One touch—the BeoSound Essence

"One touch," that’s all it takes for you to enjoy your music, said B&O CEO Teo Mantoni, introducing the Danish company’s BeoSound Essence music-streaming system to the press at CES, and compared that one-touch solution to the current compendium of 10 swipes and presses that you need to playback a Spotify playlist from your smartphone. Mr. Mantoni is holding the elegant Essence Remote in his hand; a ring around the small aluminum puck controls volume and play/pause, forward and backward buttons are embedded on the top. The circular puck is available as wall-mount and desktop versions, and a remote box both connects to the playback system and is the center for AirPlay streaming, DLNA streaming, Spotify Connect, QPlay and Internet radio stations. Bang & Olufsen also introduced their BeoMusic app, to allow the system to be controlled from both iOS and Android devices. The BeoSound Essence will cost $995 for a wall-mounted Remote and hide-away box, additional wall-mounted or table top Remotes available for $200 each.

The Essence was demonstrated with Bang & Olufsen’s BeoLab 18 wireless speakers, which were premiered last October. This extraordinarily elegant active loudspeaker combines the acoustic-lens tweeter shown above with two 4" midrange/woofers drivers, each powered by a 160W class-D amplifier with DSP control. The speaker can be seen behind Mr. Mantoni in the top photograph and it runs on the new WiSA wireless standard, which utilizes the 5.2–5.8GHz U-NII band and has sufficient bandwidth to stream 24-bit, uncompressed music at native sampling rates up, I believe, to 96kHz. The WiSA system will also stream multi-channel audio up to 7.1, and B&O supplies a transmitter unit for $525 and a receiver unit for $265 to allow legacy systems to use WISA links.

The Beolab 18's organ-pipe form factor, with the cylindrical speaker supported by a single point on an iron base, resembles the bestselling Beolab 8000, which has apparently sold 650,000 units since it was introduced in 1992. With the 21 vertical lamella contrasting with the aluminum body—21 according to the press release; I count only 19 in my photo above—the BeoLab 18 costs $6590 per set including black lamella fronts and floor base or wall bracket, and oak lamella for an additional $1390/set.