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We put Bang & Olufsen’s newest Beosound portable Bluetooth speaker to the test

The Danish audio giant has improved the battery life on its second generation A1 model by 350%

David RS Taylor
Wednesday 10 February 2021 11:57
<p>From design to sound, we find out how the new generation model compares to its predecessor </p>

From design to sound, we find out how the new generation model compares to its predecessor

Bang & Olufsen doesn’t need much of an introduction. The Danish audio giant was founded almost 100 years ago by Peter Bang and the less-impactfully-named Svend Olufsen, and has been at the forefront of sound technology ever since. 

A good sign of success is brand recognition, and B&O is synonymous with quality audio. 

There also aren’t many audio companies with a stronger idea of their design ethic than Bang & Olufsen. A visit to “The Farm”, B&O HQ in Struer, Denmark, is an architectural education (and an exercise in hoovering up social media approval), so it’s no surprise that when, in 2016, it released the original Beosound A1, reviews were glowing across the board. 

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Now comes the A1 2nd Gen. While there aren’t many changes on the outside (why tinker with a winning product?), the second generation’s inner workings have been upgraded with some serious tech, making an already-attractive product even more appealing. 

The original A1 has been retired by B&O, with all focus channelled into its improved younger sibling. Is the new Beosound A1 2nd Gen worth the investment for the regular listener? We find out.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent. 

Beosound A1 2nd Gen

Output: 2x30W

Frequency: 55 Hz-20 kHz

Weight: 558g

Battery playtime: Up to 18 hours at typical listening volumes

Wireless options: Bluetooth 5.1, dual speaker pairing, dual source connectivity, Apple Fast Pair, Google Fast Pair, Microsoft Swift Pair

Voice control: Alexa via a paired device

Buy now £200, Bang-olufsen.com

Design

The original A1’s design was typically B&O, a smooth-lined, minimalist statement piece, and the brand has realised that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The circular paracetamol shape remains, minus 1mm and 42g – unlike the millimetre difference, the lighter weight is ever-so-slightly noticeable, but this is purely an improvement on an already markedly schlepp-able speaker, made even more so by the leather strap attached to the body.

The main difference between the first and second generation is the control layout. One criticism of the original A1 was that the controls were a little tricky to use. The new generation’s controls are much more clearly positioned. Their design is still subtle, as part of the side of the speaker, but pressing the buttons feels much more definite this time around. 

Whereas the previous generation’s power LED was on the side of the machine, here, the light sits on top, within the speaker’s grille. It’s a nice touch aesthetically, and makes it much easier to spot when the speaker is about to conk out. 

Inside, the battery has been substantially improved – you can now use it for up to 18 hours at normal listening volumes, compared to the first generation’s now-paltry four – that’s a 350 per cent improvement on battery life. 

Another improvement is connectivity. B&O has included Bluetooth 5.1, instead of 4.2. Having now tested both generations, the connection was certainly more stable in the 2nd Gen – we had no issues throughout testing, even during brief moments when there was a wall between the speaker and connected device.

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The speaker feels sturdy, and has the certification to back that up, as it’s now officially waterproof and completely resistant to dust or sand – good for any future beach holidays. The design is more “arty” than other offerings in the market, so you might feel like you can’t chuck it around, but it feels like it could take it. Although there is a potential dent risk, we think that would just add character.

Sound

The sound is seriously impressive. The two 30W class D amplifiers help the A1 comfortably outperform its size, and the 3.5in woofer and 0.6in tweeter provide strong bass and crystal clear treble, perfect for both the heavy DnB and orchestral chamber music you listen to, alongside all the podcasts you’re missing without your morning commute. In larger spaces, the sound starts to struggle a little, but in a normal-sized room, it’s a clear and balanced pleasure to listen to.

The speaker also features the slightly jargon-sounding True360 omnidirectional sound, meaning that the audio is balanced around the entire speaker, guaranteeing the same sound wherever you’re sitting in the room. If this isn’t enough for you, you can also now connect two A1s, for proper stereo sound, and its Multipoint feature allows two devices to connect to the speaker and control the music: a blessing or a curse, depending on contrasting household music tastes.

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The number of internal microphones has been upped, from one to three, which both enhances the A1’s capabilities as a hands-free speakerphone, as well as its clarity when using Alexa voice commands: B&O is proud of the fact that the A1 is the first Bluetooth-only speaker that officially supports Alexa voice control, via your connected device’s wifi connection.

The verdict: Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 2nd Gen

Paying £200 for a portable speaker might sound a little out of many people’s comfort zone, but if there’s any example of a chunky investment being worth it, it’s the A1. It’s difficult to find anything wrong with it: gorgeous design, supreme audio for a portable speaker of this size, and a sturdiness that makes this more than reasonably priced. 

The price tag and modelesque advertising campaign so characteristic of Bang & Olufsen could insinuate that this isn’t a speaker for the mass market. In fact, investing in its quality will pay dividends in the long run. The original A1 was already a much-lauded product, but the little extras added to the second generation have refined a premium offering, added some technological heft, and made this the leading portable speaker on the market.

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IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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