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Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A6 review - Bluetooth, AirPlay and now Google Cast

Richard Easton
12 May 2016
B&O BeoPlay A6 lead
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
799
inc VAT

The BeoPlay A6, now updated with Google Cast, is a stunningly designed multiroom speaker but it comes at a premium price

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Specifications

Speakers: 5, RMS power output: 150W, Dock connector: None, Networking: Bluetooth (SBC), dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, 10/100 Ethernet, Dimensions: 298x536x144mm, Weight: 6kg, Streaming formats: AirPlay, DLNA, Bluetooth

When it comes to speakers that don’t really resemble speakers, Bang & Olufsen has a long history of crafting products that blend into your home furniture. That’s not changed with its Beoplay A6 speaker. Like its fellow Scandinavian compatriot, Libratone, the company takes a heavily stylised approach to its products.

Its products have always sat firmly at the more luxury end of the audiovisual market so it came as little surprise that the BeoPlay A6 has a price that’s higher than most rivals. At £800 the BeoPlay A6 isn’t going to appeal to everyone but it is, in fact, one of B&O’s more affordable options.

To some extent, the price reflects the design and materials used, with fabric from luxury Danish upholstery studio Kvadrat draped across the speaker’s front. While the feel of a speaker isn’t usually of importance, as the BeoPlay A6 has some interesting touch-sensitive controls, it’s worth mentioning that the wool-blend fabric does feel nice to the touch.

The precision woven fabric is designed to maintain acoustic transparency while still looking attractive. As standard, the A6 comes in the Light Grey wool finish on a white back, but the front pops off and is replaceable in Dark Grey, Dusty Blue and Dark Rose finishes, with each costing £99.

The BeoPlay A6 has a bowed shape, coming in at the centre. The front has only been adorned with a subtle B&O logo and zig-zagged stitching that runs from the logo on the side horizontally. We weren’t fond of the additional stitching; alongside the B&O logo, it makes the front resemble a caricature whale in profile, especially with the light grey wool finish. Still, it’s a subjective observation and you can make your own mind up from our photos.


B&O BeoPlay A6 top controls

Along the thin top edge of the BeoPlay A6 are touch-based controls that also respond to gestures. Tapping the centre will start music playback and repeated taps will cycle through the music services you’ve set up; a long touch will mute the volume. Swapping between services felt slow, however, and you'll have to remember the order you've set (via the iOS or Android app). You can also swipe left and right along the top of the BeoPlay A6 to increase or decrease the volume and skip tracks.

Set up and streaming

Setting up the BeoPlay A6 was a slightly frustrating affair. When you first turn the speaker on, it broadcasts its own wireless network that you need to connect to with your smartphone or tablet. Then, using the BeoSetup app for Android and iOS, you’re able to enter your wireless network details. On an Android device this part was simple enough, and the speaker confirmed it had saved the network details without a problem.


B&O BeoPlay A6 App

Strangely, however, the speaker didn’t show up in the BeoSetup app as being on the network afterwards. This was the case even after powering down the speaker. Weirdly, we did manage to get the BeoPlay A6 to appear when connecting to it through Spotify Connect - after music playback was triggered through Spotify the speaker suddenly appeared in the setup app as being on the network.

The BeoSetup app is used for changing settings on the speaker as well as handling software updates. The update process is also a little annoying if your speaker isn’t up to date out of the box. Our review sample was two iterations out of date, but the speaker can’t leapfrog older versions. Instead, it had to install each update in turn, which was time-consuming.

Using an iOS device you can set up the BeoPlay A6 as an AirPlay speaker, which gets the speaker on your network much faster. You’ll still want to install the BeoSetup app for updates and settings, however. The BeoPlay A6 supports dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi but there’s an Ethernet port on the underside of the speaker if you would rather use a wired connection.

Annoyingly, music playback controls are handled by a separate app altogether. The BeoMusic app lets you set up your music streaming services, of which you have a choice of TuneIn for internet radio and Deezer. The aforementioned Spotify Connect is controlled through the Spotify app, if you have a Premium subscription. The BeoMusic app is far from the most attractive or cleanly designed app we’ve seen, but it functions well enough. The app will let you group together different BeoLink multiroom compatible speakers so that you can synchronise music across speakers.

If you’re on an iOS device you can avoid the BeoMusic by using AirPlay. Equally, the BeoPlay A6 supports Bluetooth as well as a 3.5mm auxiliary jack for wired devices. 

B&O has also added in Google Cast support, albeit slightly later than originally planned. Similar to how a Google Chromecast can be used for outputting content to a display or television, Google Cast is an easy way to 'cast' audio to compatible speakers. Google Play Music, Spotify and Deezer, among other apps, are used to control your music and you merely need to select the Google Cast compatible speaker that's connected to your wireless network. The BeoPlay A6 then handles the actual connection to the relevant audio service directly, with your smartphone or tablet essentially just acting as a remote control.

You could have added this functionality yourself by purchasing a Google Chromecast for Audio separately and connecting it to the 3.5mm auxiliary connection, but it's obviously cheaper and more convenient to have the functionality built directly into the speaker, so it's welcoming to see B&O stay true to its promise to update its speaker. You'll just need to download the new firmware as part of an update and future speakers will come with the functionality already included. 

You can synchronise audio coming from a device connected to the BeoPlay A6's 3.5mm mini-jack to other speakers. There’s a delay from the line-in feed, however, which you'll notice if you’re watching video. You can turn off the delay but this means that the line-in feed can’t be relayed to other speakers. Similarly, there’s a slight delay from a Bluetooth input as well.