Beolab 5 - Four Questionable Technologies

I'm looking to buy a high-end speaker system and have become enamored by the Beolab 5 Powered Speakers by B&O.

In their literature the tout 4 technologies that set them apart.
I am not an audiophile (yet) but wonder what those with more experience think about these four ideas.

1. An Acoustic Lens technology
This means a much wider dispersion of high frequencies. Supposedly this makes sweet spot for listening is much larger. This means you can sit in different places or move around and still have optimal sound.

2. Adaptive Bass Control
This uses a microphone in each speaker to calibrate the low frequency interaction with the room. This permits a wider range of speaker placement. For example, one could be near a wall, or one could be near a corner and this would compensate.

3. Digital Signal Processing
Being all digital, each speaker is calibrated (tweaked) before leaving Denmark to match a reference speaker. This is not possible with analog systems. It assures a that all of the speakers sound the same, a sort of quality control.

4. Digital Amplification
Each of the speakers has four digital amps; one for each driver. Somehow, by being digital Class D amps they can be smaller and run cooler than other amps. That allows them to put 4 powerful amps insider the very confined space of the speaker enclosure. The high power allows peak sound levels of 115 to 120 dB.

Thoughts and comments on any of these four technologies would be appreciated.

And, if you have heard these speakers, do you think they are for real.
Finally, if you like the Beolab concept you should also consider the Meridian line of active speakers.

I agree wiith this suggestion. I am partial to active speakers - so it is goes against my preference to recommend a passive speaker over teh active Beolab 5's.

Onhwy61 is correct that I prefer mointors that image like no tomrrow and sound as accurate as possible and that this is not what the majority of people seek. These speakers will sound harsh just like real instruments ....when a trumpet is played loud then your hair will part - not everyone's cup of tea!! So as I said above in a previous post- take into account my preferences when you read my impressions of the Beolab 5 (it is after all a fine and awesome speaker)...a grain of salt if youu like.
How much space was there between the speakers and the side walls?

About 3 feet - so enough not to ruin the image.

If you want to listen for imaging and soundstaging, then sitting in the sweet spot (equidistant between both loudspeakers) is essential in my opinion.

Correct. You should indeed listen in the center to maximise the imaging experience and especially when making evaluations. On reflection I agree that you have a good point. My point about 10 db is actually referenced in the link I gave....

The Haas Effect is, simply stated, a factor in human hearing where delay has a much bigger effect on human perception of direction than level does. Helmut Haas in Germany showed that although identical audio sources sent to two speakers at equal level resulted in a center image, a 5 - 20 ms delay to one of the signals shifted the image to the non-delayed side, and the delayed side had to be made 10 dB louder to get the image to shift back to the center. This is also called Precedence Effect.

Right *after* I had submitted my question to you regarding the positioning of the BeoLab 5 during your audition, audiogon posted this from you.

"In my audition they were about three feet from the corners - so to me the congestion was from the speaker not the placement."

Based on this, I must say that the it's no surprise that the speaker sounded so disappointing. To place an omni speaker three feet from a corner where the side-wall is made of a highly reflective material like glass is nothing short of a disaster. Honestly, the people in the B&O store should have known better. That's about as silly as putting a set of QUAD ESLs 3 feet from a front wall that's made of glass. It's so ridiculous that it boggles the mind.

One must consider that unlike a conventional box speaker, an omnidirectional speaker is radiating almost full-range in all directions. The amount of reflected energy coming off those glass walls would have definitely caused smearing of musical detail and this would almost certainly be a prime contributor of the diffuse sound you heard.

In comparison, a conventional box speaker may be close to flat across its frequency range when measured on-axis and up to about 30-degress off-axis, but as you go further off axis the amplitude of the radiated energy starts to fall off non-linearly across its bandwidth. Therefore you may get away with putting a front radiating box speaker 3 feet from a side wall (although even here, some acoustic damping from furniture or curtains would be helpful), but the same configuration for an omni speaker is just silly.

To quote from Don Morrison: "Yes, the speakers should be brought out from the side and back walls. And yes, there should be room treatment on the side walls to tame the first reflection".
About the B&W 800D speakers you wrote:
“Yes do buy these over the Beolab - far better, IMHO. This is a fine speaker. A bit hard to drive but with the right SS amplification they will sing….this is an absolutely outstanding speaker. World class.”
I am tempted, and I don’t mind buying a powerful amp to drive them.
At the store they were using the 400 Watt Classe CA-M400 Monoblock Power Amplifiers. I have to admit I liked the way they looked and looks matter to me as much as the sound.

However, we are doubling the price here. The Beolab 5s are listed as $18,000. On the other hand, the B&W 800Ds list for $23,000 and if I go with the Classé amp and matching preamp (the Classé CP-500) that would come to $37,500. I can accept that if the sound truly is much better. I need to go back and listen again, but I on my first try the B&W speakers sounded more natural; more real.

I would like to hear the Wilson Watt Puppy 8 speakers and the Revel Ultima2 speakers. Other suggestions? I already tried the Vandersteen Model Five speakers and found the bass response oddly “boomy.”
“this speaker would require an in-home demo and a large listening room. I don't know if B&O would accommodate such a request.”
B&O has already said yes to my request for an in home demo, even though I live 2.5 hours from them on a farm in the middle of Missouri. There will have to be some sort of payment if I don’t buy the system. Same with the B&W dealer.

“BTW, I can't state with confidence that the Beolab 5 doesn't image (soundstage) well.”
I wonder what others would say about this. I went back to David Ranada’s review in Sound & Vision: “it can produce good stereo imaging from a very wide listening area and extremely good imaging when heard from a prime listening position.”

Does anyone else have experience with this speakers imaging qualities?