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Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 5

The Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 5 is the company's latest paradigm shift in how media servers should work, but if you have to ask about the price it's not for you.

Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
Ty Pendlebury
2 min read

You've got to hand it to the Danish company, they sure know about design. In fact, the only thing we can remember that hasn't been breathtakingly beautiful has been an earlier iteration of this — the Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 5. The BeoMedia 1 was essentially an expensive Windows Media Centre in an ugly black box — and yeah, that particular combination doesn't appeal to us, either.

However, the BeoSound isn't a media centre but a gigantic music server. While the "black box" remains on the BeoSound 5, in the form of a modified PC server designed to bung out of the way, it's what controls the machine that is the interesting part.

Upside
Designed to be a very "tactile" experience, the BeoSound's control mechanism is both astonishing to behold and to use. We love the way the machined aluminium control wheel "floats" at the side of the interface, and during use the three separate wheels give the user a satisfyingly "analog" click.

The standout feature of the system, apart from the fact that you use large aluminium wheels to control your music rather than a touch screen, is the BeoSound's MOTS system. It analyses 11 different parameters of each track and can pair it with other tracks in your system on the fly. Think of it as a self-aware version of Apple's Genius.

Getting to the nitty gritty, the BeoSound uses a 500GB drive, an HDMI connection, and will play WMA/WMA Lossless/MP3/WAV/AAC as well as stream internet radio. Photos and video file playback are also promised. And because the system's networked you will be able to update to new functionality as it's added.

Downside
One downside — apart from the price, of course — is the lack of expandability. While 500GB is a lot of space when you consider this is just a music server, there will come a time when "1,000 lossless CDs worth" becomes a limitation.

Despite its appearance, you still need a PC to rip your tracks to as the BeoSound is sans optical drive. It does connect to a network though, and B&O supplies a utility that allows you to move your tracks from your PC to the BeoSound's drive.

We would have liked to see this system without the additional PC-sized goitre trailing off it, and would have preferred if the control unit could connect to, and slurp files from, your network PCs or NAS.

Outlook
Stylish, fun to use, and just jaw-droppingly awesome, the B&O BeoSound 5 is a talking piece and a functional music system in one. You already knew if you wanted one if you got past "breathtakingly beautiful".