Bang and Olufsen is best known for making specialist, high-end and stylish products. So when it lends its Scandinavian sense of premium-quality minimalist design to a portable Bluetooth speaker (the company’s first), you know it’ll be special.
Build and design
The B&O BeoPlay A2 looks luxurious: the curved polymer shell with its high-quality leather strap is a premium lifestyle product. The metal panel, with its beautifully machined buttons, adds elegance. It’s well made, and light enough to carry using the sturdy strap.
The plastic casing is a touch disappointing (we had hoped for an aluminium grille), as it flexes when picked up. However, the unit is designed to withstand scuffs and scratches. In its all-black finish, the A2 looks a little plain. The green or grey alternatives, with contrasting brown and rose-gold leather handles respectively, look far more appealing.
Fire up the B&O A2 and you’ll hear a wonderfully clean and spacious sound. Third Eye Blind’s Semi-Charmed Life bounds along with precise rhythm, each drum hit and jangling guitar etched out with clear edges. Rapid lyrics are expressive, vocals loud and direct.
The big spread of sound is down to B&O’s ‘True360’ sound technology – it uses drivers on both sides of the speaker, meaning you can stand ‘behind’ the speaker and still hear that clear, open sound. It works admirably. B&O exploits the wide dispersion in the low frequencies, delivering sound around the edges of the speaker – although you still won’t get the full blast of the A2’s sound if the slim edge is facing towards you.
The A2’s diffusive sound does a decent job of conveying soaring dynamics whether you’re listening to a Hans Zimmer composition or the warbling tones of Adele. We want a touch more warmth and richness to the sound, though. Initial thinness gives way to a much fuller sound after a couple of days’ running in; we wish we could say the same for the A2’s persistent hard edge.
Even after a week, there’s hardness to the A2’s sound that prevents it from sounding truly relaxing. The funky tones of Fela Kuti’s Colonial Mentality are snappy, yet aren’t quite subtle and musical enough to have us tapping our toes.
You can play smartphone-stored music or Spotify playlists via the A2’s 3.5mm socket or Bluetooth (with the aptX codec promising higher-quality streams from your smart device). Pairing is quick, and the A2 will remember up to eight connected devices.
You can also charge your smart device using the USB port and it won’t put too much of a strain on the A2’s battery, either. The speaker lasts for 24 hours on a single charge – it’s the longest battery life of any portable speaker we’ve come across.
The B&O A2 comes off as a touch clinical and soulless, but there’s plenty to admire about its detailed, spacious sound and clean presentation. Its stylish design is appealing, as is the lengthy 24-hour battery life. It may not be class leading, but the A2 is worth a place on your list.