Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 2
Bang & Olufsen, the Scandinavian electronics company best known for its exquisitely designed--and expensively priced--audio and video equipment, has unleashed its first portable audio device on the world: the BeoSound 2. The unusual, steel-plated MP3 player may not be the most stylish one we've seen, but the Bang & Olufsen label certainly brings an amount of techno haute couture appeal to the device. Unfortunately, the h and c words combined usually indicate the sort of wallet-wrenching price that would make most of us turn pale with shock, and the BeoSound 2 is no exception. This high-end player will set you back $460--and that's with no memory. Sure, it sounds fantastic, but it takes more than that to win us over.
Yes, you read that right. The BeoSound 2 has no internal memory, despite weighing a rather hefty 3.2 ounces. Instead, you have to insert an SD card (available as an option from Bang & Olufsen) into a well-designed, flap-covered slot on the back of the player if you want to listen to music. Last time we checked, a 1GB SD card cost a bit less than $100. Some people will no doubt find the BeoSound 2's UFO-esque shape and polished stainless-steel body attractive (beware of fingerprints!), and we must say it feels comfortable to hold and is easy to control with just one hand. But our design praise ends there.
The player has poorly marked buttons that are no help in reconciling the fact that it has no LCD. A circular center button labeled Go is flanked by four other keys; the bottom and top ones are each marked with a single directional triangle pointing up and down, and they're used to skip tracks. The buttons to either side of Go are marked with double directional triangles (the traditional fast-forward/rewind indication) and serve to navigate folders as well as cue through songs. In theory, anyway--we couldn't get this function to work. It would have made more sense if the side buttons skipped tracks and the up/down buttons moved through folders, especially considering the lack of worded labels. Above and below the up/down keys are the volume controls, each marked with a directional carat (^).