Bang & Olufsen are often out of any reasonable price range for the casual tech consumer, and the company is usually off collaborating with other high-end luxury brands like Lamborghini – their latest partnership which has the reputable Danish tech company fitting the new Lamborghini Urus supercar with a bespoke 1,700 watt audio system. Their lifestyle division, B&O Play, is pushed as the more accessible off-shoot of the brand, but even still their products often reach into the higher price ranges. It’s for this reason that the Beoplay M3 has been well-received for being the company’s most affordable wireless speaker yet, a beautiful entry point to the careful balance of design and performance that B&O have struck so well in the past.
Though it’s sliding in as the youngest sibling in B&O’s range of wireless multiroom speakers the Beoplay M3 is no push over at AU$449. In a relative sense that’s a very good price for this brand, but it’s still quite high, even when considering the excellent performance; particularly given that there are a few sold-separately peripherals that could have been included for a better balanced value. For example, there’s a specialised wall-mount you can get for the speaker, but that’s around AU$79, and there are two exchangeable covers available – retailing at AU$89 each.
However credit must be given to the speaker’s premium design, which is in-line with the company’s other products; it is as much designer furniture as it is audio tech. Perhaps this is the best explanation for the eye-widening price tag, with incredibly subtle and elegant aesthetic ensuring this speaker looks exceptionally good in any discerningly designed home. Award-winning Danish designer Cecile Manz was called upon to collaborate with B&O on the M3, which comes with either the company’s signature anodised aluminium (with the gorgeous matte black finish) or a very sightly woollen weave by Danish design textile company Kvadrat. The speaker’s sense of space and character can not be ignored here. Note that the model this review is based on comes in the black matte finish.
The sleek precision of the speaker’s shape, which has rounded side panels and looks much more delicate and lightweight than it actually is (around 1.4kg), sticks out from the competitors. It’s arguably the best looking wireless speaker released this year, with a perforated speaker grille that ever so slightly wraps around to the sides and then neatly cuts off, leaving the rest of the smooth matte black speaker unadorned with anything but two buttons at the back of the device – volume control and a multifunction button for play/pause function or switching between sound sources, and barely noticeable indicators for signal strength and power near the bottom. You can also use this multifunction button to connect to either a device (via Bluetooth) or an already set-up ecosystem of B&O speakers.
The bottom of the M3 features a rubber surface for practical reasons, half of which can be flipped open to reveal a panel featuring the slot for the power cable, a power button, settings button, 3.5mm aux input, and curiously a micro USB port (should you want to use the device as a powerbank for your phone, I guess). The actual compartment is frustratingly tight at first but easy to get used to. They designers have certainly done well to hide all the necessary inclusions so the immediate sight is that of a smooth, incredibly neat body.
Underneath the detachable grille is a single 0.75″ tweeter and a 3.75″ woofer, driving that mono-only sound and giving the M3 a lovely, versatile signature that, though very directional, is most ideal for vocal-driven music such as soul or R&B. Bass-heavy tracks are well-handled at most volume levels, with a beautiful response that accentuates and distinguishes textures for a clean profile. This is most evident at the low and mid levels; the higher volume levels can lose a bit of dynamism with more complex soundscapes, losing it’s cleanliness although not by much. Again, the overall signature seems to be worked in favour of vocals, picking up on smaller details for a sound that’s rich and nuanced. Ultimately, the sound is excellent but not quite near the best in it’s category (the much cheaper Sonos One has it beat).
Luckily the highly intuitive and detailed Beoplay smartphone app offers a great range of customisation options which include tweaks to the speaker’s sound. Don’t settle for the out-of-sound with this one; have a play with the app’s Beoplay Tonetouch EQ functionality, it’s an easy way to customise the sound profile to exactly the way you want it. And if dragging a dot around four touchpoints – warm, excited, relaxed and bright – is a bit too complex, then there’s always some well designed presets aimed at showing of the speaker’s versatility, ranging from party and “podcast” to lounge and “clear”. There’s a bunch of other options as well, so using this with the app is highly recommended and it’s here that the best side of the speaker is truly realised – as for as performance goes, that is.
To add a lot more value, the speaker can make use of Spotify Connect, Google Chromecast, Google Home and Apple AirPlay (and it’s future ready for AirPlay 2), all of which are built-in. This ups the versatility and practicality of this speaker, which is necessary as smart speakers start to take over the market, although it seems an oversight that all this is included but not microphone for phone calls.
You’re paying a premium for the impeccable design here, and that’s not such a bad thing depending on where your personal priorities lie. It’d be quite hard to find a speaker in this price range that looks as good as the M3, but for those primarily concerned with performance – especially a standard that doesn’t need tweaking via an app – B&O’s cheapest still seems a bit too pricey, at least when we’re considering M3 as a stand-alone speaker as opposed to part of a larger ecosystem.
Score: 8.0 out of 10
Highlights: Impeccable design, looks great in any home; ability to customise performance through Beoplay app; built-in support for Chromecast, Home and Apple AirPlay.
Lowlights: Still too expensive; there are more affordable speakers out there which sound just as good.
Manufacturer: B&O Play