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Bang & Olufsen Launches WiSA-Certified Speakers

11/03/2013 07:00:00 PM Eastern

NEW YORK – Bang & Olufsen revealed prices and details of the audio industry’s first three wireless speakers certified by the WiSA (Wireless Speaker and Audio) Association.

Additional companies are expected to launch their first WiSA-certified products at January’s International CES. WiSA technology is promoted as delivering interference- free, wired-quality wireless audio in the 5.2- 5.8GHz U-NII band to stereo and home-theater speakers within a room up to 29.5 feet by 29.5 feet.

B&O’s three active WiSA-certified speakers are the compact two-way aluminum BeoLab 17 at $3,990/pair, the 12-sided BeoLab 19 subwoofer at $3,395, and the $6,590/pair BeoLab 18. The latter speaker features narrow, cylindrical extruded-aluminum enclosure with a high-heel-shaped pedestal that appears to balance the speaker on a flat, square base. It can also be wall-mounted.

The BeoLab 18 updates the iconic design of the BeoLab 8000 speaker, a tall and narrow floorstanding speaker introduced in 1992 with pencil-point pedestal resting on a flat base.

Besides the new-style base, the BeoLab 18 also adds a top-mounted acoustic lens tweeter, which delivers 180-degree high-frequency sound to widen the stereo sweet spot, and a front grille consisting of narrow horizontal slats arrayed in a way that maintains the speaker’s cylindrical shape. The composite-material slats are available in black or white, and an optional natural-color solid-oak oak grille is available at an extra $1,350/pair.

The BeoLab 18 twists on its base to direct sound to listeners.

The BeoLab 18 and 19 will arrive in B&O-brand stores in mid to late November in the U.S. The BeoLab 17 began arriving in stores during the last week of October, said B&O America president Zean Nielsen.

Since Oct. 5, the company has been shipping its three BeoVision 11 TVs with an embedded WiSA wireless transmitter to send surround sound directly from the TVs to up seven WiSA-certified speakers and a subwoofer.

All new B&O TVs introduced in the future will incorporate a WiSA transmitter, Nielsen told TWICE.

To connect WiSA speakers to older BeoVision 11 TVs, to other B&O TVs, and to home-theater audio components, the company offers an outboard $525 BeoLab 1 WiSA-certified wireless transmitter, already available.

The B&O products bear the WiSA logo but are promoted under B&O’s Immaculate Wireless Sound name and herringbone-like logo.

Besides delivering up to 7.1 channels of 24-bit/96kHz uncompressed audio, WiSA technology is also promoted as eliminating cable clutter, enabling more flexible placement of speakers by eliminating speaker-cable runs, and overcoming the sound quality, interference, latency and cost challenges associated with other wireless technologies designed for multichannel home theaters.

B&O’s implementation delivers 24-bit, 48kHz audio over wireless because it is less prone to interference with the lower throughputs, B&O said. The sound quality is nonetheless better than CD, the company noted.

To promote the products, the company will launch an advertising and direct-mail campaign soon after January’s CES, Nielsen said. The company is currently focusing on public relations and training, he said.

In a separate campaign, the company is teaming up with musicians, filmmakers and other audioindustry opinion leaders as part of a series of Livingroom Tour events that promote the brand as a whole. In the first event, Paul McCartney met with about 100 fans and B&O consumers to talk about music and sound without endorsing B&O products. The event was also live streamed to 200,000 people worldwide, and the 45-minute session, which included Q&A with off-site viewers, was also recorded for later streaming.

Future guests haven’t been announced.

In outlining the new speakers’ benefits, company executives cited the flexible placement options of the compact BeoLab 17 two-way speaker, whose triangular aluminum chassis with curved sides allows for horizontal mounting on a short floor base, vertical mounting on tall floor stands, mounting in wall corners, and mounting at the intersection of a wall and ceiling.

Because the chassis is made almost completely of aluminum but with composite-material end caps, the chassis reflects the color of a room to better blend in with a room’s décor, said CEO Tue Mantoni.

Black and white grille cloths are available to match the choice of black or white end caps. Also available is an optional “broken ice” grille whose design resembles the scrapes left by ice skates on ice.