Back in 2013 I picked up the Beolit 12 from the local Bang & Olufsen dealer. Although I had buyers remorse at first, I quickly got over it as soon as I started using it and then instantly fell in love with it. Other than the beautiful design, the Beolit sounded incredible especially since it was a small portable unit that ran on batteries. It turned out to be a great buy and I started taking it to the beach and outdoor gatherings with me, even friends were always telling me to bring it along, thats how good it was.
But, back in January my Beolit stopped holding a charge. I ended up with a fairly common blinking red light issue with the and the battery was just dead. Thankfully the unit was still covered under warranty and the local dealer (who are great btw) managed to order a new battery from Dubai and get it installed in my unit. Everything was great again until last month when I got the blinking red light again. This time my unit was out of warranty but I couldn’t even pay to get it fixed since the model was discontinued and the dealer had no more batteries to swap. Instead the dealer offered me a discount on the newer Beolit 15, and I would be able to buy it for KD175. I checked Amazon UK though just to compare and noticed that with shipping to Kuwait the price was KD133 for the exact same model. I sent them a screenshot and they got back to me telling me the lowest they could do is KD150. I took that deal and I’m now a proud owner of both the Beolit 12 and 15.
Since there weren’t any decent comparison posts online I figured I’d put one together. Originally I was planning on selling my Beolit 12 but now I decided to keep it since I realized although both models look the same, they’re pretty different with how they work.
First thing you’ll notice is the price difference, the newer Beolit 15 is considerably cheaper than the 12. I originally paid KD250 for the Beolit 12 but like I mentioned, you can get the 15 from Amazon UK delivered to you in Kuwait for just KD133. I think the price drop probably has to do with the fact they’ve cut a few corners (more on that later), that the Beolit 15 no longer uses Apple’s proprietary protocol Airplay (so no licensing fees to pay Apple) and also because they’ve now been producing the Beolit for a few years so it’s probably cheaper to make.
The Beolit 15 no longer uses Airplay and instead uses Bluetooth which most people will prefer, but not me, and I’ll explain why. With the Beolit 12 I could setup the unit on my home network and then stream music to the unit whenever I wanted from wherever I was in the house. The Beolit 15 on the other hand uses Bluetooth. I like Bluetooth, it definitely makes things more convenient as a portable unit, it also allows Android users to stream music to it but it also makes it less practical as a home system compared to the 12. B&O have included a “power saving” feature where after 15 minutes of inactivity, the unit shutdowns… even when connected to a power source! This means every time I want to stream music to the Beolit I need to go to my bedroom and turn it on first. Doesn’t sound like a big deal but it is because I didn’t have to do that before and there is no technical reason why B&O you shouldn’t be able to keep the Beolit 15 always on when connected to a power source. Another issue that arrises because of Bluetooth is that my phone now has to be close to the unit. I have my Beolit in my bedroom, if I play music when I first wake up, I can’t then take my phone and move to my laundry room to iron a shirt because the music will start cutting off. I need to leave my phone in the bedroom if I want the music to keep playing which isn’t practical. This is why I’ve decided to keep my Beolit 12 as my permanently-plugged-in-always-on-bedroom-speaker, and the Beolit 15 strictly for when I need music when I go camping or to the beach. On the bright side, side by side the Beolit 15 surprisingly sounded a bit better, the music sounded fuller and I think it’s because it has a slightly different speaker arrangement. It’s not a big difference but it was noticeable when switching between one unit and the other.
There are a few other differences between the two models. The Beolit 12 has flat touch buttons on top of the device to control the unit while the Beolit 15 has push buttons. I prefer the flat buttons since I think it makes the device more water proof. I’ve had liquids spill on top of the unit and the buttons kept working because there was nowhere for the liquid to seep in. I’d imagine with the new push buttons, the liquids would be able to make their way inside unless the buttons are weather proofed and I haven’t be able to find any info on that. Another change is the leather handle, the Beolit 12 had a thicker harder leather handle while the 15 has a thinner softer leather handle so I’m worried the new handle isn’t as durable as the older model. Finally the power cable on the Beolit 15 is a regular black cable that feels cheap and looks out of place while the Beolit 12 had a cable with a color that matched the unit and was also thicker and had a nice texture to it.
If it sounds like I’m being picky thats because I am. End of the day this is a beautifully designed speaker by Bang & Olufsen and small things like using a cheap looking black power cable hurts the design. Instead of feeling like I stepped up with the Beolit 15, it feels like I’ve stepped down to an economical version of the Beolit 12. But then again that would explain why it’s now considerably cheaper. Battery life on both devices is supposed to be similar but I haven’t timed it or anything myself. B&O say the Beolit 15 has a 24 hour battery life but they said that about the A2 and I have yet to make it last more than a few hours. So thats marketing BS, expect it to last around 4-8 hours depending on how loud you play it, just like the Beolit 12.
Would I recommend the Beolit 15? As a portable unit for sure, I doubt you’ll find anything that sounds as good or looks as good and with the new price point its definitely much more accessible. But if you’re looking primarily for a small home speaker and you use Apple devices, then I would recommend the older Beolit 12 instead. It’s still available to buy and although slightly more expensive, the ability to keep it always on and being able to keep your phone anywhere you want in the house makes it a much more practical home speaker.
If you’re interested in the Beolit 15, they come in a variety of colors (mine is polar blue) and is available locally I believe for KD195 and on Amazon UK for around KD133 or KD150 (shipped to Kuwait) depending on the color. Here is the Amazon UK [Link]