Bluetooth Speakers/Beosound A1 2nd Gen
William takes a stab at movable music
B&O doesn’t disappoint
Enclosure type Sealed, dust resistant, waterproof
Drive units 1 x 8.89-inch driver
Battery Life 18 hours average
Frequency response 44 Hz — 20 kHz
Other Built in microphone, B&O App
Power handling 60W RMS
Dimensions 46 x 133 x 133 mm (HxWxD)
Competent and robust. Sounds the part. Exceptional build quality and excellent battery life — a quality unit throughout.
Price R5 595
Supplied by Bang & Olufsen 011-783-8550
Music is as portable these days as it was with the advent of the boom boxes of the ‘80s, carted around on the shoulder by gold chain clad rappers and gangster types in bad music videos. With one key difference.
The quality today is vastly improved. And the battery life is thankfully improved over having to lug around what amounted to a car battery to give you longer than 15 minutes of noise blaring out from what had quickly become a burdensome annoyance to not only those having to carry the boom box, but to everyone subjected to the terrible distortions emanating from drivers being pushed beyond reasonable limits with inadequate power and terrible taste in music.
My personal B&O A1 second generation Bluetooth speaker is a case in point as to how far mobile music has evolved. Not only are the tunes it plays suave and sophisticated, elegant examples from one who delights in all manifestations of the terpsichorean muse (even if I do say so myself), but the manner in which it does so is understatedly sublime.
This is B&O after all, and no matter what you might think of the brand the word ‘quality’ has always been synonymous with it. B&O build quality is generally beyond reproach and its high-end audio systems have always had a flair for aesthetics that makes them quintessentially Scandinavian in their architecture and style. Some of its equipment over the years has been jaw dropping beautiful in design, and some of it has been, well…eclectic?
All of it however has been unmistakably B&O and it would not surprise me to see that most of it is still operational decades later. I certainly get the impression that this is the last Bluetooth speaker I will need and that it will probably outlast me.
It’s constructed from aluminium and weighs almost 600 grams. Coming as I do from the time when speakers that were ‘proper speakers’ weighed in at over 100 kg each, 560g reads as lightweight. But I assure you when it’s in a small 133 mm fat flapjack, 600g is substantial.
The first impression then comes from the weight and the fact that the speaker now plants itself to just about any surface with no means of visible adhesion (thank you gravity). My unit is a handsome green that is just metallic enough to ensure interest and desirability without being garish that further complements the solid build quality of the unit.
The second impression oddly comes from the relatively simple leather strap attached to the speaker. It’s a simple cord knotted at the end and sporting a B&O labelled colour-coded metal adjuster that is so simple and elegant at the same time, it brings me a genuine sense of pleasure to see, feel, touch and handle. It is a simple thing and yet B&O manages to make it beautiful.
Charging the unit is via USB C — nothing to report there. An LED goes from white to blue when done and that’s that. Also, of course, the cable supplied is colour-coded and robust. Why wouldn’t it be?
Pairing the unit was interesting. It appears to demand the B&O app to be installed, but after a few fumbles through the process my Smartphone connected with it sans app and then when the app downloaded connected again to the unit. Bluetooth is the connectivity option and before all the audiophiles sigh and roll their eyes, just… get over yourselves!
You can connect two of these to run in stereo mode and honestly I think this might be the only way I would ever buy another Bluetooth speaker. For full disclosure this one was a gift from a friend but you get the gist.
From the first beats the speaker is deeply impressive. This dust resistant waterproof thing belies a personal innate inner bias that the sound has to be compromised somewhere but I am buggered if I can find where. It’s annoying if I am honest.
Music is open and surprisingly detailed. I’d love to pull this thing apart to see how it does what it does to generate such musical cleanliness. I can’t in all good faith review it along the same principles I would a set of cabled speakers, but what I can say is that there are going to be a large number of surprised ears if you actually do listen to this little speaker critically. I’d love to do so with two of them running in stereo and maybe one day I will. But really, that’s the only thing that is “missing”.
Sound pressure levels might be where a compromise lies and this is purely size-related. Whilst the speaker rates itself at 60W (RMS) I would challenge that it gets anywhere close. That said, it is loud enough to fill a room or to keep me sufficiently surrounded in music in my workshop to drown out the world. Half of the listening experience appeal stems from the fact that this is not a speaker that will allow itself to be pushed into overdrive distortion à la an ‘80s boombox. The result is that you don’t realise how loud it is playing until you try to talk to someone.
And for me that is also the point. This is a sharing music device. You can pull it up anywhere with your friends and enjoy music in the background social scene. Think pool and braai. Or you can pull it up when you are beavering away eagerly on a hobby project (as I do from time to time), or at work for background music (as I am doing now when typing this review), using the excellent playlist supplied by your favourite AVNews site.
If I wanted to listen in Serious Mode then sure, this speaker is probably not going to complete with a pair of Martin Logans or the Sonors that Joel wrote about recently. But for pulling up and enjoying music anywhere at anytime, my unit has already been working hard and it is going to continue to work hard because I simply love it to bits.
The value for money proposition here is thus a compelling one. B&O has never been accused of being cheap. But when the quality is there as it is in this product it is hard to argue against. Sure, it’s not cheap. But if you use it as often as I do and it gives you as much pleasure in its ability to punch quality music at you — and that it will do so for pretty much all time — and it looks as good as it does, well then, it becomes a pleasure to own with no post purchase regrets.
Even if it was a gift.