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!
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
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.
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.