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.
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.