A month after announcing at CEDIA 2013 that it would be the first company to launch a product line based on the new Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) multi-channel open wireless audio standard of the Wireless Speaker Association (WiSA), Danish manufacturer Bang & Olufsen gave an up close and personal view of the first three products to meet that task.
B&O CEO Tue Mantoni literally pulled the covers off of the new products at a media unveiling in Manhattan on Tuesday, Oct. 29 and hailed the new BeoLab 17, 18 and 19 compact speaker, floorstanding loudspeaker and subwoofer, respectively as groundbreaking in both technological innovation and aesthetic design. All three feature its Immaculate Wireless Sound technology, the company’s name for its WiSA-compliant standard. Built with microchips from Summit Semiconductor, the platform utilizes the 5.2–5.8 GHz range to provide adequate bandwidth to stream 24-bit, uncompressed music at native sampling rates. This range is also utilized by military aircraft and weather satellites, so the products constantly search for potential interference and jump to a new band when interference is detected. A fixed 5m latency negates the lip synch that occurs in compression-induced latency in other wireless audio systems.
The BeoLab 17 wireless compact speaker is built from a single piece of aluminum to maximize rigidity, and its roughly triangular shape is designed to enable various placement and mounting options. Inside it packs a custom-made 6-inch midrange/woofer, a 3/4-inch tweeter, a pair of 160-watt class D amplifiers and a proprietary digital sound engine.
“BeoLab 17 is going to be the world’s first high-end, wireless compact loudspeaker,” said Mantoni. “We mean a product that is not just wireless, but wireless with a very high-quality transmission.”
The BeoLab 18 is a redesign of the company’s flagship BeoLab 8000 floorstanding loudspeaker. Driving the speaker are two custom-made 4-inch midrange/woofer drivers that run in parallel and are powered by separate 160-watt class D amplifiers.
From a design standpoint, the speaker maintains the narrow profile and organ pipe design inspiration of the 1992 original, enhancing it with a new lamella front and stiletto heel-style aluminum bottom that tapers to a base — unless you want to mount these on the wall, which is also an option. Redesigning a product that has become synonymous with the company’s brand and image was a task that designer Torsten Valeur initially rejected, before agreeing to take on what he deemed a monumental task (watch below for his account of the product’s aesthetic makeover).
“When they ask me to do the new one, I really don’t want to touch the thing that stands like a finished, iconic, well-solved speaker,” Valeur said. “But then, it started to grow on me… and I just wondered, ‘what could I do?’”
What he could do, Valeur decided was to both honor and update the original.
“I decided ‘Okay, let me keep the idea of the original 8000,’” he said. “Not think about the shape, but the idea.”
Finally, the BeoLab 19 becomes the world’s first subwoofer compliant with the WiSA standard. Its dodecahedron shape — a shape with 12 surfaces — was chosen for its structural integrity, acoustic qualities and its striking appearance, said Mantoni. Inside the active subwoofer are two custom-made 8-inch drivers, each of which is paired with its own dedicated 160-watt class D amplifier. The drivers are placed back to back in separate enclosures to minimize interaction, according to the company.
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