The B&O A1 2nd Gen improves on its predecessor in pretty much every way – it’s a truly wonderful Bluetooth speaker
- Lovely looks
- Great sound
- Alexa support
- No 3.5mm input
- Doesn’t pair with the original A1
The original Bang & Olufsen Beoplay A1 certainly lived up to the firm’s stellar reputation, and when we reviewed it back in 2016 we were left highly impressed by its combination of stylish design and top-quality sound. We were so impressed, in fact, that it became a mainstay of our Best Bluetooth speaker list until its recent retirement.
The 2nd generation model might look nigh on identical to its predecessor but B&O has made a number of tweaks under the hood. The result is that one of our favourite Bluetooth speakers is now better than ever.
B&O Beosound A1 (2nd Gen) review: Refined design
Frankly, I struggled to tell the two models apart. The disc-shaped A1 still resembles a UFO but it’s now a whopping (read: infinitesimal) 1mm shorter and weighs 558g, 42g less than the previous generation. Those aren’t dramatic changes, but there’s no denying that the A1 remains easy to lug around; a task that’s made even easier thanks to the adjustable leather carrying strap.
The speaker is now fully dust and waterproof thanks to its IP67 certification, and that means it’s capable of being immersed in water up to a depth of 1 metre for 30 minutes. Though B&O says the original was both dust- and water-resistant, it lacked an official rating and the inclusion of one this time around makes the A1 a more rugged prospect. There’s no more worrying about dropping it in the bath or getting caught out in an August thunderstorm.
The A1 2nd Gen’s controls have been repositioned to be more visible and I found them a doddle to navigate. There are no protruding buttons: instead, buttons integrated into the speaker’s base provide a decent amount of feedback when pressed in. Play/pause and volume up and volume down are located on one side of the strap, with the power, Bluetooth and microphone buttons sitting on the other side of the disc. An LED situated under the speaker grille indicates whether the A1 is turned on and although it’s rather small, does the job well enough. It had previously been positioned on the side of the base and is now more visible, which is a big plus.
B&O Beosound A1 (2nd Gen) review: Technical improvements
Battery life has received a big boost. The original promised up to 24 hours while playing audio at low volume, while this time around B&O states you’ll get up to 43 hours at low volume and 18 hours of playtime at moderate levels.
Connectivity has also been upgraded: the A1 now has Bluetooth 5.1 rather than 4.2, which promises improved energy efficiency and Bluetooth range. I had no issues with the connection during testing: it remained stable throughout and allowed me to control the speaker at one end of my flat while it pumped out tracks at the other (around 5m away).
There’s now support for both the AAC and aptX Adaptive codecs, too. The lack of support for higher quality codecs was the only significant complaint we had about the original so the fact B&O has addressed this is great to see.
Possibly the most interesting addition to the new model is that it has Alexa support, which B&O says is a world-first for a Bluetooth-only speaker. The speaker itself isn’t natively smart, but it transforms into a smart, Alexa-connected speaker once it’s linked to the Alexa account on your smartphone.
This means smart functions are only available while your phone is connected to your WiFi and you’re within Bluetooth range of the A1. Once enabled, the B&O’s three internal microphones are ready and waiting for your wake word. Because it’s your phone processing your queries, there is a slight delay between giving your command and it being actioned but I didn’t find this to be overly restrictive.
The A1’s three internal microphones also allow it to double as a speakerphone during calls. The microphone clarity is good, and I had no trouble being heard when conversing via the speaker.
B&O Beosound A1 (2nd Gen) review: How does it sound?
The A1 2nd Gen also delivers in the audio department. Its 3.5in woofer and 0.6in tweeter are powered by two 30W Class D amplifiers, so it’s no surprise to find that it packs a decent punch for a speaker its size. It’s not going to start any house parties, but it comfortably filled my lounge and kitchen area at full volume and has a beautifully detailed, balanced overall sound.
For those that want to tweak the sound to their liking, the B&O app offers four listening modes – optimal, ambient, party and speech – in addition to the option to create your own EQ. And if you’re willing to splash out on two 2nd Gen A1s you can pair them to create a true stereo experience. Sadly, though, stereo pairing is generation-locked so this model can’t be paired with the original A1.
B&O Beosound A1 (2nd Gen) review: Is there anything not to like?
It’s a real shame that B&O has removed the 3.5mm analogue input of the original model. It wouldn’t necessarily have got a huge amount of use, but it added some welcome flexibility.
The A1 2nd Gen is also a lot less rugged than the likes of the UE Megaboom 3 and Marshall Emberton. Compared to those rivals, it doesn’t feel like it’s built to survive such rough treatment – if rugged build and hard-knock credentials are top of your list, you may want to look elsewhere.
B&O Beosound A1 (2nd Gen) review: Should you buy it?
It’s a shame that B&O has dumped the analogue input, and the lack of ruggedised build may put off some buyers, but otherwise, we’ve no qualms with the A1 2nd Gen. This is a premium-priced Bluetooth speaker which delivers exceptional audio in an eye-catching package.