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.
“The Beolab narrows your choices down to a single digital source component.. For most audiophiles this would completely eliminate the Beolab from consideration since part of the fun of being an audiophile is working out the system synergy issues!”
Then I’ll probably never be an Audiophile. I LOVE the idea of simplicity. I want the system to sound and look as good as I can get. Then I plan to hold on to it for a few decades.

“Audiophiles like big hulking speakers and 100lb. amplifiers dominating a room. Is that what you want?”
Actually, I think it looks pretty cool. However, we will see what my wife says when she sees the 400 watt amps sitting next to each of the B&W 800Ds.

“If you go to a concert hall you won't hear pinpoint imaging, but a more diffuse type of sound.”
Interesting point. Are you saying that the kind of sound stage that Shadorne is looking for is artificial if the goal is to reproduce a live musical experience?

Thanks for the suggestions of Meridian equipment, I’ll see if I can find a dealer who has some.
“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.”
I’m not sure if it matters, but I don’t believe the Beolab 5s would properly be called an omni directional speaker since the speaker covers only 180-degrees.

As Paul Messenger wrote in Ultraaudio:
“The Beolab 5’s elliptical reflectors are shaped to cover a 180-degree semicircle horizontally, and to restrict the vertical "window." Nearly all of a driver’s output is thus directed forward, reducing the proportion of room-reflected sound the listener hears, effectively increasing the efficiency in the listening zone, and creating a speaker whose output is substantially independent of proximity to the rear wall. Because the Beolab 5 effectively has its own built-in "rear wall," it is immune from reflection-induced colorations caused by the actual room wall behind it.”

You are correct about the 180-degree radiation pattern, and I mentioned that in my post. However, despite the fact that midrange and treble energy is not being radiated towards the rear, the speaker is still radiating full power to the sides and is thus susceptible to early reflections from the side walls. Consequently they should be either positioned well away from the side walls and ideally the walls should have something in front of them to absorb the energy from the speaker (such as absorptive foam, upholstered furniture, drapes, etc.). Hard surfaces like glass are the worst, as it creates a very acoustically live environment. I reckon that if the speaker is positioned close (within 3 feet or less than one meter) from the glass side wall, given that the BeoLab5 radiates full power throughout the mid-to-treble range towards the side (unlike a conventional box speaker whose output sharply attenuates to the sides), the result would be that the reverberant energy coming off the sidewalls would arrive at the listener's ears with sufficient force and vivacity as to obscure and smear musical detail much more so than in the case of a conventional front-firing box speaker in the same acoustic environment.

The BeoLab 5's DSP should be able to auto-EQ the bass to mitigate excessive room gain (bass boom) caused by the close proximity of walls, but the DSP does nothing to cure the early reflections of midrange and treble energy coming off the sidewalls. For that, good old fashioned attention to positioning and acoustic treatment is needed.

To clarify my statement about Beolab 5 imaging-
I used a double negative:

I was stating tha the imaging problem (like the congestion problem) may be due to poor performance by the speaker or may be due to set-up. I just don't know. That's why I said an in-home demo in a room large enough to get the speakers away from the walls will be essential.

I'm happy that B&O accomodated you. The sound I heard was poor enough in certain, specific ways that I am inclined to believe that (at least) part of the problem HAD to be the set-up, otherwise those rave reviews would be hard for me to understand.

OTOH, Shadome heard a pair that seemed to be set up in a better (though perhaps still less than ideal) way and heard some of the same issues. I am eager to hear about your demo and i look forward to your post.

To sum up:

1) I wouldn't dismiss this speaker until I heard it set up properly
2) The demo I heard was pretty terrible for a speaker in this $ range.

I hope that clarifies.

the BeoLab5 radiates full power throughout the mid-to-treble range towards the side (unlike a conventional box speaker whose output sharply attenuates to the sides)

Not all conventional box speakers have narrow dispersion ( no side radiation ) - good speakers will have wide dispersion at least as wide as far as it matters (to be affected by side wall reflection to listener).