If only founders Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen could see what their namesake company was up to today 92 years later after Bang & Olufsen emerged from the attic of the Olufsen family manor near the bucolic town of Struer in Northwest Denmark. The company would go from its humble roots onto establish a storied lineage spanning a lifetime across the golden ages of radio, vinyl, hi-fi analog audio, television, and eventually into the digital age (a history on full display within their very own museum). Despite the evolution of how and what we listen to today, it’s not unreasonable to believe the two founders would recognize the intent of the company’s latest audio endeavor, the Bang & Olufsen BeoSound Shape, a modular hexagonal speaker system designed to integrate into the modern lives and homes of its listeners.
Bang & Olufsen imagined this all-in-one designer audio system to populate the wall in groups spanning up to 44 individual tiles, a statement piece that requires an investment in wall space and an aesthetic confidence specific to the system’s geometric configuration. Even at close inspection, each tile is almost indistinguishable from one another, an intentional design decision meant to hide the technology until its services are required (in fact, some of the acoustic damper tiles are intended to be used to hide and store cables, power strips, or power adapters).
The BeoSound Shape begins with an eight tiles starter kit comprised of four speakers designed to connect to an 8 x 80 Watt (Class D) amplifier and a Core unit housing the system’s wireless connectivity brain trust, alongside a pair of acoustic dampers (the minimum requires 6 tiles). Additional kits can be added to expand not only the potential volume output, but the perceived presence across a room and work in harmony with other B&O multi-room technologies.
The indoor climate is all-important to our well-being. One aspect is light. Another factor is air quality. But equally important are the acoustics as they impact us on both a physical and psychological level. – Øivind Alexander Slaatto/Designer
During an early preview – in fact, the night before the system was to be packed to be whisked off to Milan for Salone for the following Design Week – Bang & Olufsen offered us a demo to showcase the system’s ability to actively distribute the listening sweet spot nearly anywhere, even as we walked across the length of the system’s layout. No matter where we moved, the system’s proprietary algorithm kept us front and center.
Admittedly, the sound isn’t in the same league as Bang & Olufsen’s audiophile grade loudspeakers, like their muscular flagship, the BeoLab 90. But it’s also obvious the wall speaker system is aimed at customers who aren’t isolating themselves to experience music, but seeking to integrate audio into their everyday lifestyle via streaming services like AirPlay, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, QPlay 2.0, or any audio source via Bluetooth 4.1. The BeoSound Shape system’s “band on the wall” exemplifies the trend toward unobtrusive technologies designed to incorporate the presence of music, in this case as an acoustic and decorative presence inviting perpetual curiosity whether on or off.