In the 1980’s the US was a difficult market Bang & Olufsen where they were a highly regarded but very elitist brand.
At that time they were mostly renowned for their gramophone pick-ups and it wasn’t until the early 90’s that they succeeded to enter the US TV market. Before this however, B&O commissioned us to create a loudspeaker concept that would suit a very specific niche in this market.
In the US walls are made of plaster board and speakers often built in to the wall behind grilles finished to blend in with the wall-finish and interior. Bang & Olufsen’s USA division had requested a speaker suited to interior design projects there. The brief from B&O was “to create an invisible loudspeaker”. It was a difficult project. The market basis was narrow and not well thought through, and the product did not fulfil strategically well-defined goals. Nevertheless, by re-defining the brief, we managed to lift the product from anonymity and to work toward strengthening the brand by designing the opposite of what was requested – a sculptural “objet d’art” with tangible technical advantages.
As in the case of the Beolab Penta project, we began with in-depth acoustic research. In 1984, we presented B&O with a unique wall-mounting speaker-design based on infinite-baffle engineering. This acoustic principle utilises the wall as an extension of the speaker baffle itself, developing an impressive sound reproduction from a small surface and volume, especially in the bass region. Rather than hiding a B&O product behind a grille and saying that it was invisible, the idea was instead to make the speaker as elegant as possible. The speakers would come in matched pairs (left and right), were designed as interior architectural elements in their own right, and detailed like works of art or sculptures on the wall.
Two models were marketed, one large and one small. Both were offered with and without build-in amplifiers and display as the names Beolab and Beovox 3000 and 5000 imply. Beolab 5000 was discontinued after two years, while the smaller model (re-named Beolab 4500) ran for a further five. B&O salespeople dubbed them the “Mondrian” speakers, which demonstrates that they intuitively grasped the idea that these speakers were conceived as a combination of technology and art.
Worldwide there are very few wall-mounting speakers and among these, the Beolab 3000/5000/4500 series created a unique niche, achieved a good degree of brand recognition and became a small but satisfactory sales success, not only in the US which was the original target market, but for B&O globally. Together with Penta, this project established Bang & Olusfen as a leading speaker manufacturer.