Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 18 Reviews

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I was part of the development team, and one of the two persons who decided on the final sound design (aka tonal balance) of the B&O BeoLab 18 loudspeakers. So, I’m happy to share some of the blame for some of the comments (at least on the sound quality) from the reviews.

 

Bernard Dickinson at Live Magazines said:

The sound reproduction is flawless”

 

Lyd & Billede’s August 2014 review said

“Lydkvaliteten er rigtig god med en åben, distinkt og fyldig gengivelse, som ikke gør højopløste lydformater til skamme.” (The sound quality is very good with an open, clear and detailed reproduction, which do not put high-resolution audio formats to shame.)

and ”Stemmerne er lige klare og tydelige, hvad enten vi sidder lige i smørhullet eller befinder os langt ude i siden. Det er faktisk ret usædvanligt og gør, at BeoLab 18 egner sig lige godt til både baggrundsmusik og aktiv lytning” (The voices are crisp and clear, whether we are sitting right in the sweet spot or far off to the side. It’s actually quite unusual and makes the BeoLab 18 equally suited for both background music and active listening)

  1. Hi Geoff,

    I own a pair of beolab 18 speakers, positioned on their original black ‘feet’. What I am wondering about, is that the acoustic lens is way above ear level when I am sitting on my coach or in my chair. I thought the optimal position for a tweeter is always at ear level, especially when the tweeter is mounted horizontally and cannot radiate to any vertical degree. Could you explain why the decision has been made to put the tweeter at such a height? My second question is that I like to mount the beolab 18 speakers to the wall, resulting in a situation where cables are fully hidden, but also in a situation where my speakers will be located in an even higher position, about 15 – 20 centimeters off-floor. This implies that the acoustic lens will be positioned even higher, coming close to ear-level when standing. To what degree is this effecting sound quality when sitting about 3 meters from both speakers? And my very last question; my speakers are currently at about 35 cm from the wall, DSP on ‘free’. What will be the effect on a wall-mounting position, DSP still being on ‘free’?

    Hope you find the time to answer my questions.

    Best regards,

    Ewout

  2. Hi Ewout,

    There was a very long discussion about this on one of the beoworld.org forum threads.

    The condensed version of the answer is that the Beolab 18 was tuned at a “reference position” of 3 m distance, and an ear height of 1.1 m off the floor. So, if you’re in (very roughly) that position (or at least at that angle) you’ll have the same on-axis response that we had during the sound design process. If you stand up so that your ears are at tweeter-height, you may notice that the loudspeakers become slightly brighter due, in part, to the vertical directivity of the acoustic lens.

    Personally, (but without having tried it…) I would guess that adding 15-20 cm to the height of your BL18’s would not have a noticeable effect on the overall timbre. I would say that you will likely have more effect from a different placement in the room (I’m thinking particularly about floor reflections) than you will from the vertical directivity of the acoustic lens.

    If you place your loudspeakers at the walls, I would suggest putting them in “Wall” position. If you leave them in “Free” mode, you will likely find that they will sound a little “muddy” – although this is very dependent on other acoustical characteristics of your room. My honest advice is to put them on the wall mounts, then get two friends (one at each loudspeaker) to switch between Free, Wall, and Corner (simultaneously) while you listen – and pick the one that you like best.

    Cheers
    – geoff

  3. Thanks so much for your detailed answer Geoff. I will now definitely mount them to the wall and try the different DSP settings! Thank again.
    BR
    Ewout

  4. Hi Geoff,

    Could you help me with just two other questions?
    Situation: I currently have the beolab speakers connected to a NAD M51 preamp by means of silver RCA cables.
    1. Will the sound change if I will connect the beolab 18’s by means of the wireless transmitter in stead of the silver RCA cables?
    2. The NAD M51 is a delicate and very fine DAC/pre-amp. No sound controls are available.
    Will the sound improve by connecting the beolab 18’s to a beosound 4 by means of powerline? Then sound controls are available and b&o is connected to b&o. This ultimately seems to be the optimal situation. In this scenario, the NAD will be the DAC to which all my other equipment is connected (Sonos, tv, etc), and the DAC connects the (only) input of the beosound 4.

    Hope you can provide your insights on this.

    Thanks again for your efforts to helping me out.

    BR
    Ewout

  5. Hi Ewout,

    Hmmm… I don’t know the “definitive” answer to your question – however:

    1. The sound may be different if you connect the NAD output to a WPL transmitter instead of directly to the BL18’s – then again, it may not. If it is, then there are three possible reasons:
    1a. The ADC on the WPL transmitter is not identical to the one on the BL18’s – however I doubt that these will be audibly different.
    1b. You might get away with a shorter cable run to the WPL transmitter, which *might* reduce your noise floor.
    1c. If you push the distance on the WPL signal too far, you *may* have audible errors – but if this happens, I would be surprised…

    2. To answer this question, I have to ask why you’re thinking of putting the BeoSound 4 between the NAD and the BL18’s. I don’t really understand why you want to do this. Could you please clarify this for me.

    Cheers
    – geoff

  6. Hi Geoff

    Your answers are really helping me out in choosing the best audio solution for me, thanks so much. The reason why I consider connecting the beosound 4 in between, is because I have the idea that connecting a b&o device to another b&o device feels like creating an optimal sound, reproduced in a way b&o itself defined and tested it; b&o to b&o instead of non b&o preamp to beolabs. The speakers are in such a case not influenced by the quality of RCA cables, but by the intended powerlink connections. Besides, I can tune the sound somewhat to my likings by means of treble, bass and loudness controls , when necessary. What is your opinion on this?

    BR
    Ewout

  7. Hi Ewout,

    If you wish to use the controls and features of the BeoSound 4, then, of course, you should include that in your signal path.

    However, when we make a loudspeaker, we create it so that, as much as possible, its audio performance equally well with any source – whether from Bang & Olufsen or not. Of course, there are some technical caveats to mention. Power Link has a maximum level of 6.5 V rms, whereas most “Line” level signals from other devices reach only 2.0 V rms. This MAY, in some cases, have an effect on your total signal-to-noise ratio (and/or dynamic range, depending on your definition). Using the optical digital input will result in a different audio performance, since the ADC of the loudspeaker’s input has been removed from the chain.

    Cheers
    -geoff

  8. You have been of great help Geoff. Everything makes really sense. I will probably keep my current setup then, and hook them up to the wall.

    Thanks again for your input.

    BR
    Ewout

  9. Hi Geoff,
    I just bought BL18, and I would like to connect it to my Sonos Connect. Should I use RCA (analouge) out or Toslink (digital) out for best sound quality? Digital out would mean, that I only use the D/A converter in BL18, but I have heard, that the volume control in Sonos could be a problem when using digital output (not bit perfect). Could I improve the sound quality be adding a DAC/Pre with volumen control? I guess the answer would be the same if I had a Beolab Transmitter.
    BR Per

  10. Hi Per,

    I have never used a Sonos Connect – so I cannot speak from experience or measurements… However, taking that into consideration:

    Since the Sonos has a volume control that is applied to both the analogue and the digital outputs, I personally would connect the digital output to the BL18’s. This is because it is most likely that the gain (a value multiplied by the audio signal) is applied to the signal, and that is sent to both the Sonos’s analogue output (a DAC) and its digital output.

    So, if you consider the signal inside the Sonos, you probably have identical quality at the input of its internal DAC and its digital output. Therefore, by connecting the digital output to the BL18’s, you avoid the Sonos DAC and the BL18’s ADC in the chain. Unless the Sonos is horribly wrong, then using a digital connection should lower the noise floor of your output without affecting the audio quality.

    Whether putting an extra DAC with an analogue volume control between the Sonos and the BL18’s would be better, worse, or preferable to a direct connection is difficult to say. However, I would guess that your best bet is to just do the digital connection from the Sonos to the BL18 and call it done.

    The only thing I’m really worried about is whether your volume control on the Sonos will have enough resolution to be usable when connected directly to the BL18’s. Specifically, I’m wondering whether, even at the lowest volume setting, the output from the speaker is too loud. If this is the case, then we have to have a different conversation – because the question will have changed.

    Note as well that I would not expect that the output level of the BL18’s will be the same if you compare a digital connection to an analogue connection directly with the Sonos. So, if you connect with digital and it’s too loud, then try the analogue and see if it’s better. If neither one works, then get back to me and we’ll sort out another solution.

    Cheers
    -geoff

  11. Hi Geoff,

    Thanks for the quick feedback. I will try to use the digital output and compare with analogue.

    I found this on the Sonos Forum:

    https://en.community.sonos.com/troubleshooting-228999/zp80-output-specifications-4362

    According to the chat SONOS Volume control is 24bit. So if you feed your SONOS digital signal to a 24-bit DAC or processor, there is no “information loss” using the SONOS volume control as your main volume control or “digital preamp”. Experiments show that there is no “information loss” to 16-bit program material until the volume is lowered to below -48dB. When lowering the volume with 24-bit digital signal processing, and when you get down below -48dB, you can hardly even hear the music anymore, let alone the distortion, which is still many times lower, so if you are no longer achieving 16-bit performance, it really doesn’t matter. With 24-bits available, you can set your system up to have headroom above ordinary listening levels, and not lose your 16-bit performance at ordinary listening levels and even below that. Without the 24 bits, that “headroom” would be eating into your DAC performance.

    If thats correct, then I guess I would get the best sound quality by using Toslink (digital).

    BR Per

  12. Hi Per,

    There is a different way to think of this – but the explanation would require drawings. Think I’ll make it the topic of a blog posting in the future…

    Go’weekend!
    Mvh
    -geoff

  13. Oliver Kopp says:

    Hi Geoff,
    Got today my beolab 18. The team and you did a super job. I am enjoying the speakers very much.
    Thanks!

  14. Hi Geoff – i have the Beolab 18s but feel i might not be doing them justice in my current setup (i’m a newbie to all of this…). I simply run the 18s with B&O Essence and use my Samsung TV, but its music that i mainly listen to via Spotify et al that I am not quite happy with. What single component would you introduce to improve the source? Is the essence sufficient or should i invest in a Transmitter 1 and DAC / Amp / AV receiver? For listening to music alone would you suggest the Beolab 19 is always required or the 18s on their own should be sufficient? Appreciate its very hard to advise but am feeling swamped by the sheer number of components available to choose from and unsure where to go from here. Leaning towards adding the Transmitter 1 and Beolab 19 but also ready to invest in something more to get an optimum output from these amazing speakers. Thanks in advance!

  15. Hi Ollie,

    I might be able to help – but I’ll need some more specific information from you. You say that you’re not quite happy – but you don’t say exactly what aspect you want to improve. It would also help to know whether you’re listening at higher-than-average listening levels normally.

    Cheers
    – geoff

  16. Aaron Tan says:

    Hi Geoff,

    I got a pair of B&O Beolab 18 recently and I simply run the speakers with B&O Essence, wired and play songs from my IPad.

    I would prefer to run the speakers wireless and was told that I need to invest in another Transmitter.

    My question is are there any substitute to the B&O Transmitter that allows me to set up and run the speakers wireless?

    Regs
    Aaron

  17. Hi Aaron,

    The BeoLab 18’s should work with any WiSA-compatible transmitter. If you wish to use another wireless protocol, then you would have to purchase a transmitter and receiver pair, and use the line input of the BeoLab 18’s.

    Cheers
    – geoff

  18. Keith Bird says:

    Geoff, Hey, These comments are in regards to the Beolab 12-3 active loudspeakers that I recently added to my Beovision 11 and Beolab 11 subwoofer. I cannot praise the aesthetic and the acoustic quality enough. Visually they are simply stunning. They look like liquid metal, and yet they are very solid and substantial in the quality and the masterful craftsmanship. Now the sound. Oh baby! Pure perfection. I never thought that they would add so much life and dimension to listening to ,my music and watching TV or movies. The sound stage simply shimmers with new life and power! The highs are crystal clear and crisp, the mid-range is silky smooth and almost creamy. The bass is clean, powerful and authoritative without being overdone. I simply love my Beolab 12-3’s and look forworward to finishing my surround system with yet another pair of Bang & Olufsen Speakers. But which ones……?

  19. Hi Geoff – I want to improve the bass/ mid bass. On some guitar driven/ band music it feels a bit missing. I’ve switched the speakers to ‘free’ which helped a little but as you’ve said in a previous post this feels a bit muddy. I’ve read on other forums people having a positive experience connecting the to the pre-outs on an amp/ avr via line Rca cables. So I’m looking at adding the marantz 6011. Will / should that make any difference? After that I was thinking of adding the beolab 19 sub. Thanks in advance!

  20. Jose Maldonado says:

    Hello Geoff. I would also like to know if you can successfully use an AV receiver’s pre outputs to drive the Beolab 18s. What is the analog line input sensitivity of the speakers, i. e., how many Volts you need to drive the speakers to full volume?

  21. Hi Ollie,

    Using a line output from another device may or may not correct the issues you’re having. To be honest, I really don’t think that this will make a huge difference. The question is “what do you mean by ‘improve'” – do you want MORE bass, or is it ringing, or is it something else? Have you tried moving your loudspeakers to different positions in the room to see if it’s the room that’s the issue? (It may not be – but it may… I would hate for you to buy gear when the problem can be solved by coupling to your room modes a little differently…)

    Cheers
    -geoff

  22. Hi Jose,

    I believe that you will reach full-scale at 2 V RMS on a sine wave input. This corresponds to 2.8 V peak.

    I’ll double-check this at work this week – just to confirm.

    Note that the Power Link input reaches full scale at 6.5 V RMS – in case you’re using an adapter cable for the RJ45 connector.

    Cheers
    -geoff

  23. Hi Geoff,
    I recently acquired a pair Beolab 18. The sound is great, I am very happy!

    I wonder what would happen if I connect multiple sources at the same time?

    What I have in mind is connecting a bluetooth receiver via line-in RCA and a PC with Tidal via Toslink. I hope for a case where incoming toslink data would shut down the RCA line in. Then I could leave both connected and the better data would shut down the worse… I am speculating in that direction because transmitter 1 works in that priority. I am a bit hesitant to try. I don’t want to see smoke…

    Thanks,
    Jan

  24. Hi Jan,

    The BeoLab 18 is designed to have all 3 “wired” inputs connected simultaneously to three different sources (RCA, Toslink, and Power Link). There is an internal priority that determines who “wins” if you have two of those sources playing simultaneously. I don’t remember the order of this priority. I’m certain that Power Link will come first – then I believe it’s RCA, and Toslink last – but I could be wrong on those two… It’s not possible to change the priority, I’m afraid.

    You certainly will not see smoke. Connect everything as you state there, and enjoy!

    Cheers
    -geoff

  25. Hi Geoff,
    It worked! Toslink has priority over RCA.

    I use one speaker as input for RCA and Toslink and then use toslink out to connect to the second speaker. Speaker 1 will transmit the RCA input to speaker 2 via toslink (and will disable the RCA-in at speaker 2 as long as the toslink is connected).

    The only challenge was that the toslink output from my PC led to very loud volumes. Basically everything above the very lowest level (1%) was too loud. I finally was able to fix that with a equalizer program:
    https://sourceforge.net/p/equalizerapo/wiki/Documentation/
    Feels a bit weird, but it works.

    Best,
    Jan

  26. Hi Jan,

    Great!

    Regarding the PC volume problem: One solution is to use a player that has a volume control built-in. However, you will have to make sure that you route your computer “signal sounds” (e.g. “you’ve got mail!”) to the internal speakers and not the digital output. This is possible on a Mac – so I assume that it’s also possible on a PC.

    Cheers
    -geoff

  27. Hi Geoff,
    The volume problem is solved using Roon’s DSP. Another questions: You said earlier the speakers were designed for a “reference position of 3 m distance” to the listener. How about the distance between the speakers? Did you design for the classic stereo triangle or is a bit closer together OK ?

    Thanks for your help,
    Jan

  28. Hi Jan,

    Glad to hear that your source’s volume control works well.

    All of our measurements are done based on a reference distance of 3 m. When doing the listening, we are typically about 3 m away – and with a loudspeaker / listening position configuration as an equilateral triangle to ensure that the phantom imaging is behaving. Of course, we try out other configurations, since not all of our customers have “one chair and no friends”… :-)

    Cheers
    – geoff

  29. Joao Veiga says:

    Hi Geoff, Its an honor for me to talk with the B&Os tonmeister. I am from Brazil and I recently bought a pair of Beolab 18s, but one unit isn’t pairing with my BS moment and its flashing orange. The B&O store close in Brasil, what can do to repear it? Thanks

  30. Hi Joao,

    Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to your question immediately… I’ll need a little more info to know how to proceed with the debugging.

    – Are you connecting to the Moment using Power Link or Wireless Power Link?
    – If Wireless: then have you tried wired Power Link, just to see if the speaker is working (I’m just trying to establish exactly where the problem is…)

    I’ll warn you in advance that I might not be able to help you solve your problem – but I’ll try… As a backup (and since your store is now closed, so they can’t help you until tomorrow), you might want to also ask the forum at http://www.beoworld.org. There are many helpful and friendly people there…

    Cheers
    -geoff

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