The Emporer's New Bang & Olufsen
Ok, so the self proclaimed flagship of audio equipment world wide is Bang and Olufsen who have a branch just off the Bank Plain bit of London Street so a few weeks ago I spent a good hour in the showroom sampling just how inspiring music can be through the right technology. Starting with Oasis, What's the Story in their PC speakers. Now that sounded pretty good - crisp, deep and you'd get change for £300 - considering Blah listens to music out of the laptop a lot it seemed like a worthwhile investment, but what the wee 2.1 set proved in fidelity, it lacked in tonal colour so I found myself whisked onto a pair of bookshelf speakers and Elbow, Starlings
At £1500 for the pair their base line speakers were already far beyond how much I wanted to spend but they did sound nice. Tidy size, stylish design, internally amped (which means music can go straight in rather than through an amp), but again, they lacked a certain body to the music.
Listening to music recreationally should always be an immersive experience. You should feel surrounded by the sound, it should be effortless to pick out the parts you want to hear and most importantly it should be so captivating as to wipe out any distraction. These speakers were none of these.
So onto the £3,000 stereo floor standing units and, yeah, they added much needed body, but there was no... soul to the music. I could hear it, but I didn't believe what I was hearing. Even for Massive Attack, Teardrop
Which my current system pumps out quite convincingly...
At his wits end, I suspect, Mr Salesman showed me Beolab 5. I've never considered listening to speakers that sound like a robot from a Gerry Anderson show but the idea now struck me as a tempting one. First impressions 'n' that. And Voila. Never have I heard Robert Glasper sound so stunning.
And I mean stunning in the most literal sense of the term. At last, music receited better than it was played. Audio lense technology or something... the sort of speaker that takes a sonargram of the room and audio sampling to guage how best to express itself. Worth £6,000 each? Definately.
Coming home to my current set up, which consists of a cheap £60 amp, and a pair of hand-me-down floorstanding speakers I inherited from someone who was done with them in the '90s - in which the woofs are held in with superglue - all of the above music sounds just as good, if not better than the middle of the road B&O line. Although not quite better than the £12,000 pair (by the way, Mr Salesman said he'd knock of fifty quid if I paid there and then in cash. Result) but with enough fiddling, despite the music sounding different, the desired outcome is still acheived. Trance like enchantment.
And so, home alone, with the neighbours still at work, I'll let Delirium take me on a great musical distraction and feel smug that sometimes the cheap man comes up lucky.