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AXPONA 2017: Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 Speakers

amirm

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#2
Presenter said this is the first product that is designed inside out. That usually the industrial design is made and engineers are told to then make it sound good. This time the engineers were told to design it for best sound and then the ID people worked on making it pretty.
 

amirm

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#3
We sat down for a listen. I asked which was the best seat and it was the front one in the center so I grabbed it. :)

Same song was played in the three playback modes: narrow, wide and omni.

I used Shazam to discover No Sanctuary Here by Chris Jones. https://shz.am/t40165092


This is the classic demo track of yesteryear so I am *very* familiar with it.

Good news: this is one powerful speaker.
Bad news: The bass was excessive/heavy in my opinion. The presenter said the sweet spot was half a foot wide and he was not kidding. I let the guy next to me sit in my seat and it was night and day different.

While there were good qualities here, it was not a reference quality presentation for me. I could tell what they were doing with DSP but the core of the speaker needs to sound good before resorting to DSP trick and I don't think they got there. It was a let down for me and I cannot recommend the speaker.

Things got worse as the mode was switched. In "narrow mode" the sound became very boomy and downright strange. Mucking with side drivers and such can cause all kinds of issues that I don't think they have clearly sorted out.

And then we have this horror called the omni mode. Boomy and wild sounding. Walking around the room exposed other locations that sounded better and there was the illusion of sound everywhere but this is not anything high fidelity. It is just a hodgepodge of sound radiating and mixing with each other.

Overall, pretty disappointing experience. In narrow mode it was acceptable but with an experience that was just odd to me. In other modes it simply is not a high fidelity speaker. Not in this demo anyway.
 

RayDunzl

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#4
 

Purité Audio

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#5
That just doesn't sound like the speaker I have heard many times, although the sweet spot in 'narrow' is!
Keith
 

Sal1950

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#6

Nightlord

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#7
There cannot be more than one mode that is appropriate for a room, so no matter how you demo it, two of three will always sound off - but which two may differ in different rooms. So the only thing they can do is to show that they can do it and that's it. You'd need three different rooms so you can show when each mode is the optimum one.
 

Purité Audio

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#8
There cannot be more than one mode that is appropriate for a room, so no matter how you demo it, two of three will always sound off - but which two may differ in different rooms. So the only thing they can do is to show that they can do it and that's it. You'd need three different rooms so you can show when each mode is the optimum one.
The 'omni' is just for parties, essentially all the drivers are firing and propagating Sound around the room, ' narrow ' brings the most solidity in terms of image and in ultimate sound quality but the sweet spot is relatively narrow.
I have never heard the 90's 'boom' as that is rather their whole raison d'être.
Keith
 

Cosmik

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#9
Good news: this is one powerful speaker.
Bad news: The bass was excessive/heavy in my opinion. The presenter said the sweet spot was half a foot wide and he was not kidding. I let the guy next to me sit in my seat and it was night and day different.

While there were good qualities here, it was not a reference quality presentation for me. I could tell what they were doing with DSP but the core of the speaker needs to sound good before resorting to DSP trick and I don't think they got there. It was a let down for me and I cannot recommend the speaker.

Things got worse as the mode was switched. In "narrow mode" the sound became very boomy and downright strange. Mucking with side drivers and such can cause all kinds of issues that I don't think they have clearly sorted out.

And then we have this horror called the omni mode. Boomy and wild sounding. Walking around the room exposed other locations that sounded better and there was the illusion of sound everywhere but this is not anything high fidelity. It is just a hodgepodge of sound radiating and mixing with each other.

Overall, pretty disappointing experience. In narrow mode it was acceptable but with an experience that was just odd to me. In other modes it simply is not a high fidelity speaker. Not in this demo anyway.
Very interesting. I have yet to hear them, but I had kind of hoped that despite (or because of) the large number of drivers and DSP, they were going to sound 'neutral' i.e. the opposite of what you were hearing. Various reviews have made them sound amazingly neutral, but I am never sure what other people are listening for.

It isn't obvious to me what is supposed to happen when a wall or object gets into the 'cancellation field' of these types of speakers. And the cancellation is never going to be perfect anyway with, presumably, some (heavily DSP'ed?) 'residue' escaping into the room to be reflected to the listener even if it doesn't reach them directly. It may work fine in the bass, but what if the wavelengths are shorter?

I have the same question about dipole speakers and the backwards inverted signal that, while cancelling out at the sides directly, ends up being reflected back to the listener from the wall behind the speaker. You can rationalise (wrongly IMO) that reflections have lost all phase information so the fact it has been inverted doesn't matter, but I think I hear a 'phasey' quality to them.

Measurements alone may show that the cancellation and directivity manipulation works, in that if you collect the frequency domain information up in buckets at the listening position, ignoring phase and timing as the orthodoxy says, the result is more-or-less flat. But as a listener, if you move your head (as we are doing all the time) do the resulting simultaneous equations tell you that the sound is not coming from a 'straight' source? Maybe the Beolab 90 is a step too far, that measures better than it sounds..?
 
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Purité Audio

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#10
The off-axis is cancelled at source, the sound you hear contains far more 'direct' and far less 'reflected' sound ,the influence of the room is hugely diminished, of course you may have become use to and indeed enjoy colouration.
Keith
 

Cosmik

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#11
The off-axis is cancelled at source, the sound you hear contains far more 'direct' and far less 'reflected' sound ,the influence of the room is hugely diminished, of course you may have become use to and indeed enjoy colouration.
Keith
Believe me, I want these speakers to work! But here, when we say "at source", we really mean "in the air", with the sound coming from several sources - and not just at bass frequencies. Amir's report has sown seeds of doubt in my mind...

I really need to go and hear them (and not just look at the measurements..!).
 

Purité Audio

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#12
I presume the 90's us the same tach as the Kii's, where perceptually al the sound comes from 8cm in front of the mid -range driver , look at the B&O white paper and I will post something from Bruno on how the off-axis cancellation works.
Keith
 

Cosmik

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#13
I presume the 90's us the same tach as the Kii's, where perceptually al the sound comes from 8cm in front of the mid -range driver , look at the B&O white paper and I will post something from Bruno on how the off-axis cancellation works.
Keith
I'm pretty confident that it should be OK at bass frequencies where the wavelengths are much longer, but not so much at higher frequencies. The 'concept' is a box that is small relative to the wavelengths it is reproducing, and which produces neutral sound through a window of controllable angle - and none outside that. The reality is a larger box that approximates the controllable angle through large 'blobs' of cancellation in mid-air with 'soft edges'. The sound that escapes is reflected to the listener. Does this sound 'natural'?
 

JoeWhip

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#14
I heard this speaker being demoed at Harrods in late March. It was in a huge noisy room and sounded just as Amir described it. Boomy bass, hot and loud. I was told they had another location across the street for better demos but I couldn't get over there as I was chasing after my wife. Shoe heaven is a problem.
 

Purité Audio

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#15
I'm pretty confident that it should be OK at bass frequencies where the wavelengths are much longer, but not so much at higher frequencies. The 'concept' is a box that is small relative to the wavelengths it is reproducing, and which produces neutral sound through a window of controllable angle - and none outside that. The reality is a larger box that approximates the controllable angle through large 'blobs' of cancellation in mid-air with 'soft edges'. The sound that escapes is reflected to the listener. Does this sound 'natural'?
If you believe the theories of Olive/Toole ( flat on-axis, smooth and even off axis which mirrors on-axis) then the Beolabs and Kii's are the extension of that , producing mostly direct sound and ameliorating the room's contribution, the Kii's are the most transparent loudspeaker I have heard.
The Kii's controlled directivity extends from 80-2khz , The Beolabs extends further down .
Keith
 

Kal Rubinson

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#16
Overall, pretty disappointing experience. In narrow mode it was acceptable but with an experience that was just odd to me. In other modes it simply is not a high fidelity speaker. Not in this demo anyway.
I have never heard the 90s sound good at an audio show.
 

oivavoi

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#17
Very interesting discussion. I've heard the Beolabs demoed at at B&O store. I was mightily impressed. Very different impression from Amir's. It was, however, not with my own test tracks. And as I've written before, I perceived them as ever so slightly artificial. But since it wasn't my own test tracks, I can't say for certain at all. Still, all in all it sounded like very good speakers to me.
 

amirm

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#18
I have never heard the 90s sound good at an audio show.
I am vindicated! :D My room is among the audio suites and I woke up with the Chris Jones' track, No Sanctuary. How apt! :)
 

amirm

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#19
I perceived them as ever so slightly artificial.
In narrow mode, this is my primary objection to the sound I heard. That and extra bass which they may have thrown in there to impress folks.
 

oivavoi

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#20
In narrow mode, this is my primary objection to the sound I heard. That and extra bass which they may have thrown in there to impress folks.
I believe they are eqed with quite a lot of extra bass by default. But my understanding is that one can eq that to taste.
 

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