The Danish electronics company Bang & Olufsen is famous for its classic speaker designs, some of which are part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. But to play music on the company’s vintage speakers from the 1970s and ’80s, you need to use CDs and tape cassettes—so last century.
That is, until now. The company has created a DIY electronics toolkit that enables you to stream music on vintage speakers. That way, you can keep the classic, old-school look, without sacrificing the ease of Bluetooth and Spotify.
“Some people love the design we did in the ’80s more than anything else, so why not empower them to bring that back to life and give them the same experience we offer off the shelf?” says Anders Buchmann, chief intrapreneur at Bang & Olufsen who headed up the project.
The project, which launched earlier this month, acknowledges the importance of reusing and repairing old products—something that’s good for the environment but antithetical to corporate bottom lines. Many tech companies make repairing hardware intentionally difficult as part of their drive to convince you to always upgrade to the latest device. Even Buchmann acknowledges that the product, called the Beocreate 4 Channel Amplifier, isn’t great for the company’s bottom line. But he isn’t worried about B&O’s future sales declining if people chose to upgrade their old speakers instead of buying new ones, especially given that the kit is pricey, costing nearly $200. “Cannibalization isn’t the biggest worry,” he says. “I’d hope that [Alibaba CEO] Jack Ma would offer this at a tenth or hundredth of the price so more people would do it and it would make a bigger impact.”
Instead, the value for B&O is in preserving its brand and being seen as a forward-looking, innovative company that cares about the environment. As a result, the amplifier is built on open source software that anyone can tinker with—Buchmann says that you could hook the system up to a sensor so when your cat starts eating the speakers, they start playing the theme from Star Wars. Of course, that’s for the experts. For beginners, you can put together the DIY kit in about an hour using Youtube tutorials.
The system is also brand agnostic: it can be used to update any speaker, not just old Bang & Olufsen classics, making it a tool for anyone who appreciates classic speaker design but wants the ease of modern convenience.
These are the kinds of tools that tech companies should be producing—devices that give people the chance to reuse and adapt their old things so they’re less likely to ditch them for something new and flashy. Rather than waging war against repair culture, it’s an ethos that encourages it, putting control over your stuff back in your hands.