B&O’s latest foray into the competitive portable Bluetooth speaker market has enough points of difference to make it special, writes PAT PILCHER.
Portable audio that’s good for a whole 24 hours is possible, and available now via the Beoplay A2 Bluetooth Speaker, according to Bang & Olufsen. The company claims that their Beoplay runs on the smell of an oily speaker-polishing rag. Or something like that. So anyway, I had to check it out.
Most Bluetooth speakers tend to be spherical or conical. Not the A2. The designers at B&O went down a different path. The chassis of the Beoplay A2 is hewn out of extruded aluminium. This means the A2 feels built to withstand a thermo-nuclear Trumpocalypse. It also makes the A2 very light. Weighing in at 1.1kg, it’ll be a joy to carry around as you survey the fallout. Portability gets helped along thanks to a looped leather strap. Slinging the A2 across your shoulder is a doddle.
Looks-wise, the A2 resembles a largish audio sandwich. Its rectangular form-factor is a departure from the design of other Bluetooth speakers. In practice this works well. Its slim design means that the A2 can get chucked in a beach bag without displacing everything else. It’s also dust and splash proof, too. The A2 can be had in a choice of grey or green. These colours give it a no-nonsense feel compared to the fluro colours used with most portable speakers. Like other B&O gear, the A2 possesses an understated yet catchy design.
Firing the speaker up while eating lunch on the back lawn on an all too rare sunny Wellington day, its audio impressed. While its lows won’t shake your bones or cause neighbours’ pot plants to combust, audio is well balanced and warm. B&O also talk up the A2’s ability to deliver a 360-degree sound stage. This they say is due to two drivers on each side of the speaker, and what Bang & Olufsen call ‘Power Response Enhancement’. Scandinavian marketing jargon aside, the A2 delivered an accurate soundstage, and all told it was a pleasant surprise audio-wise.
This gets helped along thanks to the the speaker being dead easy to set up. This involved hitting its bluetooth button and locating the A2 on my phone’s list of Bluetooth widgets. The A2 can pair with up to eight other devices. This allows friends to co-DJ, which gives you a larger music library to choose from.
Then there’s the Beoplay app. It’s a free IOS/Android/Apple Watch download. It sports a dozen or so audio pre-sets as well as a clever on-screen dial for customising audio. I liked the pinch to zoom feature, which let me tweak the width of the sound stage. Using the app, two A2’s can also get paired to deliver true 2-channel audio.
Another area where the A2 shone was battery life, which via its USB C connection gives over a day’s worth of listening. This will vary depending on listening levels. After charging the A2 I left it playing for the entire day, and while it wasn’t cranked up it did run for the day, from morning through to bed time, and then half a day’s audio the next day.
The A2 delivers solid audio that sees it batting well above its pint-sized form factor. Its compact yet lightweight design also makes for excellent portability. Add to this a well featured IOS/Android app plus a battery that refuses to quit, and the A2 delivers a lot.
The only slight fly in the ointment is its $699 sticker price, a premium that is par for the course for B&O. It’s a minor sticking point if you’ve got the readies, however, and there’s no denying that the A2 is a superb product. PAT PILCHER