With the Beosound Theatre, Bang & Olufsen has taken the humble soundbar to another level, discovers Steve May – and it has the price tag to show for it. Read our BANG and OLUFSEN BEOSOUND THEATRE Review.
SOUNDBARS DON’T COME any more premium than this 18kg whopper from Danish design honcho Bang & Olufsen. Rather than shoot for the mainstream, the brand has gone seriously upmarket with a component that’s as uncompromising as it is exhilarating – the Beosound Theatre looks like no other soundbar on the market right now, and it doesn’t really sound like anything else either.
|Product||High-end single-box Dolby Atmos soundbar|
|Position||B&O’s flagship, above the Beosound Stage|
|Peers||Devialet Dione; Sennheiser Ambeo|
Design is obviously a talking point. Available in a variety of finishes, the most ‘affordable’ iteration features a smart fabric grille. Our sample had a more expensive slatted oak wood grille, which channels Scandi furniture design. This cosmetic uplift comes at a price though, because while the fabric edition sells for £, three oak variants with wooden grilles sell for £.
Regardless, there’s a phalanx of speaker drivers behind that point forwards, sideways and upwards. A coaxial centre channel array features a 1in tweeter mounted in front of a 5.25in mid. Either side are 6.5in woofers. There are then L and R channel arrays of 3in mid and tweeter, plus four 2.5in full-range units for side and height. There’s no separate sub, which is fine because that would cramp the Theatre’s style. And B&O rates the low-end reach of this one-box audio solution at 28Hz.
There’s more to its design than first meets the eye, too. For example, the decorative aluminium endstops are upgradable, so that when you swap your 55in TV for something larger, either 65in or 77in, you can change the endstops for ones that are longer, thereby maintaining the system’s overall symmetrical design.
Indeed, B&O says its soundbar is engineered so that every core aspect can be removed, repaired or replaced. This includes the processor and the HDMI input/output board. When it comes to future-proofing this is probably as good as it gets, and this goes a long way to justifying the Theatre’s high price tag. But the approach is nothing new – the philosophy has always been a central tenet of the manufacturer.
One niggle about the soundbar’s otherwise impressive physical design is the glass touch-panel on its top, which illuminates when triggered by a proximity sensor. There’s one obvious downside to this: it’s highly reflective, and mirrors whatever is happening onscreen. In a darkened room, this is actually quite distracting.
See also TOP 10 Soundbars & Soundbases
RECOMMENDED VIDEOS FOR YOU...
Sound all around
The Theatre’s speaker complement is classified by Bang & Olufsen as 7.1.4, thanks to some virtual processing, and the total claimed amplification is 800W from 12 modules (delivering 100W apiece to the 6.5in woofers, and 600W split across the remaining ten driver pairs).
Compatible with Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD and multichannel PCM, but not DTS:X, the soundbar doesn’t skimp when it comes to connections. Usefully, there are four HDMI inputs, one of which has 40GB bandwidth and supports 4K 120Hz passthrough and eARC. There’s also
1. The Theatre hides 12 drivers, including twin woofers, tethered to a rated 800W power plant
2. The ‘bar ships with a table stand, but a motorised floorstand is another option
Bluetooth and dual-band Wi-Fi, and even a four-port Ethernet switch, one socket reserved for connective/ control duties with a compatible LG OLED TV.
Be aware that the ‘bar, like some other high-price models we’ve seen recently, doesn’t come with a dedicated remote control. Instead you’re directed to Bang & Olufsen’s app. This has TV, Music, Movie, Game and Night sound presets, and opens the door to Spotify Connect, Chromecast and Apple AirPlay.
So does the Beosound Theatre sound as good as it looks? If it wasn’t playing so loud, you could probably hear me squealing in delight.
‘You’ll feel like you could take a stroll around the Theatre’s soundscape, admiring the depth of its imagery’
Its audio borders on symphonic. Extraordinarily dynamic, it delivers beautifully bright highs, with a crisp (but not sibilant) treble, a velvet-smooth mid-range and, when required, bludgeoning bass. The overall presentation is spacious rather than pointy. You feel you could take a stroll around its soundscape, admiring the depth of imagery and the profundity of its attack. There’s oodles of power too, which helps deliver those rapid transients.
The Atmos soundtrack of Army of the Dead (Netflix) offers plenty of scope for both sonic violence and subtle atmospherics. The gun sounds are epic in Zack Snyder’s genre mash-up, and the B&O Theatre’s dual woofers make every shot count. When our ragtag band of mercenaries power up the floor of Bly’s casino, and line after line of slot machines spring into life, there’s a feeling of a wavefront of sound. Later, when the Gdtterdammerung safe is blown, the bass rocks like a wedding chapel Elvis.
The clarity of the centre channel delivery of the Theatre is also noteworthy, whether it’s tasked with keeping naturally mixed movie chatter easily understandable, or sweet vocal performances. The latter helps ensure the soundbar has no problem doubling as a high-end music machine. Stereo audio can be upmixed to make full use of the driver array, and the end result is highly entertaining.
3. Raise your budget to £ and you can get the Theatre in light, natural or dark oak finish
There is a caveat to this barnstorming performance, however. If you’re wondering if this hyper-expensive soundbar can replace a traditional AV receiver then the answer has to be no. It doesn’t deliver immersive thrills comparable to a home cinema amp feeding a full fist of physical speakers.
The Theatre’s soundstage reaches high but can’t stretch behind you. There’s plenty of steerage across the front, but nothing in the round. You’ll have to invest in additional speakers to go fully cinematic; as many as 16 of B&O’s Beosound speakers can be connected to the soundbar, eight wirelessly and eight tethered, via the brand’s Powerlink system. Plenty of options then, but the bill will be high.
Setting the bar
Of course, this soundbar isn’t meant to go toe-to-toe with a traditional home cinema system. It’s not really aimed at Blu-ray enthusiasts with giant disc libraries either. The Theatre is for those that primarily stream, be it movies from Netflix or Disney+, or music from Tidal or Qobuz, and won’t begrudge the absence of DTS:X. And viewed on those terms, it’s one heck of an AV upgrade
This unapologetically premium soundbar is as much high-end furniture as it is an audio system - build quality and design are that good. It also sounds magnificent.
Best BANG & OLUFSEN BEOSOUND THEATRE prices ?
See also TOP 10 Soundbars & Soundbases
|DRIVERS:||Coaxial center with 1in tweeter and 5.25in mid-range; 2 x 6.5in woofers; 2 x 3in mid-range and 2 x 1in tweeters (L/R); 4 x 2.5in drivers (side L/R and Dolby Atmos upfirers)|
|ONBOARD POWER (CLAIMED):||800W (2 x 100W + 10 x 60W)|
|CONNECTIONS:||4 x HDMI inputs, including 1 x eARC; Ethernet; Powerlink speaker outputs|
|DIMENSIONS:||1,222(w) x 197(h) x 157(d)mm|
|FEATURES:||RoomSense setup microphone; upgradable design; proximity based UI; True Image up/downmixing algorithm; wall and floorstand mounting options; 4K/120 passthrough; B&O app; Spotify Connect; Apple AirPlay 2; Chromecast; Wi-Fi; Bluetooth; fabric or oak finish|
ARMY OF THE DEAD: From the groaning dead and automatic weapons, to the distinct atmospherics of clinking Las Vegas casino floors, Zack Snyder’s horror heist proves a serious workout for any sound system – and the score by long-time Snyder collaborator Tom Holkenborg is a real banger. Streaming on Netflix.