Bang & Olufsen headquarters: farm-office, honeycomb-sounds and electrochemistry

Bang & Olufsen headquarters: farm-office, honeycomb-sounds and electrochemistry

Report from Bang & Olufsen headquarters: farm-office, honeycomb-sounds and electrochemistry.

From the very beginning of the company's existence, Bang & Olufsen's head office has been located in the Danish commune of Struer, near the city of the same name. There is also a Bang & Olufsen factory with several buildings. When the first meeting with the company's management took place, I asked the question: "Why not in Copenhagen, why so far from all roads?"

Iza Mikkelsen, product consultant for Bang & Olufsen, told me that there are two reasons. One is historical: according to rumors, Peter Bang, one of the founders of the company, had a romantic relationship with a local girl who did not want to leave her family in other parts of the world. If the mountain does not go to Mohammed ... In general, Bang decided to build a factory near his beloved.

The second reason is also, one might say, historical, because it was revealed to the founders only after a while. It turned out that if the office is located in the middle of nowhere, and the salaries of employees are like in the capital, people settle on the spot, move with their families, arrange life and hold on to their work. As a result, turnover at their enterprise is a rather rare phenomenon, unlike enterprises in Copenhagen or any other large city. Here you will have both savings on the HR department, and really family engineering traditions.

I think you will agree that Bang & Olufsen technology is easy to recognize by design: the company honors the Bauhaus tradition and makes extremely functional designs, not devoid of charm. The succession of generations, I believe, also played an important role in this case.

It is customary to make articles in the correct chronological order, but this time everything will be the other way around. I'll start with two of the new products unveiled at the special press event this summer, and then I'll talk a little about the Bang & Olufsen factory and office. The second part will be a photo gallery from the company's museum.

BeoLab 50: tweeter in the lens

Perhaps you are already familiar from exhibitions or personally with the top flagship system BeoLab 90. This is such a rather large , original form of acoustics with 18 drivers in each and a smart auto-tuning system. These speakers are good for everyone, but their price is cosmic - 77,000 euros. And the company, as befits a manufacturer of acoustics, decided to release about the same, but only at a cheaper price. Conditionally cheaper - about 30,000 euros per pair (in Europe), but no less beautiful, powerful and functional. This is how BeoLab 50 was born.

Designer André Poulheim showed the path from sketch to final prototype. It is quite interesting to see how from the round column with grill rings, through the rho-type and traditional on the corner post, the engineers came to the rounded shapes of the 50th.

Seeing all this variety of prototypes, I wondered, but what about computer modeling and the rest of the delights of modern technology? Polheim explained that each prototype is initially developed on a computer, and already takes into account some of the acoustic features of the case. However, no beautiful three-dimensional picture gives an idea of ​​how it will turn out in reality, so even crookedly glued small figures turn out to be more informative for the designer.

Despite the abundance of aluminum in the finish, the main body of the acoustics is plastic. It is a heavy and acoustically inert polymer around which the column is built.

The acoustics turned out to be quite powerful - the company declares 2100 W of amplification for each. There is a deceit here: they got such a figure by calculating the maximum impulse of the built-in ICEpower amplifiers - they are capable of sending 300 watts to each driver at a peak. And since there are 7 drivers (1 tweeter, 3 midrange, 3 bass woofers), that's a beautiful figure.

I did not have the opportunity to listen to the speakers in a good environment, so I will not write about the sound quality here, but I will note their volume. At the presentation, the speakers were turned on in a large room, and this was not a problem for them.

Interestingly, the upper block with a tweeter comes out after turning on the speaker. And then you can choose an option from two positions: narrow or wide sound field. At the end of this video (1.15), you can clearly see how the acoustic lens of the tweeter is raised and adjusted.

BeoLab 50, like the 90s, is equipped with adaptive room adaptation. The developers strongly recommend using it, and I understand their requirements: the bass drivers look in three different directions, and if you do not know how the sound comes to the listening point, it is easy to deprive the sound of the low-frequency component in antiphase.

BeoSound Shape: Honeycomb Sounds

The next novelty is an entirely original creation: the “hexagonal wall-mounted modular sound system BeoSound Shape”. That's so long. Hexagonal - because each module is shaped like a hexagon. Wall-mounted - because the modules are mounted on the wall, and they are thin - 11.1 cm. Modular, because the hexagons are different: a column, an amplifier for 4 systems, a control unit and a plug (there is nothing inside, purely for appearance). Finally, the system - because the blocks are not independent, they only work in conjunction. The cost of such a basic bundle starts at 4,400 euros.

And again, we were told the whole story of the creation of this product. But this time it all started not with a design, but with a useful idea - to make an acoustics that plays sound with high quality, being in close proximity to the wall - flat wall installation acoustics. The photo above shows the prototype. As you can see, the hexagonal shape was out of the question at that time.

The engineers called the main innovation a sound processing system that allows you to combat acoustic short circuits due to the speaker's proximity to the wall, as well as to take into account reflections from the floor and ceiling. In other words, like BeoLab 50, it uses adaptive sound correction technology.

Shape is a standalone product. This is not only a speaker with an amplifier, but also a source immediately. The control unit can connect to a local storage device within the DLNA protocol with support for files up to 192 kHz / 24 bit, in addition, it works seamlessly with Internet services, including Spotify. And, as expected, there are all means of communication: Bluetooth, AirPlay, Chromecast. In general, all the user needs is to hang it on the wall.

The company is counting on the increased interest of designers. Still would! Fold hexagons into different shapes, grill finishes - about ten options, and you can combine them as you like.

On a test listening, the system played quite well - looking at the internals and knowing the "volumes" of computer processing, I expected the worst. But what I didn’t understand was their advertising urge. We were in a room hung with posters with these acoustics, and everywhere it was behind sofas or armchairs, as in the picture below.

And I asked a question that perplexed many: "Acoustics are usually put in front of the listener, but you have it behind on most of the posters, why is that?" I will pay tribute to Jacob Direbi, who explained that they did the calculations, of course, for the frontal operation of the system (if desired, it can be divided into sections, as it were, and achieve sound like 5.1), but really, the main positioning is the acoustics of the background sound.

Jacob noted that for the frontal system, Shape's design would seem too unexpected. Whereas in office rooms, reception rooms and living rooms, this option is quite appropriate. On my own I note that I was interested in the idea of ​​hanging these systems on the ceiling - there is such a photo in the advertising brochure.

Electrochemistry at Factory 5

As befits a large company, Bang & Olufsen has several factories, including its own facilities in China and the Czech Republic. Actually, it is the Czech Republic these days that accounts for most of the assembly: since 2005, a large factory has grown from a small factory there, where today more than 600 people work. However, some things are still being done in Denmark. And this is not a division of the "elite" and "democratic" type, but purely technological. The main manufacturing facility in Struer is aluminum processing, including polishing and anodizing.

The factory “Factory 5”, built in 1992, deals with aluminum. The number in the name means that this is already the fifth factory in the entire factory. Danes are proud of their production and claim to be the best in Europe. In support of their words, they say that Factory 5 does not only fulfill orders from Bang & Olufsen: for example, car manufacturers here process parts that later find their place in the showrooms of premium brands.

Personally, I was surprised that the entire production is perfectly clean, there are no smells of any chemistry anywhere, although here they are - open vats, where parts are dropped and the anodizing process is started. As we were explained, at Factory 5, anodizing consists of six processes: degreasing (cleaning of dirt and oil), etching (until a matte surface is obtained), removal of etching sludge, the beginning of anodizing - oxidation until a porous oxide film appears, painting (at this stage and the desired color appears), compaction (closure of the anodized pores).

All this takes place in 15 tanks, between which there are three cranes. And everything has been done, I would say, in a European compact manner. It seems that the factory is small, although this is not so - a large volume of products is produced per day.

Pay attention to the photo above. Here, in addition to the usual tones, there is white. White anodized - Bang & Olufsen know-how. Ib Kongstad, the chief aluminum anodizing specialist, explained that they have a patent for the technology, and even Apple can't do anything like that. Perhaps we will soon see such coverage in some of the company's products.

Aluminum is not just a fetish for Bang & Olufsen, but an important element in all of their products. The representatives directly say that they have used and will use aluminum in the design, because they believe that this metal is not only beautiful (especially after anodizing), but also practical, and also has good properties for sound.


The adjacent building from the factory is the newly built Farm office. Check out the photo below to understand the beauty of being in the wilderness of the countryside. The company can safely build a huge building, a third of which is occupied directly by office space, in which employees work, and most of it performs purely representative functions - a huge hall for events, many meeting rooms, a walk of fame ...

There is, of course, nothing to talk about here, but our readers may be interested in the anatomical photos of the BeoLab 90 system, the "exhibition" of which was held in the main hall of the Farm.

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