Bang & Olufsen is well known for making high-end speakers with design as good as their sound. The company may be most familiar to many consumers as the provider of in-car systems for luxury automotive manufacturers, including BMW, Aston Martin, and Mercedes Benz. Today, the B&O launched its latest speakers for your home, all of which include wireless capabilities.
The new BeoLab 17, BeoLab 18, and BeoLab 19 speakers are designed to be used in a home as a hi-fi system or in a surround sound theater. The 17 is a compact speaker that can be placed anywhere in a room or mounted on a wall, while the 19 is an accompanying subwoofer. The 18 is a floor- or wall-mounted vertical speaker that takes its inspiration from the the BeoLab 8000, B&O's most iconic speaker design. All three speakers use the WiSA wireless transmission standard, which B&O says offers the best wireless transmission and reliability with the least amount of latency.
B&O CEO Teo Mantoni says that "design is something you can touch and feel," and that outlook is apparent in the design of the new speakers. The BeoLab 17 features a single-piece, extruded aluminum shell, while the BeoLab 19 has a dodecahedron (12-sided) shape that is meant to better disperse bass without coloring the sound (and looks like an aluminum die from Dungeons and Dragons). The 19 also features design elements inspired by jet engines, and the 17 has a frosted "broken ice grid" covering the actual speakers. The 17 has a 6-inch midrange woofer paired with a 3/4-inch tweeter and powered by a pair of 160-watt amps. The 19 pushes air through two 8-inch woofers, each with its own 160-watt amp.
The BeoLab 18 is the clear flagship of the lineup, and it incorporates optional wood materials with its aluminum elements. It is designed to recall the original 8000, while bringing it up to a more modern appearance. The 18 features B&O's Acoustic Lens technology, commonly used in vehicles, as well as two 4-inch midrange woofers powered by separate 160-watt amplifiers.
For now, the wireless capabilities are limited to B&O's own products
The new speakers are the first on the market that use the WiSA wireless standard, and can work with any device that supports the standard. B&O's latest television sets all come with WiSA support built-in, and the company expects many more devices to launch in the near future with support. Unfortunately, until that happens, the wireless capabilities of the new speakers are limited to B&O's own products, and it doesn't look like you'll be able to send music or audio to them from your smartphone or tablet any time soon.
The system can support both music and audio from movies and TV in up to 7.1 channel surround. Bang & Olufsen gave us a demo of the speakers playing back audio from Spotify and a Blu-ray movie, and unsurprisingly, the sound was crisp, loud, and free of distortion. B&O calls its wireless technology "Immaculate Wireless Sound", and based on the demos given to us, that's an apt descriptor.
Bang & Olufsen's products have always been targeted for the high-end market, and the BeoLab 17, 18, and 19 are no different. The 17 will be sold in pairs for $3,990, while the 19 will list for $3,390. The BeoLab 18 will retail for $6,590 with black fronts, while the oak wood fronts will cost another $1,390. All of the products are expected to ship by the end of November.
High-end speakers with high-end price tags
Wireless audio is clearly the next frontier for home theater systems, and companies such as Sonos and Bose are already active in this space, not to mention the countless Bluetooth speakers that are on the market. Bang & Olufsen is clearly targeting a different consumer than what other companies are going after, and its products will be purchased by audio and design connoisseurs with deep pockets.