BeoLab 50 Reviews

andreweverard.com

“So how do they sound? Well, after a lengthy listening session in the Struer listening rooms, I had to conclude that these speakers may look (almost) conventional, but they sound anything but. There’s massive bass, seeming unburstable but as tightly controlled as it is extended, and a lovely sense of integration, sweetness and detail in the midband and treble.”

“If the BeoLab 90 saw the company moving back into the audiophile arena, albeit with a speaker whose form-factor was, to say the least, challenging, then the BeoLab 50 may well win it even more fans in the ‘serious audio’ arena, not least due to industrial design making it look like – well, like a pair of speakers.”

 

parttimeaudiophile.com

“The BeoLab 50 seemed to cope with hotel-room acoustic issues well, too, possibly because of the side-firing woofers and the active room correction. Bass and high frequencies, in particular, were free from boominess, standing waves, cancellations and weird reflections. At the same time, there was an impressive recreation of instrumental sounds on the Vaughan track, both on the initial notes and on reverb trails that drifted far back into the soundstage”

 

  1. Preben Sørensen says:

    I understand from the article that a ‘new Cube’ is planned in Struer. This must confirm that B&O – with you, Geoff, in front I suppose – is focusing further on developing leading capabilities within acoustics. Combining design with new high-end technologies with advanced DSP control etc. as in BL 90 and BL50 is really fantastic and a differentiator compared to traditional high-end speaker companies. The sound quality is remarkable. Hopefully this – supported by good reviews in HIFI magazines – forms basis for branding of B&O as being in front as a loudspeaker company.

    I am really looking forward to see the technologies behind BL90/50 used in future smaller speakers. There is definitely room in B&O speaker range for a BL30 or what the name might be.

    -ps

  2. Hi Preben,

    From the point of view of someone in the acoustics department – I’m certainly no more “in front” than any of my colleagues. I just sit closer to the window, so I’m a little more visible from the outside world… :-)

    Cheers
    -geoff

  3. Preben Sørensen says:

    Hi Geoff,

    Yes, I am sure you are part of a highly skilled and motivated acoustics department. It is really an improvement – compared to old B&O days – that “someone near the window” is visible to explain the world and brand the technology behind – and not only focusing on design. I am enjoyed.

    Cheers
    -ps

  4. Dear Geoff, I recently discovered your blog. Very enlightening. Thankful that you share your knowledge so genereously!

    I have a question about the development of the Beolab 50s and 90s. Why have you put so much amplifier power in them? Is it needed? Does it improve sound quality or dynamics on moderate volumes as well, or is it mainly to allow them to play very loud if needed? I’m asking from the perspective of someone who still dabbles in speakers without built-in amplification, and I’ve been having an argument with myself as to the merits of using over-powered amplifiers.

  5. Hi Olav,

    I’m not sure that I can answer your question completely, but I’ll try to come close…

    The easiest way to view this issue is to work backwards. We start with a target maximum SPL from our loudspeaker. This is not as simple as it sounds, since this has to take the issue of time into account. This is because the maximum amount of sound pressure that a loudspeaker can deliver is not only dependent on its instantaneous maximum excursion (which may be linked to an acceptable amount of distortion) but other factors such as the product’s ability to pull heat away from the voice coil. However, to keep things simple, let’s assume a one-dimensional case where we want to push and pull the driver to its excursion limit (however that might be defined…).

    We can calculate and/or measure the amount of voltage that is required to move the driver to this desired excursion. So, basically speaking, the amplifier applies the voltage that we want, and the impedance of the driver dictates the current that is demanded from the amp as a result. As long as the amplifier (and power supply) can deliver the necessary current at the voltage we’re applying, then we’re happy.

    In the case of Bang & Olufsen loudspeakers, we have the advantage that we make active loudspeakers – therefore we can define the requirements of the amplifier based on the desired behaviour of a single driver. If you’re designing loudspeakers with passive crossovers, then this is different…

    What this means in the end is that, from a perspective of the electrical design of the loudspeaker, we don’t really care about power directly. We ensure that the amplifier can deliver the voltage swing that we require – and that the resulting current is available. So, for example, in the case of the woofer amp’s for the BeoLab 90, we did not say “we need a 1000 W amp on each driver”. We stated a minimum requirement for the voltage and current, and then used an amplifier that could deliver this.

    There is another way to look at this – which is a small window into our world. Let’s say that you have two amplifiers, amp “A” and and amp “B”. Both are rated at being able to deliver 1000 W. However, Amp “A” can deliver 20 V and 50 Amps (20 V * 50 A = 1000 W). Amp “B” can deliver 50 V and 20 Amps (50 V * 20 A = 1000 W). These two amps will behave very differently at high levels. So, although it’s nice for the marketing materials to state how many watts an amplifier or an active loudspeaker has, this is basically unable information for the people that are doing the loudspeaker design. When we’re developing a loudspeaker, we almost never talk about the power capabilities of our amplifiers. We have to use the Voltage and Current capabilities instead.

    Of course, if you’re designing your system so that your amplifiers are current sources instead of voltage sources, then everything I said above is different – but similar… You’re just looking at the problem from a different perspective. But you still don’t directly worry about the power capabilities of the amp(s).

    In fact, the only really useful power value for our loudspeakers is the one that tells you the average power consumption over time. This lets you know how much it costs per hour (on your electricity bill) to listen to your loudspeakers.

    Hope this is reasonably clear… :-)

    Cheers
    – geoff

  6. Hi Geoff, thank you so much for taking the time to give such a detailed answer! I stand enlightened!

  7. Tarhan Feyzioglu says:

    Dear Geoff,
    Could you please explain why B&O chose coaxial/optical connectors instead of balanced XLR in Beolab 50? Newer high-end music servers are increasingly providing balanced XLR connections.
    Thank you,
    Tarhan

  8. Hi Tarhan,

    Sorry, but I can’t answer your question.

    However, I’m curious as to whether you’re talking about XLR analogue inputs or an XLR-based AES/EBU input. In either case, it is quite easy to adapt an XLR output of a device to either an unbalanced (RCA Phono) input or a coax S/P-DIF input. So, if you have a specific question about how best to adapt these connections, I’d be happy to address this.

    Cheers
    -geoff

  9. Tarhan Feyzioglu says:

    Thanks Geoff.
    I was considering digital links (XLR-based AES/EBU input). I was under the impression that in the digital world, XLR connectors were superior to coaxial connectors because of their noise cancelling properties (even though S/P-DIF is based on a similar protocol). This allows longer cables to be used to connect audio equipments. Maybe I am wrong?
    Cheers,
    Tarhan

  10. Tarhan Feyzioglu says:

    …further to my previous message, I was planning to purchase a music server with a digital XLR output. There are a limited number of such servers; so maybe I should just be content with buying a music server with an S/P-DIF output (there are many more choices in the market), which should be sufficient fo BeoLab 50.

  11. Hi Tarhan,

    Firstly, I am not the best person to answer your question regarding AES/EBU on an XLR vs. a coaxial connection… This is outside my league… however, I can relate the following information:

    The information inside the AES/EBU protocol is identical to that which is inside the S-PDIF protocol with the exception of one “copy protect” flag. So, there are no advantages or disadvantages with respect to the content being transmitted.

    A long time ago, I attended a workshop sponsored by Audio Precision and taught by Julian Dunn (who died in 2003 – see nanophon.com). In this workshop, Julian taught us that, all things being equal (meaning that both systems are implemented correctly with correct input and output impedances and the interconnections have correct impedance…) a coaxial digital transmission is more robust than the same signal sent on a twisted pair. This, he said, was due to the difference in the impedance characteristics of a coaxial vs. a twisted pair cable over distances. Specifically, he said that a twisted pair cable could be run for up to about 100 m, whereas a coax could run for about 1 km. (this was back in the days when all signals were either 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz. These numbers probably change as a result of sampling rate….) The best person to ask about this these days is probably Steve Lampen at Belden… However, there is a summary in the first table on the Wikipedia page about S-PDIF.

    However, this does not necessarily mean that an S-PDIF connection is more robust than an AES/EBU, since there are differences in the voltage levels of the two systems. Dolby, for example, used to make a professional AC-3 encoder that had AES/EBU inputs using BNC (coax) connectors… This is a perfectly legal variant of the AES/EBU specification and was more suited to large broadcast facilities that had long cable runs from the studios to the machine rooms (a 1 km run of cable is not unheard of in a large facility).

    All of that being said, I can say that, for short cable runs (on the order of a couple of metres) I would not expect any difference between an S-PDIF connection and an AES/EBU connection. However, this is assuming that the outputs and inputs have been correctly implemented and the cable has the correct impedance. Of course, there is no guarantee of this, and no easy way for an end consumer to find out the I/O impedances… You should hopefully be able to assume that if you buy a 75Ω coax cable, then it’s really a 75Ω cable.

    There is another option which is to use a specially-made adapter to convert from AES/EBU to S-PDIF. For example, in the listening room at B&O, we have a collection of these and we use them regularly…

    I hope that this helps. If you really prefer a player that has AES/EBU outputs only, then I would recommend those Neutrik adapters (without any reservations) to connect to the S-PDIF input of the BeoLab 50’s. Note as well that, if you use one of these, then I would make the longer cable run the coax cable instead of the XLR…

    Cheers
    -geoff

  12. Tarhan Feyzioglu says:

    Super useful! Many thanks.

    Indeed, it makes sense that there is inherently a tradeoff in XLR connections: the gain from opposite polarity and noise cancellation of the two cables will be countered by the fact that the cables are twisted.

    Ok, will not worry about coax vs XLR in setting up my system.

    Thanks again!
    Tarhan

  13. Hi Geoff,

    Thanks for running such a nice website! I am very interested in Beolab 50 as they can replace a big pile of boxes and offer amazing sound quality!

    I tried to do some research based on real world customer satisfaction with these and found about one poor guy who has been suffering with clicking issues. By clicking I mean sounds coming from the speakers – fellow has posted even youtube video about that and is running on his second pair.

    Is this a software problem? Has the source been tracked down? Asking these questions as I am seriously planning to get these.

  14. Tarhan Feyzioglu says:

    Hi Geoff.
    You must have also seen the mixed review by Whathifi.com. Do you have any views on it?
    Thanks,
    Tarhan
    (p.s. I am set to fly to Toronto end of the month to listen to the BeoLab 50 at the B&O store there.)

  15. Hi Tarhan,

    I’ve read the review, and of course I have views on it, but it would be unfair of me to guess as to why that particular reviewer has that particular opinion…

    Bring your own music to Toronto so that you know what to listen for in advance – and make up your own mind. Then, please feel free to let me know what you think! :-)

    Cheers
    -geoff

  16. Hi Johnatan,

    It’s impossible for me to guess what’s causing the problem in the video you refer to. However, in my experience, typically, problems like this come from problems upstream in the audio signal path. It’s typically a first-instinct to blame the last device in the chain, but my experience there is an equal probability of problems coming from somewhere else…

    Personally, however, I have never experienced the problems described therein…

    Cheers
    -geoff

  17. Thanks Geoff, One more question: Can Beolab 50 be positioned in the corners? Listening room measurers:¨2.5m width, 5.5m length and 3.2m height. Perfect symmetry can be achieved.
    Plan is to treat ceiling so that there will be nice air gap between acousticpanels and ceiling. Back wall will be diffused.

    Kii audio Threes and Steinway Lyngdorf solutions can be made to work like that. I assume that Beolab 50 is not that far from Kii audio design that it can be made to work very nicely near corners.

  18. Hi Jonathan,

    This should not be a problem at all. The ARC measurement will take care of the boundary effects caused by pushing the loudspeakers into the corners, as well as any modal issues you may have in the room.

    Diffusers on the back wall will certainly be a good idea. The “Narrow” mode on the BL50s will take care of your sidewalls, but treatment on the back wall will help considerably.

    Cheers
    -geoff

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