It’s near impossible to forget the Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90, a monolithic, tessellated,18-driver hydra engineered with 8,200 watts per channel designed to celebrate 90 years of everything Bang & Olufsen. It’s an attention grabbing presence even when turned off, but completely arresting when at full blast – the audio version of experiencing Ludicrous Mode. The Tesla comparison isn’t daft, for the high-end Danish consumer electronics company took everything gleaned from engineering the flagship 90 and applied it to developing the (slightly) more affordable and recently unveiled, BeoLab 50.
When we report the BeoLab 50 offers a more affordable option – less than half the BeoLab 90’s $84,990/pair price tag – we’re still talking about $40,000/pair loudspeakers. That out of the way, Bang & Olufsen hasn’t cut corners with this latest endeavour, simply optimizing performance and cramming it into small confines, incorporating many of the same technologies of its bigger, beastly brother.
While the 90 was wildly angular – an audacious aural objet d’art – the design of the BeoLab 50 is a more sedate silhouette, one that doesn’t demand as much space or attention as its precursor. Still, the BeoLab 50 is sensuously curved with Bang & Olufsen’s signature use of aluminum wrapped around an array of oak wood lamellas similar to those gracing the already classic BeoLab 18 (personally our dream loudspeakers for their balance of price, performance, and svelte size). The effect at this scale evokes thoughts of a George Nelson bench, but one tipped up vertically, practically an architectural partition.
Acoustically speaking, the BeoLab 50’s secret weapon is an Acoustic Lens mechanism, a sound dispersion technology that rises from the top of the loudspeaker when turned on. It’s definitely the sort of “check this out” cool feature that owners will only be happy to show off to guests. With the Acoustic Lens in play sound can be tightened and focused into a 45 degree beam at the user’s command for solo listening sessions, or expanded out to its widest 180 degree dispersion for sharing the experience.
Like many speakers today, the BeoLab 50 also uses a microphone to actively compensate for distortions caused by furniture, walls, or other physical impediments to fine tune sound bespoke to the space in which each speaker is operating within.
So how does the BeoLab 50 sound? Convincingly realistic, without any artificiality tainting the reproduction of whatever genre of music was loaded up. It was this last spring when we bathed in the acoustic envelope of the BeoLab 50 during a private demo in a quiet corner of the Hotel Nørre Vosborg in Vemb, Denmark (only a short bus ride away from the Danish manufacturer’s headquarters located in the nearby coastal town of Struer), but we’ve never forgotten the near instant immersion while seated within the BeoLab 50’s sweet spot (nor how the loudspeaker’s sound beam was manipulated using the Acoustic Lens).
The Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 50 may not be as extensively outfitted as the uber-luxe BeoLab 90, but the combination of three 10-inch woofer drivers, three 4-inch midrange drivers, and a single ¾” tweeter up top all powered by seven built-in amplifiers still culminates in a total of 2,100 watts, producing a sound nothing short of remarkable. And at $40,000 a pair and stamped with the trademark of Bang & OIufsen, we’d expect nothing less.