Bang & Olufsen have officially announced the BeoSound 5 in Pakistan, a digital music system intended to bridge the gap between the company’s high-end hifi systems and music stored digitally. Priced at Rs. 500,000, the system is aimed at two segments – the high flying bachelor (rettes) looking to impress their friends (esp. at parties) and particularly mature music fans – who are tentatively making their first move towards digital music (which also explains the lack of compatibility with lossless formats such as monkey audio and FLAC).
Designed by Anders Hermansen, the main interface to the system is the BeoSound 5 controller, a 2.65kg table-top or wall-mounted remote dominated by a 10.4-inch 1024 x 768 LCD and an aluminum scroll wheel. The BeoSound 5 exhibits trademark B&O industrial design ethics – the sleek, minimalist lines, and use of aluminium in a reassuringly solid construction that oozes class – and is controlled at the colour display panel by a trio of metal rings that respond to the lightest touch. A Graphical User Interface provides the user the ability to navigate their entire music collection smoothly and quickly whilst displaying crisp graphics and album covers. An Aluminum and black wall bracket is included with the Beosound 5 and as an option you can have an extended wall bracket, a table stand in black and a floor stand in aluminum.
Providing the power to this setup is the BeoMaster 5, a 500GB music server with internet connections. This allows the user to transfer uncompressed or ‘lossless’ binary versions of their favourite sounds onto the 500GB hard drive housed inside the BeoMaster 5, which can be secreted away in your media room or linked to the outside world by an Ethernet cable (though why not just make it WIFI compatible is something that’s really made me wonder).
That 500GB capacity means you’ll get around 80,000 songs (or digital photos), all without that trade-off between the accessibility of having music stored digitally and the accompanying audio quality. It plays internet radio, too.
In most cases, that move to digital music comes with a huge drop-off in quality sound reproduction, given the highly compressed nature of most digital music tracks. What Bang & Olufsen have achieved with the BeoSound 5 is the perfect balance. In action, the B&O always sounds good and occasionally great, although as with all such devices, sound quality depends on the file types in which you choose to store your music.
My system was linked into a pair of BeoLab 9 speakers, where WAV and Lossless files naturally worked best: here, the sound is at once assured and impressively ‘hi-fi’, and has little truck with the high-frequency hardness that can plague many digital music systems.
Even more impressive is the fact that B&O have also done this without losing the tactile pleasures associated with handling a beloved music collection. The entire experience of handling and selecting the tracks is reminiscent of going through a record collection, searching for the perfect song to complement your mood.
Transferring the music via connection to the PC was problematic initially, but we finally resolved this by connecting a USB Flash Drive to the Beomaster and copying the music onto the HD directly.
The supported formats by the system include WMA, WMA Lossless, MP3, WAV, ASF and AAC, together with internet radio streams in WMA, MP3, ASX and M3U. It will also display video in MPEG, MPE, MPG, AVI, WMV and VFW formats. 500GB is enough room for over 28,000 songs stored losslessly.
When the music comes to an end, BeoSound 5 will continue to play ‘More Of The Same’ (MOTS) – that is, it will find other music on your system that complements what you’ve already been listening too. MOTS analyzes tracks by rhythm, syncopation, key tonality and vocal harmonies, and creates automatic playlists that evolve as you choose music and add to the list. It’s impossible to tell without experiencing the system how well this works, but B&O apparently have at least two patents pending.
To sum up a system like this is not easy. However if you can afford it, we do envy you.