B&O Beosound A1 (2nd-gen) full review
Bang & Olufsen is renowned for its luxury, high-end, audio products and like Bose has updated one of its Bluetooth speakers with various upgrades. Here we review the Beosound A1 (2nd-Gen).
It might not look very different to the original, but the Beosound A1 comes with various improvements to make the portable speaker more desirable including longer battery life, better durability and Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codec.
Design & Build
It's not unusual for an audio company to keep the design the same when updating a speaker or even headphones and that’s what B&O has done here bar a few small tweaks.
The A1 still sports an over-sized hockey puck shape with a slightly domed top made of pearl-blasted aluminium. The bottom part is made from polymer with a slightly soft but durable finish.
Here is where you’ll find the six different buttons, three on either side of the leather carry strap – I'm not sure how well that strap will age but it is removable if it gets too grubby.
While the buttons – playback, volume up, volume down, power, Bluetooth and microphone toggle – are bigger and more clearly labelled, they’re still not the easiest to use being on the side close to the bottom. Not without picking the speaker up anyway.
The idea here is for the A1 (2nd-gen) to be compact and portable. And it certainly is at 568g with the ability to be easily placed on almost any surface or you could even hang it by the strap.
It’s also very durable with an IP67 rating meaning it’s fully dust and waterproof, which many rivals are not. It’s a shame that B&O doesn’t provide a carry case of any kind, not that this is the norm but I did find myself expecting one from a company like this given the price tag.
It’s nice to see the speaker come in a range of colours where others are typically black with perhaps a white or silver alternative. I tested the plain Grey Mist colourway but you can also get the A1 in Gold Tone, Black Anthracite, Pink and Green.
A single LED on top gives you some basic information, but I’d prefer to have a few to then indicate things like volume or even battery level. There is an LED beside the USB-C port to indicate low battery but it’s unhelpfully at the back so I rarely saw it.
Sound Quality & Features
The sonics of the A1 (2nd-gen) are the same with a 3.5in woofer and a 0.6in tweeter, both upwards firing of course. However, B&O has jumped to Bluetooth 5.1 (previously 4.2) along with Qualcomm’s aptX Adaptive Bluetooth codec - as well as AAC.
Qualcomm says the codec offers features like dynamic low latency, adaptive bit rate to avoid glitches and HD audio at up to 24bit/96kHz. Much of this goes on in the background without you knowing and while I found the speaker good for video calls with good lip-sync, it’s not ideal for gaming.
I didn’t find the A1 (2nd-gen) completely glitch-free, though. It worked well with both Android and iOS devices (although the app had a little fit on Android once leading me to remove the speaker and add it back) but didn’t play so nicely with my Windows 10 PC, where it often needed connecting in the settings and playback would sometimes be irregular.
When the speaker does have a solid connection, the sound quality is up there with the best Bluetooth speakers I’ve tested – even much bigger ones. There’s plenty of power here to fill most rooms thanks to two 30W Class D amps, so I rarely found myself needing to pump it beyond 50%.
With disc shape and the drivers facing upwards, the A1 provides a decent 360-degree sound experience when placed on a flat surface.
Bass performance is particularly impressive despite a frequency response of 55-20,000Hz when many will go down to 20Hz. The mid-range and treble are far from forgotten, with a well-rounded tuning on offer here.
It means that the Beosound A1 (2nd-gen) sounds great for a wide range of situations and music genres. If even you don’t agree, the B&O app has a selection of different EQ profiles you can try out along with a custom option. This brings up a circle with a virtual knob you can move around to adjust the amount of bass and treble.
The app also lets you control basic things like volume, gives you the battery level and is where you can create a stereo pair if you have two. Sadly, it doesn't work with the older A1 which is a shame if you have one already.
Not many compact Bluetooth speakers are also ‘smart’ and I don’t mean just having an app, but supporting a digital assistant. The Beosound A1 (2nd-gen) works with Amazon Alexa, although not like an Echo.
Since the speaker doesn’t have Wi-Fi, it needs an internet connection from your phone and you’ll need both the B&O and Alexa apps linked together for Alexa to work. The setup also means you can’t link a streaming service for commands like “Alexa, play some jazz on Spotify” or “Alexa, play Incubus on Tidal”.
The three far-field mics (the original only had one) work well for supported commands, though, and you can also use them for other things like hands-free phone calls.
Battery life is an odd one here as although B&O says the new A1 offers longer playback, the main quoted figure is 18 hours compared to 24 of the original. However, the firm says you can get up to 48 hours at a lower volume level.
I’ve found battery life to be solid and on the first charge, my Windows PC was reporting 100% for a long time and only dropped to 90% after around 6 hours of use. Unless you’re blasting the speaker for a party, I think most users will be able to comfortably hit 20 hours with a more casual usage which is excellent.
As you might expect from Bang & Olufsen, the A1 is not the cheapest speaker around. It comes in at £200 or US$250 so is likely to be at the top-end of most people’s budgets for this category of speaker.
If you're looking for a premium portable Bluetooth speaker then you've just found one of the best money can buy.
You'll just have to have a fair bit of cash to afford one, otherwise, there are plenty available at lower prices that are similarly impressive.
On the plus side here, you'll struggle to find better design and build quality, although the buttons are still more awkward than most rivals. The sound quality is top-notch, too, and you can add long battery life and USB-C charging to the list of pros.
When the app connects correctly it brings some useful features such as EQ and stereo pairing - as long as you buy two A1 (2nd-gen) speakers, which sucks for anyone with the Beoplay A1. My main issues was glitchy performance when used with a Windows 10 PC but mobiles worked fine.
Support for Alexa might swing it for you but remember that this isn't over Wi-Fi so it's not a fully-fledged smart speaker and requires your phone over Bluetooth to work.
B&O Beosound A1 (2nd-gen): Specs
- 3.5in woofer
- 0.6in tweeter
- 2x 30W Class-D amps
- 55-20,000Hz frequency range
- Bluetooth 5.1
- AAC, aptX Adaptive codecs
- 18 hours battery (3000mAh)
- USB-C port
- 6 buttons
- 3 microphones
- 133 x 46 x 133mm
- Pearl Blasted Aluminium, Polymer, Waterproof Leather
- Grey Mist, Gold Tone, Black Anthracite, Pink, Green
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