“We joke around in the company that we’re a ‘goose bump factory,’ Gavin Ivester, vice president of design at Bang & Olufsen said with a laugh, “and that’s really, ultimately what the goal is.”
“By elevating the quality of the sound of your favorite music, we put you in it, we really bring it to life in a way that raises goose bumps.”
Speaking to a select group of journalists ahead of the firm’s 95th anniversary, Ivester provided us with a rare look inside the Bang & Olufsen’s revered design process, a key part of the goose bump plan, and how it created the celebratory new Golden Collection, made to mark the important date in its history.
Ivester has been with the company for three years, having worked at companies including Nike, Apple, and Puma before it, and to help us understand the company’s design and product ethos, he first explained its beginnings.
Bang & Olufsen was founded by Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen back in 1925, in Struer, Denmark, and the company’s offices and acoustic lab still exist in the town today. While you may think the company’s first product was a gramophone or some other period-correct piece of high-end audio equipment, it was actually a distinctly non-B&O sounding product called, ‘The Eliminator.”
The Eliminator was a power supply that adapted the solely battery-operated radios of the time to run on the mains supply in homes. Batteries in radios deteriorated and needed to be changed, but it was a full-on wiring job to do so, and not just a case of putting in a couple of new AA cells. While the product doesn’t initially sound like the Bang & Olufsen of today, the ethos of the brand was there, as what made it different was the care taken to maintain the quality of the sound delivered by the radios, by minimizing interference from the new mains connection.
Fast forward 95 years and Ivester talked about what goes on inside the Struer labs today, and how that concern for sound quality has evolved. For example, the acoustic lab has a special room that contains 70 separate speakers mounted inside a dome. Ivester explained it can duplicate almost any acoustic environment in the world and is a powerful tool used by sound engineers to refining and tuning the performance of its products. There are only four other facilities like it in the world, and Bang & Olufsen’s is the only privately owned one.
Also in Struer is B&O’s Factory 5, which is where the company’s experts work on shaping aluminum, a material synonymous with the brand’s products, in a unique way.
“Sound, design, and craft. Those are [Bang & Olufsen’s] pillars, and we have this product line underneath it,” said Ivester. “How do we connect them? It starts with purpose, it’s that emotional power of music. It’s creating goose bumps with film. The reason we design anything is to create an acoustic experience. It’s what drives everything.”
Principles in action
Ivester talked through some examples of how Bang & Olufsen products embody this ideal of sound, craft, and design, starting with the new Beoplay H95 headphones. He drew our attention to the ear pads:
“The new H95 headphones have an oval earpad, and there’s a very deliberate reason for that,” Ivester pointed out. “If you look back through our headphone history, the ear pads are always round. What we discovered with this product, which is designed to be worn for long periods, was that we could make the headphone more comfortable and more compact by expanding the vertical dimension and compressing the horizontal dimension.”
It sounds like a basic, simple alteration, and one that many may not even notice. However, for Bang & Olufsen it’s a big deal. Ivester explained why:
“The oval earpad on the H95 became controversial internally because we moved away from simple geometry, which we love. But we did it because it achieved the purpose of enhancing the functionality of the product.”
Ivester continued to talk about Bang & Olufsen’s philosophy.
“We are constantly innovating how we make products in order to make different things, and also make simple things more perfectly. Simple forms don’t get old, we don’t get tired of them. They last for a long time and ultimately, timeless design lasts longer and those products have more longevity in our lives.”
A great example of this is the long, thin, and stunningly beautiful Beoremote One, which comes with its televisions.
“The interesting thing about [the Beoremote One] is there are no seams, it is a solid piece of aluminum. It’s rock-solid in your hand, there’s no gaps and no mismatch you can feel. It feels perfect. The balance is right in your hand where you hold it, and that was not easy to achieve. Batteries are heavier and more dense, so we put them in the palm of your hand, giving you control over the mass. That’s not easy to do in a seamless product. The way we did it is, it’s hollow in the bottom half, and then milled out to make the pocket for the batteries. It’s an insane way for anyone to make a remote. It is much harder to make, but the benefits, we believe, are worth it.”
The Golden Collection
Bang & Olufsen is celebrating its 95th anniversary this year, and to do so it has come up with a new line of special edition products called the Golden Collection. Ivester talked about where the inspiration came from:
“We’ve heard stories from families who have had Bang & Olufsen products in their homes for decades. We wanted to create a collection that taps into that. We liked the idea that when you look back, things can be warm and sepia-toned, and we took that as a moment for us to warm up the brand, and that’s where the Golden Collection came from.”
There are eight products in the Golden Collection, which is characterized not just by the gold hue, but also by the use of wood, marble, and leather. The new H95 headphones are featured, along with the Beoplay E8 3rd Generation true
It’s the first time Bang & Olufsen has celebrated an anniversary by customizing existing products in such a comprehensive way, but it has explored special products in the past.
“When we entered the Museum of Modern Art in New York, we did a special collection based around the color white,” Ivester recalled. “We have done special products from time-to-time. The H95 is our own little celebration for ourselves [it’s out this year to coincide with the 95th anniversary], and the Beolab 90 was introduced during our 90th anniversary.”
However, the Golden Collection may be a precursor of what’s to come in 2025, as Ivester hinted towards the end of our conversation:
“The other thing I’ll tell you, we are very aware our 100th anniversary is coming up, and that’s a really fun thing to start thinking about.”
For now, though, the Bang & Olufsen Golden Collection will be available through the company’s own online stores, retail outlets, and third-party retailers from November 17.