Sculptural Sound: The Unusual Speakers of Bang & Olufsen

In 1925, two engineers in Struer, Denmark were hard at work, reinventing the radio. Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen envisioned a set that would connect to alternating current, replacing the standard batteries which radios required to operate in those days. Their humble early experiments read like the start-up stories of the tech age; just as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak developed the very first Apple computers in a garage, Bang and Olufsen, fifty years earlier, laboured in the attic of the Olufsen family manor. By 1927, they had succeeded with a commercially viable product, and with it was born an eponymous, high-end luxury Danish consumer electronics company.

Monumental strides in audio engineering and sound equipment have been made in the century since, but Bang & Olufsen has remained one of the leading names in the industry, perhaps due in part to the company’s ability to ride the waves of change. Today its speakers are state-of-the-art pieces of technology. In a flooded market, they manage to stand out for another reason: quite simply, Bang & Olufsen speakers look like no others out there. The company’s visual language is an artistic one, resulting in speakers that look like sculptures or objets d’art. These aren’t bulky speakers you’ll want to hide; rather, they function as focal points, as striking pieces worthy of showcase status.

Below are some of our favourite offerings from the Danish company’s current lineup. From the hauntingly beautiful to the gravity-defying, these speakers are designed for the eye as well as the ear.

BeoSound Edge

The BeoSound Edge was designed by Michael Anastassiades, a lighting designer by trade. “Imagine a coin,” says the company, “elegantly balancing on its edge, ready to roll at the lightest touch.” This minimalist speaker quietly sits upright in a space like a moon or faceless clock. Designed for intuitive touch and motion, a push or pull of the aluminum ring in either direction allows gravity to manipulate volume; essentially, the Edge is one giant volume dial. The speaker houses the world’s first Active Bass Port, the latest patent for Bang & Olufsen, which means that the speaker maintains bass integrity at both high and low volumes. The BeoSound Edge can either sit on the floor like a curious sculpture—which makes it possible to roll this baby around the room—or be wall mounted for a looming spectral effect.

BeoPlay A9

The BeoPlay A9 is the stuff of Scandinavian décor dreams. This speaker features an orb-like face, not unlike that of the BeoSound Edge; it’s a deliberate choice made by designer Øivind Alexander Slaatto, who chose the shape because the sound itself moves in circles. This model comes with multiple configurations of material, like smoked oak or walnut wood legs and black, white, dark grey, or warm taupe Kvadrat covers. It is designed to function like a piece of furniture in the home, promising a slim beauty from every angle. The wood has been treated with natural oil to avoid obscuring its texture and grains.

BeoLab 18

Who would have guessed that this gravity-defying sculpture is actually a speaker that houses seriously advanced audio technologies? Bang & Olufsen holds true to its Scandinavian roots by using wood, an important material in the company’s nearly one-hundred-year journey, chosen both for its richness and warmth—a welcome reprieve from the metal and plastic of today’s technology—as well as its sustainability. The BeoLab 18 features a very small footprint, making it a versatile accessory in the home. Upper frequencies are distributed in a 180-degree horizontal arc from its acoustic lens, meaning there won’t be dead corners of sound in a room.

BeoLab 90

It’s a testament to Bang & Olufsen’s innovative identity that the unusual BeoLab 90 is perhaps the most conventional of the lineup. Toted as the world’s most advanced digital loudspeaker, the BeoLab 90 took three years to develop and represents the most powerful sound experience the company has ever created; each speaker boasts 8,200 watts. Each model is custom made to order, its appearance adaptable to the customer’s personal preferences—fabric, panelling, and the aluminum crown are all available in a variety of finishes. The massive core is complemented by a curved wooden base to give the appearance that this speaker is floating. It houses a breadth of technology, like Active Room Compensation (which compensates for objects that tend to interrupt sound—furniture, walls, etc.) and Beam Width Control (which allows the user to control sound dispersion).

BeoLab 50

A flagship for Bang & Olufsen, the Beolab 50 was meticulously developed by German designers Andre Poulheim and Thorsten Frackenpohl, whose collaborations with Bang & Olufsen have also resulted in the BeoSound Essence and BeoSound Moment. The design of this speaker allows for a glimpse of the true power under the hood; when viewed straight-on, the wooden lamellas on the back reveal the technology within. Change your angle, however, and that technology is obscured by the beauty of natural materials. This wireless loudspeaker is primed for the appreciation of live audio recordings and cinematic soundscapes. An adjustable acoustic lens means that the speaker is capable of sweet spot listening, wherein a direct sound is beamed towards the user; for parties, that beam expands to fill the whole room.

 

Photos via Bang & Olufsen

 

KHACHILIFE Editorial