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Bang & Olufsen Beosound A5 review: Today’s the day that B&O has its picnic

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £899
inc VAT

It’s not without issues - there’s the price, for starters - but the Beosound A5 is among the best-sounding portable speakers around


  • Unique looks and finish
  • Expansive, full-scale and engrossing sound
  • Future-proof engineering


  • Extremely expensive
  • Design will be divisive
  • Not the strongest 360-degree sound

As is standard operating practice for Bang & Olufsen, the Beosound A5 portable, battery-powered wireless speaker is a design-led, individualistic product with a considerable price attached. But despite the possibly rather frivolous nature of its looks, the A5 is all business.

It’s specified with longevity in mind. It’s built from high-quality materials to a very high standard indeed. Thanks to a brilliantly realised control app, it’s a model of ergonomic good sense. It has the battery life to last the whole day and the power to fill a room with sound. And most importantly of all, that sound is balanced, convincing and thoroughly engrossing.

It’s not perfect, of course – very little in the world of consumer electronics is. It could do with wider-ranging Bluetooth codec compatibility, and some details regarding the sort of resolution of the digital audio files it can handle would be nice. It claims to deliver 360-degree sound but struggles to make good on the promise. And, let’s not forget, it costs (relatively speaking) an arm and a leg.

But despite these shortcomings, the A5 makes a very strong case for itself. After all, potential Bang & Olufsen customers understand the way the company operates and understand a singular product commands a singular price. So if you don’t baulk at the idea of spending well over twice what the Sonos Move will cost you, the Beosound A5 is unlikely to disappoint.

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Bang & Olufsen Beosound A5 review: What do you get for the money?

Let’s deal with the (very costly) elephant in the room straight away: the Bang & Olufsen Beosound A5 is, by prevailing standards, very expensive indeed. At £899 (minimum; the dark oak variant is just shy of £1K), it’s comfortably more than twice the price of any of the portable wireless speakers we’ve previously been recommending.

Putting £899 Bang & Olufsen’s way buys you a battery-powered wireless speaker measuring 285 x 130 x 187mm and weighing 3.7kg that’s been designed, as far as we can tell, to look like nothing more than a picnic basket. Bang & Olufsen will tell you it’s a direct descendant of some of its legendary Beolit products of yesteryear (the 607, 800 and 1000 in particular); design collaborators GamFratesi Studio suggest it is reminiscent of a Panama hat. Have another look at it, and tell us we’re wrong when we say picnic basket.

As is standard practice with Bang & Olufsen, and as the asking price demands, the Beosound A5 is flawlessly constructed from premium materials. The woven surface that wraps around four sides of the speaker is of paper fibre – it’s hard-wearing and tactile. The bottom and top plates are of anodised aluminium and feel as good as they look. The carrying handle is made of beautifully finished oak, with a B&O-branded pin holding it in position at each end. The physical controls on the top of the speaker are short-travel buttons beneath a rubberised layer. There’s also a Qi charging pad on top there, so you can charge your smartphone even as it’s streaming tunes to your speaker. Contrary to what might be your perfectly understandable expectations, the way the Beosound A5 is built and finished goes some way towards justifying that asking price.

The physical controls (power on/off, play/pause, skip forwards/backwards, volume up/down and Bluetooth pairing) are joined by four preset buttons, the function of which can be specified in the Bang & Olufsen Music control app. Chances are you’ll want to use them as shortcuts to favourite radio stations (the app has both Bang & Olufsen Radio and TuneIn integrated) or favourite playlists (the app lets you integrate a Deezer account, and the A5’s Wi-Fi 6 connectivity means Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast, Spotify Connect and Tidal Connect are available, too).

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The app is stable, wide-ranging in its functionality and a lot easier on the eye than any number of alternatives. It lets you check on battery life, calibrate the speaker’s sound to suit its specific environment, check for software updates, set a default and maximum volume level, and adjust EQ levels using both a pair of sliders and a very pleasing graphic called Beosonic. And it will allow you to integrate the A5 either into a stereo pair (with another A5) or a multiroom system consisting of other Mozart-based speakers in the Bang & Olufsen lineup.

Mozart is the name the company gives to its current hardware and software platform. It’s designed to make the product simple to service and straightforward to repair, and it makes the streaming module easy to replace should the need arise (following advances in technology, for instance). It also allows Bang & Olufsen to extend the A5’s working life beyond its first life, as the modular nature of the design supports recycling, reusing and even remanufacturing and repurposing. This, according to the company, is “circularity”.

Inside, the Beosound A5 is equipped with 280W of Class D amplification, which is the juice for a 130mm bass driver, a pair of 50mm mid-range drivers and a 20mm tweeter. They’re beam-forming drivers (Bang & Olufsen has been refining this technology in its much more expensive Beolab range of loudspeakers), and they’re intended to create a 360-degree soundstage, which B&O refers to as “Omni”. This is emphatically not spatial audio of the type popularised by Dolby with its Atmos format and lately given full expression by the likes of the Sonos Era 300.

Getting the content on board the A5 in the first place can be done using Bluetooth 5.2 or Wi-Fi 6. The speaker is IP65-rated, so should prove resistant to the sort of weather one is bound to encounter when picnicking in the UK. And thanks to a battery life of 12 hours (when playing at moderate volume, and when not using the A5’s Qi patch to charge your phone at the same time), you can enjoy your tunes no matter how long this picnic of yours lasts. Recharging via USB-C from flat to full should take around three hours, although you can get to 80% in under two.

Bang & Olufsen Beosound A5 review: What did we like about it?

You will make your own mind up about the way the Beosound A5 looks, of course, but there’s no disputing the quality of the sound it makes. It’s the best-sounding wireless portable speaker currently available – just as well, really, given how expensive it is.

The tonal balance it exhibits, for instance, is utterly consistent from the bottom of the frequency range to the top, and it’s convincingly natural and neutral at every point. The balance Bang & Olufsen has struck between excitement and realism with the A5 is very impressive indeed.

There’s a stack of low-end presence here, but the Beosound A5 is no blunt instrument. Bass sounds are properly shaped, expertly controlled and loaded with detail both broad and fine – so not only are they profoundly informative, but rhythmic expression and outright momentum are very good, too. And for good measure, the speaker hits extremely hard when the music demands it.

The opposite end of the frequency range is similarly detailed and similarly controlled. There’s crunch and brilliance to treble sounds, but no hardness or grittiness – instead, the top end fairly shines. The Beosound A5 attacks high frequencies with determination but keeps information levels high as it does so.

And in between, the mid-range has the sort of prodigious powers of detail retrieval that makes every listen to a singer a memorable event. Give Anna Meredith’s “Unfurl” a listen via Tidal Connect and the eloquence the A5 brings to bear is delightful. There’s more than enough space on the big, well-defined soundstage for a voice to express itself, but the A5 integrates the mid-range securely, so every recording seems unified and of a whole.

The sense of unity and performance is helped no end by the A5’s facility with low-level dynamics. It can find the tiny variations hidden at the back or the edge of the notes of a solo piano, say, and put them into proper context. And it almost goes without saying that those big dynamic upheavals that are apparent when an entire symphony orchestra piles into the final crescendo are given proper expression, too.

What’s admirable about all this is that the Beosound A5 doesn’t alter its attitude or its character even when playing at significant volume (and be assured, significant volume is available here). It maintains its composure, never sounding stressed or overdriven – it just gets louder. And the fact that the soundstage it creates is so much larger than the chassis from which it’s delivered only adds to the impression of assured, high-quality performance.

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Bang & Olufsen Beosound A5 review: What could be improved?

Quite why Bang & Olufsen doesn’t publish the details of the resolution of the Beosound A5’s digital-to-analogue conversion chipset is a mystery. Surely people with a lot of money to spend on a wireless speaker want to know that it’s a high-resolution device, right? Of course, if it sounds good then whether or not it’s truly hi-res is neither here nor there, but if a manufacturer isn’t obliged to tick a few boxes when charging uber-premium money for a product, when exactly are they?

And why isn’t the Beosound A5 compatible with any Bluetooth codecs beyond the bog-standard and unremarkable SBC and AAC varieties? Any number of much more affordable alternatives to the A5 are compatible with the higher-quality aptX and/or LDAC codecs – and there are no two ways about it, those codecs sound superior. Imagine what the Beosound A5 would sound like if it was properly specified in this regard…

There’s also some imagining to be done on the listener’s part with regard to 360-degree sound. That the Beosound A5 is a broad, expansive listen with a proper sense of scale to its sound is unarguable, but Bang & Olufsen’s suggestion that it represents an immersive, enveloping experience is not, strictly speaking, accurate. Immersive sound is the sound delivered by a Sonos Era 300 when playing some content mastered in Dolby Atmos. No, the Sonos isn’t battery-powered or portable, and its unhappy looks are a million miles from the design extravaganza of the Beosound A5 – but it is a deeper, wider and taller listen than this Bang & Olufsen, no matter what the company claims.

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Bang & Olufsen Beosound A5 review: Should you buy it?

There are plenty of reasons to buy the Bang & Olufsen Beosound A5. The looks are compelling (if you like this sort of thing), the pride of ownership is sky-high thanks to the exquisite quality of its construction and finish, and it’s without a doubt the best-sounding wireless, battery-powered portable speaker currently on offer. Whether it’s the best on a pound-for-pound basis is an extremely live question, but in absolute terms, it’s the best, no question.

Of course, it’s the pound-for-pound part that’s the real issue. If you want a Bang & Olufsen Beosound A5, you have to be able to justify spending £899 to yourself. And you have to ignore the fact that high-quality, high-performance portable battery-powered speakers from the likes of DALI and Sonos (to name just two) are less than half the price of this B&O. If you can do this, though, then the best-sounding picnic you’ve ever attended is in your near future…

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