Take one look at the Bang & Olufsen Beolit 15 speaker and it’s hard not to wish for a sunny day, a grassy field, friends and food. It looks like a picnic basket.
But the Beolit 15 isn’t just a frivolous exercise in design by the celebrated Danish company.
£400 is a hefty sum for a Bluetooth speaker, and the Beolit 15 has the features (portable design, long battery life, USB charging port) and the performance to justify that premium price.
It sounds lovely. The B&O speaker strikes a fine combination of warmth, detail and surprisingly weighty bass to dole out a hugely enjoyable performance.
The Beolit 15’s low-end performance is just on the right side of overstated: the bassline to Jet’s Are You Gonna Be My Girl rumbles along merrily without sounding boomy.
There is a thickness to the sound that can make voices sound a bit muffled, but not in an offensive way. Overall, the Beolit remains a comfortable, fun listen.
Most surprisingly, though, this speaker goes incredibly loud. B&O designed the Beolit 15 to be fully omnidirectional, and a quick lap around the speaker confirms this: the spread of sound is wonderfully even, and the speaker comfortably fills up our large listening room with an easygoing, full-bodied performance.
Inside the speaker are four cleverly-placed drivers (one full-range, three tweeters) with two passive radiators working together that help spread that sound out so deftly.
More after the break
The edges of notes are a touch soft when they could be more precise, the dynamic shifts could have more energy and purpose to them, and drum hits could have greater attack – but the B&O speaker remains a comfortable, fun listen.
It does well with potentially harsh or thin recordings, too, such as Arvo Part’s Fratres, and never sounds strained when pushed at high volumes.
The B&O is great company – but for that fifth star, we’d like a cleaner, subtler approach with voices, and a greater sense of energy and conviction to its dynamics.
What sets the Beolit 15 apart from other wireless speakers at this premium price is that it’s portable. The fact you can unplug the Beolit 15 and take it anywhere with you is a major boon.
And you don’t have to worry about constantly charging it up either: the Beolit 15’s battery lasts for an astonishing 24 hours.
To make it last this long, B&O monitors the audio signal coming through the speaker: if there has been no music playing over Bluetooth after 15 minutes, the speaker powers down.
B&O has taken a more rugged approach to its usual designer-led build for this speaker. It’s perhaps not as premium-feeling as some of B&O’s other quirky designs, but the sturdy, hefty build is reassuring.
The rubber-coated aluminium panels are meant for the great outdoors, so we wouldn’t feel precious about plonking the Beolit 15 down in the middle of a field.
The leather strap feels dainty by comparison, but it gives the speaker its unique look and it is sturdy enough to lug around the chunky 3kg speaker (it really is quite heavy).
The metal grille gives a hint of luxury to this £400 speaker: it’s made of ‘anodised pearl-blasted aluminium’, which protects the grille from scratches.
Apart from the champagne finish of our review sample, you can also get the Beolit 15 in natural (grey), blue, rose and all-black variations.
Pairing up with Bluetooth takes mere seconds, and it’s easy to use right from the start. Controls are kept at a minimum: there are four buttons on the top of the unit for power, volume and Bluetooth pairing.
They’re soft to touch and respond instantly, although we did experience some delays when changing the volume. This happens especially when you’re using your smartphone or tablet to control music playback, but it’s not recurring enough to be too annoying.
A plastic flap at the back of the speaker rather inelegantly hides the power port, and there’s also a 3.5mm input for when you have to forego Bluetooth and hard-wire your device to the speaker.
We gave the previous Beolit 12 four stars because it just didn’t sound fun.
But we have to hand it to B&O, the Beolit 15 is all about having fun. Add in the sturdy build, the huge personality, likeable sound and excellent features - that's enough to win us over.
Now let’s see about that picnic.
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