View Full Version : BeoLab 5

09-02-2003, 11:17 PM
Anybody here heard the Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 5?

BeoLab 5 Link. (http://www.bang-olufsen.com/bl5/bl5center.html)

Yeah, I know it's not Lansing, but it has some interesting technology, including bonzo powerful digital amps, closed-loop room equalization, and acoustic lenses.

I got turned on to this from an article in TV Technology. One of the writers invented this style lens. The concept is that you want the HFs to have wide, but not tall, dispersion. (That should comfort all of the JBL owners with wide horns and slotted lenses - though as a 2344 guy, I might want to vote for tall dispersion as well :-) Anyway, the BL5 has a unique solution to the problem.

The reviews I've read have all gushed, but I'd love to find out how the grizzled skeptics think they sound. Maybe I'll get to hear them at CES in January. And, no, I'm not in the market.

And, yeah, they look weird. Then again, I'm comfortable with weird looking speakers...

My speakers. (http://www.fairhurst.com/jon/speakers/)

09-02-2003, 11:30 PM
A couple more links...

Sausalito Audio Works (http://www.sawonline.com/index_flash.html) licenses the technology.

And Dave Moulton (http://www.moultonlabs.com/) is the guy who invented the lens.

I don't mean to plug for these guys. I just like unique speaker and amplifier technology.

Mr. Widget
09-02-2003, 11:39 PM
Thanks for the post. It probably should be in the Off Topic area but it is interesting none-the-less.

A non-audio friend asked me about "Some new 2500 watt speaker" from B&O. I figured they were confused. It looks interesting.

09-03-2003, 12:04 AM
To bring this back on topic, I'm curious if people here have experience A/B'ing the various dispersion type of JBL HF solutions. We've got 2344s for tall and wide, many wide solutions, and the narrower bullet solution.

Theoretically, many prefer the narrow-dispersion solutions. They figure that the stereo image was captured by the mics, and that sound should be played with minimum room effects. Carnegie Hall shouldn't sound like your living room.

On the other extreme, we have the wide and tall solution of the 2344A. The idea here is that if the LFs radiate all around, shouldn't the HFs do the same - except let's skip the sound from the rear, otherwise we'll smear the short wavelengths too much. This solution is great for balancing the overall audio power in the room, but the room had better be well designed to make the most of it.

Then there's the middle road - wide only. The majority of JBL's high-end speakers go for this solution, including the current K2s. The argument from the Sausalito guys is that the ears use the horizontal axis to locate things in the room, and that the Horizontal reflections actually help place the image correctly. The vertical reflections, on the other hand, smear the attack and can cause comb filtering effects - and they don't aid in imaging.

My own feeling is that the narrow solution is great for near-fields, but that's it. The power imbalance from direct to indirect over the spectrum really bothers me for large format speakers.

The tall and wides may be best for filling a space. Not every one can sit in the sweet spot at the same time. This may be the best party speaker.

The wide-only solution may be the ticket for targeted listening. It's a compromise between the power balance and the undesireable floor and roof reflections.

I'd love to hear peoples' experiences here, as we can argue about theory all day long. It's the listening experience that really matters.

Are we back on topic yet? :-)

09-03-2003, 06:56 AM
Hello Jon

Nice to see your speakers again! That speakers system does look interesting. The adaptive bass idea seems to be getting more common be it digital or analog in some subs. Curious about the lenses they are using. I am a 2344A user myself and like the idea of not being pinned to the couch. I am gonna try a 4344/4345 top end but I have to mod my cabinets to do it:( Figure I will give it a try to see if I am missing anything. I figure is some ways the top end will be better but part of the problem with my cabinets is height. I can't get the slot at the correct height without going to a horizontal configuration like the 4345. Not enough baffle width to keep the midrange lense centered over the 2122. So I have to redo the cabs with off center mids and I can get the right height. From experience with an L 65 center that slot is too sensitive to vertical height IMHO. One reason why George A staked a pair in the monitors Don has pictures of. Figure he just doubled the angle of vertical coverage. Frees things up a bit.


Jan Daugaard
09-06-2003, 11:08 AM
I read a review of the Beolab 5 in the Danish magazine "High Fidelity" (unrelated to the American magazine by the same name) a couple of months ago, but I haven't heard it -- the Beolab 5 isn't on the Danish market yet, even though it's a Danish product.

I agree that the lenses are the interesting part of the Beolab 5. The rest is best forgotten:

In the first place, it's an active loudspeaker with built-in digital signal processing. The analog input to the Beolab 5 is for that reason first subjected to an A/D PCM conversion at a sampling rate of 48 KHz. Alternatively, PCM signals at sampling rates up to 96 KHz can be fed directly to the loudspeaker. There is no way of avoiding this intermediate PCM step, so the Beolab 5 is of no interest to those of us with SACD players.

In the second place, the 15" woofer is mounted in a 29 liter sealed enclosure. That's right: A 15" woofer in a one cubic foot sealed enclosure. A substantial portion of the many watts must be used to compensate for the inadequate enclosure.

Jan Daugaard
09-08-2003, 12:51 AM
B&O specify a max. continuous SPL of 105 dB for the Beolab 5 with peaks up to 117 dB. If the latter SPL is the output at 2500 watts, then 1 watt yields 83 dB. This serves to prove the enormuous amount of compensation for the inadequate enclosure.

Ian Mackenzie
09-08-2003, 06:18 AM

You have covered the topic from every angle (sorry),

However, I tend to think that the studio and most peoples home listening environment are two very different kettles of fish.
(And the application is vastly different)

Funny you should ask for thoughts and comparisons as that's just what I'm doin the recently. (2122 +2344 vs 2307/08) C/- Rob, Jon & Coner. Cheers boys.


Set up with some care the 2307/08 & slot image remarkable well, there is point source summation and pin sharp focus particularly on brass and instrumental program. The vertical thing is limiting but not a nuisance.

The 2344 also images well but its different, kinda laid back and powdery with a nice holograph, the question is though is that holograph real?

Its hardly conclusive but for me the 2344 may fair better in a treated room in terms of the direct reflected sound ratio, then it would be a winner but who can hardly do this well particularly with the waf factor?

Subjective sound quality

The 2344 sounds open, smooth and the presentation is laid back, but the mids around 2K are odd and lack drive, the tops are smooth with a warm glow although ultimately lack transient definition but its an easy sound to listen.

Also, played loud enough the 2344's will pin you to the couch but by then the room is almost busted and so are the neighbours. So if you like near field like transients and details up front (the traditional JBL sound) look elsewhere.

The 2307/08 and slot (supported by the 2122) on first impression is not as open, but is very tight and snappy , with crisp transient definition extending smoothly to the extremes. An increase in power does not make it louder per say, the power opens the presentation to reveal subtle micro dynamic details and portrays a nature panorama, the layers of the mix blending seamlessly.

But if you play crap, that's how it sounds on the 2307/08 & slot, the 2344 is more forgiving.

These are only my humble impressions, your room, setup and taste may well be different.



09-08-2003, 07:29 AM
Hello Ian

Thanks for you impressions on this. Hope to follow down the same road soon to see which I like better. From another post it looks like the tapped inductors are in stock at JBL. Yippee So I need to source those to have it all the same as the stock crossover. Figure those inductors are key for the slot crossover to get the right slopes. I am thinking Passive on the 2122/2416/077 and just doing the active at 300Hz.


09-08-2003, 12:06 PM
Excellent analysis Ian! Having owned both the louvers and the cheeks, I'd say that you're spot on.

Personally I prefer the cheeks to the louvers, but this is a matter of taste. To be perfect, I'd like more HF extension from the 2344s for more air and sparkle. The 2k thing you mention is there, but I find it very subtle, compared to other horn designs. Not as transparent as the dome mid of the big PMC monitors, but then again the PMC doesn't offer the SPLs of a compression driver. It's always tradeoffs isn't it.

Personally, I found the 2307/8 to be *very* forward and a bit analytical. As Ian says, if you play crap, you hear crap. To me the 2307 always sounded like it had a resonant hump in the middle of its range that caused some harmonic distortion. It's a "seashell" sound that I associate with long throw horns. It may be that this amplifies the crap a bit. And back when I was using the 2307, the rest of my system *was* crap :-) I was also using an E-140 for the bottom end, and that certainly didn't help things. I also had the feeling that the 2308 "sprinkled" the frequencies about the room like a salt shaker. The dispersion of the 2344 is smoother over its target area.

Fortunately, my 2307 went to a good home - Ian's! The 2308 didn't survive my three kids.

So for me the 2344 is the better solution. Today, I might carve a K2 S5800 High Pack though - if I could source the drivers. It does the wide, not tall thing, has a high extension, and has the shorter throat, which I prefer. It also has a more socially acceptable shape :-)

On the imaging front I think it's hard to compare the 2307/8 to the 2344. They take very different design approaches to the dispersion problem. So rather than comparing wide to wide 'n tall, we'd be comparing long throw to short and louvers to a bi-radial. The K2 High Pack (with the super-tweeter blocked) next to the 2344 would be closer to apples to apples.

Finally, I have to agree with Ian's characterization of the 2344 as "holographic", but not necessarily real. I've long thought this about my replicas. I've often wondered if this was due to errors in my hand carving, but I think it's also true for the real McCoy. My room acoustics (regarding reflections) suck, and this doesn't help the analysis.

Overall I prefer the 2344, but both solutions are valid for high SPL listening. I would have fried countless dome tweeters over the years, if I didn't have my trusty JBL horns & drivers.

09-08-2003, 12:33 PM
"the question is though is that holograph real?"

"Finally, I have to agree with Ian's characterization of the 2344 as "holographic", but not necessarily real."

Oh no! Let's not start thinking that anything about pre-recorded media playback systems is "real" :p

If you're looking for "real" you have to go right to the source.

09-08-2003, 12:54 PM
True, about only the source being real.

To take the holograph to the most unreal limits, I point to rear-firing speakers. A friend of mine had a pair of these. A great big image was splashed all over the place.

Next worse are electrostatics. Yes, the image is big, but not by placing the instruments around the room, but by splattering them everywhere.

The 2344 is nothing like the above examples. The instruments are highly located - and not just centered in the horn. But I always wonder, for live recordings, if the instrument was really in the location where the speakers place it. I should take a closer listen to live orchestral music, where the seating is fairly standard.

Sometimes I hear the instrument move in position with different frequencies. This is clearly wrong. But is it due to the 2344, errors in my carving, reflections in my room or problems in the recording. I'll probably never know.

Overall the image from the 2344s is excellent. It's so good that I wonder if it's a bit artificial. Regardless, I enjoy it. And I'd probably enjoy it even better in a well treated room.

BTW, the real 4430s that I heard were in the video studio at my previous workplace. But the studio was really wide and absurdly shallow with a glass rear window. The 4430's were suspended from the ceiling near the corners - and their imaging just sucked. At least my room is much, much better than that :-)

09-08-2003, 03:18 PM
I think when this happens it means a difference of frequency response between the two speakers--maybe this is attributable to the differences in the crossovers.


09-08-2003, 03:40 PM
Hello Jon, Ian, Giskard

I find the 2344 to image really well. Uncanny at times depending on the recording. Funny about the moving images with frequency. Delos makes a surround set-up disk that does both stereo and multichannel. They have tracks that are supposed to image half right and half left of center. They start with pink noise and then do discrete frequencies Start at 99Hz to 12999 in 22 steps. The image is supposed to be stable through the whole range. :rotfl:

Its brutal!! Just unmerciful for finding problem areas in your room. I know when I have it all tweeked right when the speakers do a reasonable job on this test. You have to have the levels between the pair of speakers matched as close as you can, with the octave to octave balance and EQ just right with the for it to work well. So you go through the level adjustments and fine tune with 1/3 octave/octave level adjustments and it gets better but you just can't fix it all. It does both channels so you get different results on each side. So you have to re-tweek and compromise for a best for both. If you move your cabinets start over!

I think some of what we are hearing is reflections off the walls and interaction with the room. There is just know way its going to be perfect across the board and through the crossover regions.

Rob :)

09-08-2003, 03:41 PM
I'm running a Behringer SuperX active crossover, so I don't think the crossover is to blame. It's pretty subtle, so I'm convinced that it's due to the reflections in my room, or the errors in my carving.

My speakers are in a home studio environment. The room is asymmetrical, and I get reflections off of the desk, one wall, a bookshelf, my keyboard and even the cymbals of my e-drumset. It's an acoustic mess!

Recently I've had the itch to move my setup upstairs to the livingroom for a few days and make due with the headphones in the studio. The livingroom has a nice, high, angled ceiling that should really let it shine. Too bad these puppies are so dang heavy!

09-08-2003, 03:56 PM

I've done a similar test with a frequency sweep from my PC. I'm running a professional 24/96 card (Echo MIA), so the quality is quite good. I've also got a Behringer test mic that I can use to balance things.

You're right about such a test being brutal! Things will be stable for a while, then you hit a tiny resonance point in the room and the tone jumps all over the place! I don't have an EQ, but I'd imagine that chasing everything down for a stable image to be like herding mosquitos.

Another point about imaging. I do some work with sample libraries and midi compositions. Yeah it's not like a live recording, but the results can be darn impressive these days, and it's cheaper than renting an orchestra to try out your ideas.

Anyway, the sample libs are 16-bit, but by the time you mix the levels of each instrument down, and given that you don't play every note ffff, the lsbs make it down to the bottom of a 24-bit recording. I did a piece recently that made a really wild, alive image. It wasn't natural, but was really interesting and vivid. I then mixed it to 16-bits... Gone. The image was just gone. It was as if every instrument was along a horizintal line, whereas before, the image was in/out, up/down.

I gotta get me more DVD-As.

09-08-2003, 04:14 PM
Hello Jon

I have read a couple of articles about bit depth and the importance of the LSB and ambiance and nuance. Real compelling arguement for the H-Res formats. Do they have software yet where a home recordist can author the disks??


09-08-2003, 04:39 PM
There's authoring software, but last I looked, it was way past my budget. I'd give it another year.

The other issue is the leapfrogging of formats. CDs have been 16/44 forever, then the pro soundcards (and the chipset makers who support them) went 24/96 for PC audio. Now DVD-A comes out at 24/192 and SACD with a multi-MHz 1-bit output. But most soundcards don't do that. And the new Creative card doesn't count. It does re-sampling and such, just to get the 192 kHz number. None of the pros that I know will touch it.

I would guess that next year the software and hardware (and sample libraries) will be up to snuff.

BTW, SACD is possibly best for live recordings and capturing analog master tapes. But, if you need to mix, you'll be going PCM in the DVD-A format, or something like it. So, for me, DVD-A is the better choice.

And, for an example of how far MIDI mock-ups have progressed, check out this one from professional composer Andy Brick: Grand Hungarian Overture (http://www.andybrick.com/audio/01.mp3) Try that with your basic MIDI soundcard.