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Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A9 review

Gordon Kelly

By

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Jaw droppingly powerful
  • Rich, balanced bass, midrange and high frequency performance
  • Stylish, unique design

Cons

  • Expensive, if not unreasonably so
  • B&O setup app glitchy
  • Wall mount an optional extra

Key Features

  • Airplay and DNLA wireless connectivity
  • 8in subwoofer, 2x 3in midrange drivers, 2x 3/4in tweeters
  • 480W output
  • Touch-sensitive controls
  • multiple colour options for legs and fabric
  • Manufacturer: Bang & Olufsen
  • Review Price: £1,699.00

Introduction

There are few more contentious topics in technology than fashion. For some it is a fundamental prerequisite in anything and everything they buy, for others it is a superfluous luxury symptomatic of an excuse for high prices and a lack of substance. Bang & Olufsen’s staggering BeoPlay A9 is unlikely to convince members of either camp to change sides, but they should at least be able to agree on one key aspect: there is no lack of substance here.

BeoPlay A9 1

Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A9 - Design

We could spend quite some time on this section, but as pictures famously tell a thousand words we don’t need to tell you the A9 makes quite the first impression. Both minimalist in styling yet attention grabbing in its shape, the A9 will blend into a room and draw attention to itself in equal measure.

Part of the reason for this is size. The A9 is a whopping 700mm in diameter, stands 908mm tall and weighs 14.7Kg - the latter two figures include its striking wooden legs. Interestingly enough the A9 has a sunken carry handle at the rear so it can be moved around the home, but we suspect it will find a primary place in the home or workplace and stay there. That said placement is surprisingly flexible as the A9 has three audio modes (wall, corner and freestanding) and there is no unsightly power brick to hide because the transformer is built in.

Up close and personal build quality is predictably strong. The actual construction materials are no great shakes given moulded plastics are used front and back, but they seem durable with tasteful matt finishes, well put together and held in place with a steel brand. In any case the front is typically covered by fabric with white, grey, black, brown, green and red covers available (white is included by default).

B&O A9 2

A nice touch is the top edge of the A9 hides tactile volume controls which work with just a swipe of the hand right or left. We can’t imagine this will be your primary method of volume control, but it is fun for showing off the device to friends.

As for the legs themselves they are carved from single pieces of wood and screw into the base. Beech, oak and teak options are offered at the point of sale. If you aren’t a fan of the legs the A9 can be wall mounted, but this requires an optional mount attachment which costs £89. Despite this consider us thoroughly impressed.

Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A9 - Features & Setup

AirPlay is the headline feature B&O is pushing with the A9, but it isn’t solely for Apple devices. DLNA is also in there while those who insist their audio sources are tethered will find optical and phono ports meaning the A9 is equally comfortable being used for home cinema and music. One strange omission is a 3.5mm jack and while not vital on a speaker such as this we’d rather have one than not.

BeoPlay A9 11

Setting up the A9 is a breeze, at least in theory. Like all AirPlay products the A9 has integrated WiFi and B&O has opted for the modern approach of fitting a powered USB port so it can grab settings to your network off your phone. There is also an Ethernet port should you wish to connect the A9 directly to your router. Choose this method and you’ll be up and running in a few minutes, but opt for B&O’s BeoPlay setup app and you could be in rather more trouble.

We found the app continually wouldn’t recognise the A9 telling us it was an “unsupported product” and a quick Google search finds we are not alone in that problem nor is it restricted to the A9 with the Beolit 12 & BeoSound 8 also suffering the same problem. Ironically disregard the walk-through app and you won’t have a problem. Let’s hope an update is on the way.

Kindred

February 1, 2013, 12:03 pm

Haven't read the review yet so do you know if it can be paired as a stereo set?

Evan

February 1, 2013, 4:52 pm

I'm not 100% sure if you can pair more than one but I'm guessing that as it is a stereo speaker set in its own right (and big enough for the speakers to be widely spaced enough to produce the stereo effect) I think not.

JBingham

February 2, 2013, 12:17 am

sounds good. Maybe one day when I have my loft apartment!

techfrenzy

February 2, 2013, 5:00 am

Nice review! I notice B&O does not provide any photos of the speakers plugged into the mains. Unless one of those legs is hollow...the dangling power cords are going to spoil the A9's clean lines

Gordon Kelly

February 3, 2013, 3:12 pm

You can't link units together, but as Evan mentions the stereo dispersion is already excellent. Quite frankly you wouldn't pair two together unless you lived in a barn and wanted to blow the door out.

Gordon Kelly

February 3, 2013, 3:14 pm

There's only one power cord and no power brick (I mention the transformer is built in). It would be easy to run the bacle down the back of one of the legs with ties

Kindred

February 3, 2013, 6:04 pm

Does the plastic cabinet "sing" along with the drivers when playing loud? I mean, so many drivers and one 8" subwoofer must really make some vibrations in that slim cabinet.

Andrew Bott

February 4, 2013, 11:13 pm

I've had one for five weeks now and it's been nothing but trouble: several phone calls to the store to set it up, unable to interact with my android phone, unable to play music from my computer via the recommended app (Twonky), unstable when playing via Apple devices (drops out suddenly....generally when I'm with a client). In short, a disaster.
On the positive side: it sounds great - when working - and is almost worth keeping just for the looks alone.
My Sonos system is infinitely better, except in terms of looks and sound quality. Arrangements are being made for a refund.

Andrew Bott

February 4, 2013, 11:15 pm

Techfrenzy. Correct. It looks much better without the power cord and, in my case, isn't that much less useful.

Gordon Kelly

February 5, 2013, 12:56 pm

Shame to hear about your setup problems - certainly (as I comment in the review) I found the B&O app to be nothing but trouble. That said setting it up manually was straightforward and was then fine ever since. Sounds like you may have a lemon, but yes there's no disputing the sound quality and design.

Gordon Kelly

February 5, 2013, 12:58 pm

I experienced no vibration whatsoever. If you set the bass to maximum ('freestanding') and put it in a corner then you'll get an output only bassheads will appreciate but even then the cabinet itself didn't make any undue noises.

Andrew Bott

February 6, 2013, 1:54 am

Thanks Gordon. Actually the set up was only the beginning of my problems:)

Kindred

February 10, 2013, 6:29 am

Heard it yesterday at my local B&O store. Sounded great and could easily fill their entire showroom with great sound. Stereo separation was quite good too. Love the design also. My only gripe is its interface with AirPlay and DLNA. If it was compatible with Squeezebox (now discontinued), and Sonos it could be in my consideration - in the future that is as my AVI actives still sound much better, are more versatile but they also take up more space and may not be as aesthetically pleasing.

DaveThreshold

February 11, 2013, 11:07 am

You could run a pair of those in stereo if:
You attached a shielded RCA Y cord to EACH channel of your playback device. (IPod, preamp or whatever plugs in to the input of the B&O). So now each channel of your playback device has two RCA jacks. Take both jacks from the Y cord of the left channel, of your playback device, and plug those in to both channels of the left speaker. THEN take both jacks from the Y cord of the right channel of your playback device, and plug those in to both channel of the right speaker. Each speaker would then be putting out mono, but the two would make true stereo, as wide apart as you want to place the speakers. – like a normal rig.
I hope that makes sense. For any other questions, catch me on FB. I am POSITIVE that would work.

DaveThreshold

February 11, 2013, 11:10 am

Please see my answer above.

DaveThreshold

February 11, 2013, 11:12 am

Very interesting design. B&O has always been noted for beautiful products. Please see my answer to the stereo (using two of them) dilemma above.

Barry J

February 12, 2013, 9:06 am

Warning !!! Beware!!!! Bang & Olufsen WILL NOT sell any replacement/repair parts for A9, A8, A3 or Beolit 12!!! Company does not even repair these units under warranty!!!! Once your warranty is done the only option is exchange product trough B&O at horrendous price!
Just ask at your B&O store or your B&O service technician to reveal the truth.
What a rip off! Never mind how difficult it is to set up product on your wireless network!!!

Andrew Bott

February 12, 2013, 11:50 pm

Returned unit somewhat reluctantly as I really wanted it to live up to its potential.

Andrew Bott

February 12, 2013, 11:52 pm

You've hit the nail on the head: looks great, sounds great, interface severly limits usability.

GL

February 15, 2013, 11:13 am

"It is both style and substance and there is nothing quite like it on the market"

This review should have compared its sound quality with the Geneva Lab XL. It has 6 class D amplifiers and is £2000. No Airplay, only a dock and EmbracingSound technology.

Gustav

February 19, 2013, 4:51 pm

Im finaly ordered one A9 today! Will get it in the beginning of next week, I will get back with my own review then.
Barry J , Do u work for Sony?

Lewis Ben

February 23, 2013, 5:56 am

This product is seriously making me consider moving from Windows/Andriod to Apple devices for good as it seems to provide the solution to all my problems as an audiophile and music lover. The only reason why I haven't bought one already since I first knew of it is the compatibility issues with non Apple Devices/Apps. Some of the horror reviews here have even complicated my uncertainty about my future and the A9.

Ian Grace

March 8, 2013, 7:24 am

good point, I understand stbbrackets are making a leg option which conceals the cables but as you rightly point out, a shocking design flaw/oversight IMHO.

Ian Grace

March 8, 2013, 7:25 am

I will look into this with B&O Service on 01293 611590 - if so this is indeed shocking!!

William Smith

April 2, 2013, 8:50 pm

I use the Beoplay with a Windows computer with AirPlay compatible software (Airfoil) I found online.Works great. It also has dnla technology and plays effortlessly from Android phones with dnla.

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