You wish… Bang & Olufsen’s BeoSound 5

The BeoSound 5 system is targeted at ‘hardcore’ B&O’ fans, bachelor execs looking to impress their mates or female visitors to their docklands pad and particularly older music fans – that’s music fans who have seen the years grace them with maturity and wisdom, not necessarily fans of the harpsichord or Neanderthal flutes – who are tentatively making their first move towards digital music.

Their reluctance to do so is well advised because, 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. So the iPod might have put them off for a few years, but there’s no doubting the convenience and accessibility of digitising music and sticking it all on a central media hub.

This is what Danish maestros Bang & Olufsen have achieved with the BeoSound 5, but they’re aiming to do so without losing the tactile pleasures associated with handling a beloved music collection. So 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.

Designed to be operated with one hand – you’ll have your glass of Chateau Lafite in your other hand, naturally – the unit also gives a respectful nod to one of the most popular and enduring products in the company’s classy lineup, the six-CD changing BeoSound 9000 that proudly displays the CD labels on its cuff as the nifty changer whizzes up and down doing its stuff.

Like that product, the BeoSound 5 shows off the music stored on the hard drive, but this time displaying the CD covers digitally, as an arc of small thumbnail images that, with a flick of the wrist, magnify to take up virtually the entire 1024 x 768 LCD. Again, the intention here is that you feel like you’re actually handling your recordings.

The 25 cm LCD is the centerpiece of the unit, taking up the only real estate that exists once the B&O installers have visited your house to hide the speaker wires and connecting cables away, as well as mount the BeoSound 5 on the wall or optional stand. Or, more accurately, install the BeoSound 5 coupled with the BeoMaster 5 media unit.

Paired up, the duo allow proud new owners 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, linked to the outside world by an Ethernet cable. 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.

But the really clever part of the BeoSound + BeoMaster equation is MOTS, or ‘More of the Same’. This charmingly prosaic acronym efficiently describes the automation of a familiar and quite desirable function; namely, to recognise what music you’ve chosen to play on the system, and then to trundle off to the rest of your collection, rifle through it and create a playlist of tracks that complement your choice.

In practice, this process is lightning fast, thanks to a proprietary and award-winning algorithm developed by B&O engineering geniuses to the point of being instantaneous. Much more sophisticated than Apple’s ‘Genius’ offering, which makes its decisions based on categories, such as genre or artist, MOTS looks deeper, analysing tone, dynamics and rhythm.

So stump up $8,995, pair the BeoSound 5 with the powered speakers of your choice, and you can start enjoying all the benefits of having your music delivered digitally without the usual compromises.


Read our full review of the Bang & Olufsen BeoSound 5.