Bang & Olufsen Beoplay A1 Review - A premium speaker with some issues. The Beoplay A1 from Bang & Olufsen is a great product, offering top-notch sound quality and a beautiful design. However, the outdated Bluetooth technology and poor battery life keep it from being amazing. It was capable of recording for over a week.
We like this
A rich, deep sound
Beautiful, sturdy B&O design
Intuitive app functionality
A bit bulky
Avoid scratches and scuffs
Beoplay A1 speakers are for B&O enthusiasts who need high-quality sound. However, it is not recommended for casual Bluetooth users.
- Durability and build quality
- Connection and setup
- Sound Quality
- Battery life
- Software and Additional Features
- Final Verdict
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay A1 aims to bring B&O's high-quality home listening experience into a Bluetooth speaker you can carry around in your purse. The experiment was a huge success thanks to its incredible sound quality, sharp, clear mids and beautiful design. The only problem with the experiment is its size and shape. The speaker's build quality is excellent, but it feels heavy and bulky. To get more information about this portable Bluetooth speaker for $250, I purchased a natural brushed aluminum model and spent a good part of the week with it.
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Design: Elegant, but a little awkward
Bang & Olufsen is perhaps best known for its extraterrestrial-looking Beoplay A9—a tripod-based circular speaker that's meant to sit elegantly in the corner of your living room or den. Audiophiles who are keen on visual design will recognize B&O for being a company that values the combination of audio and visual aesthetics. The A1 attempts to shrink the speaker's circular design and make it more compact. Although the A1 isn't as thin and sleek as its predecessor, the A9 it's thicker. It also looks more like a smoke detector. The design language remains.
Although the finish is described by B&O as "natural", it actually consists of a mostly brushed aluminium build. It's similar to the original MacBook unibody. Rubber-plastic material is used to make the bottom of the speaker stable and secure when it's placed on a table.
Audiophiles who are keen on visual design will recognize B&O, a company that values the integration of audio and visual aesthetics.
The leather-corded, corded strap that is tethered to the device may be the most bizarre design decision. Although it's an interesting design detail to bring some contrast and can be easily removed, it is a little odd for a minimalist device. Another issue you may have is the thickness of the speaker. This has implications on the portability of the device, which I will discuss in the next section. However, I feel it is important to mention that I was initially shocked by how thick the A1 speaker looked in photos online.
There are also about six other colors to choose from, so if you want something a bit flashier (like Moss Green or Tangerine Red), then that option is available to you—though all of the colors do look premium.
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Portability: The awkward
The biggest problem with the A1 is its portability. The A1's biggest flaw is its portability. It measures nearly two inches from top to bottom. This speaker has a very thick profile. B&O chose to make this speaker a circular design instead of a rectangular or cylindrical shape. It measures over 5 inches across. The speaker is not as compact or easy to fit into a backpack. At a weight of 1.3 pounds you will definitely feel its bulky nature if it's left in your bag.
Although the leather strap attaches to the A1 gives you something to grip on, the device can be slippery and slippy to hold. The slots where the strap slides into are almost identical in width to that of the original strap. If you decide to replace your strap with a new one, you will need to be careful about choosing a replacement. This device's design is very nice. I think it will be used more for office purposes than for picnics in parks. Portability may not matter as much, but B&O clearly intended it to not be sporty.
This speaker is almost two inches tall from top to bottom. It's a great example of a company that focuses on slim, lightweight devices.
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Build Quality and Durability: Strong, yet scratchable
There is a bit of a Beoplay A1 identity crisis. This is most evident on the durability aspect of the coin. Although the first-gen A1 I tried claims that it's splash- and dirt-resistant in its marketing material, there is no official IP rating. Although IP ratings don't guarantee durability, they do provide guidelines so we can all speak the same language.
We don't have one so we are relying on B&O to say that the speaker is safe near a swimming pool or under light rain. While I did not experience any problems in my outdoor testing, I cannot recommend that you take this speaker to more sandy environments such as the beach or leave it outside in heavy rain. As I said, the speaker feels and looks more like an indoor device than an outdoor one.
However, it's not everything. It's not all bad though. The aluminum speaker grille at the top protects the internal workings of speaker cones. It's made from the most durable rubber that I have ever felt in a portable speaker. This is especially noticeable when compared to JBL's Flip, which was adventure-friendly.
The A1 feels like a tank thanks to these two components. I am confident it will survive a bagful of groceries or even a slight drop. The premium design of the speaker makes it susceptible to scratching and scuffing. It's difficult to make any kind of marks on luxury devices.
Setup and Connectivity: Easy and reliable
Bluetooth 4.2 is the Bluetooth protocol in use with the Beoplay A1. This gives you approximately 30 meters of connectivity. If you are able to keep your line of sight at the speaker, this is sufficient. However, Bluetooth 4.2 doesn't allow you to connect more devices. Also, thick walls or heavy interference could cause problems. The second generation of Beoplay is recommended if Bluetooth 5.0 is important to you. It's the most significant update B&O has brought to the product.
As expected with a premium device, it launched in Bluetooth pairing mode right out of the box, was easy to set up in my iPhone's Bluetooth menu, and has a button to reenter pairing mode to easily connect to a new device. The stability of connection was also impressive in my real-world tests—I have a lot of Bluetooth devices connecting to each other in my home office, and I had no issues with connectivity, even when my phone was in the other room. An aux input is available for a wired connection.
Sound Quality - The highlight feature
Two features that you should look out for when buying a B&O device is a stunning design and a sonic response. The sound quality is a little better than the design in this instance. The spec sheet is pretty clear on the points of interest here: there are 2 class D amps, each giving you 30W RMS, one powering the 3.5-inch main driver, and the other powering the ¾-inch tweeter. You can get coverage of 60- to 24,000Hz.
That low end isn't surprising—these small format speakers aren't particularly good at producing bass sounds, so most manufacturers don't try to pump out much below 50Hz. Surprisingly, the highest frequency is 24,000 Hz. This provides more sparkle and headroom than I expected.
It's all about the experience, not the numbers. I want to be honest about the sound quality here—the A1 doesn't sound like a bass-heavy JBL speaker or a punchy unit from Ultimate Ears. The A1 produces a more natural, detailed sound. The A1 speaker has a similar design to their home unit. It is tuned for a more balanced sound and not just bass. The speaker is designed so that you get the best sound quality if it's flat on a desk, while other brands such as Bose and JBL prefer you to place the speaker sideways.
You can hear the A1's top-firing sound giving you what they call 'True360. In practice this means the A1 fills your space more evenly than any other models in its class. The A1's sound quality is generally quieter than other brand-name models, which allows for a more balanced listening experience. You can also make many adjustments to the sound by connecting the Beoplay app to your smartphone. I will get into that later.
The A1 generally is quieter than the sportier models of other brands. However, this makes it easier to listen with a more balanced approach.
Battery life: Maybe an over-promise
The battery life on the Beoplay A1's first generation is impressive. B&O says you can enjoy up to 24 hours worth of audio, which I think is the longest battery life for a speaker this small. Although it's not clear what the actual battery size is, its weight would suggest that this battery is quite large. In real life, however, the battery only lasts half as long. It could have been due to how loud I was hearing and the number of connected apps I used, but I find it disappointing that B&O has overpromised on their spec sheet.
Although your mileage may vary with this speaker's capabilities, it can be charged quickly thanks to its USB-C port and B&O’s adaptive charging technology. The speaker also features an adaptive playback feature that optimizes volume for a charge below 20 percent. Although this is alarming because it alters your listening experience initially, it can be a useful band-aid for a battery that's otherwise poor.
Software with Extra Features: A stunningly intuitive app
There are many bells and whistles in connected Bluetooth apps. These can be speakers, earbuds or all of the above. These apps can be either too complex or too restricted. The Beoplay app was very easy to use. After you have created an account and fired it up, the app recognizes all connected B&O devices. You can then control your device with ease.
You can monitor battery life and update firmware. The app also allows you to connect an additional A1 to create a stereo pair. This is a great way to have a larger soundstage. The best thing about the app is its intuitive EQ controls. You have five options to choose from, including active, ambient, or in-between sounds. B&O does not force you to use confusing EQ knobs or sliders if you need more control. They instead offer a draggable grid which allows you to switch between bright, energetic, calm, warm and relaxed sounds. This is done on two axes. It is very simple to use and visually enables you to be very specific about what sound you desire.
Prices: For the most premium
You'll be spending about $250 for the A1's first generation (which has a longer battery life, louder sound and better Bluetooth), or $250 for the A1's second generation (which is slightly less expensive and offers better Bluetooth) - unless the A1 goes on sale. It's about twice the price of a comparable-volume JBL model, but it is still in line with premium brands.
That means that this speaker really is only for those who want a premium portable speaker—one that feels at home alongside your leather briefcase and your MacBook Pro. This speaker will only be worth the price if you love its design. The sound quality is amazing, but it's not the design and build quality that are worth the money.
B&O Beoplay A1 vs. Bose SoundLink Revolve+
B&O promises omnidirectional sound so I couldn't resist pairing it with the SoundLink Revolve+ by Bose. You can have a louder, deeper speaker with a better 360-degree coverage for $50 less. B&O claims a longer battery life, while the audio qualityof A1 is a little better than the Bose. The SoundLink, however, is an impressive option if you need something to fill in space for parties.
B&O Beoplay A1 can be a difficult speaker to recommend, as I didn't expect so many compromises at such a low price. Battery life claims can be questionable and durability isn't as reliable as you would expect from a portable speaker. This speaker isn’t as premium as the cost would suggest, with no Bluetooth 5.0 or any premium Bluetooth codescs. Its sound quality and appearance are two of the most persuasive factors that will convince you to purchase this speaker. These two factors are important to you so it is worth looking at.
- Product name: Beoplay A1 Bluetooth Portable Speaker
- Bang & Olufsen is the product brand
- SKU B01DO9KW38
- Prices from $249.99
- Weighing 1.3 pounds
- Product dimensions 1.8 x 51 x 5 in
- Natural Color, Black, Sand Stone or Moss Green. Tangerine Red is an option.
- Battery life is 12-24 hours, but it varies depending on how you use it.
- Both wired and wireless
- The range of wireless is 30m
- 2-year warranty
- Bluetooth spec Bluetooth 4.2
- Audio codecs SBC, AAC
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