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CES 2016: B&O Targets Wireless Multiroom, Adds Google Cast

Luxury A/V brand Bang & Olufsen stepped up its activities in wireless multiroom audio with the launch of a soundbar-like speaker and the addition of Google Cast to all of its wireless multiroom products via a planned firmware update.

The company also announced January availability of its most expensive active speaker pair to date, the $77,990/pair BeoLab 90. It’s the company’s first active speaker to let users switch from narrow to wide dispersion depending on whether one person or multiple people are in the room.

“We’ve made the decision to play an important role in multiroom,” said Marie Schmidt, B&O’s VP of brand and product design.

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In wireless multiroom, the new $2,785 BeoSound 35 speaker features a pentagonal side profile and table- and wall-mount options. It taps into Bang & Olufsen’s wireless-multiroom BeoLink network to stream music from phones, computers and the cloud. It can also be used as a TV soundbar via multiple inputs, but the primary use case is placement on tables, countertops and high on walls for music playback, said Schmidt.

It ships in April.

Also in wireless multiroom, the Danish company announced plans to add Google Cast to its current B&O Play-brand wireless-multiroom speakers as a firmware update by the end of the quarter. The $2,699 A9 disc-shaped floorstanding speaker and $999 wall-mountable A6 already tap into Bang & Olufsen’s BeoLink network, and they also feature AirPlay and Bluetooth.

Future B&O Play networked speakers will also get Google Cast, which allows the speakers to access any Cast-enabled streaming service such as Spotify and TuneIn direct from the cloud with control from a user’s Cast-enabled smartphone app. Later on, B&O Play will add Google Cast’s planned multiroom capability when available from Google.

Bang & Olufsen products that tap into the BeoLink multiroom network include the $995 BeoSound Essence streamer, which connects to any of the company’s active speakers, and the $3,295 Moment multiroom music system, which connects via wires or wirelessly to the company’s active speakers.

To celebrate its 90th anniversary, the company plans limited availability late this month of its $77,990/pair BeoLab active speakers, which use DSP and 18 drivers firing in multiple directions in a multi-sided cabinet. The speakers let users choose dispersion patterns, with the narrow-beam mode creating a 90-degree dispersion pattern that minimizes wall-bounce reflections, optimizes sound for a single seating location, and provides the most depth. A wide-beam mode delivers a 180-degree pattern that delivers less depth to everyone throughout a room but delivers a similar tambour to every listener.

A firmware update coming mid-year will add  “beam-direction control” to steer the sweet spot to a listening position of choice.