Of the several good test DVDs available for optimizing the audio and video performance of a home theater system, the best known are <I>Digital Video Essentials</I> and the <I>Avia Guide to Home Theater</I>. Either will guide a consumer, step by step if necessary, to get the most from his or her equipment, particularly the video. In fact, most serious videophiles probably own both DVDs, along with a copy of DVE's predecessor, <I>Video Essentials</I>.
802 Diamond Speakers Performance Build Quality Value W DB1 Subwoofer Performance Features Build Quality Value
Price: $32,000 At A Glance: Clear, sparkling highs • Tight, extended bass • Broad, deep soundstage • Stunning fit and finish
If you’re unfamiliar with the British speaker company Bowers & Wilkins, perhaps that’s because it’s more commonly known simply as B&W. Founded in the mid-1960s by John Bowers and Roy Wilkins, it’s now one of the most respected loudspeaker manufacturers in the world, with products ranging from budget-priced to Olympic.
The 800 Diamond series is the third generation of Bowers & Wilkins’s most sophisticated range, with iconic looks that date back to the late 1990s. The 802 Diamond is one step down in price from the company’s current flagship, the $24,000/pair 800 Diamond. And while B&W’s lower-priced speakers, like most, are manufactured in China, the 800 is built in the company’s facilities in England.
Price: $7,250 At A Glance: Clean highs, neutral mids • Mid- and upper-bass prominent • Small but potent subwoofer
These days, most major speaker manufacturers know how to produce a good speaker. But only a few manage to hit all the marks simultaneously: great engineering, great sound, and fair pricing. British speaker manufacturer Bowers & Wilkins has long been a leader in that hunt.
"The Cube" is the first stop in testing a B&O loudspeaker. At 12x12x13 meters it is the world's largest privately owned sound test room. It is not an anechoic chamber. Instead, B&O built a space large enough to use MLS measurements to a high degree of precision. MLS measures the speaker's response to an impulse. This result is then gated to eliminate the effect of the sound reflected off the walls. The reproduced and filtered impulse is then converted back to a frequency response (techies will recognize this as a Fourier transformation). The two walls of the chamber are damped, not to eliminate reflections but to speed up the time between impulses (a number of impulses are averaged for greater precision). The support structure shown here holds the loudspeaker (in the photo it's one of B&O's very tall, pencil-thin designs). The mike is visible in the distance. Measurements are made in 140 different directions.
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.
The BeoSound 4 is an all-purpose CD, radio, SD card slot, and optional Digital Audio Broadcasting (European format) music system. The pyramid-shaped BeoLab 4 speakers are self-powered, with digital amplification. Approximately 8" high, B&O calls the BeoLab 4 a multi-purpose unit, suitable for a small stereo system, for a music system or computer, or as a surround sound speaker in an AV setup. It can be placed on a desk stand, floor stand, wall mounted, or hung from the ceiling.
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).
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!