This Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 2nd Gen review looks at a stunner of a portable speaker. With all the various options out there in the world of the best Bluetooth speakers, including offerings from the likes of JBL and Bose being among the more popular, it takes something special to stand out – but Bang & Olufsen has always been good at that.
Just like all of B&O’s various offerings, it definitely comes at a premium. With that said, as soon as you hear it, you’ll be converted. And, its design is as functional as it is beautiful, meaning that it's also one of the best waterproof speakers, and can bring that high-quality sound to any outside trip safely.
It's not perfect, but its flaws are so minor that the Bang & Olufsen A1 2nd Gen is the best portable speaker on the market right now, in T3's opinion. It’s a great-looking device and an equally great-sounding speaker.
Bang & Olufsen A1 2nd Gen review: Price & release date
The Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 2nd Gen was released in May 2020, and is pretty highly priced for a portable speaker – it costs $250 / £200 / AU$430. For anyone familiar with Bang & Olufsen, the price tag should come as no surprise. However, the speaker will definitely leave a dent in your pocketbook for something to take to the beach.
Typically, portable speakers made specifically for a day out at the beach, the pool, or a small party, are not the most expensive of gadgets out there. The JBL Flip 5, one of the more popular options out there, goes for $129.95 / £119.99 / AU$169.95.
However, Bose, another company known for their premium looks and sound as well as price, offer a much larger package in the SoundLink Revolve II for a similar price to the A1 ($219.00 / £199.95 / AU$299.95).
Bang & Olufsen A1 2nd Gen review: Design & features
It’s clear as soon as you see the Bang & Olufsen A1 2nd Gen portable speaker that a lot of care went into it. It’s a beautiful cylindrical unit available in six standard colors, with the review unit coming in a gorgeous but neutral Grey Mist. An elegant aluminum grill covers the top half of the unit while a polymer material marked with the B&O logo makes up the base.
A waterproof leather strap protrudes from one side, allowing you to hold or hang the speaker however you like. There are 3 buttons on each side of the strap, with power, Bluetooth, mic on one side and play/pause, and volume controls on the other. The buttons require a little pressure but not too much to register, with an LED on top of the grill lighting up to indicate things like power on and Bluetooth pairing mode.
As expected for a smaller speaker like this, it’s easy to carry around as it weighs just 558g. Though it’s small, at almost 2 inches tall and 5 inches in width and length, it’s clearly durable. It comes with IP67 certification so it’s fully waterproof and dustproof. I actually had the speaker at the beach and had no issues with sand affecting or dirtying up the speaker.
The A1 2nd Gen speaker comes with Bluetooth 5.1 for low latency connection. Additionally, you can pair with two devices at once. Just be aware of which devices are connected, because it’s easy to accidentally fight over control of the speaker if someone forgets they’re still connected and trying to listen to music.
Another great use for the speaker is as a speakerphone. Thanks to a three-mic array, voices sound crisp and clear to those on the other end of the call. And, with its form factor and “True360” audio (more on that later), you can use it like a conference phone if you want.
However, the one feature that came up short for me was the voice assistant capability. Besides the fact that you can only use Alexa – no other voice assistants are available – it took some finagling to get it to work properly. This isn't a Bluetooth speaker, so Alexa works via your phone over Bluetooth.
On occasions, I had Alexa enabled through the app and tried to trigger it, only to get an error message repeated to me from the speaker. Sometimes, I would turn Alexa off and back on and press the mic button on the side of the speaker to get Alexa to respond. With that said, when working correctly, I felt like I had a high-end version of an Amazon Echo with better quality sound and construction.
Bang & Olufsen A1 2nd Gen review: Performance
When I received the unit, I thankfully had some company to try it on. In fact, I first got a chance to listen to it at a beach house with family, and when I placed it in the middle of the table, and started playing DJ, everyone fell silent. That’s because the Bang & Olufsen A1 2nd Gen doesn’t sound like a portable speaker. Instead of the somewhat nasal quality that most portable speakers have by design, the A1 sounds like a full-fledged hi-fi system. That’s to say that its sound quality will blow you away.
While it probably doesn’t have the volume for a get together of more than 10 people, it can pump out quite a bit of sound, whether you’re having friends together for a picnic or a day at the beach. And, when turned up, there’s very little distortion so you can get pretty loud without the sound quality suffering.
I found it to be fairly balanced sounding with the mids boosted just a tad so that vocals and voices pop when listening to vocal music. The high end is very clear and detailed though a little mellow. And, the bass is much more present than you would expect from such a small speaker. It won’t rattle any windows but Hip Hop and EDM sound great on the A1 2nd Gen – very few small speakers manage to give you both strong bass and clear treble, so it's a triumph in that sense.
Because of its round form factor, the speaker utilizes B&O’s “True360” technology. “True360” essentially makes the audio omnidirectional so you can hear all the elements clearly no matter which side of the speaker you’re on. There’s only one downside, which is that you don’t get any stereo information. There is no left or right, it’s all there in the middle. Of course, most portable Bluetooth speakers suffer from this but it’s worth noting.
Bang & Olufsen A1 2nd Gen review: Software
When it comes to Bang & Olufsen, there’s one app to rule them all (all their products, that is). Thankfully, it’s a very intuitive app to use. And, it’s worth using. You’ll have to pair the app to the speaker to be able to use it, which you can do regardless of what device it shares a Bluetooth connection.
When you connect, you’ll see the Beosound A1 2nd Gen available on the app where you’ll select it for access to all the software features. It’s a very clean look with a picture of the speaker at the top followed by a little icon and percentage showing the amount of battery life left. Below that, you’ll have some in-app media controls such as play/pause, forward, and rewind as well as adjust the volume. While I found those controls somewhat redundant, it was nice to have at your fingertips when playing around in the app.
Possibly the most unique portion of the app is its EQ section. There are 6 “listening mode” squares with 5 of them representing different EQ presets (“Optimal” is a neutral setting, “Speech” is mid-forward to make voices ring out, and so on). The last of the EQ presets labeled “Favorite” is controlled by the sixth square, which is marked by a circle with a dot inside.
Instead of a typical 10-band or even 3-band EQ that most apps give you to customize your sound preference, B&O gives you an EQ wheel. You move a cursor around different areas of the wheel to get your preferred setting. And, you can smoothly move between them so you can hear different settings blend and change as you try them out. Somehow, this wheel has made adjusting EQ fun even for those who don’t consider themselves music nuts.
You can also toggle Alexa on and off through the app. Hopefully, we’ll see B&O extend to other assistants as well as improve its implementation. And, lastly, you can use the app to pair two Bang & Olufsen A1 2nd Gen speakers together for stereo sound, if you want to get seriously fancy with it.
Bang & Olufsen A1 2nd Gen review: Battery life
Battery life is as important as any other feature in a portable speaker. After all, if you can’t host a barbecue, beach party, or a get-together away from the house on a single charge, then the speaker is not doing its job. Thankfully, the A1 2nd Gen comes with a fairly impressive amount of juice.
The speaker is advertised as having 18 hours of play time. After 8 hours of use, over a few days, I managed to get the battery only down to 80%. While I wasn’t blasting it, typically using it at around half volume, I was surprised how slowly the battery drained. If you’re judicious with your use, you can probably get even more time out of it. Even if you’re blasting it, it will last a whole get together with some battery life left in the tank. And, while it doesn’t utilize any fast-charging capabilities you’re starting to see in Bluetooth headsets, it takes a reasonable 2 hours and 45 minutes to fully charge from empty.
For comparison’s sake, the JBL Flip 5 has 12 hours of battery life and the Bose Revolve II has an even more robust 13 hours but neither quite measure up to the B&O A1 2nd Gen’s. However, there are options out there with more battery life like the larger JBL Charge 5 which comes with 20 hours of play time.
Bang & Olufsen A1 2nd Gen review: Verdict
No piece of gear is perfect and the Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 2nd Gen speaker is no exception. It’s pricey, has issues with its voice assistant implementation, and needs a second unit for you to truly experience stereo sound. However, those are pretty minor issues. The pros vastly outweigh the cons here.
This tough, sophisticated, and extremely portable speaker delivers where it’s most important. It looks and sounds amazing, has the kind of battery life that could last a whole weekend, and implements almost every other feature flawlessly, including a very straightforward and fun app. Considering all that it does so well, I’m actually surprised that it doesn’t cost more.
Bang & Olufsen A1 2nd Gen review: Also consider
If you’re looking for something a little bigger, the JBL Charge 5 is worth a look. At $179.95 / £164 / AU$199.95, it gives you 20 hours of play time, comes in 6 different color options, and comes with a built-in power bank. It has the same IP67 rating so it can be used and abused at parties just as much as the A1. It's not as good-looking, though, and the sound fidelity isn't as strong as the B&O, though if you want big party bass, it's gold. Here's our full JBL Charge 5 review.
The Beosound A1 2nd Gen is not Bang & Olufsen’s only waterproof portable speaker. The Beosound Explore, which goes for $199 / £169 / AU$350, is a waterproof wireless speaker that comes with even more juice (27 hours of play time), the same IP67 rating so it can handle the elements, and has a form factor made for using at a campsite or on a rugged hike far from civilisation. It's a tougher build, but sound quality is weaker. Read our B&O Beosound Explore review here.