STEREO GUIDE verdict
+ , Natural, balanced sound
+ Given its size quite convincing bass
+ Fine treble resolution, rather smooth
+ App with intuitive equalizer
+ Long battery life
- dynamically limited, not really loud
- Keys very poorly legible
Sound: tonal balance / transparency7.7
Sound: Bass / Dynamics6.3
Ease-of-use / Connectivity8.8
Why does Danish manufacturer Bang&Olufsen offer two mobile bluetooth speakers being similarly priced? This question was arising when we reviewed the Bang & Olufsen Beosound Explore, as the fact sheet looks pretty similar to the one of theis Beosound A1? After all, as the A1 Gen 2 proved to be the best-sounding compact mono Bluetooth speaker on the market, the new kid on the block might face a hard time.
The simple answer: To reach potential buyers the A1 Gen 2 was not attracting so far. Because they demand a stereo imaging, want to place it on considerably higher shelves at home or expect an extremely long battery life, for example. Okay, neither of these groups would form a majority. In any case, the Beosound Explore looks surprisingly compact with a diameter of just over 3″. Its all-around sleek, minimalistic design evokes all kinds of associations, for example with architecture.
We tried to but that one in a picture. If you look closely at the image above, you might spot the B&O Explore in its original size next to a glass and a small vase of flowers. It is pretty compact, isn´t it?
Noble design, but defies the elements
The battery is supposed to last for 27 hours on one charge. According to our experience during the test, closer to 20 hours is realistic. The Beosound Explore is fully dust-proof and waterproof according to class IP67. The sturdy strap in ´sealtbelt´ design with carabiner hook makes it a full-fledged outdoor speaker.
The posh aluminum finish might make owners think if it would look scratched soon. It wouldn´t, as the manufacturer is applying a correspondingly hard anodized coating. These come in five colours, so most Beosounds will probably find their way into stylishly decorated homes. The Danes, who lead the field in terms of style, have played around with black and white and put a dark and a light matte gray in the stores as a substitute. In addition, there are rather dark, pastel blue, green or brown.
Two drivers in a minimum case?
Unlike the Beosound A1 Gen2, the Bang & Olufsen Beosound Explore does not rely on a mono 2-way configuration, but on two full-range drivers, each 1.75″ in diameter. According to the manufacturer, this should ensure a 360 deg sound distribution. A pair of power amplifiers deliver full stereo and hefty two times 30 watts, which makes battery life even more astonishing. Taking a look at the limited width of the case, our expectations regarding stereo imaging aren´t too high.
Bluetooth 5.2 is the only source possible, and so is the standard SBC codec. Fast pairing according to the standards of Apple, Google or Microsoft is integrated.
Where are the keys?
The control keys of the Beosound Explore are integrtated in the top by means of buttons that are slightly recessed into the rubber overlay. Once you get used to where front and back is on the can-shaped Beosound Explore, controlling it is both intuitive and logical.
Optionally, it can be connected to the Bang & Olufsen app (for iOS and Android), which also provides firmware updates. However, registration is mandatory. It is very annoying when you can only use a Bluetooth speaker for which you have paid 200 bucks under the condition with privacy implications. All the more annoying when then the attempt to select the radio stations displayed in the Bang & Olufsen app leads to an unfriendly message: “Action is not supported by the selected product.”
App with problems but many highlights
At least the app is worth the procedure, as it is not only offering a well-made equalizer including sound presets (but you should not expect too much from them) and the typical Bang & Olufsen control logic. This said, we do not see the common sliders for individual frequency bands beloved by sound engineers. Instead, there is a circle with certain sound properties that can be expanded to your liking with a cursor that can be moved freely. After getting used to it the effect is pretty convincing.
For the eyes or for the ears?
In the listening test, Bang & Olufsen´s Beosound Explore delivered a surprisingly natural tonal balance which we are almost inclined to call high-fidelity – without forgetting about the very compact dimensions. Despite some obvious light metal surface, we found the sound to be pretty heavyweight in terms of fundament. Voices do not seem as distorted and squeezed as you might expect it from such a tiny speaker.
B&O Beosound Explore vs JBL Flip 6 and Beosound A1
So naturally, when comparing the Beosound Explore to similarly priced products you end up having an unfair comparison with bigger opponents. That´s true to the Beosound A1 which offers high end audiophile style treble resolution and more substantial bass. A JBL Flip 6, noticeably bigger, offers much more punch in the upper bass, giving electronic beats for hip-hop, house or dance music more authority, either. And of course its max SPL is outperforming Beosound Explore by any means. In return, the US model does not sound as smooth and relaxing as the Danish competitor does.
Background music or more?
The strong points of B&O´s Explore lie without any doubt in listening to music at moderate levels. You have a rather diffuse but broad imaging detaches very nicely from the speakers. well from the small regardless of the listener’s position. However, it would be a bit naive to talk about real stereo with localization. If you expect such at home, you have to connect two Beosound Explores to form a stereo pair using the app. In addition to exceptionally natural voice reproduction, the high-frequency resolution is also convincing, rather smooth and warm but avoiding sharpness. This works especially well with rock music like Coldplay, Pink Floyd or R.E.M. And if you want to listen to jazz or classical music on a speaker of this class, the best choice is the Beosound Explore.
However, the dry punch and the comparatively good bass was matching quite well with synth beats as well. However, the limits in volume and driver size become most obvious in this case. This is clearly not a party speaker at all. It deliberes merely a relaxed, balanced and differentiated sound that lacks the drive to make you dance.
Alternatives to the B&O Beosound Explore
If you are looking for a really well-made Bluetooth speaker for all occasions, which also cuts a fine figure in the most elegant living room as well as surviving downpour in the garden, you should definitely shortlist the Beosound Explore. When it comes to solely outdoor use, its brother Beosound A1 2nd Gen gives it tough competition, it is more lively and offers more bass.
If you are into the market for maximum bang-per-buck, you got some cheaper alternatives. Tribit´s Stormbox Micro 2 for example, is less than half the price, offering more dynamics and thrill. However, if the long battery life is important to you – here again the Beosound Explore is simply the king of its class.
Technical data Bang & Olufsen Beosound Explore
- Retail Price: 200 dollars/pounds/euros
- Dimensions (D x H): 8.1 x 12.4 cm
- Weight: 631 g
- Battery life up to 27 hours
- Features: waterproof according to ingress protection class IP67, stereo pairing, app control, EQ
- More at: www.bang-olufsen.com