Gadget Flashback – B&O

Bang & Olufsen has, more often than most, mixed tech witchcraft with design wizardry. This is their story

It’s been an interesting 85 years ago for B&O. The company’s first big achievement was a radio that worked off alternating mains current. But later it pioneered active speaker technology and shook up hi-fi land with its wild designs.

BeoLit 40 (1940)

Inspired by emerging automotive designs, the BeoLit 40 had a good face for a radio. Its Bakelite radiator grille speaker cover and cream/black colour scheme meant it was best tuned while wearing calfskin driving gloves, before settling into a wingback armchair to enjoy its warm analogue tones.

BeoSound 9000 (1996)?

With the disappearance of vinyl from many household record collections, the simple joy of dropping a tone-arm into a spinning groove was lost. Stunning in its idle state and hypnotic in use, the six-disc BeoSound 9000 CD changer almost brought back the joy of decks.

BeoCom 2 (2001)

If ninjas ate bananas, they’d look like the BeoCom 2. Part landline phone, part spiky design piece, B&O bragged about its faithful voice reproduction and sound quality. But when its yuppie owners called their friends, they heard only their own voices, crowing about their expensive new handset.

BeoLab 5 (2003)

?Ever the rebel of the hi-fi world, B&O’s Dalek-esque BeoLab 5 eschewed fuddy-duddy ideas like stereo and went for a single stack speaker system backed up with 2500W of amplification and the ability to adjust itself to the room’s acoustics. At a metre tall and weighing 61kg, that wasn’t the only elephant in the room.

BeoSound 5 (2009)

B&O envisaged your BeoSound 5 perched on a lectern in your furniture-free bayside apartment, the idea being (we suppose) that you could conduct your lossless WMA files (stored on a BeoMaster 5) via its massive aluminium control cylinder. Most people stuck with their iPods, to which B&O has responded with its latest BeoSound product, the BeoSound 8 iPad dock. [Read the Beosound 5 review]

BeoVision 10 (2009)

TVs are like punk bands. Even the pretty ones are ugly. Whether B&O’s vision to create a telly that hung alongside your artwork was realised is probably a question of taste, but it’s a typically bold slab of B&O design with a huge, front-mounted speaker panel that won’t shy away from the soundtrack of The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle.

BeoLab 11 (2010)?

We called it “gadget sculpture” and “the world’s sexiest subwoofer” but the BeoLab 11’s curious tulip-shaped form was about more than design pomp. The twin 6.5in drivers face each other, cancelling wolf notes in the chassis, and conceal a 200W amp to raise the rumble.

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