Danish Consumer Electronics maker Bang & Olufsen has a new Bluetooth speaker, the BeoPlay A1. The aluminum sound-dome comes pre-accessorized with a quaint leather strap. Loop it through your belt, hang it on a door knob. Cute!
The A1 is the smallest Bluetooth speaker in B&O’s BeoPlay line of mobile products. It’s about 5 inches in diameter and about 2 inches tall, or about the size of a Quarter Pounder with cheese. Inside you’ll find two drivers: a 3.5-inch aluminum cone for lows and mids, and a 3/4-inch dome tweeter to handle the tippy-top end. A pair of 30-watt class D amps powers them. The rest of the A1 is seemingly all battery (it weighs a hefty 1.3 pounds)—a 2200 mAh cell that B&O claims gives you 24 hours of playback. The bottom half is rubberized, and you place the A1 on a table perforated side up so it fills the room with a fountain of audio waves. It doesn’t look like a big silver hockey puck, but rather a beautiful big silver hockey puck. As I carried it around the office, colleagues showered it with an unbroken stream of praise. “Oh, it’s gorgeous” and “That’s too pretty to be a speaker” and “I don’t know what it is exactly, but I want it.”
That’s the nut of it. Smart design always has been the primary reason to buy a Bang & Olufsen product. You can find scads of excellent Bluetooth speakers for less than the $249 you’ll pay for an A1. But none of them will turn heads like an A1. Credit that to Cecilie Manz, who also designed the slightly larger Beoplay A2, and the lunchbox-like Beolit 15. The A1 and the A2, of course, share the same design language, right down to the leather strap and the perforations on the speaker grill. They display a visual sophistication that elevates these speakers above the slew of products that perform the same functions. So yes, if you want a speaker, there are many. If you want a beautiful speaker, this one’s among the beautifulest.
Superb sound. B&O applies some gentle digital signal processing to keep the audio distortion-free as you crank it up, though it succeeds in keeping things crisp at all volumes. Music rarely sounds overly processed. The low end is far more powerful than expected from something this small; the fuzz bass in Ty Segall’s reading of “Diversion” rumbled the whole table. Gorgeous industrial design with a noticeable attention to detail. Leather strap makes it simple to mount on a wall, or anywhere really. Battery life is great—I got five days of heavy use out of it between charges. The USB-C charger blasts electrons to the battery with unmatched fury, bringing it from fully depleted to fully ready in less than 100 minutes. Works as a speakerphone. Choose between matte silver and mossy green.
At $249, too pricey for most people. You’re buying this speaker because it sounds great and runs for a long time, but you’re mostly buying it because you like the way it looks. The cheaper UE Boom 2 ($200) doesn’t have the big bass or the big battery, but it is excellent in its own right and it’s waterproof. The Beoplay A1 is not waterproof—don’t hang it in the shower. The USB-C cable means that you can’t charge it with any of the 641 USB-not-C cables already in your home. What, no rose gold?
8/10 Great sound, great design, but that’s a lot of Satoshis.