Bang and Olufsen Beosound A1 2nd Gen Review
The Beosound A1 brings a few design tweaks and adds Alexa to its repertoire of features, but it’s the excellent sound that will grab your attention. £200 is still rather expensive, but well worth it for the audio quality.
- Excellent sound
- Alexa support
- Great style
- Waterproof design
- AAC, aptX Adaptive
- Multipoint support (two devices)
- Stereo pairing
- 18-hour battery life
- Bluetooth 5.1
- 360-degree sound
The Beosound A1 Bluetooth speaker from Bang & Olufsen is the first Bluetooth-only speaker to feature Alexa voice assistance.
B&O don’t do cheap. In fact, they don’t do ordinary either. Have a gander at the marketing materials for their products and they always seem to be full of youthful waifs wearing baggy designer jackets and chic glasses, cavorting in a field with picturesque blue and golden skies. B&O products aren’t really pitched at the majority of the population.
But the Beosound A1 2nd Gen makes a strong case to disregard all that. It’s a sequel to the Beoplay A1; it’s less expensive and features a number of design and performance improvements.
And it’s a belter of a portable speaker.
Price and availability
The Beosound A1 2nd Gen went on sale in 2020 for the price of £200 / $250 / €250 / CAD$350, which is less than the Beoplay A1 initially sold for.
- Eye-catching aesthetic
- Touch buttons for operation
- Portable design
The Beosound A1’s design mirrors the Beoplay A1 – an oversized hockey puck with a waterproof leather base and drilled holes in an aluminium top surface. Cecile Mainz – designer of the original – returns again and it’s another beautiful, elegantly designed speaker that feels substantial in your hand.
At 558g it weighs a grand total of 7% less, and the leather strap has been tweaked for more hanging options. The buttons can be found on the base of the unit and consist of power, Bluetooth pairing, mute (for the microphone), playback and volume. A simple press is all that’s needed and a double tap twice on the play/pause button skips forward, while thrice skips back.
Around the rear is a USB-C connection for charging and on the top surface is an LED indicator, re-positioned from the original for better visibility. Inside the speaker’s confines is a redesigned 3.5-inch mid-woofer and 3/4-inch tweeter. There’s also a 3-microphone array so the A1 can be used as either a speakerphone or for conference calls.
When it was announced there were only two finishes (Black Anthracite and Grey Mist). That’s now doubled to include distinctive pink and green colourways.
- Good Alexa integration
- Water resistant
- Improved battery life over original
The Beosound A1 is the world’s first Bluetooth-only voice assistant speaker. You can take it on your travels and access Alexa as it relies on your smartphone’s data connection.
From my time with the speaker the integration has worked handily. Alexa can be summoned via two means: the wake word or the Alexa app. Alexa wasn’t always responsive to the wake word, and that was likely down to a combination of things: too many Alexa devices listening, as well as having the app open, which meant commands were redirected.
The microphone needs to be unmuted (the LED indicator will be red), as the speaker developed a habit of muting itself. A press of the mic button usually resolved this.
Having used Alexa at home and at the park, she answered most of my queries quickly. There are times where she can stumble, but this seems more congestion on the connection. Alexa seemed tardy when I posed a query on a Wi-Fi connection while streaming music on another speaker. Turning Wi-Fi off and switching to the 4G connection and she was faster.
Bluetooth connectivity is 5.1, and there weren’t any problems in terms of wireless strength. aptX and aptX Adaptive are the codecs of choice, the latter aiming to ensure the connection always remains stable. Apple Fast Pair, Google Fast Pair and Microsoft Swift Pair are supported to facilitate quick connections to supported devices.
With IP67, the Beosound A1 is fully dust resistant and waterproof, a feature the original didn’t have. You could question whether something so shiny can be durable, but if you paid £200 for a wireless speaker you wouldn’t treat it like you would a plastic toy. Unless you can afford another.
And you’ll need deep pockets for a stereo pair. The Beosound A1 supports the feature through manual means or in the app, but only with another A1 and not the original Beoplay A1. Unfortunately, B&O don’t offer a reduced price if you purchase two speakers.
Battery has been boosted from 4 hours at typical listening volumes (70dB) to 18. At more moderate levels (55dB), the Beoplay A1’s 24 hours has been extended to 48.
A small note about the app. As we’ve commented before, it’s swift and responsive, though when connected to the Beosound A1 there are fewer options as there normally would be with Wi-Fi/Bluetooth speaker. You do get five EQ presets, a toggle to switch for Alexa and volume control alongside some rudimentary settings.
- Weighty bass performance
- Excellent midrange
- Surprisingly good dynamics
Does a speaker this small have to sound this good? That’s the question I’ve been pondering with the Beosound A1 2nd Gen, because it puts in a rather stunning and somewhat unexpected performance.
A Spotify shuffle of tracks brings up Terence Blanchard’s Frazier’s Tour and the weight, size and detail the Beosound A1 delivers makes for a great listen. The strums of double bass are so clear and detailed you’d be shocked they’re coming from a speaker of this size.
Bass is surprisingly big, too. You can feel it travel through the surface the speaker sits on, but it’s not of the rumbly, distorted nature that afflicts some speakers, but weighty, defined and well-judged.
It’s natural, neutral sound ensures excellent tonal balance throughout the frequency range, with neither treble, midrange or bass intruding on each other. Timing is excellent, and rhythmically it’s never less than engaging.
Vocal clarity is excellent, with performances given space to breath and the emotion of performances coming through in a startling manner. It’s supremely fluid and smooth, with the midrange offering plenty of precision, dexterity and exacting detail.
Dynamically it’s really good, capable with the quiet moments and explosive when it needs to be, with a musical tone and character that’s well-suited to a wide range of genres. It can be bombastic without over-egging it, full of energy but still poised and creates a big sound but is also rather intimate. It’s a wonderfully expressive speaker.
The sonic performance is excellent, and factor in the various design tweaks and improvements and the Beosound A1 is a stunning portable speaker.
You should buy it if…
You want an excellent portable speaker
B&O doesn’t do ordinary and with the Beosound A1 2nd Gen they’ve done something extraordinary. The Beosound A1 is a classy speaker, but there’s substance to go with that style.
A portable speaker that can handle the outdoors
Alexa works and the fully dust- and waterproof design should ensure it survives some mishaps. There’s a question mark over its ruggedness – a £200 premium speaker doesn’t scream ‘throw me about’ – but for that outlay this is not a product to be callous with.
You want smarts in your portable speaker
Not many outdoor speakers deliver voice assistance too, so if you find yourself settling an argument with friends or perhaps want information on what’s open/where yo go when outside, then there’s Alexa (via your phone).
You shouldn’t buy it if…
It is too expensive for your tastes
£200 for a wireless portable speaker does sound a lot, but the performance is rather excellent.