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Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1: Review

The $200 Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 Bluetooth Speaker takes on all challengers including the Sonos Roam. Does it win?

Bang & Olufsen A1 2nd Gen Portable Wireless Speaker

Bang & Olufsen are back and 2021 has clearly demonstrated that the new management is very serious about reestablishing the brand as a serious player in high-end audio; both at the entry level with products like the Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 Bluetooth Speaker and at the very top with loudspeakers like the Beolab 28 Wireless Speakers.

There is a specific group of audiophiles who will raise its nose at that because Band & Olufsen only makes pretty things but those of us who have been fans of the Danish brand for a few decades have a very different opinion about that.

The Danish company has been making hi-fi components in one form or another since just after World War I. Bang & Olufsen have always been innovators as their first product was a radio that operated on alternating current. That might not seem like an impressive product in 2021 but in 1925 it was a huge deal when most of the competition was battery operated.

Bang & Olufsen’s minimalist Scandinavian industrial design has been featured in every consumer magazine one can think of over the past fifty years and collectors will pay big bucks for some of its classic Beolab products from the 1970s and 1980s.

B&O splits its speaker lines into Beosound; which is the more budget friendly lineup and Beolab, which is the luxury lineup with speakers that run as much as a decent automobile.

All of the current portable speakers fit into the Beosound category, but lately B&O has been hinting about the possibility of a Beolab model when wireless performance takes another step forward.

A Different Kind of Herring

The focus of this review is the second generation Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 Wireless Speaker; the previous A1 ($200 at Amazon) was introduced in 2016 and featured Bluetooth 4.2 and a 4-hour battery life along with some of the best sound available in a Bluetooth speaker.

Four years have passed, but the first generation A1 is still competitive sonically with many newer models but with advances in battery technology and Bluetooth, B&O decided it was time for a refresh.

Bang & Olufsen A1 Portable Wireless Speaker Package

The new Bang & Olufsen is still very focused on the minimalist design that made it famous but performance is at the forefront of all of its new products and that includes the new Beosound A1 for a number of reasons.

The second generation A1 shares a similar shape, size, and weight with the first generation loudspeaker but that is about as far as those similarities go.

On the outside, new color choices are available with gold, grey, green, pink, and black available.

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The controls are larger and a bit easier to use, while the shape is a bit more streamlined and the weight is down slightly. A single LED indicator lamp shines from the top about an inch in front of the lanyard.  

Bang & Olufsen A1 Portable Wireless Speaker Play/Pause

Internally, Bluetooth is now version 5.1 with support for AAC and aptX Adaptive. The power situation has also evolved with two 30 watts per channel Class D amplifiers powering the 4-inch woofer and 1-inch tweeter respectively.

The battery is now significantly larger with a claimed lifespan of 18 hours according to Bang & Olufsen.

Those improvements make the second generation Beosound A1 a significant step-up over its predecessor but there are more improvements worth mentioning.

Bang & Olufsen A1 Portable Wireless Speaker Top

The Beosound A1 has an IP67 rating which means that use around the pool or even on a canoe trip is entirely within reason. For those unfamiliar with the rating system, that means it is both water (up to 1 meter submerged for up to 30 minutes) and sand/dust resistant (high speed spray); a trip to the beach is definitely in order to test both of these claims.

Where Can I Find Herring in Copenhagen Alexa?

The original A1 used a three microphone array for calling; the new model expands on that function with Alexa integration. The one feature from the original A1 that was not carried over was the 3.5mm jack that provided a wired input but with aptX Adaptive on board I’m not sure it’s still required.

The Alexa feature requires an explanation as the A1 does not have a built-in Wi-Fi antenna and thus cannot function as an Alexa enabled device unless paired to a smartphone that has Wi-Fi access or a data plan for online access. 

Admittedly, it feels a bit odd loading the Alexa app (in addition to the B&O app) on my iPhone 13 Pro, but once configured it works equally well on both Android and Apple devices.    

To setup Alexa, you first login to your Amazon account and marry the A1 to the Alexa app and turn on the Alexa hands free function. Once done, the A1 is ready to use.

Usage is somewhat limited though so there is something to hope for in generation 3. You cannot say “Alexa, play Dire Strats on TIDAL” because the A1 can’t directly stream from the internet so we are limited to Amazon Music. 

Saying “Alexa, play Dire Straits” will pull their songs from Amazon Music Unlimited if you have a subscription but is otherwise limited to the basic Amazon Music service and its more limited catalog.   

The good news is while Alexa can’t turn on TIDAL for you, the smart device the A1 is tethered to should have no problem taking advantage of the A1 to stream any music you like.  

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The A1 now supports Made For Apple, Google Fast Pair and Microsoft Swift pair so no matter which ecosystem your device belongs to, the A1 should pair quickly and without issues.

Bang & Olufsen A1 Portable Wireless Speaker Play/Pause

Once connected, I found that the Beosound A1 worked well as long as it was kept within the same room indoors and within about 10 meters distance to the source outdoors or in open spaces.

A single A1 offers enough sound for personal use or small gathering but in larger spaces, the option exists to pair two A1’s (must be same generation) and operate the two as a stereo pair.  

The B&O app offers a quick stereo configuration option and the controls (including EQ options) now work to control both speakers as a single device.

The combination of two A1s would be good for smaller rooms indoors as a replacement for a bookshelf system and offers a great option for outdoor use around the pool with their water and dirt resistance and extended battery life.

When listening at fairly low volume levels, I found that I could extend the listening time considerably past the 18 hour mark and even at full volume, the A1 was capable of reaching or exceeding its rated battery life. 

While others play games with the numbers to make their product look better, B&O seems to have been rather conservative with their performance specs which makes its performance even more impressive.

Bass or Herring with your Music?

All of these features and excellent battery life would be for naught if the Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 Bluetooth Speakers didn’t sound very good. When you consider that a single Beosound is the equivalent of a ham sandwich on a Portuguese roll, its performance is impressive to say the least.

I hate to state the obvious but one cannot expect a lot of sub bass performance from a 4-inch inch driver and as expected, the bass on the A1 really starts taking shape at about 65Hz and is at full volume closer to 85Hz. 

Some of the larger models do have more bass impact, but the trade-off has always been portability and playing time.

When I removed the A1 from its packaging, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of its bass performance but it delivered more impact than expected and it was well controlled with ample texture. The mid bass is surprisingly solid with kick drums delivering a very crisp edge and sufficient slam.

The transition from the bass to the midrange was surprisingly clean with some added warmth and good note weight. The Beosound A1 does not sound like a portable Bluetooth speaker in that regard; it has far more presence in the midrange without sounding overly boosted.

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Male vocals cut through the mix well and Keith Richard’s “Runnin Too Deep” was presented with a good balance between his vocals and guitar playing.

There is a fairly large emphasis to the upper midrange and lower treble that pushes female vocals a bit more forward in the mix and gives them a bit more focus than their male counterparts.

Bang & Olufsen A1 App Listening Modes
Bang & Olufsen A1 App EQ
Bang & Olufsen A1 App EQ2

I did find that the EQ control on the app was quite helpful when I wanted to dial that back a bit and create a better sense of balance between male and female vocals when listening to duets.

The emphasis drops back off about as quickly as it comes in with a return to the level of the lower midrange by about 3.5kHz. The treble has enough energy to keep things from feeling too closed in but air and sparkle are somewhat limited.  

I think this was an intentional tuning decision as the EQ can bring out more energy in this range if desired and I did find myself adjusting it with certain tracks to hear greater levels of detail.

Roam if You Want To

I spent some time comparing the A1 to the Sonos Roam, UE Boom3, JBL Charge 5, and Apple HomePod Mini to see how the Bang & Olufsen Bluetooth speaker compared to the competition.  

The Apple HomePod Mini was the worst of the lot musically as it couldn’t compete with the others in terms of clarity as tracks were often notably more compressed sounding, and bass depth was not as good either, leaving the Apple HomePod Mini sort of uncomfortably bright and murky at the same time.

Do not waste your money on the Apple HomePod Mini.

The UE Boom3 gives up Alexa integration and some battery life (14 hours) to the A1 but does gain the ability to pair more than 2 devices together to make a larger network and also has the ability to mix and match other UE models in the device group. 

Both are equally waterproof and designed for outdoor use, but the form factor of the A1 favors it for trips as the Boom3 is larger and slightly heavier than the A1.  Sound wise, I preferred the warmer tonal balance of the A1 versus the brighter sounding UE, but both offer good EQ functions in their respective applications to adjust as needed.

The UE Boom3 is quite good on its own and a worthy rival to the B&O Beosound A1.

The closest JBL offering seemed to be the Charge 5, which is closest in battery life and overall size. The Charge 5 is heavier and larger overall.

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The Charge 5 has no calling provisions or digital assistant built into the design. Both support stereo use and both are IPX67 rated so water is not an issue. The JBL has a little more bass depth than the B&O but at the expense of bass clarity at times as it does seem to compress a bit more readily than the A1.   

This JBL is being marketed to a younger and more mainstream audience but with a difference in retail price of less than $25, the luxury of B&O is more affordable than people perhaps realize.

The Sonos Roam is the B&O A1s biggest competition overall in terms of weight and overall size; the Roam was slightly lighter at 455 grams vs 558 grams in my testing.

Battery life favors the A1 but the Roam does have a wireless charging option that the A1 lacks (albeit an added cost accessory). Both offer the ability to use two devices in stereo, but the Roam must have Wi-Fi connectivity to do so while the A1 offers it over Bluetooth making it a better option on the beach or on the road with you.

The sound quality is comparable with the A1 having a bit more linearity and the Sonos a bit more top-end energy. If you already own a Sonos system, adding a Roam that can operate as a room speaker when home and a Bluetooth speaker when traveling may be a good option. 

If you don’t already have an investment in the Sonos ecosystem, the A1 provides more features at a lower cost of entry without sacrificing sound quality.

Bang & Olufsen A1 Portable Wireless Speaker Top


The biggest takeaway for me listening to the Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 is that offers a lot of performance for the money and is actually a better deal than the other models offered by Sonos, JBL, Apple, and UE. Consumers who think B&O is outside of their affordability range need to take a very close look at the Beosound A1 because it’s the real deal.

The A1 is the second least expensive model in the line-up and currently retailing for $199; that $19 difference buys you better build quality and sound quality along with the ability to pair a second A1 for larger spaces and take the music with you pretty much anywhere.

Throw in 18+ hours of battery performance and solid sound quality and you have one of the best portable Bluetooth loudspeakers available below $300.

For more information: Bang & Olufsen A1 (2nd gen)

MSRP: $250 at | Amazon

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