Bang & Olufen's new Google Assistant speaker is the fanciest smart speaker ever made

Small Scandi design, voice control, multi-room streaming from Apple and Google, and Alexa's coming later

Bang & Olufsen Balance Smart Speaker
(Image credit: Bang & Olufsen)

For as long as smart speakers have been a thing, they've been used heavily for listening to music – but it took a while for there to be options that actually included worthwhile sound.

Over the last couple of years, that improved with the likes of the Apple HomePod, Google Home Max, and more recently the Amazon Echo Studio. But now Bang & Olufsen has blown them all out of the water with its new shelf-friendly Google Assistant speaker, the Beosound Balance.

B&O is packing in an extreme amount of speaker technology and smarts – streaming support for Apple and Android, two voice assistants, and room-sensing tech just for starters – which does mean it's also one of the most expensive smart speakers so far.

The Balance has a vaguely lamp-like look, with its wooden base and fabric upper section. On top is an aluminium panel with touch controls that light up when you approach, which is always a satisfyingly futuristic touch.

Wireless streaming support includes Apple AirPlay 2 and Google Chromecast multi-room capability, plus Spotify Connect and B&O's own app-based control. There's also Bluetooth, for connecting anything else (such as a Bluetooth turntable). And, of course, full Google Assistant integration, so you can ask it to play music, control your home, check the weather, or whatever dumb questions the kids want.

You'll also be able to use Alexa instead of GA as your assistant of choice, but that will come in an update later in the year.

B&O Balance: speakers

(Image credit: Bang & Olufsen)

B&O has also included a bunch of audio tech that's been inherited from the much more expensive Beolab speaker range, to help it make the most of its modest 20x20x38cm dimensions (which is still fairly big for a smart speaker, but small for this amount driver tech).

For a start, there are two 5.25-inch bass drivers that sit in opposition to each other. The aim here is that moving in opposite directions helps to cancel out vibrations that might be transferred into the body of the Balance, or your furniture, meaning the actual bass sounds stay clean (and won't annoy the neighbours as much, either). There are also four full-range drivers and a tweeter.

These are all paired with room compensation tech (similar to what you get in the HomePod), so the sound tweaks itself to stop the location you've placed it from interfering with the quality. You can also choose whether to have the sound play in a uniform 360-degree mode around the speaker, or for a more focused sound.

We're hoping to get our hands on one for a full review soon, but we're expecting it to be the best-sounding smart speaker of the lot. Though you'd hope so, for £1,750/$2,250.

Matthew Bolton

Matt is T3's former AV and Smart Home Editor (UK), master of all things audiovisual, overseeing our TV, speakers and headphones coverage. He also covered smart home products and large appliances, as well as our toys and games articles. He's can explain both what Dolby Vision IQ is and why the Lego you're building doesn't fit together the way the instructions say, so is truly invaluable. Matt has worked for tech publications for over 10 years, in print and online, including running T3's print magazine and launching its most recent redesign. He's also contributed to a huge number of tech and gaming titles over the years. Say hello if you see him roaming the halls at CES, IFA or Toy Fair. Matt now works for our sister title TechRadar.