Rich bass response and powerful overall audio performance. Sleek, minimal design. Streams via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.
Bass can overwhelm mix at times, and digital signal processing can squash dynamics. No playback or track navigation controls.
- Bottom Line
The B&O Play Beoplay M3 multi-room speaker delivers powerful bass for its size, sometimes at the expense of overall balance in the mix.
B&O Play's Beoplay lineup of wireless speakers rarely disappoints in terms of style or audio delivery. While the new Beoplay M3 follows suit, at $299 it feels slightly overpriced for the audio experience it delivers. The relatively modest-size multi-room speaker can deliver some exceptionally rich bass response, but the bass often seems to be at war, rather than balanced with, the rest of the frequency range. The M3 feels like it was designed to be used in conjunction with several of B&O Play's other multi-room speakers throughout your home, but as a standalone product, we prefer other options, like the Sonos One, which has the added benefit of voice control.
Available in a matte black or neutral gray finish, the Beoplay M3 has rounded side panels, measures 5.9 by 4.4 by 5.5 inches (HWD), and weighs 3.2 pounds. The speaker looks like it is portable and even has a rubber-like finish like many ruggedized, portable models we test, but it requires power from a cable at all times. Its front panel is all perforated speaker grille—for which you can buy extra grilles, one of which is cloth. The grille pops right off when pulled, revealing the speaker array behind it.
Some might find it surprising that a speaker this price is mono, but we are seeing this more and more in home wireless speakers, so audiophiles will want to think twice, or perhaps buy two. A single 0.75-inch tweeter and 3.75-inch woofer handle the audio, both of which receive 40 watts of Class D amplification.
The top panel is flat and featureless, and the bottom panel is rubberized to prevent the speaker from moving around tabletops. On the back, there's a multifunction button, and a volume up/down control, and that's it—you'll be doing all track navigation on your Bluetooth device itself. During playback, the multifunction button acts as a play/pause control, and double tapping it switches between sound sources. In standby mode, the button is used to connect either to an existing multi-speaker group or to connect via Bluetooth to the most recently paired device.
The power cable also connects to the rear panel, and does so in an interesting manner—there's a flip-top lid on the bottom panel that hides a recessed connection panel, and a groove at the opening of the lid that keeps the connected power cable perfectly in place. Also on this panel, there's a power button, a settings button, a 3.5mm aux input, and a micro USB port for charging mobile devices using the M3's power—but there are no cables for either of these two connections.
It's a little surprising that a wireless speaker this size has no speakerphone functionality, but B&O Play is selling it hard as a multi-room speaker, and most multi-room speakers we've tested lack this feature, as well.
The Beoplay app is well-designed and simple to operate, and it walks you through the process of setting up the M3 with your Wi-Fi network. You can stream to the speaker via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The app incorporates Google Cast, so you can play on several speakers at once if you wish. It also features the Beoplay Tonetouch EQ, with its inventive take on adjusting lows and highs—instead of faders, it uses a sort of graph with four corners—Warm, Excited, Relaxed, and Bright. Moving the dot on the graph closer to one corner or partway between two allows for a variety of sound signatures, and there are also presets (Party, Podcast, Lounge, and Clear). You can also select a sound profile based on speaker placement—choosing between between Free, Wall, or Corner—and the speaker's sound signature is adjusted to better deliver audio for its surroundings.
For testing, we kept the EQ on its central flat setting, listening via both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth using an iPhone 6s as our sound source. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife's "Silent Shout," the Beoplay M3 delivers a strong bass response for a speaker this size. At top volumes, the digital signal processing (DSP) kicks in and limits the lows in order to prevent distortion, so at slightly lower levels, you actually get a stronger sense of bass depth. At moderate listening levels, the Beoplay M3 provides a laudable thump—at times, it competes with the rest of the frequency range and drowns out some of the higher range audio.
Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the M3's overall sound signature. The drums on this track receive some extra bass thump, but don't sound as thunderous as they can on systems that really pump the sub-bass. Instead, it's Callahan's baritone vocals that sound almost thunderous here—the lows and low-mids get far more boosting than the sub-bass, making his vocals sound extra rich. There's nothing wrong with that, but you'll want to place the speaker at a height that is close to your ears—otherwise, because the drivers are angled upward, you end up missing out on a lot of the treble that lends his vocals some definition and the acoustic guitar some brightness.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the kick drum loop receives plenty of high-mid presence, allowing its attack to retain its sharpness and slice through the layers of the mix. The sub-bass synth hits are a little more subdued—again, the Beoplay M3 delivers rich, boosted bass, but it doesn't reach down into the subwoofer realm quite as much. The vocals on this track get solid high-mid presence as well, never sounding overly sibilant and always upfront in the mix. But on tracks like this, the DSP sounds like it's working overtime at top volumes, and the dynamics of the track end up getting limited quite a bit.
For orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, the lower register instrumentation gets a tremendous boost—again, most of it is in the low and low-mid realm, not so much the sub-bass realm, so just as with Callahan's vocals, the bass response really pushes these elements forward in the mix. The higher register instrumentation luckily still receives a crisp, bright presence, so that the lower instruments don't seem to do battle with the higher brass, strings, and vocals. But this is a very sculpted, boosted sound that will not appeal to those seeking an accurate mix.
The drivers inside the Beoplay M3 actually sound great—it's that DSP that becomes problematic at times. Many listeners will enjoy the rich bass response it brings out of mixes, but it isn't an accurate sound signature, and at high volumes, dynamics get tamped down. Throw in the mono-only audio delivery, and you're left with a very sculpted sound signature. You get the sense that two Beoplay M3s assigned to left and right channels might sound great, but on its own, the M3 oftens sounds like it's trying to deliver a bigger sound than it's capable of. When it succeeds, it's on the lows and low-mids, giving tracks added richness. It does less well on busy electronic mixes.
If you're looking for a solid wireless speaker for the house or for on the go, this price range has plenty of great options—check out Klipsch's The One, the Libratone Zipp, and the Bose SoundLink Revolve+. And for less, we're fans of the JLab Block Party and the aforementioned Sonos One, which supports voice control via Amazon Alexa and soon Google Assistant. At $300, the Beoplay M3 seems a little overpriced for what it delivers—or rather, it seems like a piece of a larger home system, and not the centerpiece.
By Tim Gideon Contributing Editor, Audio
Contributing Editor Tim Gideon has been writing for PCMag since 2006. He specializes in reviewing audio products, and is obsessed with headphones, speakers, and recording gear. More »
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