If stepping off the plane into the Copenhagen airport is a little like stepping into the world's biggest IKEA store, then stepping out of the tiny airport in Karup, Denmark is a little like transporting to the farmlands of Nebraska. But my mission to the far west end of the Jutland peninsula, together with a number of other European and North American journalists, was not sightseeing, but information. Information about what Struer, Denmark manufacturer B&O is currently about, and how the activities in its several facilities are leading to interesting new products, and how those products are influenced by the thinking and research behind them.
Speakers for cordless phones, another B&O product category, must be tiny. Looks like it also might make an interesting tweeter, though probably not, as the frequency response of telephone drivers is band limited by design.
B&O began as a radio manufacturer in the late 1920s, operating out of Svend Olufsen's family farmhouse outside of Struer, Denmark. Its first product, the Eliminator, was designed to allow a radio to be powered by line voltage instead of a battery. The photo shows B&O consultant Ronny Kaas Mortensen next to the radio. The small box at the upper right hand corner of the radio is the Eliminator. It was not only built inside the radio itself, but also sold separately. It also cleaned up the dirty power line output of the day—the first audiophile high-end power conditioner!
The BeoVision 9 television, which just started shipping, is B&O's current flagship 50-inch plasma. The 50" set, at around $20,000, may seem pricey for a 1366x768 design (it uses Panasonic glass), and it is. But it does include a built-in center speaker with an Acoustic Lens tweeter and 5" woofer. It also features an on-board version of B&O's BeoMedia (available separately in the BeoSystem 3), which includes all of the features of a sophisticated pre-pro and more. These include full 7.1-channel decoding (expandable up to 10 channels), speaker switching and speaker assignment options that may be the most flexible on the market, and easy access to sources as diverse as CD, radio, cable TV, satellite TV, DVD, photos, digital cameras, and the Internet. And oh, yes, the entire cabinet has a motorized swivel. Very cool.
The BeoLab 3, shown here with acoustic engineer Peter Chapman, is a tiny sphere with a small woofer-midrange, a single Acoustic Lens tweeter, and a two on-board ICEpower amps, all in a tiny, spherical cabinet with an internal volume of 1.5 liters. It sounded remarkably close in balance to the big BeoLab 5 (the deepest bass and ultimate volume capability excluded, of course).
It all starts with the mother glass. That's the foundation for building an LCD panel. Everything else—the individual red, green, and blue elements of each pixel and the interconnects necessary to drive them—are grown on it.
The Tokyo-based CEATEC, held each fall about this time, is sometimes referred to as Japan's CES. While the analogy doesn't fit when applied to finished goods (the show is far smaller in that respect than even the CEDIA Expo, much less CES), it certainly does apply if you include component parts. You can roam the eight or so exhibit halls and find all sorts of things, from cell phones to capacitors to integrated circuits. There was even a small, lonely booth off to one side with high-end audio goods on display. The exhibitor's there had obviously confused CEATEC with the annual Tokyo High-end Audio Show, scheduled for later this month.
Sharp is working on this Japanese-to-English and English-to-Japanese translation device. It translates both written and spoken language, though is still fairly rudimentary in its ability to handle complex communication. We're not quite up to Star Trek's universal translator yet, but you can see it coming.
This single seater in the Pioneer booth is for those who can't fit a Mini in the garage. I'm not sure how it fits into consumer electronics. Perhaps it's the audiophile special—you can drive and still always be in the sweet spot.
So did the puppet image in the last photo turn into a Sumo wrestler? Not quite. I couldn't snag a screen shot if the puppet because of a strange interaction between the screen image and my digital camera (FM reported the same thing). But for some reason this photo came out OK. The image on the SED's screen wasn't his blue; that's a camera issue.
Sharp was only one of a number of manufacturer's showing new Blu-ray recorder/players, most of them also including hard drives. Sharp's was particularly classy, with a wood-grained top. None of these recorders are destined for the U.S. market.