September 07,2021

B&O Beoplay A1 review: A gorgeous Bluetooth speaker

by David Stewart

B&O Play is the somewhat younger-skewed, sub-brand of Bang & Olufsen but it maintains many of the principles of its higher-end sibling. This is certainly evident with its premium Beoplay A1 Bluetooth speaker. At £199, it’s on the pricier end of the Bluetooth speaker spectrum but it’s still considerably less than competing options from the likes of Bowers & Wilkins and Riva .

B&O Beoplay A1 review: Design

It may cost less than some, but when it comes to looks it’s no contest. The Beoplay A1 is not only the best-looking Bluetooth speaker I’ve seen but also the best in terms of the way it feels in your hands.

It’s composed of an aluminium dome that fits neatly up against a moulded polymer base, which gives it a non-slip surface. There’s a choice of either silver or green finishes and both have an attractive perforated patterning to the aluminium dome.

B&O Beoplay A1 review: Build quality

The speaker weighs 600g and feels reassuringly weighty in your hands. In keeping with Bang & Olufsen’s heritage of using luxurious materials, a genuine leather strap is included. Contrasted against the metal of the speaker, it provides a nice counterpoint as well as giving you something to hold when carrying the speaker around or a means to hang the speaker up.

B&O Beoplay A1 review: Features and microphone

All of the controls are seamlessly integrated into the polymer base, meaning there aren’t any protruding buttons to disrupt the clean lines. The cabinet is both splash and dust resistant, so it can handle being taken on outdoor excursions provide you don’t submerge it in water.

There are volume controls as well as a multifunction control button for playing and pausing your music. A microphone is also included and you can use the Beoplay A1 as a conference speaker either with your Bluetooth device or with a computer when connected through USB.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the base has a rimmed lip around the edge, which helps with the microphone’s sensitivity in every direction. In testing, the microphone performed well for hands-free calling with my voice being picked up comfortably from around a metre and a half away.

B&O Beoplay A1 review: Connectivity

Pairing is a simple affair, with a Bluetooth pairing button on the base and support for Bluetooth 4.2. A little disappointingly, there’s no support for the aptX codec. You also have the option of connecting a wired device through a 3.5mm auxiliary connection. You’re also able to wirelessly stereo pair two Beoplay A1 speakers together but I only had one review sample was unable to test this feature.

B&O Beoplay A1 review: Sound Quality

Still, the sound quality from a single Beoplay A1 was fantastic. It was right up there with the more expensive Bowers & Wilkins T7, which likewise sounded fantastic. There are two 30W class D amplifiers used for the aluminium core sub-woofer and tweeter and both combine to give well-controlled presence across the frequency range.

For a speaker of its size, there was a respectable amount of low-end although it lacked a little physicality you get from larger speakers where it comes to bass you can feel as well as hear. There was a pleasant brightness to the treble and the mids were nicely separated, giving vocals clear delivery.

Across genres, my test tracks sounded wonderful, from jazz to rock, and the A1 can also reach considerable volumes, certainly enough to fill a medium to a large-sized room and there was only a little distortion introduced as the volume crept up. As the drivers are pointed upwards, it also means the sound is evenly dispersed in every direction.

Charging is done through a USB-C connection, with a USB-C to USB-A cable provided. You can see this as either a blessing or a curse depending on what smartphone you happen to have. Many flagships nowadays use the USB-C connection, so it could mean fewer cables to carry around. You get around 24 hours of playback when listening at moderate volumes, which is excellent longevity, especially considering the size.

B&O Beoplay A1 review: Verdict

The B&O Beoplay A1 is both a beautiful and wonderful sounding speaker. It rivals more expensive Bluetooth speakers for sound quality and its battery life is also stellar. Provided you don’t need waterproofing it also makes for a great outdoor companion, although I do wish it came with a carry case. It’s now my favourite premium Bluetooth speaker.

  • David Stewart
  • September 07,2021

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