Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 2nd Gen

With summer on the horizon it’s starting to look as though we may finally be able to get out and about a bit more, making this a good time for B&O to update its smallest portable speaker. Originally launched in 2016, the updated Beosound A1 2nd Gen doesn’t look radically different, sticking with the same circular ‘hockey-puck’ design as its predecessor. The price hasn’t changed either, although B&O has refined the design in a number of ways.

The compact aluminium casing is available in a variety of colours and measures just 133mm in diameter and 46mm high. It’s not quite pocket-sized, but you can fit it into a backpack or suitcase with no trouble and there’s a wrist-strap for carrying it. It’s lost a little weight since 2016, slimming down from 600g to 558g, but the aluminium design is still very solid and now boasts an IP67 rating for water and dust resistance.

There’s a lot squeezed inside that little metal disc, including a 15mm tweeter and 90mm bass driver – each with their own 30W Class D amplifier. The A1 is primarily designed for Bluetooth wireless streaming, supporting both AAC for Apple devices and the latest aptX Adaptive for Android. There’s no 3.5mm connector, but the USB-C port can be used both for charging and to provide USB-Audio for a wired input, which will be handy for use with a laptop. Battery life has improved too, with 18 hours on medium volume quoted.

There are controls on the speaker or you can use the B&O app, which includes a ‘listening mode’ with five presets or the option to adjust treble and bass to create your own. There’s even an option to pair two A1 speakers for stereo sound.

Sound quality
Firing up the MQA version of The Beach Boys Good Vibrations, I’m struck by the forceful way that Carl Wilson’s voice swoops in on the opening line and sets the scene. The A1 has a good ear for detail, keeping an eye on the gently shimmering tambourine even as the multi-layered vocals and electronic keyboards build towards that irresistible chorus.

The circular design isn’t just for show as it helps to create a spacious, open sound that’s perfect for outdoor use. The twin amps provide a decent amount of power – I’m worried about disturbing the neighbours at just 75 percent volume.

With Kate Bush’s The Big Sky, the compact A1 does a good job digging down to the deep, woody texture of the didgeridoo and then balancing the dense layers of drums and percussion that pile up as the song progresses. I’m pleased to hear that the song’s infectious slap-bass riff doesn’t get lost, and the B&O holds its composure well as the cascading drums, chanting chorus and Bush’s trademark vocal swoops build into an imposing wall of sound.

That compact design does have its limitations, though. So far, I’ve kept the volume to around 75 percent, and as I push the little speaker towards its limits I notice that some of the higher frequencies – particularly with vocals – start to sound a little harsh. And while the A1 handles the slap-bass on The Big Sky well enough, it can’t quite fully embrace the deep electronic pulse on You Should See Me In A Crown by Billie Eilish. There’s a cool clarity to the ticking percussion that sets the edgy mood well, but the slow pulse of the chorus doesn’t quite deliver the finishing punch.

Even so, that’s a lot to ask from a speaker that’s only slightly larger than a tin of beans, and the A1 does deliver a fuller and more detailed sound than most rivals of this size. Throw in the long battery life and sturdy, weather-proof design and the A1 should be able to earn its keep when we’re finally ready to venture into the great outdoors once again. CJ    

Product: Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 2nd Gen
Type: Portable Bluetooth speaker

● 15mm tweeter
● 90mm bass driver
● Bluetooth with AAC and aptX Adaptive; USB-C
● Bluetooth with AAC and aptX Adaptive; USB-C

Read the full review in  Issue 475

Bang & Olufsen