Danish audio innovator Libratone has been showing off its first consumer product at this year's IFA Consumer Electronics Show in Berlin. The Beat is a high-end wireless speaker that promises listeners an audio sweet spot wherever they may be in a room. An iPod, iPhone or iPad is connected to a wireless transmitter which sends an audio signal to the speaker, then FullRoom technology reflects the sound off the room's walls to provide 360 degrees of sonic enjoyment. So does it live up to its promise? Gizmag stopped by to check it out.
The Beat has been in development since 2007 and will be Libratone's first product to reach the marketplace. The company claims that its technology means that wherever you are in the room, you're in the sweet spot and our limited testing at IFA certainly seems to confirm this claim. As we moved around the booth we were treated to a full sound wherever we stood.
The system comes with a 30-pin transmitter that attaches to an iPod, iPhone or iPad and wirelessly streams audio to a Beat speaker up to 32.8 feet (10m) away. The proprietary lossless wireless transfer system packs the signal at the audio device end and then unpacks it again at the Beat. The wireless range of the system can be extended to 98.4 feet (30m) if the user opts to connect the wireless USB transmitter to a PC or Mac. It is, of course, a given that users of the system will want to get the most out of the experience by sending only high quality audio from the originating device.
The making of the BeatContained within the Beat's tri-sided 18.5 x 7.67 x 5.9-inch (470 x 195 x 150mm) frame is a 5-inch (127mm) bass, a couple of 3-inch (76.2mm) midrange drivers and a couple of 1-inch (25.4mm) ribbon tweeters. The power output from the bass driver is said to be 50W and 2 x 25W from the midrange/tweeter configuration. The Beat has sensitivity of 100 dB SPL/1m and a frequency response of 50 to 20kHz.
Now you might very well be tempted to tuck away your new Beat into a corner of the room, but it will actually work better if placed with its back to a flat wall. The ribbon tweeters and midrange drivers are positioned at an angle at the back of the unit, so any sound coming from them is dispersed around the room. The handle at the rear not only helps with portability – although at 14.33 pounds (6.5kg) it's not exactly a featherweight – but also prevents any attempt to place the Beat flush against a flat surface, as doing so would dampen the 'reflection' effect of the design.
The company's Jes Mosgaard says that the Beat works "like an acoustic instrument filling the entire room with sound. The speaker disperses sound in different directions, reflecting it off the walls, providing 360 degree sound. This means you are always in the so-called sweet spot. We call it FullRoom sound."
After being involved in the design of high-end speakers for Steinway Lyngdorf, Mosgaard brought his expertise to Libratone in order to shrink down the technology and deliver it to a consumer market.
Only the best will doSaid to use high-end components and advanced signal processing of the kind normally reserved for systems found in studios, the Libratone Beat aims to provide "the freedom that comes with portable devices – their mobility and their potential for vast media libraries, without settling for mediocre sound or clumsy design," according to the company's CEO Fritz Andersen.
Initial availability of the Libratone Beat will be limited when it appears at selected retail outlets in Germany, the UK and Scandinavia in October. From January next year however, the Beat should be available worldwide for a suggested retail price of US$655.
Libratone's sales director at IFA, Soren Louis Pedersen, told us that although the EQ of the Beat is not open to customization on the unit itself, there may well be an app developed in the future which would offer some sort of manual control.
We were also told about a larger "soundbar" design on the way which would be aimed at television users who crave decent sound quality – with no wires – for their high definition moving images. We'll let you know of future developments.