Thanks to Steve Jobs, computer design has experienced a renaissance of sorts in recent years. Today's computers are no longer relegated to the dark confines of dusty basement offices. In many living rooms they are holding their own next to Eames chairs and Le Corbusier sofas. Unfortunately, makers of computer speakers have been slow to embrace this renaissance. That is until the designers from Bang & Olufsen in Denmark introduced the BeoLab 4 earlier this year.
The first thing you'll notice about the BeoLab 4 is the pyramid design. Standing about 8 inches tall, the unit is encased in three removable triangular cloth panels (which are available in blue, red, black and gray) that give it a sleek, contemporary look.
But these speakers aren't just pretty objects. I watched "Saving Private Ryan" on a laptop that was plugged into a pair of BeoLab 4s. The speakers faithfully recreated Spielberg's signature body-thumping sound effects without overpowering the dialogue. It is about as close as you'll get to a surround-sound experience in a two-speaker package.
The real test, though, came while listening to an audio CD on my computer and music files from my iPod (which you can plug directly into the speakers). I was amazed at the amount of detail the speakers captured, the crispness of the sound and the richness of the bass.
What gives the BeoLab 4s such range and power is that each pair has a built in amplifier, which ensures no deterioration in signal strength from amp to speaker. In addition the bass adjusts itself as you increase the volume, which leads to a more balanced sound.
Like most Bang & Olufsen products, though, the speakers are expensive--$1,200 for the pair. But it is well worth the investment if you plan on transforming your computer from a word processor into a dynamic entertainment center.