PERFECT a word that can be easily used in this app. It’s solid, easy to navigate, logical, and even looks great. Here you can check the remaining battery life, assign favorite radio stations or playlists to the preset buttons, and investigate the EQ settings through a graphic “target” and the more common bass and treble sliders. Here you can set the default and maximum volume, create a stereo pair if you’re investing in more than one of these sonic picnic baskets, and turn the power on or off.
Software updates, the commendable Bang & Olufsen Radio feature and the TuneIn equivalent, and Deezer streaming service integration are all available. Here you can run a “room optimization” routine to calibrate your A5 to its specific conditions, and turn the omni effect on or off. The A5 does not, however, automatically calibrate itself on the fly like the Sonos Move—it must be taught to do so.
Sound That Fills the Room (Yes, Really)
Once the Besound A5 is set up to your satisfaction, it proves an accomplished and enjoyable listen. Once through a stream of Benjamin Clementine’s “Residu” is enough to confirm it: The A5 may look like a premium frivolity, but where serious sound concerns are concerned, this B&O is everything. business.
Overall, it’s a great, heavy, and full listen that’s much bigger than its physical dimensions. Many products optimistically describe their sound as “room filling,” but the Beosound A5 does exactly that. Even large rooms are no problem for this, without having to break too much of a sweat where the volume level is concerned.
Low-frequency extension is impressive, and the A5 controls its bass presence just right. The straight edges of the attack of the low-end sounds mean that the tempo and realistic, rhythmic expression are good, and the momentum is great. The world isn’t short of wireless speakers that dig as deep and punch as the Beosound A5, but the authority and control this speaker displays is in shorter supply.
At the opposite end of the frequency range, there is a light and no small attack of treble sounds. But the authority that the A5 has in its top-end output is no more pronounced than it is in the bottom end, so the sounds never threaten to become nervous or harsh. Even at significant volume (and not only the A5 can play at significant volume, it is happy and unstressed when it does, and does not change its sonic characteristics in the slightest), the treble sounds continue their form or discipline. So it’s no less than a comfortable and convincing listen.
In between, the midrange is just as accomplished and enjoyable. Even a compressed recording or radio broadcast is given enough room to breathe through the midrange—and vocalists are able to fully express themselves as a result. The transition from midrange to bass on one end, and treble on the other, is smooth, consistent, and unmistakable. The tonality is neutral throughout, and there is no under- or over-expression in any particular area of the frequency range.
Spatial Audio? Kind of
The cohesion and coherence of the Beosound A5’s overall presentation is impressive and nothing is taken for granted, no matter how much you spend on your audio equipment. Detail levels are consistently high, and Bang & Olufsen is particularly impressive in the way it takes care of even the tiniest transients and harmonic differences in a recording. The wider dynamics of “quiet” and “loud” are just as confidently dealt with, too, as the A5 puts some distance between the two positions without audible effort.
However, the claim for 360-degree sound has never been done well, it’s fair to say, although the Beosound A5 creates a large, immersive, and properly arranged stage. The new Sonos Era 300 is a very convincing performer where the nuts and bolts of spatial audio are concerned, but then, it’s not a direct competitor to this speaker. It’s mains powered and super cheap, and it looks badass. The A5 is 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 (besides your picnic blanket, I mean)? There’s no doubt that its appeal is somewhat limited, if for no other reason than that it’s several orders of magnitude more expensive than any other useful battery-powered speaker. Those who have the tools, however, and are turned on (rather than slightly intimidated) by the looks, will find themselves with one of the best speakers Bang & Olufsen has ever made — which, by extension, means one of the best pound-for-pound speakers around.