Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
B&O BeoPlay A2 portable Bluetooth speaker
Seriously good sound from a seriously portable speaker with a seriously steep price
- Build quality
- Sound quality
- No visual indicator for battery life or volume
Price$ 479.00 (AUD)
It's odd to think that a small and portable Bluetooth speaker is capable of replacing a traditional home stereo system, but the Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A2 speaker sure comes close to doing just that.
What's with the leather strap?
For a 1.1kg speaker that's flat and attached to a carry strap, it's amazing how much power it can put out and how enjoyable it can sound. There is nothing tinny about it; nothing rattles or flutters, and the funny thing is that it just doesn't look like it should be able to produce such a high-power sound.
The flat, longish design is what makes the B&O BeoPlay A2 so portable, and it's only about as tall as a bottle of wine, a little bit wider than a bottle of wine, and about as thick as the neck on a bottle of wine. You'll also do well to listen to it while sipping on a glass of wine.
A leather strap occupies one end so that you can easily move the speaker around your home; there are some buttons at the top so you can switch it on and change the volume, and there are ports on the bottom end in case you want to ruin the aesthetic by connecting via USB or stereo cables. (Of course you will have to attach a cable when it comes time to charge the integrated lithium ion battery).
Within the rectangular enclosure, which is made of aluminium, resides two sets of drivers that oppose each other. They fire out from either side to create a wide stereo effect that gives the BeoPlay A2 a wonderful brightness to its sound. There are two 3-inch, full-range drivers and two 0.75-inch tweeters on each side. They are reinforced by a couple of 3-inch bass radiators, which help to add depth and meaning to the lower frequencies.
Because of the way it's designed, the way you position the BeoPlay A2 is important in order to get the best possible output. At least, that's what we found. B&O claims otherwise. You have to sit it upright either on its short end or long end. You shouldn't lay it flat as one stereo channel will get muffled. Furthermore, it seemed to sound best for us when we placed it on small surfaces (such as a coffee table or chair), rather than in the middle of big surfaces (such as a dining table or floor). You'll have to figure out for yourself where it sounds best in your home, but it's so portable it's not really an issue.
There is a battery inside that can last for many hours (24 hours is claimed by B&O), and since it's a Bluetooth device, you can start listening in your lounge room, and then take it with you to your kitchen when you finally give in to doing the dishes. Try not to get it wet, though. It's not a rugged device, after all. In fact, it's rather delicate, in appearance at least, and the leather carry strap sure makes it look quite dainty.
How does it sound?
Nevertheless, it's a tough guy when it comes to sound, and it can do pretty much any genre of music justice. The speakers are powered by two Class D digital amplifiers, and they are rated at putting out 30W each with a peak power output of 180W. There is little doubt that this little speaker can fill up a room with sound, and it can do so without compromising too much on either side of the frequency spectrum. Bass sounds were mostly deep and punchy, while highs came out tame, yet crisp.
We used Google Play Music for our tests (not the streaming radio service but the online Cloud storage service for bought music), because we figure most of you will probably listen to streaming-quality music with such a device. A connection was made to our Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone easily, and we also connected from a Windows 8.1-based Ultrabook when we wanted to use a lager touchscreen interface to control the music.
Electronic sounds from an album called Greek Electro 1 sounded smooth and well rounded during our tests, and the speaker didn't struggle at all to reproduce low- and high-end sounds at about the three-quarter volume level (the volume level we used for all our testing). When we put on Amy Winehouse's Back In Black to test out some more soulful stuff, the vocals sounded accurate and played well against the backdrop of the music.
For blues and jazz, the drumming in David Axelrod's Holy Thursday was reproduced with a crispness, and the track had just the right amount of depth. Following on from this, the horns and flutes from Donald Byrd's Street Lady sounded satisfying.
Classical music from the BeoPlay A2 also entered our ears with accurate tones. In Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 in A Major, the softest of notes seemed to sneak out harmlessly, while the louder sounds appeared in a dramatic fashion to really show off the dynamic range of the small speaker.
Sampled, gritty sounding hip-hop beats were handled well, though the speaker did struggle to reproduce overly bass-heavy songs when the volume was too high. For example, a song such as the Sietta remix of The Herd's A Thousand Lives will sound much better on a larger pair of speakers due to its extended low frequencies, which are topped with soulful vocals. We had to turn the volume down in order to get the full effect of the song. Other hip-hop, such as DJ Muggs & GZA's album Grandmasters, played back to our expectations.
Read more: UE Mini Boom Bluetooth speaker review
Rock and funk music performed well, as did metal and even Greek folk and pop music. We didn't try out any country and western; you're on your own there.
Is it worth buying
Basically, this is a high-quality portable Bluetooth speaker with an overall sound output that is both accurate and loud. Well, it's loud enough to fill up a room and provide a good ambience for a small party. We like the fact that it can be carried so easily from room to room, and it feels well built, too. The only downside is the price, which is expectedly steep. That said, if it's within your budget, you should go for it.
• The [[artnid:560684|Divoom Voombox-Travel is a rugged Bluetooth speaker than can be used outdoors.
• Lenco's PlayConnect can add Wi-Fi to your Hi-Fi
• If you're after a multiroom speaker system that can play music from your phone or tablet, Lenco's PlayLink will allow you to do just that.
• If you want to buy a new Bluetooth speaker rather than use your old stereo, try the Polk Woodbourne. It's one of favourites due to its powerful sound and sturdy design.
• The Braven 855s and 850 are good choices if you want portable Bluetooth speakers, and if you buy two of them you can actually create a truly mobile stereo Bluetooth speaker system.
• Logitech's UE Boom box is also a good option if you want a portable speaker.
• Sony's SRS-X5 bluetooth speaker is a portable 2.1 system with loud sound.
• Best Bluetooth devices for streaming music from a smartphone or tablet to a stereo system
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