Thorough is a word that can easily be applied to this app. It’s stable, easy to navigate, logical, and even quite good-looking. Here’s where you can check on remaining battery life, assign favorite radio stations or playlists to the preset buttons, and investigate EQ settings via both a graphic “target” and the more common bass and treble sliders. Here’s where you can set default and maximum volumes, create a stereo pair if you’ve invested in more than one of these sonic picnic baskets, and switch loudness on or off.
Software updates, Bang & Olufsen’s admirable Radio feature and the TuneIn equivalent, and Deezer streaming service integration are all available. Here’s where you can run a “room optimization” routine in order to calibrate your A5 to its specific circumstances, and switch the omni effect on or off. The A5 cannot, however, calibrate itself on the fly automatically like the Sonos Move—it must be instructed to do so.
Room-Filling Sound (Yes, Really)
Once the Besound A5 is set up to your satisfaction, it proves an accomplished and entertaining listen. Once through a stream of Benjamin Clementine’s “Residue” is enough to confirm it: The A5 may look like a premium frivolity, but where the serious concern of sound is concerned, this B&O is all business.
Overall, it’s a poised, hefty, and full-scale listen that sounds quite larger than its physical dimensions. Lots of products optimistically describe their sound as “room-filling,” but the Beosound A5 can actually do so. Even large-ish rooms pose no problems for it, without having to break too much of a sweat where volume levels are concerned.
Low-frequency extension is quite startling, and the A5 controls its bass presence properly. Straight edges at the attack of low-end sounds means that tempos and realistic, rhythmic expression is good, and momentum is considerable. The world’s not short of wireless speakers that can dig as deep and hit as hard as the Beosound A5, but the authority and control this speaker demonstrates is in much shorter supply.
At the opposite end of the frequency range, there’s brilliance and no little attack to treble sounds. But the authority the A5 has over its top-end output is no more equivocal than it is at the bottom end, so sounds never threaten to become edgy or hard. Even at significant volume (and not only is the A5 capable of playing at significant volume, it’s happy and unstressed when it does so, and doesn’t alter its sonic characteristics in the slightest), treble sounds maintain their shape or discipline. So it’s never less than a comfortable and convincing listen.
In between, the midrange is just as accomplished and engrossing. Even a compressed recording or radio broadcast is given adequate breathing space through the midrange—and vocalists are able to fully express themselves as a result. The transition from midrange to bass at one end, and to treble at the other, is smooth, consistent, and in no way obvious. Tonality is neutral throughout, and there’s no under- or overstatement of any particular area of the frequency range.
Spatial Audio? Sort Of
The unity and coherence of the Beosound A5’s overall presentation is impressive and by no means a given, no matter how much you’re spending on your audio equipment. Detail levels are always high, and the Bang & Olufsen is particularly impressive in the way it attends to even the smallest transients and harmonic variations in a recording. The broader dynamics of “quiet” and “loud” are just as confidently dealt with, too, as the A5 puts quite a distance between the two positions with no audible effort.
However, the claim for 360-degree sound is never quite made good on, it’s fair to say, even though the Beosound A5 creates a large, immersive, and properly organized soundstage. The new Sonos Era 300 is a far more convincing performer where the nuts and bolts of spatial audio is concerned, but then, it’s not quite a direct competitor of this speaker. It’s mains-powered and more affordable, and it looks profoundly daft. The A5 merely looks a bit unusual. But when it comes to presenting a big, enveloping sound, the Beosound A5 is the wireless speaker to beat.
So where does this leave the B&O Beosound A5 (apart from on your picnic blanket, I mean)? There’s no doubt its appeal will be fairly limited, if for no other reason than that it’s several orders of magnitude more expensive than any other worthwhile battery-powered speaker. Those who have the wherewithal, though, and are turned on (rather than mildly freaked out) by the looks, will find themselves in possession of one of the best speakers Bang & Olufsen has ever produced—which, by extension, means one of the best pound-for-pound speakers around.