Soundbars are one of the easiest ways to get pseudo-surround and cinema sound in your home, but they aren't always the most attractive, upgradeable or easily-integrated audio products. But at IFA 2022, Bang & Olufsen revealed an answer to these soundbar woes.
It comes in the form of the Beosound Theatre. What looks like a high-end soundbar is in fact the potential centerpiece of a home cinema system, with the ability to connect to a range of TVs and integrate with a wide range of B&O speakers across multiple generations.
Most notably, the Beosound Theatre makes use of module components so it can be upgraded to last some 10 years. Oh, and it also sounds pretty special.
At its core the Beosound Theatre is a well-specced soundbar that sports 12 speaker drivers, including a a pair of 6.5-inch custom woofers and a center-mounted tweeter that sits directly in front of the midrange speaker to facilitate better sound distribution . Then there’s integrated 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos decoding and “custom-tuned post-processing” with a proprietary up and down mixing algorithm.
In short, there’s a lot of audio hardware and software here to bathe one's ears in all manner of aural pleasure. And listening to a range of music and clips from movies Bohemian Rhapsody and No Time To Die, I came away suitably impressed with all that the soundbar could do.
As well I should, given it starts at £5,590, which converts to some $6,550. But all that money buys you crystal clear and classic B&O clean tone that's nevertheless flush with nuance and detail. In my experience that alllows you to clearly hear the subtle hit of a high hat clear over crunchy distorted guitars, or the thump of gunfire in No Time to Die through the bombastic soundtrack.
Is it worth the cash? Well I’d need a lot more time to figure that out than a single IFA showcase, but it put a smile on my face. And there’s more to the Beosound Theatre than just audio chops.
Despite all the hardware it holds, it’s a rather attractive soundbar. Supposedly drawing inspiration from sailboats, the soundbar sports a keel-like shape framed in aluminum and can be equipped with dark or light oak speaker covers — a fabric speaker cover is also available, but lacks the flair of the wood.
It might not be to everyone’s taste, but I found it very eye-catching; it really looks more like a luxury product than just a bit of high-end tech.
But the most intriguing part of the Beosound Theatre is how it’s a modular system. And it delivers that in a one-two punch.
While the soundbar can stand on its own, it can be linked with multiple other B&O devices and up to 16 other speakers, with one demonstration showing how it could even connect with a 50-year-old turntable thanks to some software wizardry. As a home theater and sound hub, it has the smarts to back up its looks.
This modularity also extends to the TVs that the Beosound Theatre can support, either when mounted on a stand, table or wall. The aluminum frame contains “wings” that can be extended to 55-inch, 65-inch or 77-inch screens, with the cabling taken care of by the soundbar. While some of the best TVs are likely to be compatible with the Beosound Theatre, LG C2 OLED TVs appeared to be favored; and that's not a bad thing given how impressive they are.
The second punch comes in the form of its construction and design. Components like the processing unit are not only kept in modules to avoid heat build-up and thus component degradation, they're also set up to be replaced when upgraded units are available. Couple that with the use of simple tooling or components that can be removed without tools, and the Beosound Theatre is not only upgradable but easy to repair.
B&O intends for the Beosound Theatre to last 10 years, with a lifespan that goes way beyond the first product cycle. The idea is that the soundbar doesn't get dated and need to be replaced but evolves even as the oak finish ages gracefully. At a time when technology causes a lot of electric waste and can have a negative environmental impact, this form of upgradability seems timely as well as smart.
How likely people will be to buy into this upgradability instead of opting for the next best soundbar remains an unknown factor. But at the risk of hyperbole, I feel B&O may have delivered the ultimate soundbar with the Beosound Theatre; it’s just a pity I don’t have a spare $6,000 and change.