BandO is better known for style than substance these days, but this new BeoLab 5 flagship model should change that. It's simply the most radical loudspeaker ever made - very costly at £10,000 per pair, but stuffed with more than enough innovation to compensate.
The conical shape owes something to the Dalek school of industrial design, yet form closely follows function here, enbling an enormous 380mm bass driver to be mounted in the base, pointing downwards. All four drivers have their own builtin high-power amps - 1,000W each for the bass drivers, plus 250W each for mid and top.
Usually, you can rely on the sound from speakers being dramatically modified by the room they're used in. What distinguishes the BeoLab 5 from every other speaker on the planet, however, is that it's designed to give the same results wherever it's placed, in whatever room it's being used.
The Beolab's go-anywhere ability is down to two unique features. One uses carefully shaped elliptical acoustic lenses to direct the sound of mid and high frequencies forward towards the listening area. The elaborately shaped top section means the speaker effectively creates its own 'rear wall'.
The other is the bass end, powerful built-in amplification and the DSP (digital signal processing) used to counter the effects of room gain. Using a microphone on a motor-driven rod, the system is able to set itself up automatically, pinging a test signal around the room and measuring the results with the on-board mic.
In use, the immediate impression is of exceptionally precise and detailed stereo imaging, superbly even-handed overall neutrality and very low coloration throughout. The lens system is extremely effective, and the speakers themselves seem to disappear - acoustically speaking.
The bass is about as good as it gets, imparting magnificent weight and power whenever required, while avoiding any unwanted thump, thickening or boxiness. A further bonus is that it goes very, very loud indeed, and does so without changing character or getting aggressive.
This is a remarkable and genuinely revolutionary loudspeaker, which will do much to enhance BandO's hi-fi credibility. A pair will fill even the biggest room with seriously loud sound, and powerful, even bass. It's expensive, but it's very, very good.