(Pocket-lint) – Every few years Danish high-end maker Bang & Olufsen refreshes its Beolit speaker range. Being that it’s 2020 at the time of this launch, this portable speaker is called – you guessed it – the Beolit 20.
The Beolit 20 delivers a boost to longevity compared to the three-year-old Beolit 17, thanks to a more capacious battery, all wrapped up in a familiar picnic hamper-like aesthetic. And there’s an integrated Qi wireless charging pad up top, so you can plonk your fancy phone on top and watch it charge while you head-nod to your favourite tunes.
But the Beolit 20 remains far from cheap for a Bluetooth speaker (there’s no Wi-Fi for casting). Although, and just as we’ve said before, how many other portable speakers can kick out significant sound without needing to be permanently wired up to the mains? That’s the Beolit 20’s appeal: premium design, sound and portability.
- Dimensions: 135mm (W) x 230mm (H) x 189mm (D) / Weight: 2.7kgs
- Anodised aluminium body, vegetable tanned leather strap
- Finishes: Grey Mist, Black Anthracite
- Integrated touch controls
- Qi wireless charging pad
- USB-C charger
New for 2020 are two finishes, called Grey Mist and Black Anthracite. The grey is really aluminium and gold combined, as shown in our pictures, with a gold-like mesh behind the speaker grille’s circular openings. It looks warm and inviting, that signature tanned leather strap adding to the appeal. The black is more blue based on the press pictures, so has a colder aesthetic about it – we’ll happily stick with Grey Mist then.
While the 2.7kg weight might sound kind-of hefty, that carry handle makes the Beolit easy to cart around. However, we do wish that Bang & Olufsen would now move away from the USB-C charging port and get on board with a dedicated charging deck – like you’ll see with the Sonos Move or Harman Kardon Citation 200.
Visually speaking we still think this giant picnic hamper-alike speaker touches on all the visual design language that B&O so often uses. It’s minimal and attractive. And the sides of the Beolit aren’t covered in unsightly buttons either – it’s all up top where you’ll find the touch controls to adjust volume, power and Bluetooth pairing.
We doubt you’ll use these physical buttons all too much, though, as device control is possible, including a Bang & Olufsen app to sync your device, get at-a-glance battery life details, and even tweak the equaliser (EQ) across five presets or an easy-to-use customisation wheel. The equaliser is subtle to the point of being ineffective though, which could well be a bug in the software.
To the centre top of the Beolit 20 is a circular array, which is where its integrated Qi charging pad is hidden. This means you can pop wireless charging devices up there and power them up – whether your true wireless earbuds or the need to pop an extra 20 per cent charge into your phone, say. It’s a quirky new addition.
- 3x 1.5in full range drivers, 1x 5.5in wideband woofer, 2x 4in passive bass radiators
- 3200mAh battery capacity (up to 8 hours playback)
- Frequency response: 37 – 20,000Hz
- Customisable EQ (via app)
Despite being no larger than its predecessor, B&O has crammed a lot of extra battery capacity into the Beolit 20. It’s a 3200mAh cell, so that’s more than a 30 per cent increment. No surprise, then, that the Beolit 20 also lasts a third longer than its predecessor – so we’ve been getting full-on days of listening out of this portable even with the volume pushed.
Being a Bluetooth device, the Beolit 17 is of course best for wireless use – but there is a 3.5mm jack to the rear if you want a physical wired connection. We’ve been using paired devices via Bluetooth and have found the connection to be solid at all times.
It’s worth noting that there’s no Wi-Fi though, so that means no casting, no Airplay 2, none of that convenience. Given the price of this product we would expect such features now, for integrating it into the home better. Sure, it’s a portable, so that’s not going to be a help if you’re trying to play a Spotify playlist outside of your signal when having a BBQ or something – but you can always fall back on Bluetooth.
It’s not as if we’re asking for too much – the Harman Kardon Citation 200 offers portability and more connectivity, for even less money, without compromising on the sound. So we think Bang & Olufsen need to evolve this range a little more to keep up with the competition.
Nonetheless, the sound quality is generally super. The veracity of the bass is outstanding. A quoted 37Hz low-end is possible, which beyond just plump drum kicks will give you smooth sub-bass that’s perfect for underground tracks. No surprise given the large woofer and two passive radiators within this box of tricks.
However, the sound envelope struggles a little at lower volumes where things aren’t as cohesive. And while the product claims to offer a 360-degree sound output, it’s considerably varied from point to point. You’ll therefore want to point the speaker at its subjects best as possible and crank that volume to the higher levels for ideal sonic delivery.
But the sheer volume and clout that can be achieved without distortion is considerable from such a portable device. Beolit delivers big when it comes to sonic superiority.
Bang & Olufsen’s Beolit 20 is an attractive and generally great-sounding portable product. It’s evolved battery life over its predecessor and integrated new quirks such as the Qi wireless charging pad.
But while those are all great points, it’s hard to ignore where the market is going. For less money it’s easy to buy a portable speaker with Wi-Fi, Airplay and so forth – in addition to the Bluetooth as found here – for an overall more robust at-home and portable solution.
So while the Beolit 20 is an improvement over its predecessor, it’s the competition that’s jumped forward even more in the last three years. We’d still contently own one of these speakers and use it everyday because there’s a certain beauty about its aesthetic and sound. But parting with this much cash you should expect more on the features front.
Bose Portable Home Speaker
Not only does the Bose sound great, it’s also genuinely portable, better built than a lot of the competition, and littered with features – Airplay 2 and Wi-Fi in addition to Bluetooth – that some Bluetooth-only competitors lack.
Harman Kardon Citation 200
This wildly underrated speaker is far more affordable than the B&O, a little bigger in size, but far bigger in sound delivery. If you like big bass, it’s a no-brainer to buy.
Writing by Mike Lowe.