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Lab 9's

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John
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John posted on Mon, Dec 17 2012 10:56 AM

The Babies have arrived, installed and running!

 

The courier arrived with a two man team with this huge plastic wrapped box on a pallet and trolly.

 

Up the stairs, in the apartment, pallet removed and it was time to contemplate the next move as the couriers departed!

 

Huge box, but thank goodness no shipping or other damage - they're faultless, absolutely mint and beautifully finished! :D :D

 

The packaging was excellent and very well thought through to help prevent shipping damage.

 

Not wishing to make mistakes or have a slip/accident damage etc, I really took my time in unpacking and setup, and thought about every move before executing it.

 

Interestingly, all the leads are very good quality - but no sign anywhere of audiophoolery - just good common sense and solid engineering as one would expect from a firm with the reputation of B&O for science lead products and R&D.

 

The speaker outlets on the V1 are all RJ45, 8 pin/8 connector; one plugs in the RJ45 to 8 pin DIN lead into the RJ45 socket on the V1, and the other end into the DIN powerlink socket on the back of the speaker, found after removing a small cover, in which resides the mains socket, switches for left, right, or line, and environmental position - wall, corner or free, as well as another DIN socket to allow daisy chaining to the other speaker; simply set the switches to tell which speaker to play left, and which to play right and you're done.

 

After checking that everything was as it should be, it was time to switch on and setup speaker groups and levels etc.

 

The V1 allows different speaker groups for different functions, turning off or on the relevant speakers as needed, and one can set individual distances and levels as well as combinations of speakers for the different groups saved.

 

The surround sound processor permutations and sound tailoring options are particularly extensive, and far beyond what one finds in a current Yamaha or Sony for example - I can see myself spending quite a bit of time digging down in all the advanced menus later on.

 

To get things running, I setup the default TV group to just use the active speakers in the TV as per usual, i.e. stereo (Lab 9's off); another group I called Cinema with the V1 now configured in this group to be the centre channel, in conjunction with the Lab 9's all running, and lastly, another group I called music, where the Lab 9's run, and the V1's speakers are off.

 

The value of the V1 in terms of the surround sound processor alone is mind boggling - as I've said elsewhere, it has more in common with a professional device than a consumer item - but the payoff is in the flexibility and ease of use once everything's set up and configured, to give maximum versatility and intuitive operation to the lucky owner.

 

So, once set up (which I did with a tape measure for distances and an SPL level meter for matching speaker volumes) one can change between speaker modes at the press of a button, and the speakers just switch on or off as required, and with the relevant distance and level settings preset by the user.

 

I can see though why B&O offer a home visit/consultation to do the setup of their AV systems for the uninitiated though - if you had no prior audio experience or were just clueless, you'd probably want someone else to set it up for you.

 

Audiophile mythology has it that speakers take eons to run in; I've read on B&W literature that the mechanical stresses from manufacture can take approximately 15 hours to settle down, and temperature effects can cause the sound to 'change' for up to a week.  B&W also state that anecdotal evidence that suggests much longer periods of running in, is mainly down to the user getting used to the sound rather than any inherent change in the speaker per se.

 

B&O say nothing about 'running in' at all, and doubtless some of their customers would crank it to the max straight out of the box.

 

However, I like to err on the side of caution, so apart from 65db of pink noise in setup, the first couple of hours I just played some quiet Orchestral (Grieg) at Granny levels for a start, and then after about 3 hours, brought the volume up to still quiet-ish, but otherwise moderate but not loud levels.

 

Fortified with yet more coffee!  I sat through the 2 + hours of my demo playlist that I'd used in the in-store demo and afterwards replayed on the ESSony/SBL system.

 

There's no doubt - I don't think I'll need to be doing much in the way of carefully level matched AB's with the SBL's to pick differences to be honest - unlike amps and CD players the differences are quite marked and obvious - as the sound is in another league again.

 

Similar to what I noted in the shop demo, the resolution is substantially higher, and with it very noticeable gains in clarity, detail and the markedly natural presentation of vocal and instrumental timbre over my now previous ES Sony/SBL system.  This is one very, very natural sounding loudspeaker.

 

Transient response, again as noted in the shop demo, is much more precise and accurate in the way it 'tracks' musical dynamics and with it the sense of involvement in a musical performance.

 

It's very early days; I've had them running for 5 1/2 hours now, and notice some things I didn't in the shop; the top end is exceptionally clear and natural, but no hardness, harshness, glare, grit, shout, edge or excessive brightness to be heard thus far - the sound is exceptionally clear, with outstanding reproduction of tonal timbre, and yet smooth and relaxing to listen to.

 

The sense of bass weight and extension imbues the sound with a sense of majesty and easy effortlessness that the ES Sony/SBL's could never match.

 

I'm finding that even listening at low to moderate levels, the sound has a real sense of scale and presence, and the listening is very involving yet very easy on the ear - there is no sense of listener fatigue after nearly six hours now whatsoever.

 

I'd have to put that down to active operation and the much lower distortion, and the scale and weight in the sound also means the volume doesn't have to be cranked right up to make it sound full and rich - it just is, even though it is idling along.

 

Soundstaging and imagining is noticeably better too, albeit that was never a strong point of the SBL, and with the new speakers crammed in front of the old to listen to them, it won't be until the SBL's are gone and I can set the Lab 9's up properly that I'll hear the full story on that point.

 

So, are they worth the money?

 

Well, as I say, it's only been a few hours, but absolutely.

 

It's hard to put a percentage on an sonic improvement, but I'd say about 30- 40%, perhaps more, over the Sony/SBL's.  It's not as big a jump as it would be if they were Lab 5's rather than Lab 9's, but the combination of the very noticeable and worthwhile improvement in sound, plus the aesthetics and the ability to be rid of racks, and boxes that an active solution brings, adds up to a very high ownership satisfaction quota even given the formidable cost and early days as I say.

 

As the hours of operation build up, I'll gradually start working them harder re the volume, and also will watch a movie or two later in the week time permitting.

 

I've taken some happy snaps with the iphone and put them up on flickr and linked here with a 'guest pass'.

 

I'm sure there's ways to show the pics here directly but its been a long and exciting, albeit tiring day, and I've other technology to interest me at the moment!

 

So that's an early report and some pics; doubtless more to follow..

 

Take care and Best Wishes to all

 

John...

 

http://flickr.com/gp/90897207@N00/o47697

 

http://flickr.com/gp/90897207@N00/1V359Q

 

http://flickr.com/gp/90897207@N00/807H8C

 

http://flickr.com/gp/90897207@N00/v0q51b

 

http://flickr.com/gp/90897207@N00/v3568F

 

http://flickr.com/gp/90897207@N00/9pE692

 

http://flickr.com/gp/90897207@N00/EZ7L21

 

http://flickr.com/gp/90897207@N00/EuJ9zT

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Paul W
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Answered (Verified) Paul W replied on Mon, Dec 17 2012 2:07 PM
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Wonderful review John!

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jkhamler
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jkhamler replied on Mon, Dec 17 2012 11:25 AM

Looks/sounds good John! What are you using as as the source for the music through the V1?

elephant
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elephant replied on Mon, Dec 17 2012 11:27 AM

As ever - a very thoughtful review.

I think the Beolab 9s might be affordable for me ... but I dream of the BL5s.

Do you think the 5s are 3X as good as the 9s ... or more than 3X in performance ?

 

PS I would really appreciate knowing what tracks you think are good standards to measure speakers by ..................

BeoNut since '75

markiedee
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Wow a very informative write up and i'm  really glad that you like them, i look forward to seeing more pictures and maybe one of the lab9s either side of your v1.

Congrats.

Beoplay A2

Razlaw
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Razlaw replied on Mon, Dec 17 2012 1:15 PM

elephant:

 

Do you think the 5s are 3X as good as the 9s ... or more than 3X in performance ?

 

 

That is exactly the question I have. I have 9s and have listened to the 5s several times over the last few years. Have an in home demo scheduled for Wednesday of the 5s. Trying to decide if they really are that much better than my 9s.

 

Beolab 28s Beolab 9s Beolab 12-3s Beolab 1s Beolab 6000s 2 pairs Beolab 4000s Beovision 7-55 Beovision 10-40 Beoplay V1 32 inch Beovision Avant 32 inch Beosound 1 (CD player) Beosound 3000 Beosound 5 Core Essence MKII Beoplay M5

Paul W
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Answered (Verified) Paul W replied on Mon, Dec 17 2012 2:07 PM
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Wonderful review John!

valve1
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valve1 replied on Mon, Dec 17 2012 4:56 PM

Great review.

BeoHut
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BeoHut replied on Mon, Dec 17 2012 7:20 PM
As always a very good and objective review. Nice photos too.

Enjoy you new setup!
Puncher
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Probably my most desirable speaker in the B&O lineup!!

I have often contemplated 3's and 8000's and have listened to both at length and yet never bought either - I would have the 8000's as a musical pair and 3's as a start to a surround system (with always the option to move them to the rear, come better times). And yet........... the 8000's are beautiful but the 9's are funky and significantly better performing. The 8000's & 9's are timeless in design in that they remain unique but, as an Engineer, I love the function driving form of the 9's  - enough said. I can't afford 9's but can't bring myself to buy the 8000's - maybe I'm not listening to the same amount of music that I used to!!

You may have noticed I didn't mention the 5's ................ as majestic as they are, not only can't I afford them but I can't afford the even bigger investment of a house with a room that not only does them justice but also can withstand their "scale". When I can the 9's can sit at the back!Smile

So .......... lotto or redundancy then 9's for me!!Smile

Ban boring signatures!

John
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John replied on Tue, Dec 18 2012 3:22 AM

jkhamler:

Looks/sounds good John! What are you using as as the source for the music through the V1?

Hi Jonathon

It's a slow process, but with about 120 discs done so far, I'm gradually ripping my CD collection to my Mac in ALAC, backed up to a time capsule + WD portable HD, and streaming over the network (two Apple Time capsules, two Airport Expresses) to an Apple TV3 connected to the V1 via HDMI.

Sound quality is excellent; zero dropouts, and the ease of use with an iPad etc is exceptional.

My 9100ES Sony CD/DVD/SACD player uses an iLink or IEEE 1394 aka firewire interface twixt it and the digital ES Sony amp, in addition to either SPDIF or analogue outs using it's internal high quality DAC.

I did quite a lot of matched level (with an SPL meter) comparisons in the past between the various connection methods and on both CD and SACD found the iLink connection to offer the best sound.

To my ears (albeit I haven't tried matched volume level AB comparisons) streaming from the Mac to an Apple Airport express connected via toslink to the digital Sony results in sound on par with or better than the iLink interface - in short it's extremely good.

Up till now, I've had the Apple TV3 connected to the V1 by HDMI (bought when I purchased the TV) and have listened to music streamed to it extensively on the V1 - but with the Lab 9's attached to the V1, the system really comes into it's own.  I'm delighted with the sound quality and the combination of ease of use that goes with it.

Kind regards

John... 

 

John
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John replied on Tue, Dec 18 2012 3:35 AM

elephant:

As ever - a very thoughtful review.

I think the Beolab 9s might be affordable for me ... but I dream of the BL5s.

Do you think the 5s are 3X as good as the 9s ... or more than 3X in performance ?

 

PS I would really appreciate knowing what tracks you think are good standards to measure speakers by ..................

Thank you Elephant for your most kind words

That's a difficult one.... I still dream of Lab 5's too, and would have a pair if not for the considerable cost and the need for expenditure on other items in life such as a car etc.

Do I think the 5's are 3x as good as the 9's?

It's very difficult to try and quantify sound quality on a percentage basis.

Provided I had the funds, Lab 5's are sufficiently better IMHO,  that I'd go there, yes.

They've the technical advantage of the ALT lenses being on the midrange as well as the tweeter, they are an active four way rather than three way, on board bass EQ with the measuring microphone, and that 15" bass driver offers bass extension at very low distortion levels that would necessitate the purchase of a state of the art dedicated sub if one was buying separates - such as a Velodyne DD15, or an JL Fathom 13 for example.

For someone like me who is a classical music buff and for whom pipe organ is my favourite instrument, that bass response is almost worth the price of admission alone IMV - AND, there's two of them built into the speaker - no separate boxes required.  Competitive speakers such as the big B&W 800D's don't offer that sort of bass extension without the DSP and formidable power that the Lab 5 can command - again you need the expense and clutter of additional subs.

No, they're devilishly expensive yes, but compared to what the alternatives are, I'd have a pair in a heartbeat had I the disposable funds.

No need to move the 9's on - re-place them to the back of the room as surrounds.

HTH

PS: I might make another thread about recordings...

Kind regards

John... 

 

John
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John replied on Tue, Dec 18 2012 3:49 AM

markiedee:

Wow a very informative write up and i'm  really glad that you like them, i look forward to seeing more pictures and maybe one of the lab9s either side of your v1.

Congrats.

Thanks for the kind remarks Mark

I'll try and do that later when I have things properly setup re a pic of the speakers alongside the V1

With apartment living, in a 5 x 4 metre room, the 4 metre wall with part window/balcony behind, has the V1 placed upon a B&O cabinet that is available for the BV10; it's identical in dimensions and look to the one that was a stand option for the 8-40, and I bought it to raise the height of the V1 on it's standard leaning back 'floor' stand, and to avoid dust from footfall getting in the unit with a carpeted floor.  In one corner, covered, is a portable A/C unit that has nowhere else to go for the time being, and of course a pair of Naim SBL's with the Lab 9's in front - so it's all very non-designer looking and rather cluttered at present!

But there's some new cupboards and furniture coming over the next few weeks, which will free up a lot of space, as will getting rid of the separates system which takes up about 1.5 metres of wall space with two racks side by side.

Just looking at it, there's no doubt that aesthetically the V1 is a Beoplay product, and the Lab 9's a B&O product; one is hip, funky and makes an industrial design statement, and the other is just simple, elegant and timeless design.  It will take me a little time I think to get used to the different look of the speaker from the SBL's - they're rectangular with sharp edges, and with their straight lines suit the 'edginess' of the V1 + cabinet, whereas the Lab 9's are softer, more rounded and almost amorphous looking by comparison.

However, with proposed room/furniture changes, and with the SBL's gone and the A/C  and also a computer desk out of the way in the lounge, the Lab 9's won't need to be thrust right up alongside the V1 + cabinet, so the juxtaposition of curves and sharp lines should be more harmonious.

Kind regards

John...

 

John
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John replied on Tue, Dec 18 2012 3:57 AM

Paul W:

Wonderful review John!

Thank you Paul - PS - I hope you didn't mind my tongue in cheek poking of fun about Audi in another thread.... Smile

Alongside my Mercedes and Apple Kit, the V1 and now Lab 9s are already, quite clearly, one of the best consumer purchases I've ever made for the blend of design, very high quality performance, and the intuitive and elegant user interface - the ownership satisfaction quota is exceptionally high.

B&O really do go out of their way to surprise and delight one - I appreciate we can all have bad experiences with brands, but thus far, from the POV of my phones, the V1 and now the Lab 9's, I've found B&O to fully live up to the advertising blurb with impeccable service and outstanding products in my experience.

Kind regards

John... 

 

John
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John replied on Tue, Dec 18 2012 3:59 AM

valve1:

Great review.

Thank you - I know I'm biased, as when something is new we're all of us in a 'honeymoon' period, but I'd be reporting issues if I found them too..

Kind regards

John... 

 

John
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John replied on Tue, Dec 18 2012 4:10 AM

Beofan53:
As always a very good and objective review. Nice photos too.

 

Enjoy you new setup!

Thank you also for you kind comments.  I try and be objective as possible in my comments about HiFi/AV kit - yes, I'm biased because they're my new 'babies' but I've been in the hobby and world of music for many years, and wouldn't have got this far If I didn't think they were worth it as an overall ownership proposition.

I'm more than happy to try and stand back and look at what I own, or choices I've made, and critique it and be very open about it - nothing is perfect and we all have to accept some compromises even at the highest levels - but provided any shortcomings of a product don't raise their head unless I go right out of my way obsessively looking for them, I'm likely to be very happy in the main - which is not to say that I'm easily pleased, because I'm not - I tend to lean towards the obsessively fussy and picky owner profile at times, but try to balance that out with objectivity and a sense of realism as to what can and cannot be achieved with technology in ones life.

Thus far, B&O has been delivering, re meeting and exceeding my expectations, and in spades!

So yes, I'm absolutely delighted with the new set  Big Smile

Kind regards

John... 

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