B&O’s A9 Nordic Sky wireless speaker brings Danish sunsets into your living room

Bang and Olufsen is a manufacturer that has always prided itself on its marriage of bleeding-edge technology and art-house aesthetic. Perhaps the most appropriate testament to this approach is its BeoPlay A9 speaker: a sleek, modern wireless device tucked away under the guise of an avant-garde display piece. It’s a fantastic compromise between form and function: full-range stereo sound without the potential “eyesore” of a massive speaker set-up dominating a living room. B&O now looks to further this successful integration with its “Nordic Sky” line of BeoPlay A9s, debuting later this week. In essence, it’s the same popular speaker with a few visual tweaks.

I realize that I can’t hold everyone to some personal idyllic standard, some idiosyncratic Magna Carta of audiophile conceits.

For the sake of full disclosure, I’m very much an A/V traditionalist. I will gladly take towering, 8-foot tall, unappealing ribbon speakers over compact systems without question. And yet,  I found my eye drawn towards these Nordic Sky A9 speakers consistently when they were demonstrated for me this week. B&O has taken inspiration from the summer sunsets of its native Denmark and accented these speakers with gradients meant to evoke dusk, twilight, and dawn, respectively. Admittedly, the effect is subtle (and for a spec-nut like myself, virtually non-existent) but I can’t deny it lends the speaker a look that gives it enough visual substance to be hung prominently on a living room wall, while maintaining a low enough profile to blend seamlessly with most modern decor. Performance-wise, the speaker remains the same: a wireless speaker with an emphasis on ease-of-use and a commendable sound (along with a $2,700 price tag).

Products like this always put me in a quandary of sorts, if my tentative enthusiasm wasn’t already made apparent. Although I identify with the old guard and the mentality that technical achievement should always be the end goal with appearance as an afterthought, I can’t deny the prevalence of the modern approach. Sleek and low-profile have become the expectation as home theater systems claw their way out of basements and secondary rooms (and the misappropriation of the term “man cave”) into more prominent areas of the home. And while television sets have been able to adopt more pleasing, space-saving form without sacrificing quality, the speaker has lagged behind (due to its analog nature). The skeptic in me doesn’t want to admit to the potential of this kind of approach. This is the same part of me that wants to run around screaming at everyone to stop listening to 192kbps MP3s on their stock headphones; to plead with people to drag out their record players and not to mount tiny, 1-inch tweeters on their walls and consider that sufficient; to stop playing their EDM on tinny speaker docks.  But luckily, rationale takes over. I realize that I can’t hold everyone to some personal idyllic standard, some idiosyncratic Magna Carta of audiophile conceits.

I absolutely understand that every consumer is going to have different needs. It’s fortunate that companies like B&O do as well, because designs like these are going to allow superior sound into those abovementioned prominent family rooms with minimal adjustments to sound quality.  I fully expected to walk into this demonstration to scoff at the new color variants of their grill covers, but when a company is legitimately passionate about innovating their products at a fundamental level, I realize even the audiophile can benefit. Even if I won’t be lining up on day one to coat my walls in Nordic Sky A9 speakers, I certainly know I’ll be recommending them. Because if it means I can walk into one less summer house party where Daft Punk’s impeccably produced “Get Lucky” is struggling its way out of a miniature iPod dock, then I fully support it.

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