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Is the Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 5 the best speaker made today?


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#1 of 50 OFFLINE   alan halvorson

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Posted April 26 2005 - 07:04 AM

I know there are some subscribers to The Audio Critic lurking around here. I have been since its inception, until the last issue. If you were a reader, you'd know that its publication schedule was - well, let's just say that it was leisurely. A couple issues a year was the best it ever did. And now it is no more! At least, there's no more print version. In its place is a subscription (one time fee of $12.95, if you weren't a paid-up subscriber of the print version) web `zine. The introduction to the web `zine explains why they took this route. I joined, but, unfortunately, it's currently difficult for me to recommend the site to others simply because there is so little content. But what there is is as interesting as anything they have ever published.

The Audio Critic, to those who have never encountered it, was the audio magazine all the other audio magazines hated. It continually harped on the tweaks and charlatans of the audio world - perhaps excessively so - and backed up their opinions with science, measurements, the support of top professionals and, I think, excellent writing. It is a major proponent of ABX double-blind testing (although not at the beginning).

Anyway, to the subject. Recently The Audio Critic tested the Bang and Olufsen BeoLab 5, their $16,000 top-of-the-line loudspeaker, and made the following comments (because it is a subscription site, I will only quote from the review):
Quote:
The low-frequency response was utterly smooth, effortless, powerful, without the slightest lumpiness, and extending all the way down to dc—or so it seemed. Unbelievable bass. The wide horizontal dispersion of the frequencies above 500 Hz also resulted in a unique listening experience—you can sit anywhere in the room with these speakers, as long as they are somewhere in front of you. The aiming of the midrange and tweeter has become totally uncritical. That alone is worth the price of admission.
and
Quote:
The fact is that the overall sound was superb, as transparent, defined, and alive as I have ever heard out of any speaker
and
Quote:
The BeoLab 5 is, on the whole, a masterpiece in sound, as well as in electroacoustic theory
.

I was as flabbergasted as I ever have been after reading this review. I have never associated Bang & Olufsen with superior loudspeaker engineering, or superior engineering of any sort. I have always believed their main concern was styling and nothing more. To find that the only audio publication I have ever respected has given a B&O product such a glowing review - heck, more than a glowing review - floors me. Now I have to find this speaker (in Minnesota, I believe the only place I might find it is at the B&O store in the Galleria in Edina) and decide for myself, although at 16 big ones, a purchase is out of the question (come on lottery!).

Has anyone listened to this speaker? Got an opinion?
They're coming to take me away, ha-haaa!!
They're coming to take me away, ho-ho, hee-hee, ha-haaa To the funny farm. Where life is beautiful all the time and I'll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats and they're coming to take me away, ha-haaa!!!!!
- Napoleon XIV

#2 of 50 OFFLINE   Patrick Young

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Posted April 26 2005 - 07:38 AM

Alan, as I also live in MN I have had the chance to listen to them at the Galleria and they were pretty impressive. And they were NOT in a special listening room ala Bose.

They have had them at several different positions around the room. My wife was shopping so I was able to listen to almost a whole cd's worth of music. I don't remember who it was but it did sound great. Then the guy threw in a cd to show the range and yes the bass was amazing.

And when my wife came in and saw what I was listening to she said "DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!!" "Those things are big and ugly" Oh well dream dream dream.
Posted Image

Go and give them a listen.

Pat

#3 of 50 OFFLINE   VinhT

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Posted April 26 2005 - 07:49 AM

While I was not a subscriber, I was always on the lookout for The Audio Critic, the most honest audio-related publication I have had the privilege of reading. I think it's about time I signed up! Posted Image

When it comes to speaker reviews, the qualifications of the reviewer must always be taken into account. Furthermore, there must be objective data that is properly analyzed, so that correlations can be made. Only then can the review be taken seriously. If I may ask, who was the reviewer, and was objective information available to support the claims made? I have always been extremely skeptical of non-North American speaker companies, so I am just curious if B&O really "earned" the praise.
Vinh Tran

#4 of 50 OFFLINE   alan halvorson

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Posted April 26 2005 - 08:35 AM

Vinh: Peter Aczel, publisher and owner, did the review. Same old Aczel review style; I like it. Measurements and graphs were included, as well as a better photo of the speakers than was featured on the B&O site.
They're coming to take me away, ha-haaa!!
They're coming to take me away, ho-ho, hee-hee, ha-haaa To the funny farm. Where life is beautiful all the time and I'll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats and they're coming to take me away, ha-haaa!!!!!
- Napoleon XIV

#5 of 50 OFFLINE   Arthur S

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Posted April 26 2005 - 09:05 AM

Certainly a surprise to hear B&O getting such high praise for a $16,000 speaker. Good as it might be however, the competition in the over $10,000 price range is very tough. The Wilson Watt-Puppy has been the biggest seller in that price range for years.

I have to think that the resale value of the B&O is going to be pretty bad. The sound everywhere type design keeps popping up but never seems to be popular in the high price range.

Still, it is a treat to hear a fine sounding speaker though you can start to take such fantasies too seriously. After all, we are talking about the price of a nice car.

#6 of 50 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted April 26 2005 - 09:15 AM

I am surprised to hear about the fate of The Audio Critic, to which I had been subscribing since the first issue in the spring of 1977. So it's a Webzine now? How about that!

It should be noted that, in the beginning, Peter Aczel was just as "golden eared" as any other "high end" reviewer. But, sometime after his magazine first ceased publication in 1980 until it resumed in 1987, Aczel made a complete turnaround and became a furious believer in measurements and objectivity. Interesting to read.

As for B&O's speaker, who knows? There are so many, many decent speaker systems out there. But for B&O, a somewhat lifestyle-oriented manafacturer, it's surprising.

#7 of 50 OFFLINE   Scott_N

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Posted April 26 2005 - 11:02 AM

I don't think in this price range there is a "best" speaker. I've heard a pair Beolab 5's and they do have great bass and extended highs and a big sound but they weren't better than the best speakers i've heard which are the Kharma CRM 3.2, Dali Megaline, JMLab Nova Utopia Be, and the Verity Audio Parsifal at least to my ears. They are very worthy of an audition though and do have a unique look to them.Posted Image

#8 of 50 OFFLINE   alan halvorson

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Posted April 26 2005 - 11:08 AM

Jack: I only found out was to do a search on Google. I had done this before without coming up with anything, but suddenly there it was. If anyone's interested, The Audio Critic also gave a bang-up review to another, cheaper (but far from cheap, although if you're a DIY'er handy with tools, it could be) loudspeaker, the Linkwitz Lab Orion. To tell the truth, after reading both reviews, between the BeoLab 5 and the Orion, I think I'd prefer the Orion.
They're coming to take me away, ha-haaa!!
They're coming to take me away, ho-ho, hee-hee, ha-haaa To the funny farm. Where life is beautiful all the time and I'll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats and they're coming to take me away, ha-haaa!!!!!
- Napoleon XIV

#9 of 50 OFFLINE   John Garcia

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Posted April 26 2005 - 11:09 AM

Nothin' beats Bose Posted Image
HT: Emotiva UMC-200, Emotiva XPA-3, Carnegie Acoustics CSB-1s + CSC-1, GR Research A/V-1s, Epik Empire, Oppo BDP-105, PS4, PS3,URC R-50, APC-H10, Panamax 5100 Bluejeans Cable
System Two: Marantz PM7200, Pioneer FS52s, Panasonic BD79
(stolen) : Marantz SR-8300, GR Research A/V-2s, Sony SCD-222ES SACD, Panasonic BD-65, PS3 60G (250G)

Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it’ll spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

 


#10 of 50 OFFLINE   Michael R Price

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Posted April 26 2005 - 12:54 PM

My advisor this year knows the guy who designed the Beolab 5, Dave Moulton. He certainly knew what he was doing, and I trust that it's a competitive "statement" speaker. I have personally heard a big MBL speaker which used a similar idea (speaker elements pointing up into round diffusors), and they had a great spacious and coherent sound. It is definitely a good idea if the other design issues can be addressed as well as they have been in some of the other high-end speakers. Besides, for the sake of diversity it's good to see something with an omnipolar response pattern, compared to that of: regular speakers, bipoles, dipoles, horns, arrays... For some tastes and setups it might be the best type of speaker!

#11 of 50 OFFLINE   Christian M

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Posted April 27 2005 - 04:11 AM

I had the chance to listen to the Beolab 5's once... Very impressive - to me at least Posted Image LOTR:Two Towers was freighteningly real and in-room bass response was utterly flat - wow.

#12 of 50 OFFLINE   Chu Gai

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Posted April 28 2005 - 03:15 AM

Aczel does occasionally wax a bit poetic. Were there any measurements on that model provided?

Like Scott said, at that price point, there's more than a few speakers worth giving a listen to. Also, if you're into the omnidirectional sound, then you might as well give Ohm a try. Out of curiosity, does anyone recall a long defunct brand called Cosmostatic? They had a hybrid quazi-omindirectional, electrostatic design that I vaguely rememeber as being very compelling.

#13 of 50 OFFLINE   alan halvorson

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Posted April 28 2005 - 07:31 AM

Quite a number of measurements were taken and several graphs presented. Wish I could link to the review or post it but I don't believe I should.

I know Azcel had some sort of involvement with Ohm at one time. I don't recall what it was exactly, but he did mention this involvement in one or more issues.

Waaaaaaay back before I knew anything about hi-fi, my first "stereo" was a cheap Zenith turntable with built-in amp. The speakers operated on the same principle as the BeoLab 5's but, of course, used about the cheapest components and construction possible.

Never heard of Cosmostatic. The speaker with the most uncanny imaging I have ever come across were the old Beveridge 2+2SW's (which you can still buy), a speaker Azcel once considered the best speaker made.
They're coming to take me away, ha-haaa!!
They're coming to take me away, ho-ho, hee-hee, ha-haaa To the funny farm. Where life is beautiful all the time and I'll be happy to see those nice young men in their clean white coats and they're coming to take me away, ha-haaa!!!!!
- Napoleon XIV

#14 of 50 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted April 28 2005 - 09:16 AM

He considered the Beveridge to be state of the art in the very late '70s.

#15 of 50 OFFLINE   Chu Gai

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Posted April 28 2005 - 01:01 PM

This is a terrible pic of the Cosmostatic.

Posted Image

#16 of 50 OFFLINE   FeisalK

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Posted April 29 2005 - 05:08 AM

I heard a pair of these last week

Posted Image

and they were simply breathtaking. What's the onion, you ask?

The Radialstrahler concept includes a circular vertical arrangement of lamellas around an axis for each frequency range (tweeter, midrange driver and subwoofer). On the upper side, these lamellas are firmly glued in a thrust bearing and on the lower side, they are connected to a moving coil. If a pulse of music is now transmitted from the amplifier to the speaker, these slightly bent lamellas (therefore the Radialstrahler is also called “Biegeschwinger”) are oscillated – they radiate sound waves, in this case music. The result is a sound of unusual acoustic space and realism that is absolutely free from coloring, that is neutral and homogenous. (more reading, and a pricing)

in fact it was the whole setup, listed here
>
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#17 of 50 OFFLINE   Scott_N

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Posted April 29 2005 - 04:03 PM

I've always wanted to hear a pair of MBL's but they don't have a dealer here in Kansas City.Posted Image

#18 of 50 OFFLINE   FeisalK

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Posted April 30 2005 - 12:09 AM

I guess I was lucky - in fact, if not for a friend of a friend I wouldn't even have gone into the shop. MBL's Singapore rep were going to fly up to install the system in Hong Kong (this guy's dad bought it)
>
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#19 of 50 OFFLINE   SethH

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Posted May 01 2005 - 01:16 AM

I was just flipping through a recent American Express Rewards catalog and noticed that you can actually get the BeoLab5's with reward points. For a miniscule 4,925,000 points you can get the BeoLab5's along with a 42" B&O plasma screen. What a bargain!?!?!

#20 of 50 OFFLINE   CanaryBlue

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Posted February 14 2008 - 10:42 AM

Rightly or wrongly, I also always associated B&O with styling and nothing more. And then I heard the Beolab 5s. They blew me away, and just as importantly, after three years of ownership, they still do. They are absolutely awesome. It may be a cliché, but they have literally, not metaphorically, had the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Expensive, for sure, but not for what they are, and can do. Pound for pound (or dollar for dollar) they have brought me more joy than anything I have ever purchased in my life. Be wary of auditioning them, though. Once you have, you won’t rest till you own a pair.




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