Let’s be frank. Bang & Olufsen’s philosophy is not ‘sonics first, all else after’. But then again, if we’re being honest it is very hard to say the same about most so-called ‘real hi-fi’ manufacturers, to which we serious minded audiophiles willingly give house room. Can you honestly say that your average Arcam is totally focused on sound, to the complete exclusion of all other concerns – like ergonomics and appearance?
There’s another issue here too. Aside from sterile debates about what constitutes ‘real hi-fi’ and what doesn’t, it’s important to remember that the 1979 Bang & Olufsen you see before you has fewer facilities than your typical 1999 Linn or Naim system. The point is that even our so-called ‘purist’ manufacturers – one-time purveyors of some of the most stripped-down, minimalist hi-fi ever made – now recognise that audiophiles are real people with real needs listening in real rooms. Times are changing and ‘serious’ separates are getting closer and closer to the B&O philosophy, not the other way round…
So what distinguishes the Beomaster 2400-2 from, say, your average TEAC Reference Series mini system? If it’s snazzy looks you want, why not go to Currys Digital and pick up some flashily designed JVC all-in-one for £99? Well, take one look at this product and you’ll soon see how and why it’s different. In short, the quality of its Jacob Jensen design and B&O build is superlative. By today’s standards it’s a superb piece of packaging and a beautifully built bit of kit, but by those of 1979 it was simply staggering.
The front top section houses a row of touch-sensitive controls. As well as having no moving parts (susceptible to noise and sonic degradation), these form the cornerstone of the B&O philosophy. You can flick between phono, tape and (the built-in) tuner sources (the latter offering four presets plus the option of manual tuning) effortlessly, without having to raise the heavily damped, central aluminium flap which conceals the minor controls. These comprise bass, treble, balance, thumbwheel tuning, master power, AFC, preset volume, mono/stereo and loudness.
Set into the black acrylic touch sensitive panel are Space 1999-style illuminated displays for volume, balance, bass, treble and source selectors. Next to these sit green LEDs for tuning and FM stereo. Underneath, there’s a reminder of B&O’s 1970s European origins – all inputs and outputs are DIN, apart from the female coaxial FM antenna socket. The black, fluted rear part of the 2400-2 thinly disguises the receiver’s heatsinks, which are far more substantial than you’d expect for its rated 30W RMS per channel output. The 2400-2 comes complete with a ‘Beomaster Control Module’ (i.e. remote control). An ultrasonic design the size of a small paperback, its brushed aluminium faced controls make it look like a prop from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
As you might expect, the 2400-2 is a joy to use, and works exquisitely well. Sound is surprisingly good – the all discrete transistor amplifier section is a smooth but musically involving performer. Despite its lack of detail and loose bottom end, it’s still far closer to real hi-fi than many modern budget separates and far more beguiling to listen to. Likewise, FM stereo sound is smooth and natural, if a bit rose tinted and soft. Although not bang up to date, it’s far better any modern micro or mini, and runs rings round a lot of Japanese high end stuff of its day too.
Classic B&O products hold their value well – residuals are higher than Japanese kit – although sheer popularity of the 2400 series has helped to push secondhand prices down. Like its non-remote controlled 1900 brother, you can pick a good 2400 for under £100. With brilliant build, finish and ergonomics, that’s stupidly little for such a beautiful slice of retro-futuristic hi-fi.