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BEOSOUND SHAPE : THE BEOWORLD REVIEW

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9 LEE
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9 LEE Posted: Sun, Apr 2 2017 11:05 PM

So : Here we are…  This is the first of the two products I saw in Struer a couple of weeks ago, and here’s my review..

I’ve largely ignored the ‘Press Pack’ soundbites as it’s going to be quoted to death on lots of other lazy reviews online by people who don’t really care about B&O.  I care about B&O, so I’m putting as much into this as I can that can be understood by real, hardcore B&O users and fans of the brand, which are also known as 'BeoWorld Members'.

 This new product is called the “BeoSound Shape” and, as I told you upon my return home, it was something which caught me completely by surprise.  It was a concept I never expected, so well done to the “New Ideas Dept.” on that one!

Here's an official B&O shot to kick things off and see it in its best light. It's only fair :


9 LEE
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... and another PR shot :


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and the last of the professional photo's :


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As we're on the subject of PR, if you really, really want to know what the official line is, Marie Kristine Schmidt, Vice President Brand, Design & Marketing says about the new BeoSound Shape :

 “The Auditory indoor climate is essential for our physical and mental well- being, just like natural lighting, fresh air and ergonomics. BeoSound Shape forms an excellent answer to the challenges of interior acoustics through its intelligent sound distribution and resonance absorbing effects”

 So, basically, we’ll all put on seventy kilos, become wrinkled (even more wrinkled in my case) and develop psychological issues if we don’t buy one.  Okay, you win. I’m scared. Where do I sign?

Now to my review, and some 'not-quite-as-pretty' pictures Indifferent

Here's the BeoSound Shape upon unveiling at the Press Launch near Vemb, Denmark....

 

 


9 LEE
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Joking aside, what is it, in a nutshell?  Well, it initially struck me as kind of a BeoSound Century for the 21st Century, but kind of not….  Let me explain.

It’s made to decorate the upright surfaces of your home which stand between the floor and ceiling.  No fancy stands, no table mounts, no ceiling brackets. This is for walls only Ladies and Gentlemen, nothing else.

 So, now we’ve established you’ll need to clear a whole wall for it unless you want it to look messy, I’ll say this won’t blend with your oil painting of a countryside sunset, ornate light fittings or anything else which has even a hint of chintzy. It’s modern, it’s minimalist – and it’s going to need to be a focal point.


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9 LEE replied on Sun, Apr 2 2017 11:23 PM

So, what exactly is it then? 

It’s main objective is to fill a room* with sound without being an obvious ‘hi-fi system’.  The concept was that not all people want the ‘one music source, one pair of speakers, one speaker either side’ – but may indeed want something which simply blends into the décor, and can even be a focal point.  ‘Band on the Wall’ was a term mooted around. Perhaps that’s an opportunity to wheel out Mr McCartney again?  I hope not…

 *It’s worth pointing out that the home environment isn’t the only place this concept was designed for.  Offices, Hotel Rooms, Hotel Lobbies, Shops and Showrooms are also target audiences.

 We all need some marketing spin, so I’ll put it out there that the designer conceived the whole idea of the BeoSound Shape whilst watching light reflect majestically off mountain tops.  There, I’ve said it, so believe it if you want.. Unsure

You can't deny though, that with the correct lighting, it could look a bit like....  no, sorry.  It looks like hexagons, on a wall.

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What does it consist of?

 You get a ‘Starter Kit’ of 6 ‘Hexagons’.  One contains the Amplifier (8 x 80w : Class D, not IcePower), one contains the ‘BeoSound Core’ (I’ll get to that) and the other four hexagons are loudspeaker cabinets.  I was told the price for this starter kit will be approximately 4,000 Euros depending on your fabric choice.


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Colours?

 The standard fabric, which from memory is very similar in weave and texture to the BeoPlay S3 (being fairly coarse, and man made) comes in some imaginatively named colours such as Parisian Night Blue, Purple Heart, Infantry Green, Brazilian Clay, Classic Black and Wild Dove Grey (do they change colour if you domesticate them?). Anyway, they’re all fairly pastel and neutral looking so no in-your-face options just yet. 

I did hear talk of individual custom-colour options being available, which I’m certain would help push the product.  I keep mentioning this, but collaborations with designers would be great for this product. A matt black wall with a ‘Signature Paul Smith Stripes’ BeoSound Shape system in their stores would look pretty cool !!!

 Kvadrat, the makers of the luxury coarse-weave wool fabric for the BeoPlay A6 and A9 covers (to name a couple) are also in on the act with Brown, Moss Green, Pink, and Dark Blue available initially (although I’m sure I saw a lot more than that hanging on swatches at the launch).

 There’s also a pretty little brushed aluminium Bang & Olufsen name tag for the bottom of one speaker just to let you know who made the system.  It’s actually designed to be removable… as if you would?!!.  I can only assume the people who remove these have used a screwdriver to remove the badges from their Ferrari’s and scratched the ‘Gaggenau’ logo from their ovens with a pan scourer?  The mind boggles.


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The hexagon shaped bodies themselves are affixed to the wall with a pretty clever ‘snap together and screw to the wall’ plastic frame system (a bit like meccano!), to which you simply click and affix the hexagons to. The fabric covered err… covers simply push on and into rubber grommets exactly like the old BeoLab 4 covers fitted. Wiring is all hidden in and around the cabinet bodies, and clever little flexible blanking pieces hide any wires going between them.  You can even buy a ‘blank’ cabinet made especially to fit over an existing plug socket or fused spur and incorporate it into the ‘pattern’…  The whole system is designed to be 'installer friendly' and it shows thought has gone into that.

 Talking of the ‘pattern’ you may wish to create..  How do you decide what it what, and where it will go?   Well, apparently the dealer will have a special software tool which will maximise the sound in your given room and will suggest the very best place to put your hexagons (hopefully awkward customers won’t trigger any rude suggestions).

 The whole look and feel of the hexagons is not that of a main-line product as there’s no use of aluminium or glass – only plastic and cloth. It does look like a ‘Play’ product if I’m brutally honest…


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9 LEE replied on Sun, Apr 2 2017 11:35 PM

How many hexagons can you have?

The actual answer is ‘as many as your wall can take, or until you run out of money’ (the latter won’t be too hard to do..) and you can add as many ‘blank’ tiles as you like. The blanks are named ‘acoustic dampers’ and are filled with foam/sponge, and being a layman I’m going to have to trust B&O that these play a genuine role in making the whole thing sound better as opposed to just being extra pieces in the whole ‘display’ to make it look more substantial.

 The real ‘meat’ of the system is different though.  You can have up to 44 actual speaker tiles, which will be powered by the maximum 11 amplifier tiles ( up to 4 speakers per amplifier, as mentioned), all controlled by one BeoSound Core (I’ll get to that, I promise). Yes, that's 56 tiles - assuming you have opted for zero blank tiles!!

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How big are the ‘tiles’?

 Each hexagonal tile is roughly 36cm x 32cm and just over 11cm deep, so not tiny by any means. It wouldn’t take much effort to have quite a large wall area covered..

 Are they heavy?

 The Amplifier Tile weighs 2kg, and each speaker tile weighs 1.9kg. A ‘Sound Absorbing Tile’ comes in at a slinky 0.51kg. Each fabric cover weighs 400g.


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What does a ‘Speaker Tile’ contain?

 Using the ‘closed box’ principle, each speaker tile contains a 5¼” woofer and a 3/4 “ tweeter.  These drivers are not used in any other B&O products, so are unique to this product. They were careful to spec these drivers as there was simply no easy way of putting the usual temperature probe in the end of the magnet (a technique used to stop drivers overheating when driven too hard) due to the complex nature of wiring needed between the tiles. So, effectively, they’ve ‘overspecced’ on purpose.

If I keep adding tiles, how much does the sound improve?

 This answer came from Petros Belimpasakis (Head of Premium Sound and Audio Ecosystem) and as many of can understand what it means, here we go…

 Approximately (and I stress this) the acoustics boffins at B&O have given the following rough comparisons :

 2 x BeoSound Shape Speakers  = 1 pair of BeoLab 3’s

 4 x BeoSound Shape Speakers  = 1 pair of BeoLab 17’s

 16 x BeoSound Shape Speakers  = 1 pair of BeoLab 20’s


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9 LEE replied on Sun, Apr 2 2017 11:50 PM

The BeoSound Core….

 Well, it looks like an S8 Connection Hub after eating a few pies (it's larger), and is seen as the successor to the BeoSound Essence.

 Here is the official press release to digest :

 ______________________

 

Connectivity is provided by BeoSound Core

The BeoSound Core (which connects to the optical-in and the USB of the BeoSound Shape) provides the wireless streaming connectivity to the BeoSound Shape. It is a black box, which can be hidden behind one of the tiles in the BeoSound Shape wall and use as source and connector.

 BeoSound Core:

You can connect almost any source to BeoSound Shape as BeoSound Core will work as the engine of the sound wall. It provides you with an optical output allowing you to have high resolution streaming to BeoSound Shape. You also have the possibility to connect any other device via the line-in input, or another Bang & Olufsen master product via the Power Link socket.

 BeoSound Shape is software upgradable in the same way all other Bang & Olufsen wireless music systems are and new features can be added easily over time.

 

Dimensions and weight of BeoSound Core component:

Base diameter 151.20 mm

Height 43.5 mm – 290 grams

USB-C power supply

Weight: 150 grams


Wireless networks:

• Wi-Fi/WLAN 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz & 5 GHz)

• Bluetooth4.1

 

Streaming technologies:

• Chromecast built-in

• Apple AirPlay

• Bluetooth Audio Streaming

• DLNA–DMR

• Spotify Connect

• QPlay2.0 (China specific)

 

Supported Audio Formats:

MP3, WMA, AAC, ALAC, FLAC, WAV, AIFF

Standard sample rates up to 192 kHz, stereo and up to 24 bit

Note: WMA lossless is not supported

 

Connectors: 

• 1 x USB-C (for power via external power supply)

• 1 x Power Link socket (RJ45) with two channels

• 1 x Line-in (analogue & digital combo) with sensing

• 1 x Ethernet

• 1 x Toslink digital sound out (for connection to the BeoSound Shape)

• 1 x USB (for connection to BeoSound Shape)

• 1 x Digital Power Link (for future use)

 

Remote Control Options:

• Bang & Olufsen App

• BeoSound Essence Remote

• BeoRemote One

 

It’s worth noting that the Core has improved processing power to cope with the power-hungry demands of the Google Chromecast, and also that it has a Digital Power Link interface (for future use, not now – and as it’s quite a software task there are no promises as to when this will happen..)

 Also, when I asked if the product would work with the BeoRemote One Bluetooth I was told “No, it will not”. However, in the official release it says it does?  Maybe some clarification needed there…

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9 LEE replied on Sun, Apr 2 2017 11:52 PM

What does it sound like?

 I was party to two demonstrations of this product. One at the launch evening, where it was playing gently in the background as we ate our (absolutely delicious) meal. However, I have to say that the B&O hospitality and company (I was sat next to some kooky guy called Geoff Martin) was so good I didn’t really notice it playing, and the other at the factory the next day.

 When the curtains went back at the beginning of the launch evening though, we all had a good demo and the sound has very much a ‘wall of sound’ feel to it.  The sound is ‘Big’ - quite brash and bold, but I have to be really honest and say it wasn’t ‘deep’. 

 It almost felt like it needed a Subwoofer (I did ask if this was considered – and yes, it was, but a subwoofer worth adding wouldn’t fit into a ‘tile’ so the idea was canned). It was pointed back to me that this was system was designed for gatherings in the home to add ambience – but I argued that really and truly there are two volumes for a true home system. Quiet, as background music – and LOUD when you’re having a party, or you have an empty house (and the neighbours are out!). This system, to me, shines most at a volume exactly between these two.

 I’m sure it sounds better and has better specs than many audio systems, and I must bear in mind I listen to BeoLab 3’s almost every day, and BeoLab 5’s every evening, but at no point did I think to myself “Wow, this sounds GOOD”…..  To my cloth ears it sounded quite one-dimensional and just kind of ‘there'.  Loud enough, of course - but to those who have owned BeoLab 1's you'll know that very forthright sound which can only be 'rounded off' when you add a BeoLab 2. 

On our second demo we were asked to listen to some music on the working model of the system and walk around the room. This was to highlight the fact that there was no left or right stereo sound bias – and that you could be anywhere in the room and hear the same music as someone who was standing either on the other side, or indeed the centre of the room. This was down to some very clever acoustic engineering I was told – but when I asked “erm, isn’t this just called ‘Mono’?” I received a sheepish “umm.. yes, kind of” as an answer.  Again, I trust B&O’s boffins to have done this properly, but in true Danish style they’ve not made it clear exactly what magic they have created...

Clarity is very sharp, midrange is strong, but I can’t help coming back to the fact I felt it needed more bass.  An extra tile containing something for wireless pairing to say a BeoLab 19 could really help this system become something I’d really want in my home – but, as highlighted to me, I was missing the point…

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9 LEE replied on Sun, Apr 2 2017 11:54 PM

What does it look like in the flesh?

It'll look good. Really good…  in the right environment.  How many of us have that environment I’m not sure.  I’ve got quite a minimalist lounge at home, and I couldn’t see it working in there.  It might work in my kitchen – but I’ve got a BV10-32 in there I’m happy with which can play my background music at low volumes.  I can’t see it going in a room full of ornate furniture, and I can’t see it going in most ‘normal’ peoples lounges..

So, where will it really look the part?

Big, empty rooms with minimal furniture (the ones you see on the adverts, but rarely see in real life), commercial environments (Hotel Lobbies, Penthouses and Blue Chip Company waiting areas). Big kitchens in big houses, and errmm…  I think I’m out of ideas.  I can’t really see this being a huge hit in smaller homes, although I sincerely hope I’m wrong.

 The one thing which nags and knaws at my thoughts is the fact the styling (coloured, fabric covered hexagons, in a pattern) is so unique and dependent upon personal taste.  It’s certainly going to divide opinion, but with that divide you lose potential buyers. I’m also fearful that more people will dislike the design than like it, and those who do actually like the concept will not have a home which it will look good in.  All of this narrows your client base.

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9 LEE replied on Sun, Apr 2 2017 11:56 PM

Conclusion

It’s a tough one for me as I really liked the team behind this product. They are all, to a man (and woman), enthusiastic about the product and see it as a true breath of fresh air to the music system.  I have to admit that it’s a great concept and I smiled when it dawned on me that it was something that didn’t exist in the B&O range, which really should, but I’m just not sure it belongs in the 4,000 Euro price range for the smallest ‘starter system’. 

That’s a lot of money for something which could easily become unfashionable in its look, and as I keep mentioning is a very individual choice. If you’re ‘on the fence’ already with the design, the price might just put you off.

For example, if you really want to hit it hard and have say 16 speakers you’re going to be at a price point where you’re locking horns with something you’d want to have as a ‘main system’ in your favourite listening room. This then elevates the system to the confines of the top 1%, which again alienates yet more end users.

I think a ‘dumbed down’ version for less money would have hit the sweet spot here, possibly under the Play brand – but let’s see. There are many cleverer minds at B&O who have done a heap of research who know a lot more than me.

My gut instinct says this product won’t sell in great numbers, but (as I keep saying) it’s such an individual product it’s either going to be a massive hit – or quite a miss. 

Obviously I hope it’s a hit, and as ever I cannot wait to hear the thoughts and opinions of the BeoWorld Membership..

 

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9 LEE replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 7:02 PM

Over to you good people!

Lee....

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Kiran replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 7:03 PM
Wicked!!!

💯👍🏻👌🏻

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Kiran replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 7:04 PM
I will be adding this 💯

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CB replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 7:30 PM

Thank you Lee for this indeep review

9 LEE:
but, as highlighted to me, I was missing the point…

So, what's the point then ?

You also need a main system ?

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davidr replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 7:31 PM

Huhn interesting indeed. Agreed that it is quite specific in its 'use case' - a hidden sound wall that basically requires an unobstructed wall and not really a main set. Concept is actually been done in some ways before; an inoffensive wall mount audio system. Though I have to agree that the price point is a consideration that's for sure.

I have the space ( 3m ceiling ..open space) for something like this however my new Beolab 9s have nothing to fearWhistle

My mother's dining room would a perfect use case for something like this.

Funny how their connectivity gets more and more these days. I find that more promising for the 'new' b&o. 

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Sandyb replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 7:31 PM

certainly an interesting idea....but my initial thoughts you echoed....i.e. how good can something of that form factor actually sound? (guess i will have to try them out before judging, but for me sound quality / experience is paramount, so will need convincing)......and secondly, even if i did love the look, you need a very large living space to do them justice......and even then, its likely a separate system / setup to the BV + BL setup that many have.........

anyway, good to see some innovation, for want of a better word.....and only my early thoughts......

 

 

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Puncher replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 7:33 PM

Really quite bizarre!! At a time they can't really afford to be messing around on the fringes and are desperately in need of a mainstream hit they manage to pull off the most niche thing they've ever done (certainly within my memory) which looks particularly "nice today, but what was I thinking tomorrow" and so will have a limited shelf life.

Reading about daily updates/issues with various wireless speakers I certainly wouldn't be an early adopter even if it appealed to me.

I suspect the sound quality is pretty much irrelevant,  in a non-domestic environment it will never even be discussed and for those that buy it for home use it will be mainly for the visual aspect.

I suspect 2nd hand values to be low!

Having said all of that, if it floats your boat and you wont mind maintaining an Andy-esque long thred of current issues I say got for it - it will certainty have rarity on its side.

The marketeers who led this is either a certified genius and future CEO or else is on borrowed time.

Ban boring signatures!

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Sandyb replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 7:37 PM

to quote the review on pocket-int...."The Beosound Shape is very much a lifestyle audio product, B&O admits it's not going after the audiophile with this one, but is for those who want to come home from a long day at work and put some music on in the background while they cook dinner or entertain guests, all in a stylish and effectively hidden package.".......


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hadr replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 7:39 PM
First of all thanks Lee for another excellent review!

Sandyb echoes my thoughts exactly. My trail of thought was something like: wow very original - looks a kinda cool - hmmmm wander how it sounds with such a form factor - and where to place it - I already have speakers in my living room - that probably sound better - unless I have to invest 15k+ - but then... Unsure

Really hope these are a success, but can't feel that they are the first attempt of B&O in the commercial and business setting, rather than a speaker for the "average home"...
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Sandyb replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 7:48 PM

though perhaps not suitable for my current environment, i can see how it will appeal to some in the market, especially those with a dislike for boxes (be they speakers or receivers).....and the idea that the core can be swapped out in the future is neat, making a theoretical upgrade very straightforward......

 

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BeoGreg replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 7:48 PM

I'm speechless.

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StKong replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 7:48 PM
Thank you, Lee. It is always a pleasure to read an elaborate review.

I have a feeling we can say welcome home to Bang & Olufsen for the first time in a long while.

With the Beosound Shape, it seems that even for the shortcomings that you outline, B&O have finally rejoined the path of unique products and concepts. This could be a forewarning of even greater things to come.

What a day.

The graphic nature of the product reminds me of the Beolab 3000/4500/5000 in their heyday.

I will be looking into getting this with great interest.

Go guys and gals at B&O!
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Sandyb replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 7:49 PM

in a good or bad way? or just unsure way?

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benoit replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 7:53 PM

Thanks for the nice detailed review! Yes - thumbs up

I like very much the concept and it's design. It reminds me on the Ligne Roset Clouds wall decoration from the french designers brothers Bouroullec... https://www.ligne-roset.com/fr/modele/tapis-et-accessoires/textiles/clouds/1636

Although I leave in a small flat I could imagine having it to one wall of my living room. BUT, for my 5m long wall I think I would at least need 4 'basic sets' and some extra damping tiles too make a nice shape with the Shape... This would cost I guess close to 20k€ :-( . This is a HUGE amount of money and sound wise I don't know if it will overpass that much my Beosound 2 in my 20sqm living room.

This said, I see it much more for hotels lobbies...

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Weebyx replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 7:56 PM

Here is a video from the danish site recordere.dk

http://www.recordere.dk/2017/04/bo-tilbage-til-fremtiden-alt-om-beosound-shape/

Text in Danish, video in English.

/Jacob

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Very nice review Lee, thanks. First impression is it should be in the Play area indeed! Would upgrade the Play brand into the B&O zone AND could be in a lower price region.

Design wise I like the idea a lot and might even work in my home interior but for more than two times the price of a BS2 I think it will have a short life cycle. Let's hope I'm wrong and B&O gets the commercial success they deserve so much!
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Peter replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 8:05 PM

I would have thought an ability to add a sub-woofer will come simply because that does not need to be visible and would add to the attractiveness of the sound. I have to confess to not really understanding how multiple identical speakers which will all have the essence of being a point source can really work. There can surely be no imaging which is the strength of the Beolab 5 which can sonically disappear. It is however very striking and I can see it being adopted in many very upmarket hotels.

Peter

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egges replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 8:07 PM

kind of a "Phil Spector memorial", lol

 

anyway: really cool and interesting. i'm very curious to see, hear and feel it 

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I think that I could make a wall sculpture looking very like this system, and keep my S45's pumpiing out the real  sound hidden in the corners of the room.

(But I'm not going to do that because I would be posing as a purchaser who values questionable style over substance).

Graham

 

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benoit:

Thanks for the nice detailed review! Yes - thumbs up

I like very much the concept and it's design. It reminds me on the Ligne Roset Clouds wall decoration from the french designers brothers Bouroullec... https://www.ligne-roset.com/fr/modele/tapis-et-accessoires/textiles/clouds/1636

Although I leave in a small flat I could imagine having it to one wall of my living room. BUT, for my 5m long wall I think I would at least need 4 'basic sets' and some extra damping tiles too make a nice shape with the Shape... This would cost I guess close to 20k€ :-( . This is a HUGE amount of money and sound wise I don't know if it will overpass that much my Beosound 2 in my 20sqm living room.

This said, I see it much more for hotels lobbies...

The brothers B are experts on the repetition of forms and would have been ideal candidates for the design but they did that TV elsewhere. Phaidon did a good book on their work, which I have. I'm concerned that the elements could have been mor timeless but hope B&O have done this by avoiding trying to be clever.

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lausvi replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 8:38 PM

Thanks for the review. I must say this looks pretty fascinating.

Any ideas if the blank ‘acoustic dampers' will be sold separately? I'd love to have some for just as acoustic panels!

Peter the Biker
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Eastwestfalia
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Maurits C. Escher would have liked it. (Photo taken in den Haag)

I like it too and hope to see it listening to decent music at suitable places.

Peter the biker

Duels
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England
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Duels replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 9:12 PM
lausvi:

Thanks for the review. I must say this looks pretty fascinating.

Any ideas if the blank ‘acoustic dampers' will be sold separately? I'd love to have some for just as acoustic panels!

Ah. A wall of no sound.
NickPG
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NickPG replied on Mon, Apr 3 2017 9:16 PM

Great review Lee.

The BeoSound Core sounds really interesting.

Did they say, or do you think, this will become the new connection hub for the S8 2.1 system? Having multiroom built into a 2.1 system would be great!

 

Nick

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