Beosound Stage adds B&O's spectacular audio to any TV
There's an adage in filmmaking, particularly at the entry level, that says sound is more important than vision. It might not be where the big money's spent in Hollywood, but audio's role in creating atmosphere and communicating content is critical, and a great audio setup is a key to any home theater experience.
You can go the whole hog, and set your lounge room up with a battery of surround speakers and a big sub box to bring the gut punch, but Bang & Olufsen has proposed an alternative: the Beosound Stage. Effectively, it's a large soundbar designed to be a handsome and minimal addition to your lounge room furniture.
With no fewer than 11 drivers mounted behind its fabric face, each pushed by its own 50-watt amplifier (that's three 3/4-in tweeters, four 1.5-in midrange drivers and four 4-in woofers), the Beosound Stage can operate like the greatest Bluetooth music speaker you've ever heard, in addition to working with the TV via HDMI and offering wireless Chromecast and AirPlay connectivity.
At the opening of Bang & Olufsen's new flagship Chadstone lifestyle store in Melbourne, Australia, 39-year B&O veteran Steve Devonshire gave local media a chance to hear the Beosound Stage in action, and for a device that's only 43.3 x 6.7 x 3 in (110 x 17 x 7.7 cm) in size and about the width of a 50-inch TV, its projection, detail, clarity and punch were absolutely staggering – as was the sheer volume it can pump out when required, which sent a couple of the older journos in the room scurrying for shelter.
Even without any kind of subwoofer attached, the Beosound Stage's four 4-in bass drivers produced an impressively ominous and cavernous-sounding low end, but it was the crystalline clarity of the mids and tops that really underscored the brilliance of the sound design in this scene from 2016's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The sound absolutely sparkled throughout a fairly stark and bouncy room that I'd generally consider an unforgiving sort of space to be testing audio systems in. And this was without turning on the Dolby Atmos effect, which simulates a 3D surround sound experience for listeners right in front of the speaker.
It doesn't come cheap – but then, it's about as affordable as a Bang & Olufsen-grade sonic experience gets, and the Beosound Stage is naturally designed to be a beautiful piece of furniture as well as a soundbar. The aluminum and bronze versions cost AU$2,300 in Australia, and there's a smoked oak one that goes for AU$3,500. That's US$1,750 and US$2,600, respectively, in the United States. That's a pretty accessible price point for what we'd call a luxury audio piece.
At the same store launch event, we were also able to catch our first look in person at the Beovision Harmony transforming TV – a 77-inch, 8-mm-thin LG C9 OLED panel paired with a stunning set of B&O speakers. The razor-thin screen hides behind the speakers when it's off, and when you switch it on, it rises up from behind them as the speakers gently and precisely rotate from vertical to horizontal.
That's not a simple motion to achieve, explained Devonshire, while keeping the small power LED visible and not moving the panels apart from one another before they swivel. Here's the motion in GIF form, sped up considerably:
Those side speakers are not included. The middle two, however, combine to form a three-channel (center and stereo) 450-W audio system comprising two 4-in woofers, one 4-in midrange/woofer, two 2.5-in full range drivers and a single 1-in tweeter. You can pair it with surround speakers and subs if you like.
As you'd expect, the sound is tremendous and the 4K vision spectacular. Even a little too spectacular, perhaps, as LG's built-in motion smoothing made the opening scene to 2017's The Greatest Showman look so hyper-real that I started having opinions on the work of Hugh Jackman's makeup artist. But motion smoothing is a setting that can and should be turned off for movies. It's excellent for gaming and sports.
I have to admit the notion of hiding that show-stopping screen behind two much smaller speakers does remind me of a very fat man hiding behind a very thin tree. We can still see you, Gary. It does have a certain modern art feel about it – even the remote control is a thing of beauty – and it's a beautiful furniture-like showpiece that'd look great in most any room, but it does look a little delicate to us. Put it this way: you wouldn't want to leave your three-year-old alone in reach of it, especially at a price point around €18,500. Best mount it up on the wall if there's any chance of chaos.
The Beosound Stage soundbar and Beovision Harmony system will be available toward the end of 2019 globally.
Source: Bang & Olufsen