Tech Review: B&O strike a fine balance between form and function with Beoplay P6

The initial question with a Bang & Olufsen product is almost always “is it worth the price?”. The Danish consumer electronics brand has a habit of playing in the “Ludicrously Expensive” price range, but has always managed to justify that high price point with an equal focus on luxurious design and world-class performance. No matter your opinion on the high cost of their products, it’s hard to deny B&O’s consistency when it comes to both form and function.

The Beoplay P6 is just one of the products the company have released this year, slotting nicely into the medium sized portable speaker range with considerable charm. Designed by acclaimed industrial designer Cecilie Manz, who has worked on many of the company’s standout devices, the P6 looks like a vintage radio (without the protruding antenna of course) with a shell featuring high-quality pearl blasted aluminum, smooth rounded edges and perforated speaker grilles milled into either side. Five aluminium buttons are carved into the top, traditionally textured with what seems like an intentional pushback against modern touchpads. There’s a nice throwback quality to the industrial aesthetic here, reiterating the company’s branding: a device that slides seamlessly into any position in a contemporary designer home without looking out of place. Like many B&O products, the base is rubber and towards that is where you’ll find the devices only input, a USB-C slot for quick and easy charging.

The leather hand strap is an odd choice, looking like something you’d find on an expensive moleskin diary, and isn’t as functional as similar hooks or loops found on competing portable speakers. However, it does make sense with the classy design and can be used to hang the speaker around the house or outdoors. Although the body is quite weighty for a portable, and at 1kg with the bulk of a hefty 170 x 130 x 68mm size, you will certainly feel the awkward pull when you go to use the strap.

The body is IP54 rated so you get a reasonable amount of splash and dust resistance although don’t go setting this up next to a pool anytime soon unless you’re absolutely sure no one will knock it in. Still, that’s decent protection for the high-end tech that sits underneath the shell and helps the P6 deliver a show-stopping performance. It delivers on the promised 360-degree sound experience (called “True360″ over at the B&O office) fueled by one 36W Class D 4″ woofer and twin 30W Class D full tone 1.5” drivers. That’s a total of 215W peak power, which can easily fill an entire room and makes even half-volume sound like it’s coming from a device much, much larger.

A natural, robust sound signature is the standard here, well balanced although losing edge at the highest volume levels. Bass doesn’t overwhelm and plays nicely with the mids so you can get very clear instrumentation with harder sounds like rock and metal but still hear a thick boom in hip hop and electronica. Soul and jazz heads will hear a lot to love here as well. The issue then falls mainly with Beoplay’s showy smartphone app which goes for aesthetics rather than logic. The EQ especially is still something that needs to be fixed, where the sound profiles of ‘warm, excited, relaxed, bright’ are displayed in a gradient. Much like the Parrot Zik range of Bluetooth headphones, you simply drag a dot around to arrive at a combination of any four of the sound profiles, but this is largely confusing and requires a lot of trial and error as opposed to separate sliders for each, which is what other brands usually go with.

Circling back to the buttons on the device. They consist of volume buttons, power on/off, Bluetooth and also an interesting middle button with a plain circle on it. This one can actually be assigned various functions via the app, acting as a smart button that can be used to quickly play a previous track, scroll through EQ settings (ToneTouch), act as a play/pause button, or access your device’s voice assistant (eg, bring up Siri on your iPhone, which is responsive thanks to the speaker’s integrated microphone) and answer calls. Including this little level of customisation adds a welcome layer of dynamism, although nothing too substantial.

Multi-room functionality is quite poor. You can only pair this up with another P6 so something like an M3 wouldn’t be able to play at the same time. With very open brands like Sonos existing on the market for a much more competitive price, this seems like a large oversight on B&O’s behalf.

Though the other end that helps justify this speaker’s price tag is the exceptional battery life. A full charge takes around three hours and can last for around 16 hours at a decent volume. That’s nothing to scoff at, and the promise rings true from several trials, making this one of the more valuable Bluetooth speakers in its range, if long-lasting battery is what you’re looking for.

At $599 AUD, people without considerable funds might have a hard time justifying the P6 outside of a special occasion. Though like with most of their products, B&O do their best to live up to this price with a very powerful performance, exceptionally beautiful product, and one of the most reliable batteries in its range. It really comes down to how much you value those three points.

FOUR STARS OUT OF FIVE

Highlights: Does it’s best to justify the price; sleek design (in black or natural colours); powerful performance; reliable battery life (with fast-charging); smart home friendly.
Lowlights: Little multiroom purpose; confusing EQ; heavier than a portable speaker should be.
Manufacturer: Bang & Olufsen
Price: $599 AUD
Available: Now
Website: beostore.com.au

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Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy Editor of the AU review, an obsessive hip hop nerd, a whisky drinker, and a lover of all things travel. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter with @chrisdsingh.

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