Music and such

Music that I am listening to now, have discovered, or am into at the moment.

Braun Audio Returns with the LE1 Reimagined by Precipice Design

Anyone that knows me, knows I am a huge fan of the industrial design work that Deiter rams did for Braun. His influence and the work he did for Braun can still be felt today on so many product lines by other companies like Apple. 

Braun has been absent from the audio world for more than two decades, but original stereo systems from the 50s, 60s, and 70s are still in demand. Not because they offer a superior audio experience, but because of the design and visual aesthetic they present.

The hottest Braun stereo collectible is probably the SK5 “Snow White’s Coffin” record player and radio. It is sublimely minimal in its execution with white powder-coated steel sandwiched between wooden side panels under a plexiglass case. The design was a radical departure for stereo gear when this was introduced in the 1950s. 

Snow White’s Coffin

One of my personal favorites from the Braun stereo family has always been the Braun Audio 1 from 1962. To me, it feels timeless. You can feel where it came from (the SK5) and understand the visual direction Rams was taking Braun over the next decade. 

1965 Braun Audio 1

In addition to the Audio 1, Braun introduced a set of minimalist speakers in 1959, the LE1. The LE1 is so simple in its design form. White rectangular slabs suspended on chrome tubular legs with a perforated black metal grill. The form is almost sculptural in quality and an even more radical departure from stereo systems of the day. You have to remember, in 1959 most stereo systems looked like a large wooden piece of furniture that would blend in with what was in your living room. The LE1 stands out. It’s meant to be seen as well as heard. 

The LE1 from 1959

The LE1 was the first electrostatic speaker available on the German market, the LE 1 provided a new housing for internal electronics produced by English engineering company Quad, then trading as Acoustical Manufacturing Co. Ltd. The LE 1’s electronics were based on the Quad ESL-57, producing a distinctively detailed sound that still stands up well against the standards of contemporary hi-fi systems today. At the time of its introduction, the speaker was technically and aesthetically ground-breaking. Within the Braun audio program of the late ‘50s, the LE 1 was intended to accompany the first Braun component Hi-Fi system, the Braun Studio 2. 

The 2019 LE01 Series

For the first time in 28 years, Braun is back in the audio business. Well sort of. Braun Audio is returning with a reinvention of the aforementioned LE speakers from 1959. A perfect reintroduction to the heritage of Braun Audio, the new LE Series focuses on the purity of design, purity of performance and the purity of sound Braun was known for in the past.

These beautifully minimalist speakers have been re-imagined by Precipice Design. The London-based design company developed all consumer and trade touchpoints including brand and product narratives, packaging, photography, iconography, digital assets (website, and mobile app), video content, and point of sale concepts, print catalogs, and advertising, helping to re-establish Braun in the premium audio sector.

When you look at the complete set of design materials that Precipice created for Braun you are immediately aware of the heritage of vintage Braun while positioning them squarely in the modern market place. The imagery that is used across all touchpoints echoes the minimalist aesthetic that Braun became known for, not simply in the products they produced but in the owner’s manuals, advertising, and packaging that was produced during their heyday.

As I looked at the new website that Precipice produced I was struck by how it so closely mirrored many of the Braun printed items I’ve seen from the 1960s an70s. The minimal color pallet, sparse layout, concise messaging. The same look and feel are carried over to the mobile app, and on to the packaging. With the packaging focusing on the purity of sound while focusing on the brand’s heritage. Only key information about the product shown on the packaging. The uncomplicated packaging is typical of Braun and reflects the aesthetics of the classic speaker through dark tones and a graphic of the speaker itself.

The speakers themselves are an homage to the original LE1 updated to reflect today’s taste and improved technologies. Where the original 1959 speaker would probably prove to be too large in today’s home environment, Precipice’s vision shows how the LE1 can be reimagined to fit more discreetly into one’s home.

The new speaker brings the same vision Ram’s had in 1959. A minimalist slab in white with a black grill floating above a chrome stand. The speaker is angled slightly backward, and the controls are almost invisible. Precipice also introduces a solid black version of the speaker and two additional sizes, all of which use the same visual language. 

Floor stands have been designed as well, but I have to say I don’t think they work as well. They seem rather chunky except where they have been extended and used with the smallest of the speakers.

There is no word on availability yet. I’m betting these will be available this fall for the Christmas shopping season. The product was introduced around the first of September this year so you would think they would be ready for sale by mid-November at the latest. Pricing will range from $1200.00 for the largest of the 3 down to $380.00 for the smallest.

I don’t need these, but I wouldn’t mind having them. Full information and specs are available on the Braun Audio website.

Modern Technology With Mid-Century Styling from Klipsch

To celebrate their 75th anniversary, Klipsch has dropped three very mid-century modern looking speaker systems. The Capitol One, Capitol Three, and the Capitol Heresy III. All of these are quite stylish and would look good in anyone’s home, especially mine but alas I’m not in the market for any new stereo gear. Klipsch has teemed up with iconic recording company Capitol Records for the introductory promotion on these, and that means you get a free vinyl redemption code so you can pick up an album from Capitol. Frankly based on the price of these units Capitol should be offering up a rather large box set of your favorite artist’s complete recordings.

The units are fairly feature rich for considering their size, and the Capitol Three is set up for multi-room streaming using the Klipsch Stream Wireless Multi-Room System. An all-encompassing solution for distributing your music throughout your home. The Capitol Three Special Edition features a 2.1 stereo system with two 2.25” full range drivers, a 5.25” long-throw woofer, and 2 x 5.25” dual opposed passive radiators that deliver high-quality acoustic performance and solid bass.

I’m drawn to the classic looks and styling of the units. Klipsch nailed the mid-century look and it seems quite fitting for a 75th-anniversary product.  The speakers are constructed from real wood veneer and tactile spun copper switches and knobs. Each unit also comes with a limited, special edition badge, a 3.5mm analog audio input and the Capitol One has an 8-Hour rechargeable battery so you can move it to different rooms throughout your home. All of these are available in both ebony or blonde wood options. Personally, I like the look of the blonde over the ebony. It shows off the wood grain, and the contrast with the grill is simply classic.

 

Bang Bang The BeoLab 50

No matter what you might think of the audio quality or the price point, you have to admit Bang & Olufsen make some beautiful audio gear. The BeoLab 50 is no exception Combining innovative design and state-of-the-art technology, the BeoLab 50 continues the brand’s mission of creating “the future of sound.” This floor speaker system stands out from some of the newer offerings B&O has made in the last few years pulling from an older aesthetic while still looking forward. The cylindrical rounded shape ensures that the speaker fades into any modern interior. The look of the oak and aluminum certainly tower sets it apart from recent B&O designs while still connecting it to other styles in the lineup. The BeoLab 50 features a silver semi-matte body with wood lamellas on one side and a black fabric on the other. It is futuristic and yet has a slightly retro feel that blends into any period.

The high-end loudspeaker features seven dedicated amplifiers that have a combined power of 2,100 watts. With three 4’’ midrange drivers and three 10’’ woofer drivers and an Acoustic Lens at the top. All of which is designed to make sure the BeoLab 50 provides an incredible sound experience. In typical fashion, B&O has incorporated seamless controls that allow the user to connect the speaker to other devices in the home easily. The BeoLab 50 also features wired and wireless inputs as well as the Active Room Compensation option which applies custom filters to compensate for sound reflections in different areas of a room.

 

No word on price, but I can guarantee you these won’t come cheap. You might have to decide between that small compact economy car you need for your daily commute, or a set of speakers to help you unwind at the end of the day. If you get a chance, check out the website. Once again B&O has put together a nice microsite with full page video, parallax effects and just enough information to hook you and make you want to come back when this officially launches.

 

Behold The Shape of Sound.

Right now the only stereo system I have in my house is a Polk Audio Woodbourne system and it does a great job filling my smallish house with music streamed from my phone or tablet. I like it because it looks amazing, has a small footprint, good quality audio output, and only one cord. I hate wires. The thing is, I think I’m going to have to start saving for an upgrade because I just saw B&O’s BeoSound Shape, and I’m in love with the design of it. I haven’t heard it, I haven’t seen it in person, but the photos and the video look pretty slick.

 

 

BeoSound Shape is the design-driven solution to the prevailing issue of poor room acoustics in open multifunctional spaces. The damper tiles absorb sound waves rather than reflecting them, which not only improves your music experience but also actively improves the entire acoustic atmosphere in the room even when the system is switched off.

At the heart of the system are BeoSound Core, a connectivity hub hidden in one of the tiles that have the hardware for AirPlay, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, and Bluetooth 4.1, and support for Bang & Olufsen’s very own BeoLink system. The BeoSound Core also has wired inputs for Ethernet or line-in functionality, although the primary focus is on wireless streaming. A base kit starts at roughly $4,266 and includes eight tiles which include four speakers, two sound-absorbing acoustic dampeners, one amplifier, and one housing for the Core. The system is expandable up to 11 amplifier units each of which can support four speaker tiles, for a total of 44 if you need to fill a larger space.

Is it a good value for the money? Probably not. I know for a fact that for 4500 bucks you could pit together a sound system that blows this away, but that isn’t why I am interested. I want this because it doesn’t look like a stereo. Because there are endless custom configurations. And because my old broken down ears aren’t going to be able to hear that much of a perceivable difference. I really love the concept, and execution of this.

 

 

The Minimalist Design of the Beoplay M5

I have to admit I have always loved the look of B&O design work. Their products really do look and feel quite amazing, and yes the sound isn’t too shabby either. Is it worth the premium price you pay? Maybe. It depends on what you value, and what you think is affordable. It’s kind of like buying a Rolex or Tag vs a Timex or a Swatch. Both tell time, some just do it with more swagger, flair and a refined set of materials and craftsmanship. I say this because Bang and Olufsen have launched yet another wireless speaker that really does look stunning. It will set you back about 600 bucks plus tax, and if you are thinking about outfitting a number of rooms in your humble abode you’ll be rolling north of 2 grand by the time it is all said and done.

Designed by leading Danish industrial designer Cecilie Manz, the Beoplay M5 speaker is a small minimalist piece of audio gear pumping out 100 watts of power from its diminutive case. Housed inside the 7-inch tall speaker are 1 x 5′ woofer, 1 x 1.5′ midrange, and 3 x ¾’ tweeters with a frequency response of 37 – 22.000 Hz. Is it the biggest badest speaker on the block? No, but it is quite lovely to look at and jam-packed with all of the latest technology allowing you to stream music to any room in your house, or to every room at the same time.

Like all of the BeoPlay line up the M5 offers you the option to change out covers, and I’m sure they will be offering some bright bold color choices in the future. Frankly I’m really loving the monochrome versions that they are showing off across the entire line these days. The top is a machined aluminum disc that functions as the main physical control unit for each speaker. You adjust the volume by running your finger across the edge. Tapping the aluminum disc will activate Beoplay M5 to join other music experiences going on in your home or sync up with other units.

Beoplay M5 uses Bang & Olufsen’s “True360” to create spatial balance no matter where you are placed relative to the speaker. Three evenly distributed tweeters, a front facing mid-range driver and a powerful woofer that fires its energy down towards a carefully designed disperser, provide a uniform dispersion of well-balanced Bang & Olufsen Signature Sound all around the room.

Is it worth 600 bucks? I have no idea, I haven’t actually heard it or played around with it. I do know that if I had a few grand burning a hole in my pocket I’d be tempted to pick up a few of them for various rooms in my house.

Caruso is Not Just an Opera Singer.

Caruso-64Leave it to the Italians to come up with a Bluetooth speaker named after a famous opera star that looks like a piece of art. Caruso designed by New Black is a Bluetooth 4.0 enabled speaker that just screams “Look at me”. Clean, contemporary, fun, and unfortunately pricey. For your money though, you get a hand made wood cabinet and ceramic horn. Each piece is made to orderby Italian masters in Meolo (Venice) which also helps to explain the $2700.00 price tag. As Bluetooth speakers go the specs are pretty solid. Caruso has a frequency response rate of 50-19 khz, and pushes out 75 watts of blazing power to help make all the digital files stored on your phone or computer sound amazing. The cabinet comes in lacquered wood finishes in 6 different shades. The ceramic horn in 6 contrasting shades that you can mix and match with the wood to your hearts content. I simply love the look of it. Finally someone is making a speaker that doesn’t look like the cheap plastic crap you see everywhere these days. Plus it has enough power to fill your space and then some.

Caruso 3

Caruso 4

Caruso 5

Caruso 6

Caruso 7

Caruso2

Small Dog, Big Bark.

Unlike all the hipsters out there that are discovering vinyl and record players for the first time, I’ve been there and done that. I grew up on vinyl, and spent years working in record stores. As a DJ on the radio, I’ve spent countless hours spinning records and have a massive record collection that stopped growing and converted to high quality digital a decade ago. Yes I stopped buying vinyl and CD’s and started buying hard drives. It doesn’t mean I don’t buy music, it means vinyl and CD’s take up way to much space. Seriously, thousands of records and CD’s take up a lot of room, as does the equipment to play them back.

Then there is the convenience of having tens of thousands of tracks at my disposal in digital format that I can call up and playback from multiple devices in any room in my house. (no I’m not streaming anything through Spotify or a like service.) With all that said, it doesn’t mean I don’t want quality sound, and playback. I don’t have any over compressed MP3’s in my collection, and everything is set up to playback with as much dynamic range as my “went to to many loud rock concerts in my youth, damaged hearing can make out” ears can handle. So I am always on the lookout for decent audio tech that is designed to maximize sound quality from digital music on my computer, phone, tablet, AppleTV etc.

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Jerry Cmehil is the founder of Well Rounded Sound, an audio company that has made it its mission to bring audiophiles the best quality equipment housed within beautiful, eco-friendly designs since 2011. Like most of us Cmehil was frustrated with finding an affordable, good sounding system so he set out to build high quality speakers that deliver a naturally crisp sound in a package around the size of an old school pencil sharpener. The speaker line up is named after compact and feisty small dog breeds, “Yorkie”, “Jack Russel”, “Corgi”, and the larger “Boxer”. Each set of speakers utilizes conical geometry which is paired with full range HD drivers that are housed in a cylindrical enclosure. The housing is finished in premium wood, that is helps play a key role in providing the best sound possible. Even the integrated solid wood stands help to reduce bass energy transfer and are designed to give you a perfect near-field listening angle. Each speaker features a patented cylinder sealed enclosure eliminates distortion from port noise.

c5i_speaker_headphone_amplifier

When paired with the WRS C5i amplifier you begin to have a solid foundation on which to build a solid and affordable audio set-up for your home. The C5i is a hybrid speaker and headphone amplifier with a blend of classic and modern features. Audiophiles will love the vacuum tube input stage combined with a solid state amplifier. People like myself, will love the integrated USB DAC, so you can connect it directly to your computer or other digital music device. I personally love the design that brings together retro vibes, modern accents and trending industrial chic in a balanced product that stands out from the crowd.

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