Bang and Olufsen have always cut their own path between the mainstream and the audiophile high end. Blending a lifestyle brand with a search for better sound quality has always appeared paramount to the company that pulls off very stylized ascetics in conjunction with ease-of-use. Always on top of the latest trends, CES 2016 offered a first listen for many of the press to a new flagship piece that really takes a grab for the heart of our sound-seeking perfectionists who have the budgets to reach for the top.
Named after B & O’s 90th anniversary, the new flagship BEO 90 will set you back approximately $80k for the pair, but the company didn’t pull any punches when it came to laying out all the goods for two channel bliss. Actively powered with one DAC and one amplifier per driver, each unit houses a total of 18 sets of 24/192 Burr-Brown PCM1798 sourced channels including 7 tweeters, 7 mid range (86mm diameter), and 4 sub woofers. Inputs play nice with a wide variety of digital options and DSP adjustments include robust room correction (which B & O is calling “Active Room Compensation”) all of which is just a part of the large package of app-controlled tweaks available.
An evaluation of the feature set will quickly reveal that the company is staying true to its core mantra. More than just another $80k 2-channel loudspeaker, the BEO 90 easily conforms between the more solitary audiophile listening experience and what I have affectionately come to call “party mode”. In the standard mode, a controlled direction is utilized to optimize imaging and improve overall sound quality to a singular sweet spot. With the touch of a button, party mode can be activated and the “Beam Width Control” adjusts for a more all-over room appeal which is also recommended for movie watching with a group of people. The top circular LED light even serves as visual display for the selected width of the current mode.
I was able to hear a demo of the new flagship and it appeared that B & O had certainly done their research. From common audiophile test tracks to a sweet spot rotation, whoever was leading the charge at the company certainly seemed vastly familiar with the hobby’s eccentric standards. The sound of the BEOLAB 90 followed in suit, the quick listening session yielded surprisingly tight image and responsive dynamic range. The bass was big, properly proportioned and beautiful in a way that reminded me of other high end rigs that play in this price point. Overall, it felt like a very impressive presentation that didn’t disappoint, checking off boxes left and right for both the audiophile and the luxury lifestyle listener.