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.
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).
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.
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.
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.