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Bowers & Wilkins A5 review

Richard Easton
23 Jan 2015
Bowers & WIlkins A5 front angle
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
400
inc VAT

The Bowers & Wilkins A5 is a beautiful Apple AirPlay audio streamer but it would be nice to see Bluetooth included

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Specifications

Speakers: 4, RMS power output: 80W, Dock connector: None, Networking: 802.11n Wi-Fi, 1x 10/100 Ethernet, Dimensions: 300x120x100mm, Weight: 3.6kg, Streaming formats: AirPlay

Bowers & Wilkins has become well-known for making attractive, great-sounding speakers that are primarily designed to be used with Apple products. The A5 is no exception and looks great.

Its design is fantastic, with a black cloth grille that envelopes the circumference of the speaker, and a brushed-silver top. The silver has intricate concentric circled detailing that catches the light in an elegant way.

A second stripe of silver runs around the circumference and contains the Bowers & Wilkins logo and integrates a small status LED. The silver ribbon also incorporates a power button on the left-hand side and volume controls on the right. Overall, the A5 is an undeniably classy-looking wireless speaker.

Setting up the A5 is a simple process. You can either use the Bowers & Wilkins Connect app for iOS or the desktop application available on Windows or Mac. It's actually also possible to set up the speaker by connecting directly to the speaker's open Wi-Fi network and then configuring the speaker through a web browser, although this isn't as intuitive as using the apps.

The app will run you through the process of connecting to the speaker and then configuring it to connect to your home wireless network. It's a two minute process and we didn't encounter any problems. The app provides useful prompts and will let you know what the different colour blinking LED statuses mean, so it's easy to work out what's happening at all times.

The A5 uses Apple's AirPlay wireless streaming system to stream music from a connected iOS device, such as an iPad or iPhone. AirPlay is integrated into the iOS operating system, so it's easy to just swipe up from the bottom of the screen to bring up Control Centre and then select the A5 from a list of AirPlay compatible devices on your wireless network. Using AirPlay from an iOS device means you're able to stream music from practically any app on your device, so whether you use Spotify or any other streaming service, or just play locally stored music, you're covered. With a DLNA app, such as 8Player, you can even stream directly from a music server on your home network.

Using AirPlay from a desktop PC or Mac is officially limited to just iTunes. We say officially as there are other means to get around this in order to output system audio to the speakers through the AirPlay protocol. Using paid-for software such as TuneBlade or AirFoil it's possible to send any audio to an AirPlay compatible receiver. TuneBlade was our favourite and is the cheaper of the two at £8.

It's possible to also stream audio from Android devices. Although in order to stream system audio from any of your apps your device will need to be rooted, providing enhanced access to system controls. This can be a tricky process and potentially voids your device's warranty, so not an option for everyone.

If you have multiple AirPlay speakers on your network it's only possible to send music to them simultaneously from a desktop, using either iTunes or through TuneBlade or AirFoil. An operating system limitation means it's not possible to send the system audio from an iOS device to more than one AirPlay speaker at the same time, which is a shame.

If you don't want to use a wireless connection, there's an Ethernet port on the back of the speaker for wired networking. Similarly, if you want to connect the A5 to a wired audio device there's a 3.5mm auxiliary connection. Pressing the power button toggles between wireless and auxiliary and we were pleased to see that the speakers would automatically switch over if it detected wireless audio being sent from an iOS device or desktop through AirPlay.

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