Speakers

Thanks to Layer, the Beosound Balance, Looks as Good as it Sounds

I’ve always loved Bang and Olufsen products. I know many people will argue that they aren’t the best sounding audio gear for the price you pay, but you have to admit they make beautiful stuff. Bang and Olufsen’s design aesthetic, choice of materials, attention to detail, and yes, the audio quality in my opinion. Sorry folks my ears don’t hear well enough to play the granular specs game.

Design agency Layer has designed the new “Beosound Balance” for Bang & Olufsen and the look is so nice. The distinctive, sculptural silhouette expresses the speaker’s performance, with a large base unit supporting a textile-covered cylindrical speaker. Controlled with a touch- and voice-activated interface (using Google Assitant) on top. This is sort of Bang and Olufsen’s entry into the smart speaker market.

The result is a room-filling, three dimensional sound from a speaker that takes its inspiration from the design language of domestic objects rather than high-tech electronics products. This is the first project by Layer for Bang & Olufsen and was 18 months in research and development.

The form of Beosound Balance is driven by the speaker’s audio performance, with a simple, cylindrical base unit on which a more expressive form sits. Together, these two elemental forms combine to create a sculptural object – like a plinth supporting a sculpture or vase. It’s this look that sets it apart from the cylinder/block format of most smart speakers in the market today.

The timber base unit contains a large, omnidirectional bass speaker driver, which is positioned with a vertical orientation and topped with a metal mesh screen featuring perforations in a Fibonacci sequence. The bass is reflected off the rounded metal base beneath the top form, maximizing its acoustic potential and providing a room-filling, low-end rich sound. 

The softly sculpted upper unit contains the precise mid-range drivers and tweeters, which complete the warm, well- balanced audio performance. These drivers – which provide directional audio – are positioned under a seamlessly knitted textile cover. 

To reinforce Bang and Olufsen’s positioning of “Beosound Balance” as an object to be looked at as much as listened to, the speaker is crafted from a rich palette of materials that are more readily associated with homewares and soft furnishings than high-tech or audiophile products.

The base unit is made from FSC-approved solid timber, blocked and turned as in furniture production. This material choice not only oozes craftsmanship but also offers quality and superior sound resonance. The upper unit is wrapped textile, with a nod to interior upholstery; while the metal reflector and the interface panel are made from pressed aluminum and inspired by finely crafted tableware. The textile wrapped power cable is long enough that the speaker can be easily positioned around a room as needed, meaning the speaker is not constrained based on power needs. (I love the fact that they used a textile-covered cord. It always seems to be the one thing that gets overlooked.)

Beosound Balance won’t come cheap. It rolls in at $2250.00 dollars. Way more expensive than other smart speakers on the market. It is Bang and Olufsen though, and I’m thinking if you are considering B&O products you can probably afford this price point. You’ll be able to pick this up starting in March of 2020 on their website, third-party retailers and in Bang & Olufsen stores.

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.

 

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.

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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.

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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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Timbre. Minimal, Glass, Wood, Sound

Timbre is one of those things that seems to take speaker design to the next level. I don’t mean this from an acoustic standpoint, but definitely from a visual one. I say that because I haven’t heard these speakers so I can’t judge the sound. Designer Casey Lin chose the wood and glass materials not only for their acoustic properties, but for their visual properties as well.

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The desire was to remove all of the typical plastic components found in typical speaker systems and replace them with the refinement of wood and glass. The result is a beautiful piece of design with unique audio properties. The glass acoustic horns actually function as natural equalizers for the audio stream. All of the essential electronic parts are hidden inside the simple black walnut base, with the electronic ports on the back. On the face is a single knob for power and volume. The streamlined box is the speaker itself, containing the surface transducers that vibrate the wooden surface and transfer audio to the glass horns mounted on top. To adjust treble and bass, the listener simply rotates the glass vessel until the desired tone is reached.

Like I said, I have no idea how these sound, but they look magnificent.

Timbre Speaker from Casey Lin on Vimeo.

NW3 Speakers. Clean, Simple, Functional. What More Do You Need?

Clean, Simple, Elegant design is one way to describe these speakers from NW3. Hand crafted, high quality, and choice materials is another.”

20130608-171910.jpg NW3 is a Germany based interdisciplinary collective where products are designed, manufactured and distributed in close collaboration with local craftsmen and businesses. In addition NW3 tries to explore alternative forms of production and graphic shapes. The NW3 speakers create a natural looking and sounding stereo system that can be used in every area of your house.

The drivers are manufactured by the Danish company Pearless. The simple box housing, is made from local wood, solvent-free stain and protected with natural wax finish. All work is done by a small carpenters workshop in Germany. The front speaker grills are made of powder-coated steel that compliments the simple shape and lines of the speakers.

“Our products are simple and reticent. It is not our intention to make just beautiful forms. We are concentrated on function, comprehensibility, ecology and durability.”

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