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Long before Apple was making good looking gadgets, there was Bang & Olufsen, or B&O as it is more fondly known. Founded in 1925 by Svend Olufsen and Peter Bang, the Danish company grew with the nascence of Bauhaus Functionalism from making radios to all kinds of consumer electronics. Today B&O’s highly individualistic designs and superior audio fidelity have earned it something of a cult-like following among those who appreciate design and sound in equal measure, ensuring the company’s survival in an immensely competitive and fickle marketplace. An inspiring company with a single-minded pursuit of quality media delivery via striking objects, here are five products that embody its winning ethos.
1. BeoLab 3
Relatively petite, the BeoLab 3 has a cute droid styling that would not look amiss in the cast of Wall-E but its diminutive size packs a punch in terms of technology. Its unique undulating shape conceals passive speaker units that allow it to emit loud sounds that would otherwise be impossible in such a compact cabinet. The periscopic appendage on top of the unit is actually a tweeter dubbed Acoustic Lens Technology that disperses sound and makes placement of the speakers less crucial to the overall effect, and also delivers a more precise reproduction by limiting reflections from the outside and above.
2. BeoLab 90
We’re all with familiar statement jewellery and shoes, but leave it to B&O to design a statement speaker — the big and bold BeoLab 90, which looks like a collapsed version of IM Pei’s Bank of China skyscraper in Hong Kong. Released in conjunction with B&O’s 90th birthday this year, BeoLab 90 is not just a sculptural masterpiece, its technical capabilities will leave even the most discerning audiophile weak in the knees — the 125.3-cm tall cabinet speaker houses 18 individual driver units, each with its own amplifier so sound comes out of the BeoLab 90 can be controlled to different directions, boasting 8,200 watts per loudspeaker. The result of more than five and a half years of development, the BeoLab 90 frees listeners from needing to be squarely between the speakers to enjoy perfect sound.
3. BeoLab 5
Fans of Dr. Who will recognize the forbidding proportions of the hero’s nemesis, the Daleks in the tapered BeoLab 5 although ironically on first impressions, the coolly stylish speaker looks more futuristic than characters from any sci-fi series. More than just radical looks, the BeoLab 5 revolutionised the industry when it was first launched more than a decade ago as it solved two fundamental problems confounding the industry, namely adaptation to the room conditions and direction control of the sound. Utilising B&O’s proprietary Acoustic Lens Technology and Adaptive Bass Control, the result is a pure sound and bass response regardless of the placement of the speaker or the listener’s position.
4. BeoSound 1
A response to today’s wireless lifestyle, the BeoSound 1 is a sleek aluminum cone that packs performance and technology in one minimalist object. Architecture buffs will no doubt see it as a doppelganger of the Museum of Glass’s conical Hot Shop, but its shape isn’t merely for aesthetic purposes. The conical shape hovers slightly above the ground, letting bass units out beneath, and dispersing sound in all directions. Instead of adding a display that would mar the elegant lines, volume is instead controlled by turning the wheel via the rotary control at the cone’s peak. Other functions can be accessed by swiping and tapping the wheel. And despite its similarities with the BeoSound 2 that will be out in stores end November, the BeoSound 1 stands out for its portability. The battery-driven speakers boast up to 16 hours of battery life when playing at moderate level, making it a handy addition for outdoor picnics and lunches.
5. B&O PLAY A9
Some designs are just iconic and the B&O PLAY A9, launched a mere four years ago, has become something of a modern classic. Its distinctive disc form, whether perched on wooden legs or hung from a wall, is instantly recognisable and has the unique ability of blending into a room and drawing attention to itself in equal measure. Its good looks belie an engine that delivers a hefty 480 watts of raw but refined power through a digital Class D amplifier system. Always on the cutting edge, the B&O PLAY A9 received a technological update this year, and now allows Bluetooth streaming, built-in access to Spotify Connect, Deezer, Google Clast, Airplay and TuneIn and an improved magic touch interface that allows users to adjust volume, change songs or radio stations via a simple gesture.