The Penta loudspeaker range - made up of Beolab Penta active speakers and the Beovox Penta passive speakers - had, as the name suggests, five-sides to their cabinets. The Beolab Penta stood 1,65m tall and was designed in such a way that any internal sound waves from within the loudspeaker’s polished stainless steel cabinets would be dramatically reduced as there were no parallel surfaces. The same principle was adhered to with BeoLab 8000 and 6000 although their cabinets were rounded. The sound principle used was said to be ‘acoustically ‘dead’. The cabinet design of the Penta was very innovative and moved totally away from the square wooden boxes of old. And because the speakers were columnar, their footprint took up very little space in the room. Also, as the cabinets were manufactured from a soft-brushed stainless steel, the tall speakers seemed to blend into their room environment so much better than if they had been manufactured from a darker, non-reflective material. The Penta range was the first group of speakers to use the reflective qualities of either stainless steel or aluminium in this way.
The Beolab Penta was the first Bang & Olufsen loudspeaker to have its own integrated amplifier. Up to that point in time amplifiers had always been built into music systems which powered passive speakers through connected leads. However, with Beolab Penta the principle was entirely different . The cables were still there, but this time these ‘Power Link‘ connector leads (Beolab Penta II and III) received data from the music system telling the built-in speaker amplifiers just how they should perform.
The Beolab Penta was really made up of two main components: a Beovox Penta passive loudspeaker which sat on top of a Beolab 150 (later Beolab 200) mono amplifier in order to drive it. The Beolab 150/200 delivered 150 watts of power, so compared to many speakers/amplifiers that had been built by Bang & Olufsen in the past, this was very powerful indeed. Each active speaker could handle as much as that produced from theBeomaster 8000 - Bang & Olufsen’s most powerful receiver/amplifier.
Not only was the power rated the highest but each speaker contained the greatest number of drivers that had ever been accommodated within one cabinet: a total of nine. These were made up of four woofers, four mid-range units and one tweeter. The mid-range drivers worked slightly out of synch with each another and the whole arrangement was overseen by some complicated crossover/phase corrector electronics.
Half way up the Beolab Penta was an electronic display showing the current source being played together with its volume level. The Beovox Penta did not have the display of course, as the speaker had no internal amplifier. Unlike the Beolab Penta the Beovox Penta still relied on a separate amplifier built into a music system.
- Penta Mk I: fitted with Speakerlink connections together with an orange segment display
- Penta Mk II: a new amplifier, Powerlink and Speakerlink connectors, amber/red dot-matrix alpha-numeric display
- Penta Mk III: green alpha-numeric dot-matrix display
The sound from the Beolab Penta was excellent; plenty of power was produced without ‘clipping’ and as the drivers were positioned in a column, and therfore at a seated person’s ear level, the stereo image was remarkably lifelike. To fine-tune bass reproduction, the user could tell the loudspeaker just where it was being used in the room: either free-standing, in a corner, or against the wall. The same principle is still in use in many of today’s speakers.
At the time of its introduction it was recommended by Bang & Olufsen that they be used with the newBeocenter 9000 or Beosystem 5500. Physically- and electronically-speaking, they were a good partnership.
Beolab Penta was superceded by Beolab Penta II in 1990. Using the new Beolab 200 power unit, the speaker looked very similar to its predecessor although many of the internal components had been redesigned. Power Link was included and a new alpha-numeric display added. The display still used the same backlit LCD principle but it also automatically dimmed according to lighting conditions of the room in which it was being used. A selector swich was also made available dependant on which source was being played through the loudspeaker: either from an audio or a video source.
Both Beolab Penta and Beolab Penta II were very popular as they stood unique within the Bang & Olufsen loudspeaker range.
Beolab Penta II came to the end of its life in 1992 and was replaced by the Beolab Penta III which was the third and final variant of this successful loudspeaker range. With parts and performance remaining identical to that of the last inception, it was only the display which was changed to that of a green LED. At the time of the introduction of Beolab Penta III there was a general lack of music systems in the Bang & Olufsen range that could be successfully used with it. And other than the Beosystem 7000 and perhaps the Beosystem AV9000Beolab Penta was all alone having also to compete against the much more streamlined, more modern-looking and better-behaved BeoLab 8000.
The Beolab Penta range therefore came to an end in 2000. By then, many units had been sold and today they still remain a very popular loudspeaker from the company. Beolab 1 replaced Beolab Penta when a whole new breed of amplifiers, those incorporating ICEpower, was introduced to the Bang & Olufsen speaker range.