Bang & Olufsen, the premium TV and sound system manufacturer, unveiled a brand new intelligent music system at CES 2015.
B&O believes that the magic has disappeared from music listening. Cloud streaming services are complex and don’t offer the tactile feel of vinyl or even CDs. The BeoSound Moment is B&O’s attempt to bring some tactility back to music as well as making it more family-friendly and social.
As with all B&O products the BeoSound Moment is a design statement. Consisting of a two-tone metal and brushed plastic base with a tasteful oak surface on the top it looks fantastic and is tidy too. Measuring just 27 x 15 x 20cm it’ll easily fit on a small living-room side table.
A touch sensitive ‘wheel’ on wood allows you to turn music on and off, increase or decrease the volume or move to the next or previous tracks. It’s like a classic iPod hewn out of a slab of nature.
The whole top is a detachable controller, which you can take with you around the house. Flip it over and a 7-inch, 1280 x 800 pixel screen is embedded in a smart aluminium case; a touch control wheel that mirrors the wood one is milled into the surface.
This controller is a smart bit of kit that uses Wi-Fi to connect to the base-station. The aluminium side feels futuristic while the wooden side warm and tactile. The screen could have a higher resolution, but this isn’t a tablet. You won’t be able to watch Netflix on it. Its sole purpose is to give you access to music in the simplest possible way, be a mobile jukebox during parties and play the right thing dependant on your mood or the “mood of your house”.
We’re not talking poltergeists here. B&O has created a piece of software called PatternPlay that aims to provide the music you want to listen to. It does this in a few ways. Firstly it learns the household’s daily habits. If you like something upbeat first thing in the morning while you’re getting ready for work it will play you the appropriate song. Want to wind down after a hard day? The BeoSound Moment will start to recognize that you like something a bit smoother and softer at that time of day and respond accordingly with just one touch of the wheel. There are no profiles; B&O believes that adding that complexity takes away from the fundamental enjoyment of music.
PatternPlay can pick music from your library via DNLA, Internet radio via TuneIn and from the Deezer music service (12 month subscription to Deezer comes with the the BeoSound Moment). You might have spotted a problem there. If you’re a Spotify, Pandora or other music-streaming user you’ll need to connect to the BeoSound via Bluetooth and stream from your phone or tablet. It’s a far cry from the almost total inclusiveness Sonos offers.
You can, of course, scroll through your selection of music, find the albums and artists you want and play them. That takes time though, so the B&O BeoSound Moment includes, at its heart, the ‘MoodWheel’. This is a wheel of colour that is displayed on the screen and gives the BeoSound Moment an inkling of what you fancy listening to depending on what you feel like.
The wheel has three rings. The inner ring relates to music you own, love and listen to regularly, the outer ring music you my have never heard of before and the middle a mixture of the two. Want something familiar? Just hit the inner ring. Bored of your current library? Then explore using the outer ring. It’s a clever idea but one I couldn’t test since the BeoSound Moment didn’t know my musical preferences.
Aside from the rings the wheel has a range of colours. Greens represent softer, calmer music while reds loud and brash. It’s an intuitive system that really cuts out the “should I listen to this, oh no maybe that” paralysis that I often encounter with Spotify on my phone.
Simplicity is the aim of the game and even the settings are hidden. To access them you need to pop off the rear of the Moment’s base, where the Ethernet, power, line-in and USB ports are. This brings up the settings menu on the screen. Neat.
What makes these types of features great, though, are their intuitiveness and ease of use. Performance issues and glitches ruin the mood and we experienced both while using the ‘tablet’ controller. We experienced lag while trying to switch artists or change moods on the wheel. This was a pre-production model, though, so we expect these kinks to be ironed out before the BeoSound Moment goes on sale at the end of January 2015.
The BeoSound Moment is a beautiful item that matches up to the best B&O designs of the past. The tablet controller looks and feels great in hand but if B&O want to achieve its aim of tactile and simple access to the music your household is in the mood in the software needs to be super-slick.
The BeoSound Moment will cost £1,795/$2,795/Eur 2195 and will be available exclusively from Bang & Olufsen stores.