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Bang and Olufsen's new compact speaker packs big sound

Engadget Engadget 21/04/2016 Billy Steele
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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.

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.

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 is 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. That's $20 more than Beats' Pill+, but $50 less than the UE Megaboom. There a 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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