PHOTO BY Bang & Olufsen
Avid audiophiles are always on the lookout for quality gismos with the ultimate sound and sleek designs. Premium price tags for these fancy products leave them unfazed. Surely, their hearts beat faster just by viewing the amazing audio and visual devices by Danish company par excellence Bang & Olufsen, a luxury consumer electronics company renowned for its commitment to superior performance and cutting-edge design. B&O’s story began in 1925 when young Danish engineers Svend Olufsen and Peter Bang officially founded the company and a makeshift laboratory in the attic of Olufsen’s old family farmhouse manor, Quistrup, near the town of Struer, northwest of Denmark.
Bang was primarily interested in a new piece of technology – the radio. He spent half a year working in a radio factory in the US, where this broadcast medium was rapidly advancing. Radios of the time used unwieldy, heavy batteries that needed to be recharged. Bang developed the first Danish radio supplied with power directly from the mains with the “Eliminator”, a novel component within the Mains Receiver that could be connected to all battery-powered radios. Only 10 of these mains-powered radios were ever produced. The “Eliminator” was launched in 1926, the fledgling company’s first viable commercial success. Olufsen shared Bang’s zeal for the radio, but he mainly focused on the business side while Bang served as the technology wiz.
In 1927, production was moved to a newly built factory in Struer, where the current B&O headquarters and main production facilities are situated at the very same site. Throughout the years, the company has gained the reputation of being a manufacturer of “lifestyle” products aimed at select customers with demanding, individual needs who do not blink at four- or five-digit prices for its spectacular products. B&O developed and marketed its high-end hardware under the catchwords “Bang & Olufsen: for those who consider taste and quality before price”. In 1978, New York City’s Museum of Modern Art held an exhibition showcasing 39 of B&O’s avant-garde pieces, and 11 of these products were selected for the museum’s Permanent Design Collection. Danish design is renowned worldwide, and it comes as no surprise that B&O products are taken as the quintessence of outstanding performance, durability, impeccable craftsmanship, and high-profile technology.
In 2008, the company opened its museum in Struer, which tells the history of Bang & Olufsen from its modest start in the 1920s to becoming a world-class brand in the 21st century. Displays of well-preserved specimens that can be viewed included the iconic Bauhaus-inspired B&O radios, television sets, advertising posters, and other memorabilia of the post-war era to the more modern CD players, loudspeakers, BeoPlay headphones, just to name a few. It is said that Apple’s Steve Jobs admired all things B&O that the aluminium construction and the scroll-wheel control design on a B&O 1990s stereo gave Apple the inspiration for its iPod. Early B&O devices are considered highly collectible for their timeless beauty and performance. The Five Lamper, a radio enclosed in a striking art deco cabinet made of polished walnut and maple with intricate marquetry is one such specimen. Most radios then were produced to be merely functional, bulky monstrosities. B&O’s attention not only on the engineering but bold design aesthetics paved the way for a growing audience who appreciated the stylish innovation and was more than willing to pay for quality.
B&O is now on its 92nd year and has established itself as one of the pioneers in superior audio-visual products, as well as advanced sound systems for the automotive industry. To celebrate its 90th anniversary, B&O introduced the imposing BeoLab 90 home speakers with an astounding price tag of roughly €73,000 a pair. But to listen to these flagship speakers’ incredible performance is enough to bring its affluent owner to musical ecstasy. Introduced in 2017, the BeoSound Shape is an incredibly stylish honeycomb-shaped wireless speaker system of identical fabric covered hexagonal tiles mounted to the wall and doubles as a stunning piece of wall art totally determined by its owner. A huge living room or bedroom wall can be mounted with up to 44 speakers and 11 amplifiers in one system. The BeoSound Core is all you need for the system’s wireless streaming and connectivity features.
The BeoSound Shape amazes with its impressive sound quality, thanks to the audio algorithms B&O audio engineers have whipped up, called the “band on the wall”. Standard hi-fi speakers have a left channel and a right channel. There is a focal point between the two speakers where the listener can hear the perfectly blended stereo audio mix called the “sweet spot”. If you move left or right of the “sweet spot” your brain distinguishes which speaker is closest. With the BeoSound Shape “band on the wall” effect, you’ll get the same sound reaching your ears wherever you are in the room. During a recent media tour at the B&O headquarters, Noto GmbH Managing Partner and Designer André Poulheim explained the concepts of design his company utilised to create both the BeoLab 90 and the BeoLab 50, the latest addition to the B&O loudspeaker family.
If its Big Brother Beolab 90 was all about being different with its sophisticated design and advanced technology, intended to fit into some homes as an exclusive speaker, then the BeoLab 50 is its tempered version that still packs a lot of punch in the audio and design sectors, but costing only a third of the BeoLab 90’s price. The BeoLab 50 is a stunning slim looker that is meant to be the centrepiece in any room. Its large curved bottom appears to raise the speaker from the floor, with polished aluminium panels over the speaker and fabric front and oak slats covering the drivers. It features B&O’s Active Room Compensation technology that uses an external microphone to measure its acoustic surroundings and adjusts the equalisation and sound filters to deliver phenomenal sound.
The magic begins as the tweeter or “lens” slowly rises to the top of the crown when turned on, and can be set to two sound dispersion settings: narrow for concentrated listening and wide to let others in the room join in the fun. Moreover, these powerful active loudspeakers have seven 300 watt builtin amplifiers delivering 2100 watts into seven drivers, three 4-inch midrange speakers, and three front-firing 10-inch woofers. The BeoLab 50 includes wireless functions and can also synchronise with B&O’s smartphone app, making it a wonderful investment for people who appreciate awesome sound in an elegant package. Bang & Olufsen stays true to its commitment to produce high-tech performance and beautiful designs in its state-of-the-art products. The company’s hard-core fans cannot wait to snap up more of the avant-garde B&O innovations in the near future. In Indonesia, Bang & Olufsen stores are located in Pacific Place Mall Jakarta and on Sunset Road in Bali.