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B&O hides high-end speakers in hexagonal wall art

Behind the flashy design is some pretty elaborate audio equipment.
Jamie Rigg, @jmerigg
May 25, 2017
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When buying a new piece of tech that's going to live with you for years, your primary concern is balancing price, features and future-proofing. But some products don't wave spec sheets around, instead focusing on design that complements minimalist spaces, or conceals its true function. Bang & Olufsen's new BeoSound Shape modular speaker system falls firmly into that category, and would look more at home in a modern art gallery than a high-end Hi-Fi store.

Gallery: B&O BeoSound Shape wall speakers | 11 Photos

B&O is exhibiting the BeoSound Shape as part of London's Clerkenwell Design Week, and the accompanying presentation is slanted appropriately. I heard about how the mosaic speaker system is "domesticating technology" and how the peaked, many-faced design plays with light in the same way mountain ranges do at dusk. The tagline "good sound, good silence" came up at one point, but cut through the colorful, emotive pitch and you're looking at a fairly elaborate bit of kit.

Not all tiles that make up the speaker installations are equal. The heart of every system is a hexagon B&O calls the "Core." This is what drives the amps that, in turn, power the speakers. It supports several wireless streaming protocols including humble Bluetooth, as well as AirPlay and Chromecast, and plays nice with B&O's other speakers for multi-room shenanigans. The Core is also responsible for tweaking the output of individual speakers, so no matter the eye-pleasing geometric arrangement, sound is spread across the canvas like musicians across a stage. This means vocals are prioritized in the center, with other pockets emphasizing specific ranges/instruments.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

They aren't dainty little modules, either, kicking out a wall of sound that can easily be overwhelming. But as there's so much speaker footprint (at least with regard to the demo setup I heard), it excels in filling the room with a subtler background sound of ambiguous origin. The size of your wallet is almost the only factor limiting how expansive and elaborate you want your wall art to be. B&O offers plenty of tile textures and colors, every Core supports 11 amps, and every amp can drive four speakers. That means one system can comprise up to 44 speakers or 56 hexagons in total, not including acoustic dampener tiles: Inert modules you can use to flesh out designs.

Only the deepest of pockets could entertain such an audio display, though. Ahead of the BeoSound Shape's August launch, B&O has released speculative pricing of $4,025/£3,400 for "a standard setup" that includes one Core, one amp, two speakers and two dampeners. Pricing aside, the tiles are pretty big -- each roughly the size of a dinner plate -- so finding the space to mount a multi-amp setup could be problematic.

Then again, if you've got the capital to dump $25,000 into speaker art, you probably also have a huge loft somewhere with high ceilings and so much wall space you don't know what to do with it.

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