CES 2012: B&O goes mainstream with Beolit 12 AirPlay system

Now here's something we didn't expect: Bang & Olufsen targeting the mainstream audio market with an AirPlay streaming system.

The Beolit 12 is the first in a range of new products to be sold at more affordable prices than traditional B&O kit under the B&O Play sub-brand.

Launching in Europe at the end of January for £699/€699, it will be followed by a range of headphones and other accessories designed to bring B&O's brand appeal to those with smaller wallets than the company's more traditional customers.

As always, design has played a key part in the development of the Beolit 12 and it certainly looks different to other AirPlay systems. Its rectangular housing contains 120W built-in digital amplification, two 2in tweeters – one at each end – and a 4in woofer facing out from the side.

A rechargeable battery gives up to eight hours of playback (although this drops to four if you constantly use AirPlay), there are ethernet and USB connections and a line-in for connecting non-AirPlay products.

You can charge your iDevice via USB, and there's a handy compartment built in for storing the mains power adapter when you're out and about.

A rubberised tray is fitted to the top of the unit as a handy place to put your iPhone/iPod, and there are volume, power and network controls on the top too.

The finest Italian leather is use for the carry handle, says B&O, and although the Beolit 12 will initially onl be available in dark grey, metallic green, blue and silver versions will follow.

"We are very excited about the range of products we will launch under this new brand," says Bang & Olufsen CEO Tue Mantoni. "Price points will be at more accessible levels than typically seen from B&O."

B&O is also launching an online store in Europe, having already successfully done so in the US.

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Andy Clough

Andy is Global Brand Director of What Hi-Fi? and has been a technology journalist for 30 years. During that time he has covered everything from VHS and Betamax, MiniDisc and DCC to CDi, Laserdisc and 3D TV, and any number of other formats that have come and gone. He loves nothing better than a good old format war. Andy edited several hi-fi and home cinema magazines before relaunching whathifi.com in 2008 and helping turn it into the global success it is today. When not listening to music or watching TV, he spends far too much of his time reading about cars he can't afford to buy.