Are You Ready for Fashion-Forward TV?

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Curse those snooty Europeans! Itís been 10 years since Bang & Olufsen, the ultra-high-concept Danish home-electronics firm, has deigned to offer a TV for the North American market, but the wait is finally over with the 30-in. BeoVision Avant (around $8,500). The first thing you notice about it, after the price, is that it looks as good when itís turned off as when itís on: itís all sleek sculptural lines and brushed-metal surfaces. Everything is carefully designed: even the remote is long and slender, like a magic wand. And when you turn on the Avant, the picture appears to magically widen from the center, as if you were sitting in a theater and watching the curtain open, instead of lying there on the couch in a state of semitorpor in your undershirt.

The coolness doesnít stop there. The Avant has a high-tech sensor built in that gauges the amount of ambient light in the room and automatically adjusts the pictureís brightness, contrast and color accordingly. The audio is phenomenal ó the high end crisp, the bass seriously rump shaking. The television, in all its modernist splendor, sits on a motorized stand, and you can use the remote so that it swivels to face you wherever you happen to sit. Although itís entirely satisfying on its own, the Avant can function as the core of a home-theater system, connecting and controlling up to eight external sources ó VCR, DVD player, HDTV receiver, whatever youíve got. When theyíre all hooked up together, itís a heady sensation ó that long, wandlike remote starts to feel like the scepter of Zeus.