Go + Play 2, which is an awful lot cheaper, but limited to just eight hours of battery life and doesn’t sound (or look) quite as refined as the Beolit 17.
Outstandingly good sonics from a beautifully crafted portable package – and with superb battery life, too.