BeoLab 3 was a very small and compact active speaker which delivered sound which belied its size. Producing 250 watts of excellent quality sound the speakers could be combined with a BeoLab 2 active sub-woofer to produce sufficient noise to fill most rooms. BeoLab 3 could be positioned on a wall,a shelf or on its special floor stands. The unique Acoustic Lens Technology, also found on the top-of-the-range BeoLab 5, allowed for freedom of placement without loss of acoustic quality. The equal dispersion of high-frequency sound in a 180° arc meant that the sound experience was excellent in any listening position. Additionally, as the acoustic lens limited sound reflections from the floor and ceiling, the lens also ensured a consistent and precise sound experience. The new technologies in BeoLab 3 produced impressive results with most modern Bang & Olufsen music systems able to accommodate the speakers.
Looking similar to the BeoLab 2 sub-woofer, Beolab 3 also had a close connection style-wise with the Beovox 2500 ‘Cube’ speakers of the late 1960s.
Within each unit was fitted a 101mm woofer, a 19mm tweeter and two passive bass radiators of 101mm. To produce its remarkable sound the BeoLab 3 used two class ‘D’ amplifiers rated at 125 watts each. The speakers had three pre-set bass settings for placement in a corner, against a wall, or freestanding in a room. This was made possible through Adaptive Bass Control technology, exclusive to Bang & Olufsen.
The two ICEpower amplifiers in each BeoLab 3 produced very little excess heat, so there was no need for the cooling space often necessary with traditional active loudspeaker construction. A conventional speaker would have to be around ten times the size of BeoLab 3 to deliver a comparable sound.
BeoLab 3 was sold with a black rubber foot for positioning on a flat base and the whole shell of the speaker was manufactured from solid aluminium. Produced in its early life just in black, a choice of colours was later offered (see below). A glossy white was introduced at the end of 2008.
A single Power Link socket was fitted to each BeoLab 3; if coupled to a non-Bang & Olufsen audio system a converter cable could be used to connect at line level. Five metres of special Power Link cable was delivered with each BeoLab 3 sold.
THE IDEA OF MAKING equipment ‘for those who discuss design and quality before price’ has served Bang & Olufsen well for most of its 80-year history. However, a reputation can only be sustained if products have a sound that goes with that style and price tag, and in the past couple of years the company has intensified its focus on all things desirable and good looking.
But technology and engineering goes hand in hand with styling and design, and the idea of active speakers, combining drive units, crossover and amplification in one enclosure, has been a central part of the company’s speaker design since the Beolab 2500 of 1991. For the Beolab 3 the engineers in Denmark have wrung the best out of what is in effect a very small speaker by the use of ICEpower amplification — the acronym stands for Intelligent, Compact and Efficient — and some innovative driver technology.
The BeoLab 3 is about the size of a tenpin bowling ball, at about 24cm tall, and looks like one, too. Well, one with flat front and sides, a top hat on and a plinth to allow it sit on a shelf, anyway! As with other products from this company, the engineers make a strong case for function having dictated the form: the novel shape is an attempt to tackle the problem of the effect room boundaries have on front-firing speakers.
To that end the speaker uses three bass/ midrange units: one of these, on the front of the enclosure, is driven, the other two being passive radiators working to left and right. This section is driven by one of two 125W ICEpower amplifiers built into the speaker, the other one being used to drive the other innovative part of the design, the Acoustic Lens Technology tweeter.
The ALT design is licensed from American company Sausalito Audio Works and comprises a precisely shaped aluminium lens, on the top face of the speaker, directing and controlling the dispersion of the upward-firing tweeter. That’s the ‘top hat’ I referred to: it’s designed to give a good sense of location and position from the treble by controlling the driver’s radiation, neither wasting energy by scattering it nor allowing spurious reflections to affect imaging.
These speakers are principally designed for use with the company’s own systems, using DIN-type connectors to carry control and music signals. The company supplied a BeoSound 3200 system for the purposes of this test.
A switch on the speaker allows the choice of left or right channel, so each Beolab 3 in question only takes the appropriate information, while a ‘line’ setting, together with a suitable phono socket to DIN plug adapter, allows the speakers to be used with conventional preamplifiers. A three-position switch adjusts equalisation to compensate for the position of the speaker in the room: in a corner, adjacent to a wall or in free space. Each speaker needs to be connected to the mains, and can be used on shelf stands or brackets or the optional floor stands I used, which put the centre of the speaker about 71cms above the floor. The sound is well judged, with an attractive mix of tonal information and dynamic range resulting in a thoroughly integrated sonic picture. The sense of immense power in reserve is not thrust at you, but you’re always conscious that more is available if required. I was immediately converted by the lifelike and full sound; on the LSO Live CD of Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony, Sir Colin Davis conducting, the warmth and lyrical quality is always there and when the brass attacks there is no doubt that these speakers sound big enough to be handle all the complications and intricacies that the music might demand.
The acoustic lens system gets the spatial information to the listener in a clean and uncluttered way that never seems strained or under pressure. Were you not to have sight of the BeoLab 3s you might be fooled into imagining a significantly larger speaker with a much bigger volume; at least one listener was convinced I had the Beolab 2 subwoofer in harness when in fact they were listening to the little Beolab 3s alone.
Adding the subwoofer enhanced the authority of the 3s, and their ability to deliver one of the sweetest sounds I have heard. In an all-B&O configuration a single feed from the system is all that is necessary: the left and right signals are fed to the Beolab 3s in the usual ‘daisy chain’ manner. Integration is excellent, with a smooth blend of sound from speaker to speaker and the power at the bottom end is powerful and pleasing: there’s no uncontrolled waffle, but rather fine low-end precision to match the refinement of the Beolab 3s.
Do you need the subwoofer? In relatively small rooms, I’d suggest not — even in my rather large space the speakers seemed capable of doing the job unaided. But the beauty of the Bang & Olufsen system approach is that you could start with the speakers alone, then add the subwoofer later if required — it’s just a matter of pulling one plug and connecting an extra cable. Fine sound with simple elegance — where have we heard that before?
EU 6891 2004-01
GB 6892 2004-01
USA-CDN-TWN 6893 2004-01
J 6894 2004-01
AUS 6895 2004-01
KOR 6896 2004-01
(W x H x L): 135 x 215 (223 on table support) x 162mm
Weight: 2,55 kg
Power consumption: IEC65: 20 W
Typical: 7 W
Stand-by: 0,2 W
Maximum Sound Pressure Level: 94 dB (stereo, pair)
Power amplifier, bass: 125 W, Class D, ICEPower
Power amplifier, treble: 125 W, Class D, ICEPower
Long-term maximum output power per amplifier:
Bass: 220 W/4ohm
Treble: 120 W/8ohm
Effective Frequency range: 50 - 20.000 Hz
Crossover frequency: 3.300 Hz
Cabinet principle: Double Balanced Passive Radiator
Net volume, bass: 1.5 litres
Magnetically shielded: Yes
Woofer: 101 mm
Passive radiators: 2 x 101 mm
Tweeter: 19 mm
Directivity control treble: ALT (Acoustic Lens Technology), licensed from Sausalito Works LLC
Bass equalization: ABL (Adaptive Bass Linearization)
Input sensitivity (Power Link): 125 mV (88dB SPL)
Input sensitivity (line): 125 mV (88dB SPL) - Auto switch on
Switch off time (line): 3 min.
Indicator LED for on (green), Off (red) or Protection (yellow) mode
Operation: Free, Wall or Corner position
Left, Right or LINE switch
Protection: Thermal protection
Power Link 1 (use Semi-Balanced PL cable type MKIII, or fully mounted PL cable)
Mains 1 Switch Mode Power Supply; internal jumper for 220-240 V or 100 - 120 V
Phono (line-in) Via PL using Line-to-PL adaptor cable, 5m, black, part no.: 6270856
6891 EU 230 V
6892 GB 230 V
6893 USA - CND - TWN 120 V
6894 J 100 V
6895 AUS 240 V
6896 KOR 220 V
Base stand (Included)
Floor stand 2165 Aluminium
Table stand 2166 Aluminium
Wall bracket 2167 Black