Beosound Level review: A top-tier portable music streamer

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Without a doubt, the Bang & Olufsen Beosound Level is the prettiest and best-sounding wireless streaming speaker I’ve encountered that operates on both AC and battery power. It holds true to the aesthetic spirit that’s long driven this legendary Danish electronics brand, ever striving for a magical fusion of design and technology.  

But be forewarned, buying into this functional work of art isn’t for the financially faint of heart: A single Beosound Level costs either $1,499 or $1,799, depending on which model you choose. You might need to rationalize this luxury indulgence as a long-term investment; like the pitch proffered for a Rolex timekeeper, or an exotic Euro sports car. And like those rare goods, the Beosound Level has a sensitive nature that in some ways demands a bit of coddling (more on that in a bit).

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best Bluetooth speakers, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

At the heart of this device (and a few of B&O’s other Wi-Fi-enabled speakers) is a new, modular circuit core called Mozart, which the manufacturer says can be swapped out for another if the onboard upgradability ever reaches its limit. The lithium-Ion battery pack is swappable too—as is the Level’s front cover. You could say you’re buying green with your wad of green, because in a market bursting with disposable electronics, this one might never need to be trashed.

bo level grill removed Jonathan Takiff / IDG

With the grill popped, you’ll discover two 0.8-inch dome tweeters, one centered 2-inch full-range driver, and two 4-inch inch woofers; plus, compartments nesting the swappable Mozart processor (top) and lithium-Ion battery pack (bottom).

The learning curve is a little steeper here than it is with rival music-streaming systems that integrate all operations into one grand on-screen menu. Level buyers can get it going with just B&O’s own app, which includes a terrific global array of internet radio stations (B&O Radio) accessible by language, location and genre. (I’ve discovered some exceptional reggae and ska, Afro-pop, Brazilian samba, English trad folk, and far-flung jazz outlets this way.)

bo levellight grill Jonathan Takiff / IDG

After initial setup with the Bang & Olufsen app, you’ll need to move to a second app.

But if you want to activate the Google Voice Assistant to fetch content, or link other compatible wireless audio components to play in unified groups, you’ll need to link your Level to the Google Home app on your phone or tablet. Voice-integrated play pals include Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, Deezer, YouTube Music, and TuneIn.

If your taste runs to other services—the likes of Qobuz, Tidal, or Amazon Music—installed on your mobile device, you can “cast” them to the Level using either Airplay 2 or Chromecast. Bluetooth 5.0 is also supported, although I rate its audio performance on this speaker as just fair. Still, it does enable the Level to keep playing music when you can’t connect to the internet (assuming you have music stored on your device, that is).

Impeccable industrial design

The Level is handsome and slightly brighter sounding in its less pricey form: a matte aluminum-framed cabinet with a dark gray rubbery ribbed backing and a charcoal Kvadrat speaker grill cloth (a classic B&O color scheme). But I found the Level even more fetching—and a tad warmer in sonic tone—in the top trim version: a light copper-colored anodized metal frame with a putty-tinted back panel and a light oak wood grill.

Product designer Torsten Valeur says he took inspiration from minimalist Japanese décor. Yet, this version of the Level also is evocative of classic wood-cased radios, like the mid-1940s Philco “roll top” portable I scored eons ago at an upstate New York knick-knack shop.  Trimmed in brown leather, this spiffy wood-boxed model was “very popular with students—a staple in dorms, on picnics, at the beach,” shared the antique seller. “Every BMOC had one.”



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