AV Peripherals and Systems Guide
The Bang & Olufsen A9 Speakers
Looks that Kill?
Approximately two years ago, Bang & Olufsen decided to add a dash of spice to their product range by introducing the B&O Play line-up. Products included under the umbrella of this moniker aim to incorporate elements of modern design and aesthetics into their design and manufacture, trying to expand the appeal of the Bang & Olufsen to a wider audience.
The first B&O Play product was the BeoPlay A8 docking station for iPhone and iPod devices. This was followed up by the BeoLit 12 portable speakers and the BeoPlay A3 docking speaker accessory for the Apple iPad. Now they have added the BeoPlay A9 to the range as well and it is a premium, high end speaker intended to provide audio for large spaces indoors.
At first glance, the BeoPlay A9 looks like a large hand drum or satellite dish. From front on, the speakers look extremely flat and two dimensional, but a closer inspection reveals that the device is actually concave and similar in shape to glass lenses. The design is supposed to help the A9 project sound better. You can either choose to wall-mount the speakers or have them stand on three wooden legs arranged in a pyramid configuration. The wooden legs are available in oak, beech, and teak.
The BeoPlay A9 packs two 0.75-inch tweeters and two 3-inch mid-range drivers. Each unit is powered by separate 80W Class-D amplifiers. In addition, the speakers have an 8-inch woofer to help out with the lower end of the sound spectrum, which has its own dedicated 160W Class-D amplifier as well. With an overall power output of 480W, the new A9 speakers should have enough juice to supply ample sound for any moderate living space.
Connectivity wise, the BeoPlay A9 is equipped with a 3.5mm jack and USB slot, both of which allow for wired playback. The provision of an Ethernet port also enables the A9 to be hooked up to your home network. Wireless playback is supported by the device's AirPlay and DLNA features. Bang & Olufsen were keen to state that setting up the speakers is as simple downloading an application and pressing a single button.
We got a chance to test out the new BeoPlay A9 speakers at the Bang & Olufsen event, and started proceedings with Josh Groban’s You Raise Me Up. The vocals and soaring string parts helped provide a quick and accurate gauge of the treble and midrange performance of any speaker. The A9 gave a good showing of itself. Bright highs with good impact were heard and impressed thoroughly. Additionally, the melody was rendered beautifully with the singer’s voice taking center stage. At the same time the overall mix sounded balanced and natural.
However, bass lacked impact and oomph, which might be in part due to the extremely large space we conducted our listening tests in. But to combat this, the BeoPlay A9 is fitted with a hard switch which can help change the bass profile to make use of sound reflecting off walls behind the speaker. This helped increase the impact of the lower frequencies as we ran through a few club and house tracks.
Bang & Olufsen is known for the special focus they pay to design details. Besides the innovative aesthetics of the BeoPlay A9, the speaker is also fitted with a new volume control. Utilizing touch sensors, running your hand across the top of the speakers will raise or lower volume. Holding it in place for two seconds will mute the sound. A series of raised bumps allow for tactile feedback, letting the user know that the hand is in the right place to actuate the volume control.
The BeoPlay A9 from Bang & Olufsen will be available in silver, white, black, red, green and brown, and it will come with a price-tag of S$3,500. While availability has not yet been confirmed, you can expect the speakers to hit shelves late November or early December before the Christmas period in 2012.