The first thing I noticed with the BeoSound 8 was its prodigious bass. You wouldn't expect such small speakers to be able to produce that much bass. My first track was a lightly compressed MP3 of "Beachcombing," from the fantastic All the Roadrunning by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris, and its pounding bassline filled the room. The BeoSound 8 faithfully reproduced the timbre and creaminess of Knopfler's guitar, while at the same time let Harris's masterful voice shine.
Continuing with the Fender Strat theme, I moved on to an uncompressed "Tin Pan Alley" by Stevie Ray Vaughan from his Couldn't Stand the Weather album. The ambience of this reverb-y track was engaging, while Stevie's guitar sang.
My next track was some organ music, namely the always awesome "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" from the Telarc Celebrating 25 Years: Classical Collection CD. I found it hard to believe how low the BeoSound 8 could go, with its performance on pedal tones rivaling some subwoofers I've heard.
At normal listening levels, the 8 produced excellent, well-balanced sound. Though it can produce a lot of bass, it wasn't boomy (presuming its placement matched the bass switch settings). The treble was detailed, not harsh.
At above-normal listening levels, the 8 was still listenable, but the bass was sloppier and less defined, and the treble became a little biting. Neither so much as to sound bad, but enough so that you'd feel the need to turn the volume down for extended listening. Then again, if you're listening at high enough volumes to bring on these mild distortions, you're probably not sitting in front of it listening intently anyway.
While I give Bang & Olufsen credit for the BeoSound 8's gutsy design and quite decent sound, I can't get over its price. A grand ($999 if you want to get specific about it) for an iPod dock? Seriously? You could get a receiver, a decent pair of speakers, and a Wadia digital iPod dock for that money. Then you'd have a system that would sound at least as good, and be FAR more upgradeable and usable. The lack of Wi-Fi here, or of any built-in Internet connectivity for that matter, is a little disappointing. Not being able to have the BeoSound 8 play my iTunes library in another room, other than via a really long USB cable, is a hard pill to swallow at this price. Yes, you could buy the Airphones app, but that's beside the point, isn't it? Why should I have to spend more money?
The last iPod dock I reviewed was Pioneer's XW-NAS3, which at $449 sounded nearly as good, and also had stylish looks. Audioengine's brilliant, self-powered Audioengine5 speakers sell for only $349. The 8 doesn't sound twice as good as the Pioneer, or nearly 3 times as good as the Audioengines. (In fact, the Audioengines sound at least as good.) I can understand paying for cool design, and I certainly understand paying for good audio. But the BeoSound 8 costs $500 too much for what it delivers.