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B&0 BEOPLAY A1 BLUETOOTH PORTABLE SPEAKER

  • Written by Denom
  • Category: Speakers
  • Hits: 218

Bang & Olufsen (B&O) is a well-known lifestyle audio brand well established and regarded the world over. They have always had stylish and cutting-edge product line up over the years and off late have continued to live up to their lofty standards in whichever segment they choose to be in. Noting the huge growth and demand of portable Bluetooth speakers and headphones, B&O decided to enter this segment under their play sub division. The product mix under Play are aimed at the youth segment who want to buy premium lifestyle products that are also relatively affordable in context to the B&O brand. We received 2 of their bestselling models – the A1 & A2 for review, which we will cover individually in the form of 2 separate reviews.

The B&O Beoplay A1 is the entry model in the line of play products that consist of 9 speaker models in total.

Inside the Box:

The A1 comes in a well-crafted and designed box that can be reused multiple times. Besides the A1 unit, B&O provide a USB Type A to C charging cable and an owner’s manual. The owner’s manual is weird as half the info is printed one way & the other half the other, meaning one has to turn the booklet upside down to read the other half – Funky!

Design:

The A1 is the smallest Bluetooth speaker in the play range and comes in 7 colours. We received the Moss Green colour which we really liked for enabling the A1 a classy understated premium look. The leather strap colour contrast goes well with the moss green colour and aids in the A1 to be hanged pretty much anywhere as desired. For looks alone the A1 scores very high and will appeal to all the trendy fashionistas. The A1 also feels good to touch and is substantially heavy to exude a solid feel. The top half is made of aluminium and is mated to a moulded polymer base which gives it the non-slip surface. The control buttons are soft touch and embedded into the polymer base. The power button, volume controls, a multifunction control button for pause and play and a microphone button are all part of the control buttons. The microphone button enables the A1 to be used as a conference speaker either with a hand-held device or a computer (connected via the USB cable) A 3.5mm jack is also provided to enable connection to a wired device. The USB type C connector is next to it. The A1 has the possibility of hooking up to another A1 to make a stereo pair wirelessly, which we unfortunately could not do since we only received a single A1 for review. The A1 is claimed to be dust and splash proof yet one needs to be careful whilst taking it outdoors. B&O should ideally provide carry cases at least as an accessory option.

Build Quality – 5 Stars

Performance:

The first thing that surprises us is how good the sound is keeping in mind the small round form factor. One is immediately drawn to the significant amount of bass response coming out of the A1, but that is not ever at the expense of the mid-range and highs bringing out superb vocals and sparkling high hats of percussion laden music. Two 30W class D amplifiers are used for the 3.5-inch aluminium core subwoofer and ¾ inch tweeter which ensure the well-balanced performance across the frequency range. We tried a number of genres of music in various formats (mp3, wav, flac) to understand how well they would play via the A1. Across all types of formats, the A1 sounded brilliant, never losing a beat and ensuring that the listener tapped his feet at all times. Wanting to try and see whether the sound changes once the volume is cranked up, we did exactly that but the A1 cleverly has some mild digital signal processing going on in the background that enables the sound to be balanced and uncompressed. At constant high volumes, the A1, does tend to heat up which is a little disconcerting but it did not ever affect its performance. For charging the A1’s battery, B&O provides a USB type C cable that took an average of 2 & half hours to charge the A1, when it was fully discharged. We got a maximum of about 11 hours of battery life out of the A1 with the volume at full tilt, but also managed around 15 hours at sedate listening levels. Yes, the sound is so involving that one rarely listens to the A1 at normal volumes ensuring the battery to be discharged earlier so do not be disappointed with this occurrence as B&O claim a battery life of 24 hours at moderate listening levels. A charge time of about 1 hour 20 minutes can be expected if one charges the A1 intermittently. A 2200 mAh battery powers the A1. When the battery charge drops towards its end, the sound automatically goes low and various lights on the power button denote the status of the battery.

Verdict:

The B&O Beoplay A1 is a stylish little circular speaker that provides excellent audio performance with mystifying bass levels that belies its size. We are very much impressed by the build quality as well and highly recommend the A1 as a very strong contender for anyone looking to purchase a small and compact premium bluetooth speaker with very good battery backup. At RS.18500/- it is a little pricey, keeping in mind the lack of wifi, airplay or being waterproof but we still think it is good value for money looking at the premium materials used in its build.

B&O BEOPLAY A2 BLUETOOTH SPEAKER

  • Written by Denom
  • Category: Speakers
  • Hits: 100

Bang & Olufsen (B&O) is a well-known lifestyle audio brand well established and regarded the world over. They have always had stylish and cutting-edge products line up over the years and off late have continued to live up to their lofty standards in whichever segment they choose to be in. Noting the huge growth and demand of portable Bluetooth speakers and headphones, B&O decided to enter this segment under their play sub division. The product mix under Play are aimed at the youth segment who want to buy premium lifestyle products that are also relatively affordable in context to the B&O brand. We received 2 of their bestselling models – the A1 & A2 for review, which we will cover individually in the form of 2 separate reviews The B&O Beoplay A2 is the next model in the line of play products after the A1. It also has a version called the A2 Active, that essentially is dust and splash resistant, has USB type C fast charging capability and has a NATO style, hand strap.

Inside the Box:

The B&O Beoplay A2 comes in a rather large and well-crafted smooth surfaced box that cocoons the A2 in its dedicated recess along with an instruction and info booklet, a charging adaptor and 3 types of detachable male plug sockets to attach to the charging adaptor. The box is very sturdy and can be used multiple times to transport the A2.

 

Design:

The A2 is based on a retro slim design that makes it look rather trendy and eye catching. A strong yet soft leather handle is at one end of the A2 that enables one to carry it around stylishly. A substantial metal band forms the frame around which the plastic speaker grille panels are fitted. The top side sees recessed buttons into this metal band, which consist of power, volume and Bluetooth pairing. The large plastic speaker grilles are well built, sturdy and slightly flexible to ensure that light knocks on them do not cause any concern to the wellbeing of the A2. 4 little indents at the bottom ensure that the A2 is on a firm footing and does not move around when being played. A USB type A port enables one to use the A2 as a mobile charging device for other devices, along with a 3.5mm Aux Input and the power adaptor socket which has a light adjacent to it that blinks when the unit is being charged. The A2 comes in three colours and we were sent the champagne grey colour option for review. 2X30W Class D amplifiers power the 2 x 3-inch full range drivers, 2 x ¾ inch tweeters. There are also 2 x passive bass radiators on either side of the speaker. The placement of identical speakers on both sides enables the sound to be covered a full 360-degree circle. An android or iOS app ensures that the A2 can be controlled via a smart watch. There is also the possibility of having stereo sound by pairing two A2’s via Bluetooth/where one is the master and the other is the slave unit.

Build Quality: 5 Stars

 

Performance:

The A2 has a definite clean sound that is coherent and fatigue free. Whilst the highs, mids and lows are certainly represented in an even manner there is a little prominence of the upper mid bass frequencies which really shine through it. The A2 plays any genre of music pretty well and can also be the focus of your party The A2 can go seriously loud if required but playing consistently at high volumes drains the battery rather quickly. We managed 3 hours tops at full tilt and 12 hours at low to moderate volume levels, which is nothing near to what the 24-hour figure as stated by B&O. A charge time of about 1 hour 20 minutes can be expected if one charges the A2 intermittently. A 2200 mAh battery powers the A2. When the battery charge drops towards its end, the sound automatically goes low and various lights on the power button denote the status of the battery.

Verdict:

The A2 is a stylish looking portable Bluetooth speaker that has great balance between ease of use and sound quality delivered. At Rs.25500/-, the A2 is expensive and can be lost in the sea of options available in the market but we would strongly advise to consider it none the less.

PMC TWENTY5.22 – A WOLF IN SHEEPS CLOTHING!

  • Written by pulastya
  • Category: Speakers
  • Hits: 1156

The PMC Twenty series have been very well received the world over and we in India most definitely have experienced them quite well over the recent years, most notably the twenty.23 & twenty26 models but very few of the twenty.21 or twenty.22’s which we frankly have never heard to date! The argument from the distributor has always been that the pricing never justified the stand mount twenty.21 & twenty.22’s to be viable for the client in context with the twenty.23 model. Hence when we saw a pair of the twenty.25’s in the Mumbai dealers demo room, we were pleasantly surprised not only because we were genuinely excited to hear them but the fact that we could also write about our experience of them. Having the luxury of listening to them with 2 very special amplifiers also made it even more special of an occasion! The amplifiers being the Octave V70 SE Integrated & the Naim Superuniti, both very well regarded in their own segments of valve & solid state amplification domains. Since we were never going to get this opportunity again(hope it’s not true!) to listen to them with the amps in question, we decided to extend our presence in the dealers demo room(thanks Pawan Sahjwani/The Den - Worli) who obliged us and decided to pen our thoughts on the twenty5.22’s. So how is it that our good friend, the PMC distributor in India, brought these to our market? Had he a change of heart or were the pricing of the twenty5.22 more manageable than the earlier twenty series???? We were full of questions with expectations of them being answered in a positive manner but sadly neither of the above questions got the answers that we were hoping for! Nope, no change of heart nor were the twenty5.22’s cheaper. A client specifically demanded them and they certainly aren’t cheap! More on the price later on…. Since the twenty5.22’s were already unboxed & placed on stands, we did not have a chance to look at their packing but judging by the packing we have seen & experienced on the twenty series, we are sure that much of the same no nonsense and just the right amount of packing protection in the form of sturdy cardboard boxes & foam surrounds + inserts must have been used to pack the speakers.

Appearance:

The first thing that strikes you about the twenty5.22 speakers are the way the front & rear baffles are sloped, lending it a very contemporary aesthetic to the speaker. The same is being done with an aim to stiffen the cab to reduce the panel resonances. The newly designed plinths are with built-in isolation to further enhance the stability of the enclosures. Custom-made single piece stainless steel spikes thread through the plinths to facilitate level adjustment. The depth of the speakers implies that they are big and that one can only deduce once one sees them in a side profile, whilst the baffle width is just about slim as it can get, keeping the 170mm mid bass woofer size at hand. A shiny steel ring rim around the mid bass frame adds sparkle to the ‘G Weave’ mid bass drive unit which is made of woven glass fibre. The stiffer glass fibre material can deliver greater driver excursion. In combination with smoother airflow from the transmission line vent also means less resistance to movement from the cone which translates into finer detail and affects the direct output of the driver along with the bass(*source PMC) The tweeter used is 27mm in size with a prominent black coloured plate surrounding & securing it to the cabinet. The main difference from the tweeters of the twenty series being a change to the grille in order to improve dispersion. At the bottom of the front baffle lies the transmission line terminus or vent, which is having arched fins in a smooth(slippery?) and shiny finish. The aim of the same is to reduce turbulence and drag, which in turn reduces resistance and increases efficiency(*source-PMC). The result is to create a smooth laminar airflow as it exits the transmission line. The audible effects are obvious with a faster, well defined bass with accurate timing and dynamics whilst avoiding unwanted air noise. The design of the vent and fins clearly shows a lot of F1 inspired touches and the connection is rather obvious since Mr. Oliver Thomas, who has designed the same has past experience with aerodynamics when he was working in an F1 Team. At the back, we have a stain less steel terminal panel, which looks nice and shiny and house a pair of speaker binding posts which are far better than the ones on the twenty series. The twenty5 series are available in a choice of three hand selected and book-matched real wood veneers; Oak, Walnut and Amarone + a high gloss Diamond Black finish. Every model comes with magnet-fixing grille, finished in an exclusive matt black textured cloth. We had the pleasure of listening to the speakers in Walnut finish, which looked rather magnificent as the grain showed really well as the lights fell on it. Overall, we found the fit & finish of the twenty5 series to be higher than what we found on the twenty series.

Build Quality: 5 Stars

Performance:

With the abovementioned amplifiers, we used a Yamaha CDS1000 CD Player and Nordost White Lightning speaker cables. As luck would have it, we also had the PMC twenty.23 speakers alongside to do a quick A/B with. We played the Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits SACD in its entirety as that is what we are very familiar with and just feel is one that can bring the best out of a well synergised set-up. Across the tracks we felt just how well the bass is articulated and defined in tracks such as so far away or money for nothing, the saxophone airiness and breathing heard in your latest trick or the melancholy in the vocals in brothers in arms. The flow of the music from soft to loud passages in ride across the river and the man’s too strong. The guitar plucking of the steel guitar is so sweet, clean and distinct. The comparison between the twenty5.22 and twenty.23 revealed the twenty5.22 to have more bass weight, better timing and immense finer detail in the context of a smoother and livelier presentation. It made us forget the beloved twenty.23 speakers and fall in love with the twenty5.22 almost immediately! That is where our experience with the Twenty5.22’s ended or so we thought but having not got enough of a fill to satisfy our ears, we once again popped in at Pawan’s premises and requested for another listen to the Twenty5.22’s, to which he most graciously agreed and are ever so grateful to him. Pawan also had a nice surprise in store for us in the form of having a brand spanking new Project Debut Record Master Turntable hooked up to the Naim amp. We were overjoyed at this possibility as we could play Pink Floyd’s DSOTM end to end – Hooray! The analogue sound just was a few notches higher than the digital format that we heard before, which just reiterated at how much of a well sorted set up the whole Naim / PMC / Project / Nordost chain really was.

 

Verdict:

The calibre of a good speaker atleast in our book says that they should be very accurate but at the same time, they should possess an open, revealing and detailed sound whilst remaining engagingly musical, which leads to one getting lost in the music. The twenty5.22 sound more immediate, exciting and will appeal to persons who love speed and dynamics. The twenty5.22 are definitely a new force to be reckoned with as the sound is dynamic, revealing but remaining musical at the same time. They are akin to getting punched by a steel fist wearing a velvet glove. Sadly all at a cost, a big one at that. At Rs.3.7Lacs, we are talking some serious money to not only acquire them but also spend equal if not more amounts in the form of partnering electronics and an appreciable amount in cables. Rather tellingly, that means that they are only for music enthusiasts having deep pockets. Chapeau Time!

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