This week I had the rare privilege of getting an email land in my inbox that genuinely sparked excitement and an immediate message to the team exclaiming: “Have you seen this!?”
Specifically, I got the press release announcing “Bang & Olufsen scales up the cinematic experience with 97-inch Beovision Harmony.”
Now sure this isn’t the first über-expensive TV from the iconic lifestyle/hi-fi brand. Jump over to Bang and Olufsen’s history of Beovision page and you will see it has been making premium sets since the 1960s. The TV has also been out for a while but in smaller 65-inch, 77-inch, 83-inch, and 88-inch sizes. But, give me a break here, who doesn’t get excited about a 97-inch OLED that costs a whopping £50,650? Especially one that looks as distinctive as the Beovision.
We are yet to get this set, or any of Bang and Olufsen’s latest OLED TVs come to that, in for testing, so I can’t make any serious claims about their performance. However, having seen them in the flesh at the launch of the Beosound Theatre soundbar and in various stores I have frequented that sell them, I can confirm the smaller models are very eye-catching.
For design fans, I love the fact you can customise how they look by picking between Black Anthracite, Natural Aluminium or Gold Tone finishes. I take this as a great reminder of how not enough brands remember that technology needs to look nice if you’re going to sit it comfortably in shared spaces. And that's a key reason I frequently get a very hard stare from my other half whenever I try and sneak new hi-fi into the lounge.
But, after my excitement wore off, it reminded me of one of the first key lessons I learned using top-end home cinema equipment: no matter how good a TV’s picture may be, you should always pair it with a good sound system if you want the best experience possible.
This isn’t a dig at Bang and Olufsen which has designed the TV to work seamlessly with its Beolab 90, Beolab 50, or Beolab 28 home speakers. The set also has a fairly, on paper, robust speaker system hidden behind the grilles on its front. But that price set off an important alarm bell in my head around getting the best bang for your buck when shopping for home cinema tech.
This is based on a formative experience I had during a movie and football match night I shared with some friends just after graduating from university.
It sticks in my head, as my host had just joined a bank’s graduate scheme and had more money than God – at least compared with me, who was earning a waiter’s salary as a junior reporter. And, now that he was on the big bucks, he had invested in a Sony KDE-W50A12U. At the time, this 50-inch plasma was pretty much space-age tech to all of the rest of us, some of whom were still slumming it on CRT sets in our shared houses. The TV also has a place in history as the last plasma set that Sony made.
Eager to experience it, we all barrelled our way into his Borough flat and fought over who got the sweet spot in the centre of the sofa. But powering up the TV, while we all gawked at the picture and majestic size of the set, I remember gradually becoming aware that I wasn’t getting the “wow” experience I had expected. And the reason was simple.
Despite being willing to shell out more than £3000 (nearly $3700 in US money back then) for the TV, he hadn’t invested in a proper sound system. During the match, this meant I had frequent issues, such as the crowd’s roar not having the “shake my bones” low-end rumble I got sitting in my local pub, which had a proper 5.1-surround system, as well as frequent speaker rattle. It all just didn’t feel right.
Now, I realise that this is very much a first-world problem, especially for a person getting to experience such a top-end TV in his early 20s. But it crystallised a key lesson, and one that I have applied to all my buying advice as a tech journalist: if you want the best experience possible, sound is just as important as picture quality.
The reason the Beovision reminded me of this is that – and I’d love to see data to support this – I have seen numerous other high earners in my life repeat the mistake my old friend did: buying a ridiculously expensive set, but then failing to invest in a proper speaker system for it.
The latest example I saw was at a lifestyle launch event where the PR agency had rented a posh London townhouse. Front and centre in the living room was a wall-mounted 77-inch Samsung QN900B with nothing, not even a soundbar, connected. I almost wept.
That’s why, if you read any of What Hi-Fi?’s TV reviews, home cinema system guides, or general tips and tricks, you will frequently see us recommending a sound system to go with the top sets.
In this specific example, I found myself doing the maths on what you would need for a system with an equivalent-sized TV. Chatting to our TV/AV whizz kid – and by that, I mean editor – Tom Parsons, the set we struck on was the 97-inch LG G2 as a base point. For context, this is because Beovision TVs use LG OLED panels, so it is likely based on the same core screen hardware.
With the newer LG G3 now out, you can currently get the G2 for around £25,000 / $25,000. With the cash left over, you could then invest in a truly amazing sound system. Off the top of my head, say a Denon AVX-X6700H AV amplifier with Wharfedale Evo 4.4 5.1 surround speaker package married to an extra pair of rears and four in-ceiling speakers. It wouldn’t include the installation cost, but this would give you an amazing system for well under £10k. I mean, you could buy a car with the leftover £15k.
I want to make it clear that this isn’t a dig at Bang and Olufsen’s latest Beovision, which we haven’t tested. Instead, it's a good reminder of the age-old truth: if you don’t have an unlimited budget and want the best bang for your buck, always remember to invest in a good sound system alongside your new TV, even if it may require going for a slightly cheaper model on the latter.
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