My introduction to the Bang & Olufsen Beosound Level Wi-Fi speaker came through a video call from thousands of kilometers and multiple time zones. Under the direction of Mads Kogsgaard Hansen, Senior Global Product Manager for the Danish electronics design brand, the level’s confidence in how its modular electronics level would provide a path to upgradability for apps, services and standards inevitably over the lifespan was underlined would change the property. Of course, this kind of sustainable ownership pursuit appealed to my environmentally conscious mindset, but admittedly the curiosity only turned into something more emotional when Hansen unveiled his newest wireless speaker in its gold-slatted light oak veneer response to beauty.
With its minimalist, precision-cut lamellar cover made of oak veneer, which is embedded in a gold-colored aluminum frame, the front of the Beosound Level is reminiscent of the work of Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, a precisely executed piece of linearity that conveys structure and serenity. However, this visual connection was made entirely by myself. Bang & Olufsen’s catalog is already filled with products that feature the same detail in different iterations, including the magically unfoldable Beovision Harmony television, a design created by Torsten Valeur, the same designer that has the veneered symmetry of the level.
“The wooden speaker covers are something very special for our design team. We introduced the idea of natural wood veneer on a black carrier with processed patterns in order to achieve an outstanding appearance, ”explains Kresten Bjørn Krab-Bjerre, creative director for staged and flexible living categories at Bang & Olufsen.
If you take a close look at the Beosound layer, you notice an almost imperceptible pattern that changes very gently both in depth and in breadth, leading to a subtle sense of movement. Krab-Bjerre notes that the Beosound 2 loudspeaker has the same kind of sensory induction “where the tapered shape of the cutter combined with the milling depth creates this very precise yet natural flow”.
Aside from its deep impression on the surface, the most notable feature of the level is one dedicated to its future, designed to enable its owner to stay away from the obsolescence associated with almost every app-powered electronic device today. The level is designed from the ground up as physically upgradeable hardware, equipped with modular components and batteries that can be swapped out when the innards are no longer up to the task.
“The modularity approach that we have chosen with Beosound Level builds on the foundations of our new platform, which will be integrated into all upcoming products in the Flexible Living and Staged product categories at Bang & Olufsen,” explains Malte Erich Elborg, Global Product Manager Bang & Olufsen : “Since longevity is central to our brand ethos, Beosound Level is a prime example of this longstanding commitment.”
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that level owners can swap out the components themselves for an upgrade. This process requires owners to send their speaker in for upgrade. The prices have yet to be set.
Note that the level is designed to be placed on a surface, on the wall, or in a table mode. How does the outcome of the level adapt to its orientation?
Malte Erich Elborg: Beosound Level has a special acoustic tuning for each of its placement options (standing upright, lying down and hanging vertically) in order to optimize the driver layout and the acoustic experience for our customers. The Beosound Level has a built-in accelerometer that detects product placement and automatically adjusts the tuning. The sound experience in a vertical position is similar to a standing position. When standing, Beosound Level reduces reflections on the walls by centering the sound in front of the loudspeaker.
This acoustic processing is achieved through precise beam control that expands the sweet spot of a conventional stereo experience and delivers a rich and diffuse sound to everyone in front of the loudspeaker. In the vertical hanging position, the acoustic tuning also opens the sweet spot and at the same time reduces reflections from nearby walls. However, the sound processing is completely different from the standing position, as in this case we have to deal with an upward shot pointing of the drivers.
In fact, the audio output of the level is noticeably colored by its position. Lying down with the drivers pointing upwards, the soundstage takes on a more ethereal presence – here, there, almost everywhere. Mounted on the wall or placed on a surface, the polar pattern is more obvious, but never artificial.
When asked if Bang & Olufsen would look back on its storied design catalog as a roadmap to planning its future, noting the brand’s recent reintroduction of the Beogram 4000c and the organic aesthetic of level and balance, they politely resisted the Observation.
“At Bang & Olufsen, we always work according to a use case,” notes Kresten Bjørn Krab-Bjerre. “This is the axis we revolve around when making decisions about product specifications, features, and design decisions. Sometimes a use case is almost forever, and you end up with a generic design phrase or form factor that’s so strong it keeps popping up. “
In Level’s case, the silhouette of the old-fashioned transistor radio would prove to be the frame, a design surprisingly found to be suitable for modern technologies with the same form factor.
But the level isn’t a retro design on purpose. “We never tried to make it look like one of the classic models,” says Krab-Bjerre. “Form and technology simply merged wonderfully, so that the use case became completely relevant again.”