The role of Bang & Olufsen in the automated home
For more than 90 years, one Danish company has been pioneering a number of AV initiatives that have since gone mainstream. Paul Skelton reports.
There would be very few members of the AV industry who don’t know the name Bang & Olufsen (B&O). The Danish company was founded in 1925 and is probably best known today for its striking, if not polarising, industrial product design.
What some readers may not be aware of is B&O’s integration-friendly product range and its storied history in the CI channel. (I, for one, had no idea the company played in this space before I saw them exhibiting at a CEDIA Expo in the US a couple of years ago.)
It turns out B&O first flirted with the custom channel way back in 1981, when it started to play with the concept of multi-room control from music, lighting and TV.
Audio integrators may have also experienced B&O’s technological discoveries through its ICEpower Class D amplification, which has been incorporated by brands including AMX, Bowers & Wilkins, Fender, Samsung, Sonance, Clare Controls, PS Audio, Rotel, Pioneer, Asus, Martin Logan, Aston Martin and Audi.
Today, B&O is the first audio manufacturer to introduce and bring to market WiSA technology. This allows a wireless theatre to be setup and send discrete audio signals at 24-bit/96kHz resolution to each speaker. Being WiSA-certified, B&O can be mixed and matched to other WiSA-certified products in the market place.
The BeoVision Avant and BeoVision 11 series TVs can also run up to 21 channels of audio, eight of which can be WiSA-enabled. As a standalone unit, the BeoVision Avant has powerful active LCR loudspeakers comprising of eight drivers, including a 6.5” subwoofer, each powered by its own 60W amplifier. The Avant can also act as a complete audio zone when integrated as part of a multi-room system.
“One major challenge in the Australian market is the complete lack of margin in television panels as well as a diminishing level of control with regards to integrating them. This puts a lot of integrators off supplying them as they have to ultimately be responsible for their maintenance – with low or non-existent margins this eats into a project’s profitability very quickly,” a spokesperson for the company says.
“All this technology is fantastic in its own right but the key to the products success is its ability to be integrated into a much larger ecosystem. Crestron performed a full analysis on the Avant in its DM4K test lab and pronounced it to be fully compatible with its DigitalMedia system. Drivers are available for Crestron, Savant and Control4 systems with RTI working on them too.”
When it comes to TV, B&O’s focus isn’t just on the audio capabilities. The company uses a combination of technologies for image optimisation that include a constant 360º analysis of the room’s ambient light levels and also the colour tones of that light. Anti-reflective coating on the screen and adaptive contrast ensures the darks are as dark as they can get while maintaining the correct detail and colours in the rest of the image.
With models featuring six HDMI inputs and IR outputs allowing control of up to six external devices and four open collectors for use with ‘Cinema’ mode as well as multi-zone capability, B&O “recognises the needs of integrators”.
“Pairing this with the controllability we discussed earlier and a good margin for the integrator, it is an exciting time for us and the industry.
“In a nutshell, our line up combines cutting edge technology like WiSA, digital active loudspeakers and world class TVs that are aesthetically unrivalled, B&O brings an opportunity for integrators to really differentiate themselves from their competition in the industry.”
To enable full control of its product set, in 2014 B&O released the BeoLink Gateway, which connects everything B&O offers in one simple system.
For custom installers, this means the complex programming required to integrate dozens of disparate systems has been radically simplified. With the BeoLink Gateway, B&O’s Real-Time Configuration Tool is pre-installed with hundreds of drivers and is based on a simple graphic interface to effectively take the coding out of home automation programming. What used to take days now takes hours – and is far easier than any other system to set up, modify and update.
“BeoLink is a concept developed by B&O that covers the method used for linking B&O products together in one system, controlled by one remote control. Today, it includes three different technologies: the analogue Master Link system, the digital Network Link system and Power Link used with speakers.
“No matter which link system is used, we can offer a converter that ensures it works as one system.
“Fundamentally, this allows the integration of older B&O products into a much newer system ensuring their long term relevance. The BeoLink system allows the user to pull any source from any music system or TV in any room of their house and push it to any of the systems on the BeoLink network, allowing unprecedented flexibility and ease of use.”
Now, the company is looking for a select number of leading CI integrators and specialist retailers to become B&O dealers.
“Good integrators constantly push the boundaries. B&O is synonymous with these types of clients but to realise B&O’s full potential, we recognise the benefits of partnering with these leading integrators.
“In addition to the local technical and product support and training we have here in Australia and New Zealand, our dealers will be given a wealth of resources including online training modules, online technical assistance, third party integration information linking to leading partners such as Crestron, Savant and Atlona via dedicated B&O integration web based resources.
“B&O is an aspirational product that is revered by high net worth clients worldwide but a product is only as good as the company specifying, selling and installing it. This is a major factor when considering which integrators and retailers we should partner with – customer focus, attention to detail and project management are key attributes which build the whole B&O experience so all of our partners will be given full training on the products, the philosophy of the brand, what a B&O client’s expectations are and how to meet or exceed them.”