There’s plenty of tech in Bang & Olufsen’s new BeoVision Avant we can talk about: the Ultra High Definition (UHD) LED panel that supports 4K resolution (3840 x 2160; the first from B&O) with anti-reflection coating, five UHD-compatible HDMI ports, smart TV interface, and so on. But to do so would be missing the point of this nearly $8,000 ($7,995 to be exact) 55-inch TV, as there are plenty of high-end television sets out there that are loaded with features, and cost way less. The Avant is all about premium aesthetics, and how it fits into your household without dominating it. It’s a simple yet elegant piece of furniture that blends in with the rest of the home (bonus points if you collect Danish mid-century modern pieces). With the Avant, you aren’t just buying a television set, but an experience and a piece of art.
That, at least, is the impression we got from B&O at the Avant’s official unveiling in New York City, displayed alongside beautiful furniture from Danish design greats like Arne Jacobsen. That Scandinavian design sensibility can be felt in the Avant, where the tech specs come second.
“Specs don’t set the agenda, life does – but there’s tech in there,” said Kathy Thornton-Bias, president of North America for B&O. She spoke about the TV as a blend of enduring iconic design and beautiful iconic sound: a motorized stand not only harks back to B&O TVs of the past, but serves a deliberate function of being where you want it while getting out of the way when you don’t (B&O calls it “moving with purpose”). Sound quality – what B&O is best known for – plays just as big of a role as its visual counterpart.
The home has changed, with rooms – kitchen, living room, etc. – becoming a multifunction single room, Thornton-Bias said. That means the TV literally moves out of the way (or as much as it can), but becomes front and center when turned on. Press a button on the remote, and the picture reveals itself from the center and moving outward, like the curtains of a cinema. Three customizable buttons (MyButtons) on the remote control let you preset the orientation of the TV. For example, the display could be angled for appropriate viewing in the living room, but push another preset button, and the screen repositions itself to face the dining room in order to pump soothing music for a dinner party.
How it moves depends on three optional motorized stands. The floor stand allows the TV to be angled 90 degrees, but moves out of the way and against a wall when not in used. As the stand positions the TV into position, the speakers descend to reveal themselves. The table stand moves the TV upward to reveal the unfolding speakers, while a wall bracket can angle the TV away from the wall, up to 60 degrees. (If you don’t care for your TV moving around, a fixed wall bracket is available.) B&O refers to this as Domesticity, that the product should fit into the space of the room.
“Specs don’t set the agenda, life does – but there’s tech in there.”
As much as we would like to wax poetic about the TV, at the end of the day it is a TV. Picture quality is crisp with good viewing angles and color reproduction. The LED panel is sourced from Samsung, but a B&O rep told us that the particular panel is so costly that Samsung does not use it in any of its sets – not so much a problem for a B&O offering. A sensor on the top-right of the TV measures the lighting condition of the room – both in front and behind the screen – and adjusts the contrast and color to suit. B&O also built in digital noise reduction, motion compensation, and preset modes for various viewing scenarios.
Sound is equally important – perhaps more so – for B&O, and they made a point to demonstrate the Avant’s audio prowess. B&O uses a 3-channel system (2-channel in previous models) with eight drivers and eight amplilfiers. B&O uses Coscone driver technology here, which was developed for automotive use. There’s something joyful about seeing the speakers revealing themselves and moving into position when you turn on the set, signifying, “let’s roll.” It reminds us of the old B&O CD players where the glass panels moved aside to let you insert a CD. The TVs were set up in a large loft space, with no walls to reflect and reinforce any of the sound. Yet, the room-filling sound from the music played was crisp, clear, and loud, with nice bass. If you want to add true surround sound, the TV has a 7.1 module built in. Audio tends to be an afterthought with budget models, but that isn’t the case here – for $8K, it better not be. Because the TV can affect how bass sounds when it’s against the wall, there’s a sound equalizer that automatically adjusts the bass to compensate.
Design wise, the Avant is as simple as it gets (credit that Danish design ethos), but B&O says it has tried to make the TV as future-proof as possible, through the use of firmware updates. Like many new TVs, as apps and other features become available, they could be added to the B&O Smart TV app in future updates. Currently B&O only offers it in a 55-inch model, but other sizes could come sometime in the near future.
When you see so many TVs trying to out-gun each other on specs, it gets a bit tedious. We knew going into a B&O event that we were going to walk away not impressed by the guts, but by the feeling you get. The Avant isn’t just a TV, but a conversation piece. And yes, seeing this TV will make you wish you had $8K to fit one into your living room.
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