Minimalist speaker designs blend audio with art
A new generation of audio design puts overt technology on the back burner in favour of warm materials, simple forms and ultimate flexibility. We round up the best ways of bringing high-fidelity sound into your home with the ultimate levels of discretion and taste.
Bang & Olufsen BeoSound Level
The new Beosound Level is a portable speaker system and digital assistant that’s designed to be shifted around your space. With five speakers squeezed into a sleek flat box, the Level can be propped up, laid flat or even hung on the wall with a bespoke B&O stand. The device is also intended to be easily upgradeable in the future, from the 16-hour battery pack to the streaming module that handles the sound processing. In this respect, the Level represents a new approach for B&O, with an increased emphasis on improving the physical lifespan of its beautifully crafted objects while also acknowledging that modern devices frequently outlive the technology that drives them. Available in two colour ways, one with gold tone aluminium and European oak, the other with more conventional dark grey hues, the Level has echoes of the form factor of the classic Beolit 400 and 500 radios, both designed by Jacob Jensen. ‘We didn’t set out to create a retro product. We set out to solve a problem,’ says Richard Gavin Ivester, B&O’s Vice President of Design, ‘But we’re not sad that we ended up with a homage to earlier B&O products.’
Bose Soundbar 300
Soundbars are also getting smarter, cramming digital assistants and multiple connection options into a fairly prosaic form factor. Bose’s Smart Soundbar 300 makes a marked difference to the audio output of even the most sophisticated flat panel TV, and makes up for the space it consumes by adding in multiple layers of function. These include Alexa voice, which can be used to control the TV itself, as well as pairing with other Bose products like headphones or Bluetooth speakers to increase the sonic footprint of your household.
KEF KC62 subwoofer
Regardless of the sophistication of your smart speakers, all music benefits from a bass boost. KEF’s new KC62 subwoofer will add the requisite punch to every scenario, from movies to music and games. Designed to match the discretely curved radii of KEF’s LS50 speaker range, the KC62 is available in both black and white, with an extruded aluminium case. There are also number of EQ modes to let you tune the sound according to the subwoofer placement.
Denon Home Soundbar 550
Another dose of sleek sound comes in the form of Denon’s new Home Soundbar 550. These lozenge-like speaker systems used to be simply for boosting the feeble sound of early flatscreen TVs, but as in-builts speakers have improved, the soundbar is fast become the method of choice for all forms of audio. The soundbar is compatible with Apple’s AirPlay 2, along with the software needed to ‘talk’ to the big names in home entertainment systems (the likes of Elan and Crestron). It’s also due to receive Alexa voice support.
Braun Audio LE Series
Unsurprisingly, Braun’s return to the audio market is marked by a pared-back, low-key approach. The LE01, LE02 and LE03 models offer three different sizes of smart speaker, from the large LE01 through to the LE03, a simple cube that eschews an excessively sculptural approach. All three sizes can be treated as standalones or paired up for stereo separation – there’s also a set of minimalist stands to elevate each model off the ground. A limited edition LE03 is also available to celebrate Braun’s centenary in 2021.
Taking a different tack to conventional speaker makers, Hague-based brand Sound-Aesthetics treat their devices as pieces of functional art. Their ‘frustum-shaped’ panel speaker systems are designed to be wall hung, with covers that feature interchangeable pieces of geometric art, carved from solid materials. Founded by the South Africa-born designer Albert de Graaf, Sound-Aesthetics’ minimalist products are set up for all the major streaming services and are operated via your smartphone, keeping their system as simple as possible. A new series of limited-edition architecture-inspired artworks, ‘Celebrating Sound’, have just been launched to bolster the range.