BeoLab 9 Speaker Demonstration

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Speaker Comparison at B&O of Newcastle.



On the evening of the 23rd of February, a hand picked group of B&O owners arrived at the sumptuous establishment that is B&O of Newcastle upon Tyne. The recently married shop manager, Paul, still clearly in generous mood following his return from his honeymoon plied the assembled throng with generous helping of wine and nibbles before introducing the evening.

Centre Stage

Taking centre stage were the new speakers from B&O, the BeoLab 9. For the night these were paired with a BeoSound 3200. At present the only pair in captivity in the North East, these were smaller than many people had expected with a compact footprint. The design was favourably commented upon by the wives and girlfriends present, and the clever status LED around the tweeter in the top mounted lens was appreciated by the men!

First Impressions

We listened to the new speakers, which impressed particularly for the clarity and well-defined stage presence they exhibited. The bass they generated was also most impressive, though your reporter feels that their positioning actually slightly over emphasised this and with more sympathetic placing, even better results could be obtained. Clearly the positioning was always going to be a problem on a busy night though.

The Competition

Paul then introduced himself and explained the purpose of the night was to compare and contrast the new speaker range as well as listening to a blast from the past as provided by the presence of some BeoLab Penta 3 speakers and a particularly fine pair of BeoLab 5000s, these speakers being provided by existing customers of the Newcastle shop. Part of the ethos of the Newcastle shop has always been the close relationship built up with its customer base and their willingness to provide the speakers at no cost to the shop demonstrates the regard in which the dealer is held.

Slim Old Stager

We were then allowed to listen to the set up speakers one pair at a time using the same track. The audition started with the BeoLab 5000 panel speakers, which had been set up very cleverly using some fabricated partition walls made from MDF. A BeoCenter 9500 partnered them, and the sound quality was extremely good with many comments positively mentioning the openness of the sound and the looks of the speaker.

Kind of Blue

We moved on to some BeoLab 3s, which were partnered by a rare blue BeoLab 2. Again the superb clarity of an ALT lensed speaker was commented upon though unfortunately the bass switch on the BeoLab 2 was set to free when corner would have been better. Too much bass was the major comment though later auditioning revealed a superb set up once the switch was correctly positioned – so much so that a previously reluctant girlfriend has agreed to a purchase!

Smooth Operator

BeoLab 9s then took the stage and the clarity and sound stage were simply the best so far, Both these and the BeoLab 3s were operated via separate BeoSound 3200s. The power of the sound was commented on and the strength of the bass and its better definition compared to the BeoLab 2 mentioned.

Blast from the Past

Pentas were next up and they performed well – again maybe a slightly better set up as far as reducing bass could possibly have improved them as they were close to a wall but they dealt with a difficult piano part excellently.

Theatre Royal

The BeoLab 5s were then fired up and were driven by a BeoSound 4. The calibration process was shown and the moving microphone strutted its stuff! The next 3 minutes demonstrated why these speakers are rated as some of the best in the world as the sound was, quite frankly, breathtaking. Compared to the (possibly not perfectly set up) 9s and 3s+2, there actually seemed to be less bass but this was an illusion. The bass could be felt and every note of the double bass could be heard – no longer a thump but a well defined instrument. One was no longer listening to a speaker – one was listening to music. One of our number, who had just bought a pair, spent the rest of the night with a huge grin on his face! He has previously has Linn Isobariks and BeoLab 5s simply crushed them!

Black Beauties

Somewhat awestruck, the final speakers were the impossibly beautiful BeoLab 8000s on the evening in a black finish, both with and without a BeoLab 2. I felt they actually sounded better without but they were unfairly treated by having to follow on from the 5s! Many favourable comments though!

Confirming First Impressions

We then were treated to a quick competition where we had to identify the speakers playing without knowing which they were. This was probably too tricky to be truly fair, but nonetheless the ALT lens equipped speakers certainly showed the clarity available and somewhat overshadowed the older pair. Once again the BeoLab 5 stood head and shoulders above the rest though the BeoLab 9 was the clear second favourite and with a slightly more sympathetic set up could have been even closer.

Whilst this demo had been being set up, we were able to admire the most recent addition to the B&O range, the BeoVision 9. We had a BeoVision 5 to compare to this and the 9 showed the more modern design and superb picture perfectly. It was also rather less money than had been expected!

Totting up the Score

During the evening, the guests had been encouraged to jot down their impressions of the various speakers and these results were passed to your correspondent!

Newcastle top of the Premier League

The evening finished on a high with all invited having commented on the friendly atmosphere and attentiveness of the staff. The older equipment was much admired – particularly the design of the BeoLab 5000s and the BeoCenter 9500. A very successful evening was had – a huge credit to Paul and the staff of B&O of Newcastle upon Tyne. This dealer must rank as one of the best in the country and is certainly most welcoming and friendly. Well worth a visit, it is just opposite the Theatre Royal in the most beautiful street in Newcastle and is spacious and airy – something that helped the evening considerably.

The Disclaimer!

Part of the purpose of the night was to have a comparison of the 6 different speakers and by collating the results I have put them in some sort of order. Clearly this result has to be taken with a degree of caution and nothing can replace listening to speakers oneself. I would therefore urge anyone to visit their own dealer for a proper demonstration. I believe the BeoLab 5000s to be very well mounted and certainly they sounded as good as I have ever heard 5000s – their owner has designed and set the speakers up personally and I know was happy with their sound. I do think several of the other speakers were a little compromised in their set up – but the evening was never going to allow fantastic conditions for proper listening. However this probably reflects more closely the compromises of the real world as opposed to a specially designed listening room. All were agreed that there was not a duff pair of speakers present!

The Results

The results were arrived at by adding the various scores given in three categories and divided by the number of responses. I did not vote!

Looks - This was scored on a rating of 1-6 with 1 being the top score and 6 the lowest.

Beolab 5 2.5

Beolab 9 3.5

Beolab 3 and 2 3.67

Beolab 8000±2 1.65

Beolab Penta 3.9

Beolab 5000 3.09

Sound Quality - again rated 1-6 with 1 being the highest.

Beolab 5 1.4

Beolab 9 2,45

Beolab 3 and 2 3.44

Beolab 8000±2 3.28

Beolab Penta 3.0

Beolab 5000 4,23

Overall desirability - rated 1-6 with 1 being the most desirable.

Beolab 5 1,22

Beolab 9 2,4

Beolab 3 and 2 3.29

Beolab 8000±2 2.83

Beolab Penta 3.7

Beolab 5000 4,27

The clear winner overall is the Beolab 5 except in the looks department where the Beolab 8000 unsurprisingly held sway. From a sound point of view, the Beolab 9 was easily the second favourite and I think could have done even better! I don’t think it would ever beat the 5 but better positioning could see it run it even closer. The Beolab 3s suffered from the set up of the Beolab 2 and when this was corrected, it sounded quite sublime and would I believe score much better as the major downside seemed to be too much bass.

On, therefore, to the two old stagers. For sound quality, the Beolab Pentas did actually receive one first place and 3 seconds. It was marked down for looks though! The Beolab 5000s also received one first for sound quality and one second but was last the most often. It did however score better in the looks department though people either loved or hated them with little in between. They were the first choice of one customer – something the Beolab Penta did not achieve. However, overall the Penta did outscore the 5000 and indeed the Penta outscored both the Beolab 3+2 and the Beolab 8000 as well in the sound quality category.

Personally, I think that the 5000s were a revelation and they were well suited to the 9500 with comments mentioning their clarity and easy to listen characteristics though a lack of ultimate bass compared to the rivals was noted. Darren certainly could have sold them at least twice!

In short then, a most enjoyable night and many thanks are due to Paul and all at B&O of Newcastle upon Tyne.

I returned early the next morning to find the showroom being returned to normal. I had a look at the

Beolab 9s, which were set to wall. I reset them to corner and the sound was transformed. The heaviness of the bass was replaced by an accuracy not dissimilar to the 5s. So the lesson here is to make sure you set your speakers correctly. The Beolab 5s do it by themselves and hence their stunning sound. The other speakers rely on you!

Created: 26th February 2007
Modified: 2nd April 2007

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