Innovators

Bo Bengtsson's $2 Million Ultimate Speakers


Bengtsson builds the world’s most expensive speakers. The $2 million Ultimate can hit 150 decibels with almost no distortion

Photograph by Klara Källström and Thobias Fäldt for Bloomberg Businessweek

Bengtsson builds the world’s most expensive speakers. The $2 million Ultimate can hit 150 decibels with almost no distortion

You use 40 subwoofer cones, all lined up in a grid, for the bass. Why not fewer big ones instead?
This way, you get extremely low distortion, so low you can’t measure it. Frankly, that was more or less how I wanted to challenge myself: by asking, “What would it take to make a no-compromise speaker that could play very loud with a distortion so low that it’s barely measurable?”

What sets the Ultimate apart—proprietary technology or precision?
It’s both! But mostly proprietary: I designed the woofers and the ribbons as well. They have small, very powerful magnets—neodymium, the most powerful you can get—and you have a line of these, as tall as a tall American, 2 meters-plus. They move a thin metal ribbon [which moves air and produces sound].

The installation must matter a lot when it comes to a system like this. Do you tailor it to the room?
Well, the Ultimate is very large—13 meters wide. So people need help, and it needs a very big house. But that’s the good thing about the modularized design: You can use as many parts as you want for a given area. With the whole 13 meters, you could easily crack the building.

Have you cracked a building?
We’ve come close. When there was too much amplifier power—30,000 watts—at one moment.

What was the hardest part to nail?
How to design the speakers so that they could be transported without getting damaged in shipping. [We solved it] by taking the modular thinking to the extremes that were possible. I have two pairs under construction—one in Dubai, one in Miami. They have a very long delivery time, because it takes half a year to build one system, and we’re only four guys doing all the jobs. But the Megatrend, our cheaper system, that’s a big hit, and they’re $60,000 per pair.

Bonanos is a Bloomberg Businessweek contributor.

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