(Pocket-lint) - Back in 2016 we reviewed the portable speaker to rule all portable speakers: the Beoplay A1. Almost half a decade later and Bang & Olufsen's re-named follow-up, the Beosound A1 2nd Gen, has arrived with additional features to go one better.

With water-resistance now part of the feature set, along with baked-in Amazon Alexa voice control, and a larger battery capacity, does the 2nd Gen Beosound A1 secure itself the lofty position as the Bluetooth speaker king once more?

What's new?

  • Battery capacity increase (to 3,000mAh from 2,200mAh)
  • Amazon Alexa voice control integration
  • IP67 certified dust- and water-proof 
  • 3.5mm headphone jack removed

We've used the original A1 for years so are very familiar with its setup. While the 2nd Gen A1 looks nigh-on identical at a quick glance, there are some new features - some visible, others tucked away behind the scenes.

First and foremost: both speakers are the same size. However, the 2nd Gen increases the battery capacity by over 25 per cent, resulting in even better longevity (the claim is for 18 hours battery life per charge). That extra battery has been achieved by moving around some internal components.

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The 2nd Gen A1 also adds IP67 certification, which means protection against dust and water. And we don't mean splash-proof - you can submerge the new speaker in a metre of water for 30 minutes. We'd suggest you don't do that, but at least pool parties, rainy picnics, and such like, will be no barrier for this speaker being out in the elements.

However, the 3.5mm headphone jack that featured on the original A1 has been removed for the 2nd Gen, meaning you can only use Bluetooth connectivity. There's still no Wi-Fi, AirPlay and such like - but with Amazon Alexa and the Bang & Olufsen app it's easy to connect to your favourite source material and stream.

There are more intricate changes elsewhere too. The 2nd Gen A1 features an LED indicator light up top, within one of the metal mesh's openings, which is a far preferable position to the side-placement on the original model.

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Physical buttons comprise two trios: on/off, Bluetooth, microphone on one side; volume up, volume down, play/pause on the other. Their feel on the A1 2nd Gen is far more tacticle than it was on the original, which simply makes it better to use.

Finally, the leather strap on the 2nd Gen incorporates a longer "Bang & Olufsen" branded holder, compared to the original's circular "B&O" emblem.

Design & Connectivity

  • Finish: Pearl Blasted Aluminium top, polymer base, waterproof leather hanger
  • Buttons: on/off, Bluetooth pair, mic, play/pause, volume up, volume down
  • Dimensions: 133mm diameter x 46mm height / Weight: 558g
  • Bang & Olufsen App with EQ presets/custom
  • Bluetooth 5.1 (AAC, aptX Adaptive)
  • LED light indicator on top
  • 3,000mAh battery
  • USB-C charging

As we said of the original: Bang & Olufsen is well known for its design. The Danish company walks the line between understated and outlandish.

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The Beosound A1 2nd Gen is more the former. Its circular base, which is made from polymer, gives it practical resilience against scratches, while its aluminium mesh top - the apertures of each being the tiniest bit smaller than the original - gives it both an industrial appearance, coupled with sound-dispersing qualities.

The polymer and aluminium parts are well connected, with the black finish of this review model looking more cohesive than the 'Natural' grey of the original A1.

A USB Type-C port ensures quick charging of the on-board battery, which can easily last for up to a day at a time - depending on how loudly you listen. We've easily blasting out the tunes in the house over a long weekend and it's gone the distance.

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There's app connectivity with the Bang & Olufsen app, which is also where you can (de)activate Amazon Alexa (which requires the separate Alexa app) for voice control smarts. Alexa works well thanks to a trio of on-board microphones, so no troubles there.

Stereo pairing is also possible within the Bang & Olufsen app, but it's restricted per generation, i.e. you would have to buy two 2nd Gen models to get a stereo pair; pairing the original A1 with the follow-up model isn't possible - much to our dismay! Given the price of these speakers, it'd be great for that to be rectified in a software patch.

The app also opens the door to equalisation adjustment, with five presets and an easy-to-use personalised custom option (which allows you to save custom presets with designated names). In theory this is great - and always something we want from a Bluetooth speaker - buy in practice a lot of these presets will simply damage your listening experience; some push the bass to distortion, for example, and given the standard profile is so very good, we would typically leave these settings at default.

Sound Quality

  • 1x 3.5in woofer
  • 1x 3/5in tweeter
  • 2x 30W Class D amps
  • 55-20,000Hz frequency range

Although the A1 2nd Gen isn't a cylindrical design for full-on 360-degree sound, its mesh top still does a very good job of dispersing sound to a wide angle. Sat on a tabletop and even almost side-on this speaker still sounds excellent. You'll get an even better impression if it's hanging from its leather cord while pointed directly at you.

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Whichever way you choose to position the A1 2nd Gen - and that's part of its beauty, as it's so portable - the sound is simply sublime. That it can be hung up and still deliver driving bass is impressive; with its base set firmly on a surface that low-end garners additional impact. Given the size of this speaker, we're still blown away by its handling of the low-end frequencies - it's far more adept than anything else of an equivalent size.

The internal composition has changed every so slightly compared to the original model, as the specification claims the bass can go that little bit deeper (55Hz compared to 60Hz) - not that you're likely to discern that sort of difference. It's kind-of irrelevant anyway: all you need to know is that it sounds big, rich and deep.

Not that it's all about the bass - the BeoPlay A1 2nd Gen is still really well balanced with its delivery. That applies to all genres of music, from ensuring mid-range vocals cut through, to sparkly high-end percussion - without it becoming overly sharp or resonant.

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Whether you like pop, underground, rock, classical, or anything in-between, the Beosound A1 2nd Gen is exemplary for what can be achieved at this scale. It's like sonic sourcery.

Verdict

If you're looking for a portable Bluetooth speaker - and can forgive the lack of Wi-Fi, AirPlay, and a 3.5mm port - then the Bang & Olufsen Beosound A1 2nd Gen is unrivalled. With added Alexa voice control and waterproofing it's clearly superior to the already awesome original too.

For many the elephant in the room will be the Beosound A1 2nd Gen's asking price. No, this isn't a low-cost speaker. But, yes, it most definitely is a high-quality one that delivers huge sound from a beautifully made package.

It might be small, but the Beosound A1 2nd Gen packs a big punch that makes it worth every penny.

Also consider

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B&O Beosound A1

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The original offers much the same super sound, minus the water-proofing and Alexa, and therefore if that doesn't matter and you can locate one for less money, it's still a savvy purchase.

Writing by Mike Lowe.