Bang & Olufsen Beosound Explore review: The best-looking waterproof speaker on the market
The majority of Bluetooth speakers designed for outdoor use are rather artless in appearance; not so the Bang & Olufsen Beosound Explore.
The Beosound Explore is a hyper-stylish portable speaker that catches the eye when it’s standing on your bookshelf but possesses the rugged qualities to withstand pretty much any weather conditions or extreme situation you fancy subjecting it to.
If you’re a music-loving mountaineer in search of a device that will be the envy of your expedition companions, few Bluetooth speakers fit the bill better than the Beosound Explore. Having said that, the Explore falls short of its stablemate the Beosound A1 (2nd Gen) in the audio quality department, and its price might put off less affluent adventurers.
Bang & Olufsen Beosound Explore review: What do you get for the money?
The Beosound Explore costs £169 and is available in three attractive colourways: Grey Mist, Black Anthracite or Green. It’s shaped like an oversized can of beans, with a hard outer shell crafted from anodised aluminium that makes up most of its 637g mass.
Standing at 124mm tall and measuring 81mm in diameter, the Explore is small enough to grasp it in one hand, and there’s a fabric strap attached to the rear of the speaker that makes this more secure. There’s also a matching carabiner included should you wish to clip the Explore to your belt or the outside of a bag.
Basic controls are located on the top of the speaker and take the form of depressible buttons. The play/pause control sits in the centre of the circular panel with pairing, volume up, power and volume down buttons positioned at the north, east, south and west compass points, respectively.
Weatherproofing and durability are crucial to the Beosound Explore’s offering, and it couldn’t be much better equipped in those regards. An IP67 rating certifies it dust-tight and waterproof to the point where it can be immersed in 1m of water for up to 30 minutes, while the aluminium housing is scratch-resistant and tough enough to withstand being dropped on hard surfaces.
In terms of technical specifications, the Beosound Explore is relatively unremarkable. It supports Bluetooth 5.2 but sadly there’s no provision for advanced audio codecs. You’ll be making do with SBC regardless of the device you pair the speaker with, putting the Explore at a disadvantage to the Beosound A1 (2nd Gen), which supports both AAC and aptX Adaptive.
It does support multipoint pairing, however, allowing the Explore to connect to two Bluetooth devices simultaneously and, even better, those willing and able to splash out on two Beosound Explore speakers can turn them into a stereo pair.
Battery life clocks in at up to 27 hours of audio playback at moderate volume levels. That’s an excellent figure for a speaker of the Explore’s size and puts many of our favourite similarly priced Bluetooth speakers to shame. The JBL Charge 5 and Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 both offer 20 hours per charge, while the Beosound A1 (2nd Gen) gives up the ghost after roughly 18 hours of moderate volume listening, and the Sonos Roam delivers a measly 10 hours.
When empty, the 2,400mAh battery will recharge in a couple of hours via a 5V/3A power supply using the USB-A to USB-C cable included in the box.
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Bang & Olufsen Beosound Explore review: What does it do well?
We’re used to Bang & Olufsen products looking great, and the Beosound Explore is no exception. The slatted aluminium grille protecting the speaker’s internal components gives it a classy appearance and, although it was created for life outdoors, the Explore is a device that’s equally at home in a modern living room.
The Explore’s striking appearance isn’t just for show, however – this is a speaker that can take some real punishment. I carted it about loose in my bag on trips into the office and it remained unmarked, despite fighting for space with a chunky laptop stand, Chilly’s water bottle and various other potentially damaging bits and bobs. Even a tumble off my kitchen worktop didn’t scuff the Explore’s resilient exterior.
That resilience, coupled with the fact it can handle being submerged in shallow water, means the Beosound Explore provides real peace of mind when used outdoors.
The Beosound Explore delivers 360-degree sound via a pair of 1.8in full-range drivers powered by two 30W Class D amplifiers and it does it well. Audio quality remained consistent no matter where I was positioned relative to the speaker.
There’s also a reasonable amount of audio customisation available through the Bang & Olufsen companion app. You can choose from three listening modes – Speech, Party and Optimal – and create your own “Favourite” listening profile using B&O’s Beosonic tool (pictured below).
This serves a similar purpose to a graphic equaliser but takes the form of a circle filled with audio terms including “Bright”, “Low bass” and “Relaxed”. By moving a smaller circle around inside the Beosonic tool, you can tweak how prominent bass and treble are in a specific listening mode.
Personally, I prefer the more traditional approach, but audio customisation options are always welcome whatever form they take, and adjustments in the Beosonic tool play out clearly in how the Explore sounds.
Bang & Olufsen Beosound Explore review: What could be better?
All of this is good stuff; unfortunately, the Explore doesn’t quite hit the sonic heights, and it certainly isn’t as easy on the ears as its sibling, the Beosound A1 (2nd Gen).
It delivers an impressive amount of detail in the mid-range, and trebles sparkle, but I didn’t get quite the same sense of scale as I did from the A1. The Explore’s soundstage feels a little constrained, and low-end reproduction is less satisfying even with Beosonic adjustments boosting bass.
The Explore also lacks the muscle of options like the JBL Charge 5, although that’s to be expected given the Charge 5 is significantly larger, heavier and incorporates dual passive radiators. At maximum volume, the Explore fills a small room reasonably effectively and will ensure a small group sitting around a campfire are well catered for – just don’t expect it to be the life and soul of a large outdoor gathering.
The physical controls are very simple to use in the daytime but, since there’s no illumination on the buttons themselves, using it in dim and dark conditions can be tricky. This isn’t an issue when you’re sitting at home on your sofa but means you might have to dig out your torch if you’re in a remote location with minimal light.
Lastly, the Explore cuts the speakerphone and Alexa functionality present on the A1 (2nd Gen). I can totally understand ditching Alexa given the Explore’s target market, but not being able to take calls through the speaker is a pretty big loss.
Bang & Olufsen Beosound Explore review: Should you buy it?
The Beosound Explore combines the looks of a speaker you’d happily display in your home with a practically indestructible design. If there’s a better-looking rugged and waterproof speaker on the market, I’ve yet to see it. It also boasts bumper battery life that will see you good for a long weekend away, and B&O’s Beosonic tool provides an interesting and effective take on audio customisation.
However, the Explore simply doesn’t sound as good as the Beosound A1 (2nd Gen), which is only £30 more expensive and has built-in mics that enable it to function as a speakerphone and make use of Amazon Alexa. It also possesses the same IP67 rating, although its housing isn’t quite as sturdy.
The Explore faces stiff competition from elsewhere, too. The Sonos Roam – a winner at our Tech Product of the Year Awards in 2021 – throws Wi-Fi connectivity, wireless charging and smart functionality into the mix for similar money, while the JBL Charge 5 has a less refined appearance but delivers bigger, more impactful audio.
Ultimately, if you’re able to resist the Beosound Explore’s aesthetic appeal, you’ll find better value and superior sound quality elsewhere.