The new Bang & Olufsen flagship speaker, the BeoLab 90, was unveiled by the company at an event held close to its headquarters in Struer, Denmark. Said to represent the company’s vision of ‘the future of sound’ the new model, named in recognition of B&O’s 90th anniversary this Autumn, uses multiple drive units to enable on-the-fly adjustment of sound beam width and direction, plus active room correction, all controlled from an app on a smartphone or tablet.
No fewer than 18 drivers are used, each driven actively and under the control of onboard DSP, allowing the speaker to fire sound over 360° in order to control the way it interacts with the room in which it’s used. The four bass units – one 26cm ScanSpeak Revelator and three 21cm Discovery units from the same source – each have their own 1000W amplifier from Dutch company Heliox, while the seven 86mm midrange drivers and seven 30mm tweeters, all ScanSpeak Illuminators, are each driven by a 300W Bang & Olufsen ICEPower amp.
Apart from allowing the speaker to compensate for the room across all frequencies, and even for the effect of the other half of the stereo pair, that adjustable beam directivity and width allows a variety of modes to be set up. What Bang & Olufsen Geoff Martin calls the ‘geek mode’, with a very narrow dispersion tightly focused on a single listening seat, is ideal for those Martin describes as ‘single chair, no friends audiophiles’, giving precise stereo focus and a deep, well-defined soundstage. However, it’s not much good for family listening, so it’s possible to set other mode for wider ‘beaming’, or even steer the sound for optimal sound on the other side of the room – or even the next room.
Using the speaker’s smartphone/tablet app, it’s then possible to recall these settings as presets, or indeed even ask the speaker to make the best compromise between two or more presets’ parameters.
It’s all done by microphone measurement and the onboard processing in the speaker, which can even compensate for the effects of temperature on drive units as well as allowing perfect alignment with a new driver should one ever be required.
The 125cm-tall, 137kg speaker is built mainly from aluminium, including the massive 65kg main casting housing the bass units, and covered with a cloth outer skin accented with geometric ‘crowns’, made as single aluminium pieces (despite their complex shapes) within the huge Bang & Olufsen factory.
Quite apart from the extremely striking industrial design of the speaker, another new aspect of the speaker is the way it’s being targeted: this is the model the company hopes will re-establish Bang & Olufsen as an audiophile speaker choice, and to this end the BeoLab 90 has not just the proprietary wired and wireless Power Link connections (conforming to the WISA standard the company adopted a couple of years back, but also RCA and XLR analogue input, TosLink and S-PDIF digital inputs and USB audio.
The speaker will accept audio formats up to 24-bit/192kHz but, as Geoff Martin puts it, ‘Currently the BeoLab 90 doesn’t support DSD’.
The new loudspeaker will be available through selected Bang & Olufsen shops from the end of this year, priced at £26,995 per speaker.