Bang & Olufsen has announced a new entry-level product for its B&O PLAY range, the Beoplay A1 Bluetooth speaker.
The £199 aluminium and leather A1 is cheaper than the £299 A2 portable speaker and launches in direct competition with Bose's Soundlink Mini 2. The design, by Cecilie Manz, is also a continuation of the aesthetic of the A2 and the Beolit 15.
The A1 is about the size of decent sandwich bap (sorry, now that image has popped in WIRED's head, it's hard to think of anything else to compare it to) and weighs 600g. The brief, according to B&O CEO Tue Mantoni, was to make it roughly half the size of the A2, which has shifted 250,000 units to date.
The domed circular speaker has patented microphone technology located under the dished rim at the moulded polymer base, which supposedly acoustically funnels the sound around this channel into the microphone no matter where the source is. If it works, it's a clever trick and means the placement of the mic is unimportant (as long as it is within three metres) if you want to use the A1 for conference calls and group chats.
B&O has given the A1 a peak power output of 140W (but the important figure is 30W continuous) from an aluminium cone mid-woofer using a neodymium magnetic system, a silk dome three-quarter-inch tweeter and a dedicated DSP algorithm.
This is where the A1 impressed during a brief demo – the sound was superb from the tiny speaker. Such rich bass, as low as 40Hz without the use of passive radiators, and plenty of detail in the higher frequencies was a surprise from something of these dimensions (133mm x 48mm) – and even more so when two were stereo-paired through the app.
Once linked, two A1s got sufficiently loud to shake the table in the WIRED office and draw disapproving looks from the production desk. Always a good sign.
The app is not mandatory to use the A1, which has been ten months in development at B&O, but users will need it to update the speaker or tune the EQ. The EQ in the app is also a nice touch as one simply moves a dot around the screen between four sections – warm, excited, relaxed and bright – to tweak the sound.
This is much more engaging than a standard EQ setup, and one can even pinch the dot to shrink or expand it and increase the overlap between these four tuning areas. As with most intuitive UIs, its far easier to use than explain.
There's also a 24-hour battery life thanks to the rechargeable 2200mAh Li-Ion battery, a charge time of 2.5 hours, aptX Bluetooth, 3.5mm aux and USB-C charging. But one thing that is missing here is an IP rating. Mantoni insists the A1 is splash and dust-proof, but it has no official rating. "We never intended this to be an outdoor speaker," he told WIRED.
Pairing to the A1 was quick and easy. The Bluetooth range of the A1 should be a standard ten metres, but we didn’t have time to test it out. In a future update the microphone will also support Siri and Cortana.
Other functionality includes the circular connect button on the side of the speaker, which when pressed will reconnect the speaker to the last used device and instantly play the last song heard.
Finally, the Beoplay A1, available now, comes in a decidedly conservative selection of just two colours: moss green and silver.