Bang & Olufsen Beoplay P6 Review
B&O doing what B&O does best but with Bluetooth
What is the Beoplay P6?The Bang & Olufsen Beoplay P6 is part of the company’s range of portable Bluetooth speakers and is designed for use on the move, in contrast to the Beosound models which are generally intended for use in a fixed position - although slightly confusingly, some of the other Beoplay models are designed for static use too.
Its existence in the Bang & Olufsen range should not be a huge surprise to anyone. As a company, Bang & Olufsen has long specialised in a degree of convenience interspersed with good (periodically excellent) industrial design and enough surprise and delight to keep customers loyal, often for decades at a stretch. Bluetooth has enabled portable products to be slimmed down and rendered more elegant so even brands with little or no reputation for style have turned in some rather lovely things so B&O ought to have the upper hand here.
Of course, this does mean that there is no shortage of competition from many other places and the Beoplay P6 arrives for review costing £20 more than the equally Scandinvian DALI Katch. Can it show enough of what has made B&O such a mainstay of the lifestyle market to be the speaker that you choose? Let’s find out.
Specification and Design
The Beoplay P6 is slightly unusual product in that it combines aspects of mono operation with some aspects of stereo. A single 4 inch woofer is partnered with a pair of 1.5 inch drivers that seem to have at least some aspects of stereo to them. These are placed on either side of the chassis and give the P6 a degree of surround output. These are powered by a pair of Class D amps - a single channel 36 watt one for the larger driver and a two channel 30 watt one for the smaller units. Unlike a number of rival designs, the P6 has no passive radiator system to augment the bass and simply relies on the driver complement.
The power supply takes the form of a 2,600 mAh battery that gives the P6 a battery life of up to 16 hours with a 3 hour charge from flat. One deeply underrated feature of the P6 is the use of a micro USB C socket to allow for charging off the same cable as most modern phones - and shrink the physical size of the connection on the product itself. It’s also very handy not having yet another wall wart hanging around.
This amplification and driver section is made available to a Bluetooth v4.2 based input. There is no aptX, let alone any form of extension of it, so the maximum sample rate it can handle is 352kbps via SBC. On the face of it, this puts the P6 at a significant disadvantage to its rivals and if you are a Tidal or Qobuz user with ambitions to use your streaming service on the move, this is not likely to be the device for you. As to how much difference it makes… well, we will come to that a little later on.
Where B&O has been a little more ambitious with the P6 is their use of a control app. Called Beoplay, it communicates along the same Bluetooth channel and allows you to use a graphic interface called Tone Touch to tweak the output of the speaker to suit the room size, placement and what it is placed on and the like. Doing this via a visual adjustment system might be seen as gimmicky but I really like how it has been done - it’s approachable in a way that a similar system with a less friendly selection of inputs might not be. It also allows you to use them as a stereo pair although I’ve yet to meet a real person who, with a budget of £700, buys two Bluetooth speakers.
There are some other clever little features tucked away in the app too. The Beoplay P6 is fitted with a function button in addition to power, volume and the like. This can have its function allocated by you in the app between summoning your phone’s voice assistant, loop your last played track or turn the Tone Touch on and off. You might reasonably argue that there should be a button for all these features but doing so will mess with the industrial design - more of which in a bit. The P6 had a microphone built in and will allow you to make calls with it connected. I’ve generally been a bit sniffy about features like this but I have to be honest, here at least it works really well.
Where the P6 really moves from a jog to a sprint is the design and build. Let me put it this way - if on encountering a P6 for the first time, you don’t pick it up and heft it about a bit, expressing little noises of satisfaction about how good it feels, we can’t be friends. B&O have long been masters at this sort of thing but even so, it is noticeable just how good the P6 feels. Compared to the DALI Katch, which is also very well made and makes excellent use of material, the P6 somehow feels like a more premium product. It’s very well judged too. The 1kg weight is enough that you pick and up and appreciate how solid it is but not so much that you don’t want to carry it about.
The industrial design is also very pleasant. The P6 channels older B&O products and gives a nod to things like the Braun line of electronics from the sixties without feeling too shamelessly retro. I will say that the black of the review sample is by far the weakest colour of the three with the ‘Natural’ and limited ‘Dark Plum’ both looking a lot smarter. The end result is that this is a product that will sit in most environments and generally work very well. The only gripe I have is that as a full size adult male, I would like the strap to be either larger or not there as the size as fitted is really for decoration only.
Where the P6 really moves from a jog to a sprint is the design and build
How was the BeoPlay P6The Beoplay P6 has been tested with an Essential PH-1 smartphone and iPad Air. It has largely been tested with Deezer and Spotify but also some testing with Qobuz and Tidal in comparison to the DALI Katch has been undertaken as I went down the rabbit hole of bitrates, loss and the effects on products of this nature. As such, material has been in FLAC, MP3 and Ogg Vorbis.
Somewhat unavoidably, this section will be as much about Bluetooth codecs as it is the performance of the Beoplay P6. The reason for this is simple enough. In direct comparison to the DALI Katch, the Beoplay P6 isn’t quite as good. It lacks a little of the get up and go that the DALI brings to music that is endlessly appealing and something that seems to be hardwired into the design. What is more contentious for me though is that the presence of aptX is not a knockout blow for the DALI. Turn aptX off and this doesn’t fundamentally change. The DALI keeps its liveliness advantage.
This is important for the B&O because even though it ‘makes do’ with SBC, it does so in a way that is genuinely satisfying to listen to. The maximum sample rate of SBC is 354kbps and in terms of the streaming services it is likely to be connected to - Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play Music or Deezer - this is sufficient to transmit everything that these services are capable of sending. To extend on this, it seems fairly clear after listening to the Beoplay P6 that it has been designed with a view to receiving material of this nature.
With the sound settings centred for a ‘neutral’ performance, the B&O produces an impressively big and full sound from its small chassis. By far the most impressive aspect of this is the bass response. It’s full bodied and surprisingly powerful given the size of the chassis but it integrates well with the rest of the frequency response and has some lovely fine detail to it. Play the gorgeous Shadow Queen by the Alba Griot Ensemble and the plucked bass that underpins the whole track is wonderfully prominent. The group vocals manage the trick of being an audibly distinct trio of voices but still arranged with an overall cohesion and harmony.
The refinement on offer here is also notable. The B&O will go to great lengths to avoid sounding bright or forward. Even with the EQ settings canted over to the bright end, this is a very composed and ‘grown up’ sounding device. The downside to this is that the Beoplay P6 is not the most ebullient performer going. Hammering Fight Fire with Fire by The Prodigy and it sounds big, composed and confident but the last edge of true, balls out aggression is missing. Behave like a grown-up though and use the P6 to listen to the Today program and it is genuinely excellent, delivering a performance that isn’t too far adrift of the Naim Mu-So Qb that lives in my kitchen to perform roles like this.
- Wonderful piece of industrial design
- Refined and potent sound
- Excellent App
- No aptX
- A little expensive
- No Aux input
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay P6 ReviewHaving used it for a little while and keeping the Katch on hand by way of comparison, I am forced to reach the conclusion that Bang & Olufsen feels that given the size, driver compliment and likely material being sent to the P6, it doesn’t need to have aptX. What has surprised me a little is that on reflection, I am inclined to agree with them. Sending 1,411kbps (or a proportion thereof) to a speaker this size is not going to untap a level of performance that isn’t being achieved by sending 320kbps.
This is not to understate the importance of aptX though. Using Bluetooth with more convincingly full range, stereo devices, the benefits of the enhanced flavours of Bluetooth are considerable as they are also with headphones and earphones - even at price points under £100. The decision of companies to fit it should be commended but these speakers do seem to demonstrate that compact designs like this aren’t subject to quite the same set of rules and regulations as larger devices.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £350.00
Ease of Use9
Value for Money8
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