The B&O Beosound A1 (2nd Gen) portable Bluetooth speaker has been revamped both in design and performance compared to the original A1 model. It now boasts a slimmer waterproof design, enhanced drivers, a much-improved battery life and – a world’s first for a Bluetooth speaker, according to B&O – built-in Alexa voice assistant.
In 2016, Bang & Olufsen launched its smallest, most affordable speaker, the A1. Four years on, the A1 no longer holds that position in the company's speaker line-up (that goes to the even tinier, more affordable P2), so B&O has come up with another way to make it stand out.
So, how does Amazon Alexa work without a network connection? As you may have suspected, it doesn’t. The A1 has to be connected over Bluetooth to a smartphone (or other source) that is itself connected to Alexa services over wi-fi. During set-up of the A1, the user can link the speaker to their Alexa account and activate Alexa that way to, say, control music playback, order a pizza or find a new recipe.
That means the speaker must always be within the Bluetooth range of your phone (or alternative source), but considering the A1 supports Bluetooth 5.1 that shouldn’t be a problem in most cases. Through the A1’s far-field microphone technology, Alexa can be activated from up to 5m away and, courtesy of a software update due later this year, remain responsive for up to 3 hours after being turned off.
The three-microphone array allows the Beosound A1 to be used as a speakerphone during calls, while support for Microsoft Swift Pair and Google Fast Pair enables a fast setup for conference calls.
The battery increase is a significant one, too: up from four hours to 18 hours listening at 70dB, or from 24 hours to 48 hours listening at a more moderate 55dB. An LED warning light indicates power, while battery status can also be seen on the Bang & Olufsen app.
While a quick game of spot-the-difference might not immediately highlight major design changes compared to its predecessor, Bang & Olufsen has indeed overhauled parts of the design. The new A1 is seven per cent lighter, introduces a slightly different hole pattern (!), and there's a tweaked control arrangement that sees bigger, more clearly labeled buttons positioned closer to the leather strap for easier location.
That round chassis is now waterproof and dustproof to IP67, too, meaning it can be placed in water up to 1m deep for 30 minutes, if you dare, and should be safe from sand and dirt.
Inside, the 3.5in aluminium mid/bass driver and 0.75in silk dome tweeter have also been improved to enhance the clarity of its 360-degree sound, which in the original A1 review we praised for being solid, weighty and capable of decent bass. Last and certainly not least, the new A1 now supports Qualcomm’s latest aptX Adaptive codec.
The Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 is available in Black Anthracite and Grey Mist finishes for £200 (€250).