B&W A5 review

A masterclass in wireless speaker design Tested at £400

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A masterclass in wireless speaker design. At this price, there are few AirPlay devices that can better the A5


  • +

    Great design

  • +

    Easy AirPlay set-up

  • +

    Tons of detail that competitors lack


  • -

    Sound is on the small side

  • -

    Treble can be a little bright

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We came to the B&W A5 with high hopes: after all we’re no strangers to enjoying what B&W does when it comes to AirPlay speakers. After piling high praise on the Zeppelin Air in 2011, the minimalist A7 was on the receiving end of a five-star review in our December 2012 issue, so we were expecting good things from the smaller, less expensive A5

Out of the box, it looks just like a miniature A7: a bit of a departure from the eye-catching look of the Zeppelin range, but the sleek, unassuming design will complement most rooms, and blend in rather than stand out – not a bad thing at all.

B&W A5 review: set-up

With no dock connector interrupting its sleek lines, the A5 relies on Apple’s wireless AirPlay technology to play music, though there is a 3.5mm mini jack on the back to hard wire the analogue output from a device, should you need it.

Luckily, setting up AirPlay with your iOS device is simple thanks to the free B&W AirPlay Setup app.

B&W A5 review

B&W A5 review

Once downloaded, it walks you through steps that get you streaming your music in minutes. AirPlay is notoriously fiddly to get running, so this is no mean feat, and something we wish all manufacturers would consider as carefully.

B&W A5 review: sound quality

Intended for smaller rooms than its bigger brother, the A5 is an impressively powerful dock for its size, capable of kicking out rich, detailed audio that’s perfect for a bedroom or kitchen.

It’s not as expansive as the B&W A7, so won’t fill larger rooms as convincingly, but for £300 less, that’s something we would expect.

Listening to Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know, the A5 draws out the haunting vocal with beautiful clarity, while the bass guitar punches manfully.

It has a tendency to be a little bright for our tastes, and rather unforgiving of less-than-ideal recordings, but playing with EQ on our iPod touch goes a long way to softening it up (at the expense of a little transparency).

B&W A5 review: verdict

Put the A5 in a real home environment and it will shine.

There are few AirPlay docks at this price that can challenge it in design and performance – B&W has another superstar on its hands.

MORE: Best AirPlay speakers to buy in 2014

See all our dock system Best Buys

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test