Beolab 90

large_bang-olufsen-beolab-90-speaker-hifi

[coolhunting.com]

I am sure everyone knows about these $80,000 behemoths by now. Like the Kii Three on steroids, they feature variable directivity based on multiple drivers and DSP. In fact, 8000W of amplification is provided, presumably because the bass drivers are in fairly small compartments and so high power is needed at low frequencies (as with the Kii and Devialet Phantom) and, I am presuming, the directivity control works partly by actively cancelling out the sound radiated by the drivers.

I am sure they sound fantastic, as described in one article, and there is much interesting information in a behind-the-scenes blog. Part of the appeal for me is that although they are an expression of the ‘the ultimate’ and are highly exotic, they are plainly built from utilitarian parts put together in an intelligent way.

What really fascinates me, however, is the looks of these things. I think that some of us may harbour a notion that when the best solution to an engineering problem is found, one of its characteristics is usually a simplicity and elegance that appeals to us on every level, including the appearance.

If it’s not too pretentious, this is the sort of thing that many of us possibly want to believe:

When I am working on a problem, I never think about beauty but when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.

-Buckminster Fuller

These speakers may confound that notion – or possibly confirm it, depending on your point of view.

large_bang-olufsen-denmark-factory-beolab90-speaker

[coolhunting.com]

It may just be, that for this particular problem, it is not possible to make a practical solution that is aesthetically pleasing. Entirely concealing the enclosure in acoustically-transparent-ish fabric would have been possible I might have thought i.e. creating a ‘tent’ in a nice, sensible shape such as a cylinder or trapezoidal box. This could have been like a bigger version of the top of the KEF 105. However, maybe in this case it would simply have been too big.

The B&O solution, both inside and out, is… “distinctive”. The aluminium trim, black contoured fabric and pale wood grain are very B&O, but I just cannot believe that there weren’t several further iterations of ‘finessing’ possible. If you disagree, or could suggest a way to improve the appearance without affecting the basic design, please comment – I would be very interested.

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