What comes around, goes around

September 1, 2008

Three men stand in front of Plasma TV screens at the Internationale Funkaustellung (IFA) consumer electronics fair in BerlinSony‘s new Sountina speaker is one of the most striking new technologies on show at IFA in Berlin, the world’s largest consumer electronics fair. Over six feet tall, it’s a thin, sealed glass tube with a single wire running its length, which vibrates to produce a sound that’s the same 360 degrees around. (A speaker to provide bass notes sits lower down the column.)

Not being an expert on hifi history, it was only when I came to Germany’s Grundig a bit later that I realised the idea – if not the implementation – wasn’t new.

Squashed 1970s-style spheres with chrome waistbands in both black and white stood on stands or hung from the ceiling. Visitors could sit on a roundabout to appreciate the Audiorama 9000’s unchanging sound as they went round in a circle. The design is a modern revamp of Grundig’s Kugelstrahler 700 speaker, which as early as 1969 offered an all round sound.

To add a further 1970s touch, head over to Germany high-end TV manufacturer Loewe. While other companies are striving to make their models as thin as possible, Loewe is offering customised side panels to some of its less anorexic ones. Best of the bunch was a very strokeable, acid-tipped mohair option. A Loewe spokesman wasn’t sure whether the concept would reach the shops, so if you might spend over 2,000 euros on a TV with its own fur, let Loewe know.

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