Do we still need to introduce Bang & Olufsen? Famous Danish hi-fi brand, B&O, is constantly innovating to offer equipment that combines efficiency and excellent designs. Since 1925, the Scandinavian company has been offering many exceptional systems that you have surely seen or owned. Here is a look back at almost 100 years of innovation with a guided tour of the Bang & Olufsen Museum in Struer.
To learn more about the Danish manufacturer, we headed to Struer, in northern Denmark, where it all began for the brand. The museum is located in a beautiful prism-shaped exhibition building with two bright floors. This is where the history of Bang & Olufsen – and the history of sound and visual media – is on display.
Although the manufacture of B&O radios began in the Olufsen family’s attic, the two engineers Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen developed the company into one of the leading high-end hi-fi companies in Denmark, and now worldwide. The avant-garde design of their equipment combined with great audio quality has made the brand successful.
1925: when it all began
Bang & Olufsen was born in 1925, when two young engineers, Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen, started a small radio manufacturing company. The factory quickly expanded and moved to the building currently occupied by the Bang & Olufsen team in Struer. As the habits of the Danes changed, televisions, tape recorders, turntables, CD players and MP3 players were added to the catalog of radios.
Of course, we began our visit of the Struer museum with the very first radio model: the Eliminator. The latter was born while the engineers were still living in the Olufsen family’s attic in Quistrup. This innovative radio was the first to operate on mains power without the need for batteries (which were not practical at that time).
The Eliminator was a real success and was the driving force behind the company in its early years. Later, the two engineers created the first gramophone radio and a sound system for cinemas.
At the heart of the museum is also the Hyperbo 5 RG Steel radio inspired by the Bauhaus movement and the office chair designed by Marcel Breuer. A unique aesthetic that is the basis of Bang&Olufsen’s visual identity.
In 1938, the brand released the Master 39 K radio. A real revolution, this new invention made it possible to select radio stations using only the buttons. A very intuitive design for the time! As an added bonus, customers could choose to have the preset buttons engraved with their favorite radio stations. It was quickly joined by the Master 40K radios in 1939.
While walking through the B&O museum, we also had the opportunity to take a closer look at the Beolit radios. The Beolit 39 (in reference to its year of release, 1939) is the first radio to bear the Beo label.
This innovative, organically shaped bakelite radio was inspired by a Buick automobile dashboard. Proudly displayed, these brightly colored classics recall the days when “sound became portable.” Also on display were the latest Beolit 20s, which combine an elegant design with great sound performance.
Throughout the visit, we noticed various posters and advertisements of the time, including those of the Beolit range which read: “more than just a travel radio”.
The museum also contains unsuspected objects that add to this exhibition, including B&O razors. At the end of the war in 1948, the Danish brand changed its catalog because of a shortage of radio tubes. They then proposed a series of “dry shaver” razors for both women and men.
The 50s – 60s: the beginnings of television and stereo
In 1950, the gramophone radio evolved and integrated a microphone dedicated to recording. The microphone was also used by King Frederik IX. During the same decade, Bang & Olufsen also entered the world of television and played an important role in the expansion of TV in Denmark. The first television marketed by B&O in 1952 was called TV508S and nicknamed the “wheelbarrow” TV.
Indeed, the latter had retractable / extendable “arms” and wheels so it could be easily moved, like a wheelbarrow, to find the best viewing angle. An element of comfort also found today with motorized TVs that follow the viewer around the room thanks to a remote control. Finally, in the early 1960s, B&O was among the first brands to develop stereo.
In the 50s and 60s, the Danish brand continued to expand its catalog of new radios with models such as the Minette 512 K created in 1955. The latter stood out with its format, which was even smaller than the B&O mini radios. At that time, the brand decided to use external designers. In particular, it organized a first design competition open to all Danish designers and architects to design a radio. This one was won by Helge Frank Mortensen with the Mini Modern 514K. From that moment on, B&O has never looked back and always works with renowned designers.
From this period, we also find the Grandessa 506K (1951), Mini Ultra 607/608 (1960) and the Beomaster 1000. Given the expansion of stereo in those years, the Beomaster 1000 was specifically designed to be combined with an optional stereo decoder.
The first B&O TVs
Regarding TVs, the model aptly named “Television” was the first of a long series with a modern and minimalist Danish style. The Beovision Capri (1959), TV 509 RG (1963) and BeoVision 2000 (1985) are the next big names.
A real revolution, the Beovision 3000 designed by Henning Moldenhawer was released in 1967. Bang & Olufsen’s first color TV, it was quickly recognized as one of the best on the market. Among others, Danish Radio and Austrian Television (ORF) chose this model as a monitor for their studios. The success of this television was due in particular to its design, which combines aesthetics and practicality. It was indeed a flat piece of furniture with a cover that could hide the screen when not in use.
In the following years, Bang & Olufsen integrated new technologies to create a series of innovative and always intuitive features. Avant-garde, the brand offered discreet high-tech objects that can be easily integrated into any interior.
The 70s and 80s: iconic innovations
The B&O Museum in Struer contains iconic B&O innovations such as the Beogram 4000 turntable designed by Jacob Jensen. At the time of its release, this record player was a real innovation with the use of a tangential tonearm. Combined with a unique suspension, this allowed the sound to be reproduced as precisely as it had been recorded.
B&O turntables, like the B&O Beogram 8002, were the first devices from the brand to integrate aluminum, because Jacob Jensen used it in most of his creations.
A few steps separate the Beogram 4000 from the legendary Beomaster 1900, also designed by Jacob Jensen. This radio tuner with integrated amplifier marked the 70s by the presence of touch sensitive controls to open and close it, as well as its features hidden in a bold design.
The iconic Beocenter 2200, with its cutting-edge design and features, also sits at the heart of the museum. In addition, we saw the B&O Beovox CX 100 speakers, which were produced until 2003. They are the most successful product in Bang & Olufsen’s history.
The 90s: a more modern look
How can we talk about the 90s at Bang & Olufsen without mentioning its iconic Beocom phones? In the museum, we discovered the blue, red, green and yellow colored models… and the more minimalist and contemporary Beocom 6000 designed in 1998 by Henrik Sørig Thomsen. This cordless phone has a unique curved profile. It features a state-of-the-art thumbwheel. The latter allowed the user to easily browse various lists of recently dialed or previously saved numbers. A must for the time!
Like PP Garcia in the video of the visit to the B&O museum, we had the pleasure of discovering the Beosystem 2500. This device marked a new era in high-fidelity design with its emphasis on functionality. The flat, vertical shape that characterizes many Bang & Olufsen designs is also present. Based on this system, the famous Beosound 3200 would arrive in 2003. It featured motion detection and its glass doors automatically opened when a hand approached.
Unique in its kind, the mythical B&O Beosound 9000 hi-fi system was on display with its 6-CD changer created by David Lewis. Here, discs became decorative objects. The player was fast and easy to use. With such attractive features, the Beosound 9000 is one of the brand’s most iconic pieces of equipment.
B&O’s first complete home theater system, the Beosystem AV 9000 (1992), was also visible. It includes audio and video sources with a surround sound processor, a large screen and five speakers.
The 2000s: the use of aluminum
The 2000s are also in the spotlight at the Bang & Olufsen Museum in Struer. The designs were even more refined, and wood gradually disappeared in favor of aluminum. The manufacturer B&O is also a leader in aluminum processing. So much so that his factory, built in 1992, has a 50-meter long anodizing plant.
For example, these aluminum parts are found on the Beolab 5, the first B&O speaker to use Acoustic Lens Technology (ALT). Containing many innovations, it was digitally calibrated and allowed 180° sound distribution throughout the room.
Next to this speaker sits the huge Beovision 4. Like today, all B&O elements were designed in relation to one another. It was then possible to enjoy powerful sound with a very large screen. Another icon of the 2000s, the Beosound 8 dock stood out with its circular design, optimal performance, and ease of use. We continued the visit with a glimpse of several iconic collaborations, such as the B&O Beosound Explore speaker created with Supreme (clothing brand).
In another room, several iconic pieces of equipment were displayed so that the internal components were visible. This allows you to see just how complex Bang&Olufsen speakers are. The Beolab 19 subwoofer, Beolab 18 speakers and Beolab 50 were all on display.
Finally, in the center of this room stood the impressive Beolab 90 floorstanding speaker. It has 18 drivers, 14 ICEpower channels, 300W amplifiers, 4 1000W Heliox class D amplification channels and a total output power of 8200W per speaker. A true technological masterpiece in an exceptional setting.
B&O Museum: learning about hearing
After rediscovering the Bang & Olufsen universe from its beginnings, we explored another part of the museum: the Lyduniverset (translation: the world of sound). This space is dedicated to all kinds of auditory experiences. You can playfully try to determine the exact position of a lion’s roar in the dark.
You can also visit a virtual hair salon using headphones. Experience three-dimensional sound so realistic you’ll have to open your eyes to make sure your hair isn’t really being cut!
Finally, try to reproduce the sounds of the displayed images using various props. Pebbles, a brush, keys and a coconut are at your disposal so that you can add sound effects to a cartoon!
Finally, a store and a café are available at the end of the tour to end the visit on a sweet note. Find this unique museum dedicated to Bang & Olufsen systems at Søndergade 23, Denmark – 7600 Struer.