3D Info-tainment

Monday, 1st September, 2014

Gone are the days of the old car radio. And in its place comes info-tainment for the car on the grandest of scales. Music so powerful to blow your socks off and with no next-door neighbour to complain about the volume, just turn it up a notch higher to obtain the very last bit of high-powered musical juice from it.

Following on from Audi, Bang & Olufsen and Fraunhofer and their new Symphoria concept, Continental has now caught the bug and is licensing Auro 3D technology from its inventor Auro Technologies (based in Mol, Belgium). Auro 3D, originally developed for digital cinemas, concert halls and large auditoria, is said to outclass compact discs. It adds extra depth to 5.1 surround sound, offering a three-dimensional listening experience.

The system utilises an algorithm called Auro-Matic to up-mix older formats such as mono or simple stereo recordings to a three-dimensional sound environment. Over the coming months Auro Technologies also plans to start publishing a large number of music titles which have been recorded with its Auro 11.1 technology.

Fraunhofer's Symphoria

As BeoPhile has previously reported, Audi is currently adding new audio dimensions for its vehicles. For its 2016 TT Roadster, the company plans to offer an  innovative sound system as an option based on technology by Bang & Olufsen. The system already optimises sound through a feedback loop: a microphone in the car senses acoustical dimension and background noise and achieves a near-perfect compensation of these factors. The cherry on the cake however comes from Fraunhofer. The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (Fraunhofer IIS) (the one that invented the MP3 algorithm) has developed a software called Symphoria capable of post-processing audio signals and optimisation of it for a better spatial experience.

In a first step, this software applies a semantic analysis to the audio signals, separating the sound components from each other. Subsequently, these components are redistributed throughout the car interior. Thus, the acoustic pattern gets more wideness and depth and provides a much greater spatial impression, says Audi. The system was introduced to the public at the CES 2013 Consumer Electronics Show.

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Bye-bye Plasma

Friday, 29th August, 2014

With Panasonic ceasing production of its plasma monitors last year and Samsung announcing just a few weeks’ ago that it would also stop production of its plasma panels in favour of UHD and curved HDTVs, what future - if any - is there for plasma panels in the immediate future?

Many critics say that plasma - even in today’s market - still beats its LCD rivals. However, manufacturers, it seems, are more concerned about profit rather than delivering a high-quality product (plasma panels are quite a bit more expensive to produce than LCDs).

With nothing else to turn to (affordable OLED is still some years away), the present and future rests quite firmly with LCD in its various guises.

The only manufacturer left of note, is LG. We shall have to see if they too follow the trend to abandon plasma manufacture.

BeoVision 12-65

BeoVision 12 is the only plasma television that is still manufactured by Bang & Olufsen.

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Smarty pants

Tuesday, 26th August, 2014

With the arrival of the new BeoVision Avant earlier this year, Bang & Olufsen has yet another TV set in its repetoire which it can describe as ’smart’.

With its Ultra-High Definition (UHD) screen the BeoVision Avant also sports dual TV tuners, USB recording, six HDMI inputs, wireless connectivity and of course Smart TV.

Selecting Webmedia from the input list on the Avant calls up a menu which is recognisable to those in the know as being powered by the Philips Net TV platform. Unfortunately, for the moment at least, the Philips’ platform is rather lacking in content versus the smart offerings of many of the other key TV brands.

Lack of content

Apart from its impressive Internet Radio the only highlights of the B&O Smart engine is the BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Spotify, Facebook, iConcerts, Picasa and Euronews. There’s no ITV Player, no 4OD, no Demand 5, no Netflix, no Amazon Instant, no Blinkbox… Hopefully Bang & Olufsen will be able to add at least a few of these key content apps at some point in the near future.

Avant Smart TV

But what exactly is a Smart TV?

Smart TV is a broad term referring to a television which can connect to the Internet.

The connection allows the TV to work with a range of online services such as live streaming, on-demand video, social media and online applications.

Smart TVs come in different formats with varying capabilities. Some can access On-demand TV, instant updates, social media feeds, instant messaging and have full Web browsers. They are often referred to as ‘Connected TVs’ or ‘Internet Enabled TVs’.

Each TV comes with different in-built facilities. Some of the most popular streaming services in the UK are BBC iPlayer, 4OD, ITVplayer, Netflix, AmazonPrime, SKY GO/Now TV & BlinkBox. You’ll need to check the individual specifications of a TV to find out what services it comes with as each manufacturer differs.

These services are built into the TV’s software, but often require a separate subscription. This is the case for paid-for services like Netflix or Lovefilm but not for the free UK On-Demand services like iPlayer & 4OD.

Most manufacturers have their own ‘Online Store’ from where certain TV programmes and films can be rented. This would also be the place you’d visit to update apps and download new content.

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Two-tone Twenty

Saturday, 23rd August, 2014

As well as being available in its original release colour: black, the BeoLab 20 graces an all-white outfit.

The BeoLab 20 incorporates Immaculate Wireless Sound which means that the active speaker can connect to Bang & Olufsen’s range of wireless equipment, as well as all other WiSA-compliant products on the 5GHz frequency band.

The speaker provides a combined 640 watts of power through its active design – a pair of 160 watt amplifiers for bass, a 160 watt amplifier for mid-range and another 160 watt amplifier for the treble.

Other features include Adaptive Bass Linearisation and a free/wall/corner switch, with connections, including two Power Link, one RCA and one TOSLINK, in addition to its wireless capability.

BeoLab 20 in black & white

The BeoLab 20 weighs 18kg and measures 82cm x 39.3cm. It houses a 250mm dual coil bass unit; a 125mm mid-range speaker unit; and a 20mm treble speaker unit based on the Acoustic Lens.

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