New Bang & Olufsen wireless luxury speakers are the first with WiSA standard

B&O has taken the wraps off its high-end BeoLab 17 and BeoLab 18 wireless speakers and BeoLab 19 subwoofer, the first commercial products to use the WiSA wireless standard.

Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 17, BeoLab 18, BeoLab 19
John P. Falcone/CNET

NEW YORK -- When Bang & Olufsen decides to go wireless, it doesn't mess around.

The company today unveiled a trio of new wireless speaker products: the BeoLab 17 bookshelf speaker, the BeoLab 18 tower speaker, and the BeoLab 19 subwoofer. The three are the first commercial speakers to utilize the new WiSA (Wireless Speaker and Audio) standard, which opens the door to the possibility of interoperability with potential future WiSA-certified products from other manufacturers.

The only wire required for each speaker is the power cord.

As you'd expect with B&O, these are luxury speakers -- the highest of the high-end -- and they are priced accordingly: if you have to ask, they're not for you. But for the record: the BeoLab 17 is $3,990 per pair, the 18 runs $6,590 per pair, and the 19 sub will set you back $3,395. And that's just for starters: the BeoLab 17 and 18 have various accoutrements, such as the solid oak lamella speaker grilles that add another $1,390 to the kitty. All of the speakers will be available in November.

Unlike wireless systems from Sonos, Bose, and even Samsung, the new B&O system is not intended for multiroom setups. Instead, the speakers are designed for stereo or surround configurations. The source of the audio is either the BeoLab 10, the company's $10,000 TV, or the BeoLab Transmitter 1, a $595 base station that will accept standard AV sources.

At the Manhattan press event, demos included k.d. lang's "Constant Craving" (in stereo, with and without the subwoofer) and an explosion-laced scene from "The Bourne Legacy" (in 5.1 surround). As you'd expect from speakers of this caliber, the sound quality was impressive, and the speakers didn't distort, even at somewhat ear-splitting volumes.

Each speaker has four wireless antennas built into its body. The WiSA wireless standard operates in the 5.2 to 5.8GHz bands, with up to 7.1 channels of uncompressed sound. Furthermore, the system can jump between 24 separate wireless channels, to avoid any interference. Range is advertised as 12 meters (about 40 feet).

 

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