Retro Tech Spotlight: Beogram 4000

As a monthly feature of this blog, Audiogon looks at some of the technological marvels of the past that may have preceded your birth, escaped your memory, or come and gone without ever having made an impression. This month, we take a look at the Bang & Olufsen Beogram 4000.

So beautiful. So functional. Such a PIA to maintain.

When folks talk about Bang & Olufsen’s heyday back in the early to mid 1970s, they’re usually talking about the Beogram 4000, the world’s first electronically controlled tangential gramophone, a marvel of both function and design that floored the hi-fi community upon its release. It remains coveted to this day, despite its notoriety for being particularly difficult to maintain and repair.

The Beogram 4000 was designed by Jacob Jensen, chief designer at B&O for more than two decades and with whom he won countless awards for product design. Especially novel to the design was the double tone arm. The first of the arms detected whether there was vinyl on the turntable, and whether it was a single, 10″ or LP, before dropping the second arm onto the vinyl, which contained a specially-designed lightweight cartridge built especially for the Beogram.

The double tone arm: The optical left arm finds the vinyl, the right arm contains the cartridge.

The tangential arm also played the record at the same angle at which it was cut from the master, resulting in less distortion. Moving the arm was controlled by a pad at the lower right of the console. To lift the needle, one pressed north, then moved the needle by pressing left or right before lowering the needle by pressing south.

You want specs? Here’s some specs.

Of course, all of this fancy, exclusive technology meant that Beogram owners were dependent on B&O and B&O alone for repair parts, as well as technicians knowledgeable with the ins and outs of the unique turntables for servicing. Yeah, about that … good luck.

The repair parts market is pretty much limited to scavenging parts off of other Beograms that are in worse condition than yours. Fixing one? Plan on figuring it out yourself or dropping several bills for a certified tech. And if you need a new cartridge, there is only one company – Soundsmith of New York – that B&O allows to manufacture replacement carts.

Gentlemen, we can rebuild it. We have the technology. Better than it was before.

However, to celebrate the company’s 95th anniversary, B&O recently tracked down 95 units, refurbished and tweaked them for contemporary systems, and are reselling them as the Beogram 4000c. The original units were stripped down and cleaned, with new parts and components installed, the original silvertoned aluminum polished and anodized in a warm champagne tone and the original teak trim replaced with a solid oak frame.

Same. But different. The refurbished Beogram 4000c.

Other tweaks include a built-in phono pre-amp and space to accommodate future tech upgrades, as well as a brand-new MMC moving-magnet phono cartridge manufactured by B&O. Each of the numbered 95 units comes in a handcrafted, solid oak box with aluminum fittings. All this – and the fun that will come with trying to service it 10 years now – can be yours for the low, low price of $11,000.

Ooooh, the 4000c comes in a pretty handcrafted solid oak box. That’s a nice toss-in, for $11K.

If cost and frustration are no object, however, we say you should totally go for it, because that is one sweet table.