design

B&O Play's Smallest Speaker Comes Up Big

The A1 is one of the few bluetooth speakers to both sound great and look covetable.

The B&O Play A1 is the brand’s first travel-friendly bluetooth speaker. (Photo: Courtesy B&O Play)

Today a simple Google search for “bluetooth speaker” will turn up countless results. The market is nothing short of flooded and most of the options out there are boring, mediocre, or both. With the A1, B&O Play (sister brand to Bang & Olufsen) has broken the mold, creating a portable speaker that produces clear, room-filling sound and looks good enough to hang on the wall.

“We set out to create something that is super-ultra portable but will still deliver that goosebumps experience with music,” says Henrik Lorensen, B&O Play corporate vice president. “The design brief was basically, can we come up with something no bigger than half the size of A2 [B&O Play’s first portable speaker] and something that does not have protruding buttons. That was the starting point.”

The domed, round design (by Danish designer Cecile Manz) is executed in brushed aluminum, with a rubberized base to provide a firm foundation. Aluminum was chosen both for its heat-dissipating properties and because it will age and show wear over time. The shape also allows the sound to emanate in a full 360 degree arc instead of just pushing out in one direction. There’s a rawhide cord attached as well, letting you hang the A1 if you’d rather not leave it sitting around. Buttons are integrated into the base and a special programmable button automatically plays the most recently played song (regardless of platform) and will gain other functions in future software updates.

After spending a week with the A1, I’m a believer. The sound is extremely robust, easily filling a room, and the clear highs balance nicely with punchy, but not over-emphasized bass (a result of the two-driver system inside, that makes use of a dedicated tweeter). If I closed my eyes and never saw the A1 I’d likely guess the music was coming from a much larger unit. If you pair two of them in stereo, the effect becomes even more immersive, and the 24 hours of battery life meant I never wanted to listen to music and got a blinking battery light instead.

The A1 is still large, as far as travel speakers are concerned, but if you’re willing to give up a little packing space for that booming sound, you won’t be left disappointed. The combination of beautiful industrial design and top quality sound is a winning one. In a sea of boring, the A1 is a bluetooth speaker to be excited about.

B&O Play A1, $249, beoplay.com

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