Bang and Olufsen's new compact speaker packs big sound

The BeoPlay A1's mix of solid audio and portability is worth considering.
Billy Steele
B. Steele|04.21.16

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Bang and Olufsen is well-known for its high-end audio gear, but the Danish electronics company has a number of portable devices under its belt, too. Today, the company announced the BeoPlay A1: the company's smallest portable speaker to date. The Bluetooth-enabled accessory not only offers a wireless speaker for listening to tunes, but it's small enough to easily pack away in your rucksack. Similar to other wireless gadgets, the A1 also handles calls via a built-in microphone should the need arise. B&O touts a full 24 hours of battery life for its newest BeoPlay device, which is certainly an attractive feature.

Gallery: B&O BeoPlay A1 hands-on | 11 Photos

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Similar to other B&O products, the BeoPlay A1 sports an aluminum top and speaker grill. Underneath, the bottom half is covered in a soft-touch rubber and threre's a leather cord for hanging the speaker on a peg or coat hook. Starting on the right edge, you'll find a power button and volume controls. As you make your way around the outside, towards the center lies a USB-C port for charging and a battery indicator light. That light flashes orange while the A1 is charging and turns green when it's fully recharged, which takes about 3 hours. The indicator also lets you know when the battery level hits 15 percent with a solid red light. When that red light starts flashing, head for an outlet because you've got less than 10 percent battery power left.

Gallery: B&O BeoPlay A1 press images | 7 Photos

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Continue around that outer edge and you'll come to controls for speakerphone, Bluetooth pairing and a feature B&O calls Connect. Connect serves as a play/pause button of sorts that resumes playing the last thing your were listening to. It even reconnects to the last device you were using with the speaker. While there is a BeoPlay app for iOS and Android, I had no trouble connecting both my Moto X and my MacBook Air to the A1 without downloading the extra software.

In terms of sound, I was actually quite surprised by the audio quality of the rather compact A1. Not only does it get quite loud without distorting, the speaker offers a range of tones smaller Bluetooth options typically don't. There's plenty of low end for a fuller sound and the speaker's design blasts tones in 360 degrees, maintaining clarity the whole time. I found myself using it laying flat almost always, perhaps because I don't have a coat hook to hang it from. The A1 sounded great on my desk, kitchen bar and dining room table -- all places I could see myself using it on the regular.

The B&O BeoPlay A1 comes in two colors: natural (silver/gray) and moss green. If you're looking to nab one, you can do so today for $249 (£199). That's $20 more than Beats' Pill+, but $50 less than the UE Megaboom. There are some other features to consider with those two alternatives, but sound-wise the A1 bests them both. Sure, there are cheaper options, but if you want a solid mix of sound, design and portability, B&O's latest checks all three boxes.

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