Decidedly demure compared to the legendary Zeppelin, but the B&W A5 is one of the finest wireless speakers we've tested
The B&W Zeppelin Air revolutionised the speaker dock offering the holy trinity of elegant styling, solid build and brilliant sound. Following a design classic is never easy, but with the Bowers & Wilkins A5 (and its bigger brother the B&W A7) the brand has produced an impressive Airplay speaker.
But with fierce competition from the Philips AW9000 and the Denon Ceol Piccolo, can the A5 deliver?
B&W A5: Size and build
With a design borrowed from the excellent B&W MM1 computer speakers, the A5 is an unassuming treat. The simple brushed metal top and matching band contrasts perfectly with the black cloth, and with no plastic on show - even the volume and power buttons are built into the metal band - the A5 looks stunning.
It's weighty too - often a good sign - and despite the bookshelf-friendly dimensions (180 x 300 x 120mm) it feels every inch a premium product.
The only slight niggle is the power connector. Once plugged in it sticks straight out making it awkward to position, not ideal for a bookshelf speaker. A simple L-Shaped design would solve the problem.
The B&W A5 is decidedly low on connectors, but being wireless that's kind of the point. It does have an Ethernet port for wired connections and an aux-in but that's your lot.
B&W A5: Features
Bowers & Wilkins makes fine speakers, and the A5 is no exception. The 80W design has two 1-inch Nautilus tube aluminium tweeters and two 4-inch mid/low range drive units. Combined with their digital-to-analogue converters the speakers produce a sound way better than most one-box systems.
B&W A5: Setup
Setting up an Airplay speaker can be a right pain in the router, but getting the A5 steaming from your iOS device couldn't be easier thanks to the AirPlay Setup app (Hi-fi designers please take note).
The simple step-by-step guide navigates the networks effortlessly, and we were streaming soft rock from our iPad 4 in a matter of minutes. Hi-five B&W.
B&W A5: Sound quality
It might only be the size of a toaster but the B&W A5 belts out a full, detailed sound at impressive volume. Don't expect it to fill a vast living room with impeccable audio, but it is sensational for the kitchen, bedroom or office.
Push the volume and the A5 will respond, but at full volume the bass will wobble. Annoying if it was a boom box, but most people will find half volume more than loud enough. If you need more oomph there's always the B&W A7.
B&W A5: Value
At £399 the B&W A5 isn't cheap, but it is affordable. With excellent build quality and spot-on sound it is a solid investment for a small living room, bedroom or study especially considering the similar sounding B&O Beolit12 costs £200 more.
B&W A5: Verdict
Combined with the larger A7, B&W can now offer a truly great multi-room set up for iOS lovers. The B&W A5 is an impressive wireless speaker that, while not as showy as the original Zeppelin, offers top-line design, investment-worthy build quality and exceptional sound quality.
B&W A5: Available now
B&W A5 Price: £399
Review by Chris Haslam