Factor reviews: Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 2

Bang & Olufsen has a reputation for making achingly beautiful tech with a price tag to match, so if you’re on the market for a wireless speaker that can be your main sound system for years to come, and – importantly – money is no option, look no further than the BeoSound 2.

Looking like the result of an illicit union between an Airsteam and darlek, the speaker is incredibly stylish and built to an extremely high quality, resulting in an object that would be an excellent aesthetic addition to a modern home, even if it didn’t actually do anything.

Encased in aluminium, it is a pleasure to look at and interact with, featuring an extremely pleasing and intuitive control system where the top can be twisted to adjust the volume.  There is no bewildering array of buttons and settings; music is simply sent to the speaker via connected devices over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi – with very good compatibility with all the usual suspects – and plays without having to mess about or manually reconnect. Subtle sounds are also used to indicate events such as a device connecting, in a manner that feels natural and very easy to understand.

And then there is the sound. My god, the sound. The BeoSound 2 is described as having 360° sound, which it certainly does, but what Bang & Olufsen’s marketing material fails to do is describe how textured that sound feels. It has depth and feeling, in a manner I’ve only ever heard before with vinyl, and it’s truly pleasant to have playing, even if the music in question is decidedly sub-par. One very minor gripe was that some genres sounded a little bassier than may be desired, but I’ve yet to encounter a luxury speaker where this isn’t the case.

The volume, too, is hellishly impressive. At half-volume we were able to broadcast music to our entire open-plan office, and at full volume we could have easily provided tunes for a rave. Basically, I challenge you to find a room this speaker wouldn’t manage to fill, and if it does exist, it would almost certainly be able to house a small herd of elephants.

The initial setup was a little less than smooth, involving an app that doesn’t quite match B&O’s usual quality levels, but once this was completed we didn’t have to worry about it again once. And when our office Wi-Fi decided to give up for a few minutes, the speaker neatly reconnected without intervention, and continued to play whatever nonsense we were subjecting it to without complaint.

In short, if money was no issue, I’d be recommending this to everyone without hesitation. But unfortunately it is, and for most people it’s going to be a rather big sticking point. Because the BeoSound 2 isn’t just not cheap; it’s really very expensive, setting you back an eye-watering £1,475. And if that sounds like a lot of money to you – and it certainly does to me – then it’s probably not going to be worth it.

But if you are looking for a speaker that will likely last for years and supports a wide enough range of different services that it’s unlikely to become obsolete any time soon, and you are willing to pay over a grand for such an item, then you should definitely consider the BeoSound 2. It looks and sounds amazing.

Factor’s verdict:

Factor Reviews: Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch

Among all the fitness gadgets I’ve tried for Factor so far, Fitbit’s Blaze smartwatch is the first that has thoroughly impressed me, both in the gym and for everyday use. For the past three weeks I’ve tested in on everything from MMA to yoga and from running to weights, and I already don’t remember how I ever got through my daily fitness routine without it.

Slim and stylish, the Blaze is comfortable enough to wear around the clock – even at night. It comes with a range of accessories, including the standard elastomer band, a softer nylon version, and some very smart-looking (if somewhat expensive) leather and metal options that will go nicely with any business suit.

Image courtesy of Fitbit

Its high-resolution colour touchscreen, supported by three buttons, allows for easy and intuitive access to all features and offers a range of styles for the clock face. As a nifty extra, you can make the screen wake up and go to sleep with a simple flick of the wrist.

The Blaze tracks daily essentials (steps, distance, calories, heart rate) as well as most major sport modes, with the option to customise shortcuts for your preferred activities through the paired app. It also features sleep tracking, connected GPS, smartphone notifications and controls, silent alarms and a small selection of on-screen workouts.

In exercise mode, you can flick through comprehensive tracking information on screen – and here comes my only point of criticism: The screen can be a bit tricky to use when on the move, especially with sweaty hands, and sometimes requires repeated tapping to respond.

Image courtesy of Fitbit

Images courtesy of Fitbit

For more in-depth analysis of all the stats collected, the Blaze syncs (via Bluetooth) with Fitbit’s superb smartphone app, which completes the full fitness picture with sleep analysis, food and weight logs, a calories in vs out tracker that adapts to your activity level throughout the day, and a range of goals and challenges to keep you motivated.

Battery life is very decent; it charges in two hours and lasts around four days when in constant use.

Prices start at £159.99 for the basic frame and band and special editions are available at £179.99, but a stainless steel band will set you back a further £89.99.

Overall, the Blaze is a brilliant smart watch for all your fitness tracking needs that’s also stylish and comfortable enough to convince as an all-day accessory, offering a whole lot of useful features at a reasonable price. I’m not taking it off anytime soon.

Factor’s verdict:

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