B&O opens new Virtual Reality laboratory

bang olufsen laboratory test space featuring Genelec SAM monitors for audio simulation

Bang & Olufsen has opened a laboratory at its headquarters Struer, Denmark, dedicated to creating hyper-accurate simulations of how loudspeakers will sound in any given environment.

The Danish manufacturer states that at the heart of the research project is the understanding and analysis of reverberation – chiefly, what defines it, how sound reacts with reflective surfaces, and how it can benefit - or detract from – the listener’s experience.

The loudspeaker sphere is based around a 3 metre diameter frame, constructed within ananechoic chamber, and utilises a network of thirty-five Genelec 8320 monitors, five 8331 three way coaxial monitors from The Ones series, plus four 7050 subwoofers to create instantly recallable sound fields ranging in format from simple stereo and 5.1 up to 22.2. The resulting environment allows the listener to experience the acoustic conditions specific to a particular living room, car interior, concert hall, or other acoustic environment.

“We wanted to bring real life into the lab,” says Dr. Neo Kaplanis, Tonmeister and lead scientist at B&O. Along with an EU-FP7 consortium, Kaplanis plans to investigate whether it is possible to compensate for reverberation effects with the goal of aiding B&O’s R&D department.

“Our acoustic memory is extremely short, and that makes it hard to remember for any length of time exactly what a particular loudspeaker sounds like,” he continues. “And when auditioning loudspeakers in a store, you have no idea what that same model would sound like in your own living room. We knew that the same loudspeakers don’t sound the same in different rooms, we just didn’t know what was different.”

He continues: “The idea of this project was to investigate and record the acoustics inside various spaces so that they could be easily simulated in a controlled environment.”

Kaplanis has introduced a new type of recording that captures the unique acoustic fingerprint of a space, and then designed a computer program that plays back sounds from those precise locations in the sphere.

Genelec’s GLM software was also use on the product – allowing researchers to update filters, select and mute individual speakers, group them, and control the volume of all of them at the same time to test different set-ups.

“Being able to test the sound of a loudspeaker in different acoustic environments in exacting detail - without physically going there - is of obvious benefit to us because we don’t have the knowledge of an individual listener’s living room conditions – but is now possible to simulate those conditions with a high degree of accuracy thanks to Genelec’s expertise in acoustic design and the precise reproduction of sound,” concludes Søren Bech, B&O director of research and professor at Aalborg University.