Beoplay A1 Review: This Bluetooth Speaker Sounds Even Better Than It Looks

by

Last month, B&O PLAY announced the Beoplay A1, the latest portable Bluetooth speaker in its family of luxury home audio products. B&O PLAY is a brand subsidiary of Danish high-end audio and video manufacturer Bang & Olufsen, known for its principled attention to design (which some say inspired Apple).

We decided to take a look at the A1 ultraportable speaker to see if the device justifies its $249 price tag, which places it at the premium end of the Bluetooth speaker market.

IMG_0624

Design

Taking the A1 out of the box, the first thing that strikes you is the compactness of the unit relative to its weight. At about 1.3 pounds (600 grams), it's not the lightest ultraportable speaker by any means, but its beautifully minimalist 'hockey puck' design feels disarmingly slight, partly thanks to designer Cecilie Manz's decision to embed the power, volume, play/pause, and pairing controls around the rim, with the attached leather strap adding a touch of surfer appeal.

The polymer base has a suede-like finish that ensures the 2-inch (51 mm) tall A1 sits happily on most surfaces, and its 5-inch (133 mm) diameter means it's possible to grasp the grilled dome from above and pick up with one hand. The unit sits snugly in the larger pockets of a raincoat, but trying to fit it in a light jacket pocket may present more of a challenge.

beoplay a1
A tiny pinhole on the rim of the A1 designates the speaker's microphone, used for conference calling when the device is connected to a cellphone. There's also a 3.5 mm mini jack port and a USB Type-C charging port, with a Type-C to Type-A charging cable included in the box.

The A1's solid aluminum casing certainly feels like it could take a few knocks, but its smooth finish is bound to attract scuffing and dents if you bash it about or throw it in a backpack with other hard objects.

"Every scratch tells a story", reads the B&O PLAY website, in a valiant attempt to market inevitable imperfection as a product feature. But many customers will take pride in looking after premium gear they've paid top dollar for, so the lack of a protective pouch at this price point is a disappointing omission.

Powering on the unit and holding the pair button saw it show up instantly in both iOS and OS X Bluetooth screens. The connection was made without a hitch, and didn't drop out as long as the speaker remained within a reasonable range. There's also a convenient button on the unit indicated by a circle icon that reconnects the speaker to the last paired device.

Beoplay app
The Beoplay iOS app is a free download that works with all of the company's speakers and can be used to upgrade their firmware. You can also use it to pair two A1 speakers with each other and enjoy true stereo separation, but there's no facility to connect the units to a larger multi-room setup.

In addition, the app lets you play with a handful of 'Tonetouch' EQ presets designed for the A1, or you can manually adjust the EQ using a graphical pad divided into concentric quadrants, titled 'Warm', 'Bright', 'Excited', and 'Relaxed'. They do make an audible difference, but in the end I left the EQ in the neutral position, preferring the A1's default sound signature.

Sound Quality

Placed on a desk or even on the floor, the A1 disperses sound in all directions with surprising confidence and ease. Its wide angle of projection is actually slightly disorienting at first, and had more than one person entering the room wondering where the speaker was hidden even though it was sat in plain view.

Beoplay A1
The A1's 3.5-inch aluminum driver and 0.75-inch tweeter (powered by two 30-watt class D amps) effortlessly reproduced Jim Morrison's baritone wail and Krieger's expansive freeway riffs throughout The Doors' L.A. Woman, while a few tracks from Django Django's eponymous album soon had the coffee table rattling with a clarity and detail I've not heard before in a speaker of this size.

Switching to some dub techno and dialing up the internal amp to peak power (2x140 watts) using the A1's onboard controls, easily overrode the source device's maximum output, but it was almost impossible to induce distortion at high volume, thanks to the responsiveness of B&O's proprietary digital signal processing.

That inevitably puts a limit on the output of the A1, and it's not the loudest Bluetooth speaker on the block, but it can easily exceed comfortable listening levels in a medium-sized living room, and it does sound consistently lovely, especially in the midrange.

Achieving decent audio separation at this scale is no easy feat, but the A1 dealt with jazz and classical genres with considerable aplomb, with only a handful of deep double bass notes going missing in instrumental tracks from time to time, which is totally forgivable for a unit of this size and frequency response (60-24,000Hz).

Beoplay A1
I took the A1 out to the garden during a family barbecue and its detailed sound remained just as confident, carrying especially well when hung from a nearby wall via its leather strap, giving it great projection across the lawn.

I used the A1 at average volume each afternoon over the course of a week, testing it in a variety of scenarios – in the kitchen (it's dust and splash resistant), in the park, placed on a desk in a meeting room – with the unit drawing admirers on several occasions.

On the fifth day of use the unit's LED light flashed to indicate the battery was approaching its last 10 percent of power. It still lasted the rest of the afternoon though, and when I charged it via the supplied cable, the A1's 2,200mAh battery reached full capacity in under 100 minutes. Given what I'd put it through, the advertised "up to 24 hours" charge didn't seem all that far fetched.

Bottom Line

Overall, the A1 is an extremely impressive-sounding Bluetooth speaker with looks to match. Its thoughtful, stylish design easily places it above speakers like the cheaper UE Boom 2, but its audio output is equally attention-grabbing, and beats its most likely premium rival, Bose's popular SoundLink Mini II.

Achieving bass-rich clarity and sonic detail from such a small unit is a remarkable achievement, and coupled with its balanced dispersion and decent battery life, the Beoplay A1 really does live up to the tired old adage that you get what you pay for.

Pros

  • Compact and stylish premium-grade design
  • Rich, balanced sound and excellent dispersion
  • Impressive battery life at medium volumes
  • Fast charging time

Cons

  • Not the loudest Bluetooth speaker
  • Splash-proof, not waterproof
  • No carry pouch supplied in the box
  • Pretty expensive for an ultraportable

BeoPlay A1 Speaker

How to Buy

The Beoplay A1 costs $249, is available in mossy green or silver ('natural'), and can be ordered on the B&O PLAY website.

Note: B&O PLAY provided the A1 speaker to MacRumors free of charge for the purposes of this review. No other compensation was received.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
54 months ago
Oh B&O... The actual company Apple should've bought.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
54 months ago
"Beoplay A1 Review: This Bluetooth Speaker Sounds Even Better Than It Looks"

That's not a very high bar...

Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
54 months ago

"Beoplay A1 Review: This Bluetooth Speaker Sounds Even Better Than It Looks"

That's not a very high bar...

Interesting. What's your preferred speaker style, in positive terms?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
54 months ago

$249 for mono sound? Pass.

For an audiophile it might be an issue, but then again you would prob not use Bluetooth to stream music. Personally, having had the little speaker for over a month, I was really impressed with the sound you can pick up through this thing. The app is good and really does make a difference in the output. Only downfalls would be the fact there is no pouch for it and battery life is not as long as I would like. Everything else is brilliant.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
54 months ago

I'd love to hear the sound on one for myself before dropping ...

Hear it first!? But why, didn't you read it has suede on the bottom, isn't that enough.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
54 months ago
$249 for mono sound? Pass.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Announces New 27-Inch iMac With 10th-Gen Processors, Up to 128GB RAM, 1080p Webcam, True Tone, and More

Tuesday August 4, 2020 8:07 am PDT by
Apple today announced a new 27-inch iMac with faster 10th-generation Intel Core processor options, next-generation AMD graphics, up to 128GB of RAM, a higher-resolution 1080p front-facing FaceTime camera, a True Tone display with a nano-texture glass option, a T2 chip, higher fidelity speakers, studio-quality microphones, and more. A breakdown of the new 27-inch iMac's features and specs:10th...

Apple May Launch This Year's 'iPhone 12' Lineup in Two Stages, With 6.1-inch Models Debuting First

Monday August 3, 2020 3:14 am PDT by
Apple last week confirmed that its "‌iPhone‌ 12" launch will be delayed this year due to the ongoing global health crisis and restrictions on travel. Apple last year started selling iPhones in late September, but this year, Apple projects supply will be "available a few weeks later," suggesting a release sometime in October. We're expecting a total of four OLED iPhones in 5.4, 6.1, and...

Apple-Acquired Dark Sky Officially Shuts Down Android App

Saturday August 1, 2020 3:43 pm PDT by
Apple in March purchased weather app Dark Sky, and at that time, Dark Sky's developers said that the app's Android version would be discontinued on July 1, 2020. However, instead of shuttering the app on that date, the app's developers announced that the discontinuation would be delayed for another month. Now that it's August, Android users are no longer able to access the app, and...

Everything New in iOS 14 Beta 4: Apple TV Widget, Search Improvements, Exposure Notification API and More

Tuesday August 4, 2020 11:14 am PDT by
Apple today released the fourth developer betas of iOS and iPadOS 14 for testing purposes, tweaking and refining some of the features and design changes included in the update. Changes get smaller and less notable as the beta testing period goes on, but there are still some noteworthy new features in the fourth beta, which we've highlighted below. - Apple TV widget - There's a new Apple TV...

Apple Explains Why You Might See 'Not Charging' When a Mac is Plugged In

Monday August 3, 2020 1:42 pm PDT by
If you have a Mac and have seen a "Not Charging" warning when plugging it in to power, Apple last week released a support document that explains why. Macs running macOS 10.15.5 or later have a Battery Health Management feature to preserve the life of the battery, and occasionally, the Battery Health Management option will cause the Mac to pause its charging for calibration purposes.Depending ...

Unreleased iPod Touch with Mac Pro Glossy Black Finish Shared Online

Sunday August 2, 2020 11:32 am PDT by
Twitter user @DongleBookPro has today posted images of what seems to be a first-generation iPod Touch prototype with a 2013 Mac Pro-style glossy black finish. The Twitter user claims that the iPod Touch prototype pictured has "the same coating as the 2013 Mac Pro." Had the finish been selected for the final product, it also would have been similar to the metallic glossy black finish that...

Phil Schiller Moving on to Become 'Apple Fellow,' Greg Joswiak Taking Over as Marketing SVP

Tuesday August 4, 2020 10:07 am PDT by
Apple's Phil Schiller is moving on to become an "Apple Fellow," Apple announced today, while Greg Joswiak will take over as Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. Schiller will continue to lead the App Store and Apple Events, but will no longer be in charge of marketing. Apple CEO Tim Cook said he is "thrilled" that Joswiak will be leading the marketing team, and that his...

Microsoft to Stop Supporting Office 2016 for Mac in October

Monday August 3, 2020 12:21 pm PDT by
Microsoft's Office 2016 for Mac is set to reach its end of support date on October 13, 2020, and after that date, connecting to Office 365 services using the Office 2016 for Mac software will no longer be supported. Microsoft shared the detail in a support document from July highlighting which versions of Office will be supported for connecting to Office 365 services in the future.Connecting ...

8 Third-Party Home Screen Widgets That You Can Try Out Now on iOS 14

Wednesday August 5, 2020 12:56 pm PDT by
One of the biggest new features of iOS 14 is Home Screen widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. The widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. When the iOS 14 beta was first released in June, widgets were limited to Apple's own apps like Calendar and Weather, but several third-party developers have begun to test ...

Apple Shares Requirements for Default Third-Party Browser and Email Apps With Developers

Monday August 3, 2020 4:28 pm PDT by
Apple in iOS 14 plans to allow users to set a third-party app as the default email or browser app on an iPhone or iPad, replacing the current Apple-made default apps Safari and Mail. Apple hasn't provided many details on the new feature to users, but as noted by MacStories' Federico Vittici, Apple has shared documentation with developers who want their apps to have the option to be set as a...