What is the Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage?
The Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage is the first soundbar from the Danish manufacturer, making it somewhat late to this particular segment of the market. However, B&O has certainly made up for its tardiness by developing a 3.0-channel soundbar that boasts features you’d expect in a recent entry.
As a result, this all-in-one unit sports the kind of sleek Scandinavian styling you’d expect, along with high-end speakers, powerful amplification, and key features such as Dolby Atmos and eARC. There’s also support for AirPlay 2 and Chromecast, along with a proprietary multi-room system.
Unsurprisingly for a Bang & Olufsen product, the Stage is fairly pricey, with the natural aluminium model reviewed here costing £1,249. In addition, there’s a bronze version that also costs £1,249 and a wood version that will set you back a hefty £1,900. So, given the price, the Stage had better sound good.
The Band & Olufsen Beosound Stage is a stunning piece of industrial design, with gorgeous Scandinavian styling from Danish studio NORM Architects. The soundbar combines simple geometric shapes with a practical minimalism, creating a speaker that looks as good as it sounds.
The elegant frame is rectangular, curved in the corners and runs all the way around the outer edge of the soundbar. At the top left or front right (depending on how you mount the Stage) there’s a seamlessly integrated engraved touch sensitive control panel.
The stylish Scandinavian design is eye-catching and functional
The frame is available in natural aluminium, bronze tone aluminium or smoked oak, with the first two composed of a single piece of forged aluminium. The smoked oak version benefits from dovetail joints thanks to some clever Nordic carpentry, and the overall build quality is excellent.
There’s a removable Kvadrat fabric grille covering the impressively big drivers, and this comes in a choice of black for the natural model, taupe for the bronze version, and grey for the wooden unit. The Stage measures 1100 x 77 x 170mm (WxHxD), and weighs in at 8kg.
Connections and Control
The Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage houses all its connections behind a removable cover in a recessed area at the rear or underside (depending on installation). There’s an HDMI 2.0 output that supports eARC (confirmed using my LG 77C9), and a single HDMI input that can handle 4K HDR and Dolby Vision (unfortunately we were unable to test for HDR10+).
The number of HDMI connections is disappointing, especially on a soundbar this expensive. However, thanks to the inclusion of an enhanced audio return channel, if your TV also supports eARC you can connect lossless sources directly to it and send the lossless audio back to the Stage via the HDMI output.
The inclusion of eARC support helps mitigate the limited connections
When you consider the emphasis placed on sound quality, it's surprising there are no optical or coaxial digital inputs, all you get is a 3.5mm auxiliary input, and Ethernet ports for a wired setup. As far as wireless connections are concerned, there’s a choice of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.2, plus there’s support for Google Chromecast and Apple AirPlay 2.
The Stage doesn’t come with a dedicated remote control, so out of the box you have a choice of using the touch-sensitive control buttons on the soundbar itself or the free B&O remote app (iOS or Android), which is well designed and effective. If you’re connected to your TV via HDMI-ARC, you can also adjust the volume using your TV’s remote.
Despite its price tag, the Stage doesn't come with a remote included
There is the option to buy Bang & Olufsen's Beoremote One universal remote, but at £275 it's certainly not cheap. The price tag is somewhat justified once you handle this sleek and beautifully machined metal controller, and it's very effective at setting up and operating the Stage.
Thanks to Bang & Olufsen's association with LG (who help make the company's OLED TVs), owners of the C9 can also use the B&O remote for integrated control of their TV. This requires a wired VLAN connection between the two devices, explaining the second LAN port on the Stage.
Features and Specs
The Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage uses a three-channel fully active DSP-based speaker system with a sealed cabinet. The three speakers are composed of a total of 11 drivers, each with its own 50W amplifier, and the soundbar has a claimed frequency response of 44Hz to 22kHz.
There are four 4-inch woofers, which are designed to reduce distortion and allow for greater movement, thus providing improved bass performance. The centre speaker mid frequencies are handled by two 1.5-inch midrange drivers along with a 0.75-inch dome tweeter.
The left and right channels use speakers optimised to deliver a more dimensional soundstage. There’s a 1.5-inch midrange driver and a 0.75-inch tweeter at each side, and these are placed close together at a 45˚ off-axis angle in a baffle designed to create a 3D sound effect.
The inclusion of high-quality drivers and plenty of amplification ensures a front soundstage with width, height, and deeper bass, along with clearly defined dialogue.
The Stage offers two installation options: either flat on a solid surface in front of the TV; or mounted upright against the wall beneath it. In the box are brackets, felt pads and a template for the latter, along with an HDMI cable, a tool for removing the grille, and cable holders to keep things tidy.
The stage boasts high-quality speakers and powerful amplification
The Stage supports Dolby Atmos object-based audio, and uses psychoacoustic processing to create a more immersive aural experience from the soundbar’s three speakers. Sadly, there’s no decoding for DTS:X, although there's no reason why B&O couldn't add it via a firmware update if there's sufficient consumer demand. The limited availability of DTS:X content means that outside of AV enthusiasts, most people are largely unfamiliar with the format.
There are four different listening modes, all optimised for the material you are listening to and with self-explanatory names: TV, Music, Movie, or Night Listening. After selecting the listening mode, you can then fine-tune the sound to precisely suit your mood using the ToneTouch interactive equaliser.
As a Bang & Olufsen product, the Stage supports the company’s BeoLink multi-room system, allowing you to play music from different compatible devices around the house. Despite this multi-room capability there are no expansion options, which unfortunately means you can’t add a separate subwoofer or wireless rear speakers for the surround channels.
Setup and Operation
The Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage offers two different orientation options during installation: horizontally on a flat surface or vertically up against the wall. However unlike some soundbars, the Stage can’t automatically detect which way it is orientated, so you need to specify this using the B&O remote app.
Which one you choose will obviously depend on circumstances but, given the location of the drivers, upright makes the most sense. Whether you go for upright or flat, makes sure the Stage is up on a solid surface or up against a solid wall to ensure optimal bass performance.
You can install the Stage flat in front of the TV or underneath it, up against the wall
Once you’ve chosen the orientation that best suits you, setup is easy. You simply connect the Stage to your TV via HDMI-ARC and, if necessary, you can connect a source via the HDMI input. You can use the B&O app to setup the wireless connections, after which you should be good to go.
You can send the audio from your TV back to the Stage via HDMI, whether it’s from the internal tuner, a connected device or a built-in app. In the case of the latter, you can also send Dolby Atmos, and if your TV supports eARC you can also send lossless audio from any lossless devices connected to the HDMI inputs on the TV.
The Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage is the perfect example of what can be achieved with a well-designed three-channel system. There is no substitute for high-quality drivers and plenty of amplification, and if you get the fundamentals right the rest will follow.
When it comes to music the left and right channels dominate, with an entertaining delivery that makes full use of all the available power. While there is a dedicated Music listening mode, I found this tended to rob the system of its openness, and I preferred using no processing instead.
The Stage is appropriately named, because it produces a big and spacious soundstage with plenary of width. As a result, there was some excellent stereo imaging, with precise placement of instruments. There is exceptional clarity when it comes to vocals and, despite the lack of a separate subwoofer, there is a substantial low-end presence.
The second track of Ben Watt’s new album Storm Damage has some very deep bass notes that the Stage handled with a surprising amount of ease considering it doesn’t have a separate subwoofer. The album has a melancholy feel that‘s reflected in some subtle guitar work, and this was delivered with elegance and lots of fine detail.
This soundbar delivers an impressive sonic performance, regardless of content
The amount of bass impact will depend on how you install this soundbar. The review sample came with a pair of feet for installing it upright, but there was undoubtedly more low-end response when flat on a hard surface. I suspect that actually mounting the Stage flush against the wall would have added more bass, but this wasn’t an option.
The impressive sonic performance also extends to TV broadcasts, and here the TV mode works particularly well, keeping dialogue clear and focused on the screen, while rendering music with width and delivering any effects with an exacting precision. There was a nice low frequency presence, and whether it's the news, a documentary or sport the Stage handled it all with skill.
This soundbar gets all the basics right, which means it is also able to handle more complex soundtracks without losing its composure. If you select the Movie mode, a spooky Dolby Atmos mix like The Haunting of Hill House delivers creaks and bangs to great effect, putting you on edge and occasionally scaring the life out of you.
When it comes to a more aggressive and bass-heavy mix like Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the Stage remains equally as adept. It creates a sizeable front soundstage that has height and spaciousness. Effects are placed in three dimensional space around the TV, and the soundbar handles the film’s suitably monstrous LFE track surprisingly well. There’s enough low frequency impact to give the battling behemoths an impressive amount of size and weight.
While the use of DSP creates a more immersive experience from three speakers, it's never going to sound as genuinely immersive as one that uses actual upward-firing drivers and rear speakers. These limitations are fairly obvious with a highly directional mix like Gravity, where the effects don't move around the room the way they're supposed to. Instead, sounds are placed around the screen, rather than directly behind or above you.
However, the sense of three-dimensional space created by the Stage's psychoacoustic processing still enhances the visuals, and this soundbar is also capable of creating a more dimensional sound field with Dolby Digital, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos and DTS soundtracks. The lack of DTS:X support is disappointing, but given most content uses Dolby Atmos it's hardly the end of the world. However, it's a shame you can't add rear speakers or separate sub to make a proper 5.1 system.
- Impressive sound quality
- Big and detailed delivery
- Solid bass extension
- Dolby Atmos decoding
- Multi-room capabilities
- eARC support
- AirPlay 2 and Chromecast
- Gorgeous design and build quality
- No DTS:X support
- Limited connections
- No included remote
Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage Review
Should I buy the Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage?
The Bang & Olufsen Beosound Stage is an excellent first soundbar from the company, highlighting all of its strengths, and a couple of its weaknesses. It's a soundbar that’s primarily aimed at existing B&O fans: those with deep pockets and an appreciation of sleek Scandinavian design and superior sonic performance. The use of high quality speakers and powerful amplification makes a huge difference, and goes some way towards justifying the fairly hefty price tag.
As a result, this is an elegant soundbar that projects minimalist class and sonic prowess. Whatever you’re listening to will sound great, thanks to a delivery with width, depth and detail, a centre speaker that keeps dialogue clear and focused, and processing that adds greater dimensionality to music, TV shows and movie soundtracks. The Stage has an impressive amount of bass for an all-in-one unit, allowing you get the most out of today’s low-end-heavy mixes.
The Stage isn't perfect of course, and given the price the lack of an included remote control is annoying. However, this is standard practice for B&O, who would rather you invested in the Beoremote One to control your entire Beosound system. Thankfully, there is an excellent free app you can use, or your TV remote if it's connected via ARC. It would be nice if there were more connections and support for DTS:X, but otherwise this is an impressive if somewhat pricey single-unit soundbar.
What are my alternatives?
At this price point the obvious alternative is the equally expensive Sennheiser Ambeo. This massive single-unit soundbar takes a similar approach, with high-quality drivers and powerful amplification. Sennheiser then applies state-of-the-art processing to produce one of the best soundbars ever made. The Ambeo certainly isn't cheap, but it sounds fantastic, creates an incredibly immersive experience, and produces the deepest bass imaginable from an all-in-one system.
If you would rather enjoy a genuine multichannel experience, the Samsung HW-Q90R is the ideal choice. It costs about the same as the Stage, but uses a wireless subwoofer and rear speakers to deliver a full 7.1.4-channel system. There are upward-firing drivers that bounce sounds off the ceiling to create the overhead channels, and the result is an incredibly immersive experience. When you consider it supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, this is currently the object-based soundbar to beat.
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