Bang & Olufsen History

The birth of the game changer

It all started in 1925, when two engineers, Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen, began a modest production of radios in the attic of the Olufsen family home, Quistrup.

Bang & Olufsen History

Bang & Olufsen from the beginning

The founders of B&O were the Danes Peter Bang and Svend Olufsen, who from an early age were fond of radio engineering. In the 20s of the last century, the ideas of transmitting information over the air were in a special trend and occupied the mind of almost every young person.

Peter was the son of the famous businessman Camillo Bang and was brought up in a wealthy family in Copenhagen, which had the opportunity to enjoy such benefits of civilization as electric light, telephone, gramophone and his own car. In 1924, he graduated as an engineer and went to the United States to gain experience in a large radio factory owned by the General Electric Company. After six months of practice, Peter was aware of the latest developments in electronics and hatched the idea of ​​organizing a factory in his homeland for the production of such devices.

At that time, Sven Olufsen was just looking for an intelligent practitioner who would help him realize ideas related to the release of radio engineering. Simon Peterson, an old friend of Sven's, advised him to contact Peter Bang.

As a result, on November 17, 1925, Olufsen and Bang organized a small laboratory-workshop for the development and production of radio receivers. The attic of a large mansion on the Quistrup estate, provided for use by Olufsen's parents, was specially equipped for the laboratory. The mansion was located in the small town of Struer, located in the western part of the Jutland peninsula.

The partners divided their responsibilities in the company they had just organized as follows: Peter took up technology, and Sven concentrated on finance and other business activities. Two years later, Bang and Olufsen opened the first radio factory near Struer. However, at first they produced all kinds of parts and components: transformers, potentiometers, and so on.

The first commercially viable Bang & Olufsen product was the Eliminator radio developed in 1926, which allowed direct connection to AC power, which was somewhat unusual since the vast majority of such devices then used battery power. Bang developed the prototype of a universal power adapter for direct connection to the mains at a time when he was forced to regularly ask his father for money for batteries for his radio experiments.

In 1927, the 3lamper tube receiver went into series, and in 1929 the 5lamper model appeared. Both models were well-designed, sold well and, in fact, brought fame to the company. Young engineers managed to adapt the design of familiar home furnishings to their technological needs, i.e. they used wooden cases and other external decorative elements for their technically well-thought-out products, which blended perfectly with the interior of the premises.

In 1928, Bang & Olufsen began manufacturing loudspeakers and the 1930s were a period of rapid development for B&O. In 1930, the first Bang & Olufsen radiogram was released. A year later, the company developed a specialized sound system for cinemas. For the production and sale of systems of this kind, friends even organized a separate company, BOFA, which was very successful and by 1939 provided most of the cinemas in Denmark with sound.

In 1934, the then-innovative Hyperbo 5 RG Steel audio system was released, which was a combine that looked like a chair and included a gramophone, speaker and radio. The Hyperbo's body was made of steel, and elements of the current Bauhaus style were used in the design.

In 1938, the world's first push-button receiver, the Master 38CH, appeared in the B&O lineup, and the following year, its improved version, the Master de Luxe 39, with push-button tuning for 16 radio stations, was released.

In terms of enthusiasm and efficiency, Olufsen kept up with his partner and contributed to the active development of the distribution system - including dealer networks. As a result, the principles of systematization and organization of sales that Sven was engaged in continue to be used by B&O to this day.

From the early days of the company, Peter Bang and Sven Olufsen followed two basic rules: to use only high quality materials and to constantly apply new technologies. For example, immediately after moving to the factory, a new idea was developed and implemented - push-button tuning for radios, which became one of the many innovations that brought the company the Danish Hallmark of Quality award.

In 1939, another legendary radio called Beolit went into production, which used an innovative for those times rounded body made of Bakelite, a fairly strong and lightweight synthetic plastic that is resistant to high temperatures.

The Beolit model featured a design reminiscent of a car's grille and was the company's first product with the "Beo" prefix in its name. Later, virtually every device released by Bang & Olufsen will have a name with this prefix.

Wortime and reconstruction

During the occupation years of World War II, the company continued to release new products. In 1941, the Grand Prix 41 radio was introduced, with an unusual large tuning dial built into a slam-shut lid, i.e. the scale could be removed if necessary. Two years later, the first compact receiver Mini 43 appeared.

In 1945, the Bang & Olufsen factory was burned down by the German occupiers, but restoration began almost at the same time, and by 1946 new buildings were put into operation, including the latest technological facilities. A year later, the company released Europe's first wire tape recorder Beocord 84U, which became the forerunner of reel-to-reel tape recorders.

In 1948, Bang & Olufsen introduced its first Grand Prix 48CH Hi-Fi radio, and in 1950, the first television set was released under the B&O brand. Sven Olufsen passed away in 1949.

In 1952, the massive B&O 508 S came on the market, which had excellent picture quality and decent sound. At the same time, the TV could be moved freely, thanks to small wheels built into the base. In the first half of the 50s, B&O also produced electric shavers.

After 1955, the lineup included receivers, radios and a series of televisions. In 1957, the famous designer Ib Fabiansen joined the company, who had a strong influence on the appearance of B&O equipment of those years. In 1959, the 17-inch Beovision Capri TV was introduced, with a teak cabinet and wooden legs. In the same year, Peter Bang passed away.

Designing the future

In the 60s, a younger generation of progressive designers joined the company in the person of Henning Moldenhawer and Jacob Jensen. At that time, B&O management tried to invite ambitious professional designers from the outside, and not choose them from the company's staff. This strategy allowed for a more complete implementation of new brand ideas.

At the same time, young masters were given complete freedom of action, which eventually formed the Bang & Olufsen corporate identity, the essence of which was the combination of conceptual, sometimes extravagant forms with high-quality electronics. So, in the 64th year, transistor radios assembled in more compact cases appeared in the B&O lineup. The Beomaster 900 model made according to this principle even became a trendsetter in design.

The first B&O model designed by Jakob Jensen was the Beomaster 5000 FM stereo tuner with a front panel that vaguely resembled a slide rule. Jensen's works were characterized by strict minimalism and precise alignment of lines. The material used was usually brushed aluminum, as well as white and black plastic. The smooth surfaces of the hulls were distinguished by careful processing.

Amplifiers, speakers, tuners, turntables and other components had unusually sophisticated or futuristic design controls. For example, instead of standard knobs and regulators, transparent plastic panels, thin plates and other innovative elements were used.

Jacob defined his design philosophy as “different but not strange”, and he expressed his vision of this profession as follows: “designing a fountain pen, writing a poem, staging a play or designing a locomotive require the same ingredients: perspectives , creativity, new ideas, understanding and, above all, the ability to remake, almost endlessly, over and over again. This “again and again” is the most cruel torture for me.”

In 1967, he introduced the famous "Cubes" - Beovox 2500 Cube omnidirectional speakers planted on small racks with compact cubic cases, each side of which had a speaker (a total of six pieces). During his 27-year career at B&O, Jensen was involved in the creation of 234 products.

Expressive minimalism

In 1965, at the invitation of Henning and Jakob, Bang & Olufsen was joined by illustrious craftsman David Lewis, who had a hand in the design of models such as the Beolab 6000 active loudspeakers, the Beocord VX-5000 VCR and the Beovox Conor subwoofer, which became exhibits of the New York Museum of Modern Art MoMA (MoMA).

David Lewis was born in 1939 in the UK. In 1960 he graduated from the College of Art and Design in London (Central School of Art and Design), and a year later he moved to Denmark. The first product Lewis designed for B&O (together with Moldengaver) was the Beovision 400 TV, which featured a small wheeled stand that made it easy to move from room to room, and a 60-watt BeoLab 5000 amplifier, co-designed with Jensen, using wood and aluminium, won the prestigious iF Design Award in 1967.

Lewis's many standout products also include the elegant Beosound 9000 six-disc CD changer, the famous Beosystem 2500 stereo system with glass doors that open automatically when approached by hand, the BeoLab 8000 speakers inspired by the organ pipe, the BeoLab 5 speakers using acoustic lenses, the BeoCom2 curved phone and many more.

David continued the legacy of Jensen and Moldengaver, taking Bang & Olufsen away from the era of wood and bulky cases and into the sophisticated world of glass, aluminum and high-quality anodized finishes. Lewis put it this way: “Our BeoLab range of loudspeakers is a rebellion against the same, heavy wooden boxes humming around the corners of our houses and dictating to us how our environment should look and how we should live.”

David Lewis preferred to draw everything by hand rather than with computers, which he saw as too restrictive and too complex machines to work with. Instead, he favored clean, simple and functional design. “People believe that high quality is synonymous with gadgets and complexity. I believe that the less you complicate things, the more people will show interest in them, ”the designer argued.

In 1972, B&O introduced its first turntable, the Beogram 4000, equipped with an effective vibration dampening suspension and equipped with a tangential tonearm. As a result, the model also became an exhibit of MoMA.

In 1976, the famous Beomaster 1900, a sleek slim design receiver with touch controls, was introduced, and in 1978, MoMA hosted an exhibition dedicated to Bang & Olufsen products.

In the 80s, the company remained true to its ideals and was awarded the national ID Prize. In 1984, one of Bang & Olufsen's most successful passive loudspeakers, the Beovox CX 100, appeared, which was an example of minimalism, had aluminum cabinets and had fabric grills.

In 1985, the Beovision MX 2000 television was released, designed by Lewis. Despite the unusual external forms and the abundance of innovative technological solutions, B&O has always strived to ensure the convenience and ease of use of its products.

"The problem with new technologies is that they open up too many possibilities," Lewis said. "Instead of making life easier, they often make it more difficult because people have more options than they really need."

New Approach

In the 1990s, B&O opened its branded stores around the world, which was done specifically for the purpose of organizing direct sales, bypassing retailers. Production of individual audio components ceased in favor of mini-audio systems, which had higher price tags than similar products from competing companies, which was a common practice for Bang & Olufsen. At the same time, various portable devices were also produced under the Danish brand, including MP3 players and mobile phones.

In the early 2000s, the Danish company entered the Car Audio segment and became the official supplier of audio equipment for such eminent companies as BMW, Daimler AG, Audi and Aston Martin. In 2005, the flagship Audi A8 model was equipped with Bang & Olufsen's proprietary BeoLab 5 audio system. When turned on, its tweeters automatically popped out of the car's dashboard.

The global economic crisis of 2008 had a major impact on B&O, resulting in a sharp decline in sales. Between 2008 and 2009, the company's annual revenue dropped from $853 million to $528 million, accompanied by a sharp drop in share price.

The restructuring plan put in place by B&O management included about 300 layoffs in Denmark and the abandonment of the development of new mobile phones, MP3 players and stand-alone systems such as the DVD2 DVD/HDD player and the HDR2 HDD recorder. Instead, the company focused on its traditional strengths: high-quality audio and video products, as well as sound systems for the automotive industry. The crisis was overcome only by 2010.

In 2012, the iconic Beoplay A9 active speaker was released with an original design reminiscent of a satellite dish mounted on three wooden legs. The model had an aluminum frame, had built-in digital amplifiers, supported Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Bluetooth, Google Assistant voice assistant and allowed to be integrated into a multi-room system.

In March 2015, Bang & Olufsen partnered with personal computer and printer manufacturer HP Inc. In the same year, the BeoLab 90 active speaker system was introduced - a large omnidirectional floor speaker with a futuristic design, equipped with 18 drivers, proprietary ICEpower amplifiers and equipped with a system with a fine algorithm for adjusting the phase response of each radiator.

In May of the same year, HARMAN International Industries (which later became a subsidiary of Samsung) announced the completion of the acquisition of Bang & Olufsen's Car Audio business, and in 2017 the Czech B&O division was bought out by the Chinese company Tymphany Corporation.

Towards the end of the 2010s, the company introduced the 77-inch Beovision Harmony OLED TV, equipped with motorized audio panels. The model supported 4K resolution and HDR video (including Dolby Vision), work with TuneIn and Deezer online services, had a 7.1-channel decoder and could easily be integrated into a multi-room installation.

In January 2020, B&O again suffered losses due to the failure of sales of its $500 headphones.

Today, B&O products are divided into the following segments: speakers, headphones, TVs and accessories. However, virtually every Bang & Olufsen-branded product is fundamentally different from standard products from other manufacturers.

The company remains true to its ideals and, in fact, belongs to the luxury segment in the world of audio, with an emphasis on designer components. Today, Bang and Olufsen's marketing strategy continues to appeal to customers in the AV market who are looking for quality, innovative technology and unique aesthetic appeal.

As of 2017/2018, B&O employed 1,028 people. The headquarters of Bang & Olufsen, as it was 95 years ago, is still located in Struer. B&O also has a small plant at its disposal, where all work related to aluminum processing is carried out.

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The brand names Bang & Olufsen, B&O, trade mark and many of the product names and details together with on-site photographs are the property and copyright of Bang & Olufsen. The information on this website is provided only as a guide to Bang & Olufsen collectors and enthusiasts of the marque.

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