A few weeks ago, we spent some time reviewing the Bang & Olufsen Beolit 15, a remarkably well-equipped portable, Bluetooth speaker, with enough bass to rattle the windows in your home. Today it’s the turn of the much smaller, more portable, BeoPlay A2.
The BeoPlay A2 still fits the mould of a premium and stylish product, and you wouldn’t expect anything less from a company renowned for making specialist audio devices. It would be unfair to company the A2 to the Beolit 15, since it doesn’t fall anywhere near the same market segment (in terms of pricing), so I’ll keep those comparisons to a minimum. But, it is still worth wanting to find out whether the A2 is able to deliver the levels of quality we’d expect.
Build and Design
The BeoPlay A2 has the shape of a vintage wood radio with a modern twist. The rectangular block is curved at the edges, with a bezel around either side. The unit is able to stand upright on either of the sides, which allows you to project sound from both sides, as it’s meant to. The A2 is oddly sedated in terms of the design, especially when compared to many of the other units from B&O. The design of the A2 is credited to Cecilie Manz, something that isn’t often made known on the fly. Manz, a Danish industrial designer, is well-known in the industry, with the A2 not amiss among her other design offerings.
In terms of its specifications the unit measures 44x142x256mm, and weighs 1.1KG. While it doesn’t quite fit into your pocket, purse, murse or most handbags, at 1.1KG it isn’t all that heavy to carry around. And with its leather strap fitted to the top, it makes it comfortable to transport and have in hand. Although it isn’t what you’d consider chunky, B&O has taken care to keep the weight down where possible by using materials such as the extruded aluminium, some plastic, and rubber.
The top of the unit houses three buttons; the power button, the volume rocker, and Bluetooth pairing button, along with the B&O logo in the far right. The left side houses the leather strap, while the right side has a 3.5mm auxiliary jack, USB port, and DC-in. The bottom has four rubber feet, an indicator of the preferred, although not fixed, orientation of the unit. The unit comes in a few colours that include black, green, and silver. There are also two new colours released in 2016 to tie in with the arrival of summer, champagne grey and ocean blue.
An important aspect of the Bluetooth portable speaker would be its ease of use. The A2 does just that. Setting up the unit is simple, press and hold the Bluetooth button and you hear the beep, and then search for it on your smartphone or other Bluetooth-enabled device and select to pair. If you’re using the auxiliary cable, simply connect the A2 to the source and you’re set. No extra settings or any other frills. Just press play on your device and choose the sound level on the A2.
Performance and Battery Life
While looks are dependent on each individual buyer, and with the setup as easy as this it becomes trivial, then the only true test of whether the BeoPlay A2 is worth its weight lies in its performance. And, as with the Beolit 15, it delivers quite impressive results. B&O have fitted two 30W digital class amplifiers within the A2 to drive the two 3″ full-range drivers, two 3/4″ tweeters, and two 3″ passive bass radiators. In total, then, you’re looking at 180W of peak power output from the A2. Each of the different speakers are fitted to either side of the unit, in order to direct sounds in the different directions. Another interesting fact about the way in which the A2 was designed, is that it delivers sound around the edges of the unit. While it may not be complete 360° audio, as you don’t quite get the full range when directed towards the slim side of the A2, it does come close to achieving it.
The frequency ranges between 55Hz and 20KHz, but putting the speaker through a few sound tests reveals that it is able to produce sounds much lower than the 55Hz frequency. Audio quality is paramount to B&O, and the A2 delivers clear sounds between the entire frequency range, even while been blasted at its highest volumes. It’s very easy to expect an unassuming unit such as the A2 to distort at higher volumes, but it doesn’t feel at any moment that it would, even if there were ways in which to increase the volumes.
The default settings don’t work for each and every song out there, but provides a good medium for a range of genres, producing higher mid-range sounds, with an overall flatter sound. But, it doesn’t mean that the setup is what you’ll have to settle with after purchasing the A2, as users will be able to adjust the range and dynamics by means of the BeoPlay app. It does, however, require you to update the A2 to the latest firmware, which is a simple enough task to complete.
The BeoPlay A2 has a suggested 24-hour battery life with playback at moderate levels and an assumed 10-12 hour playback at its highest volume level. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to produce anything more than 2-3 hours on the highest volume levels, but given that this is a review unit, I will be a bit lenient on that aspect. What I do find impressive about the A2 is that it provides a USB port, not to charge itself, but rather acts as a portable charger for your smartphone if you’re battery is running low.
Small and unassuming as it may be, the Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A2 is a powerful portable speaker. The audio quality is crisp and clear, and the bass is deep enough to still be impressed. Furthermore, with some fine tuning via the BeoPlay app, you can adjust your sound experience to tailor to your taste. The A2 is loud enough to easily fill a room, and even loud enough to use when hosting a small party.
At a retail price of R7500, it doesn’t come cheap. In addition, if you’re prepared to dig into your pockets to splash on the BeoPlay A2, then I would go as far as to consider the Beolit 15, which may be worth two A2 units. The price also places the A2 in direct competition with the likes of Harman Kardon Auro, which many would suggest being superior in this price bracket. Thus, there is a lot to consider when it comes to wanting to own the A2, but, if you ever do own one, it’s pretty safe to bet that you won’t be disappointed.