(Pocket-lint) - Bang & Olufsen is not only renowned as a prestige manufacturer of large-scale audio products, it also happens to make our favourite portable speaker ever: the Beosound A1 2nd Gen.
So when the Danish company announced its latest portable for 2021, the Beosound Explore, we were excited to see what new goodness this tin-can-shaped Bluetooth speaker could bring to the party.
Design & Features
- Dimensions: 81mm diameter x 124mm height / Weight: 637g
- Finishes: Grey Mist, Black Anthracite, Green
- IP67 certified dust- and water-resistant
- Type II anodised aluminium design
- Bang & Olufsen app
- USB-C charging
It really is about the same size as a tin can you'd find in the cupboard, which makes carting the Beosound Explore around a piece of cake. It's easy to grab, chuck into a bag, or clip onto anything using the included carabiner noosed through the permanent material loop that's around the 'back' of the speaker.
In keeping with this being an outdoorsy product - it's IP67 rated, meaning it's dust, sand, and water-resistant - the colourways are grey, black or green; the kind of 'earthy' finishes that give the aluminium construction a more natural aesthetic.
In addition to a cross-arranged section of buttons up top - comprised of play/pause, volume up, volume down, Bluetooth pair, on/off - there's also a Bang & Olufsen app available to make further adjustments, such as equalisation (EQ).
Pairing is simple enough, with the Bluetooth 5.2 system quickly finding host devices without trouble. There's also Google Fast Pair, Microsoft Swift Pair, and Made for iPhone (MFi) for speedy connectivity on all number of devices.
There's an exposed USB-C port for charging, which is semi-hidden by the material loop at times, given the way it hangs to the rear of the design. Although 'rear' is hard to specify: it's only really the Bang & Olufsen logo on the front that defines the frontal point, as the cylindrical design sounds uniform throughout its full rotation.
- Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity
- 2x 30W Class D amplifiers
- 2x 1.8-inch full-range drivers
- Frequency response: 56Hz-22.7kHz
- 2400mAh battery - up to 27 hours per charge
That's one of the things Bang & Olufsen hasn't been quite so good at over time: delivering 360-degree sound from a portable product, like so many of its competitors, so that feels like a large part of the Explore's reason for being. Its output is roughly identical whichever way it's turned, which is ideal.
However, despite this expanse of output, the actual sound quality isn't as expansive as we had hoped for. The Explore sounds good, don't get us wrong, it's just that the almost-the-same-price Beosound A1 2nd Gen sounds so much better and bassier - if you can forego the true 360-degree surround output.
Bang & Olufsen claims the Explore hits 56Hz at its lowest end output. Whether or not that's factual, the impact of that delivery is less than some competitors. The JBL Charge 5, for example, cuts off at 65Hz at the low-end - but that device's bass output is much bigger, delivered so you can feel it that much more.
Not that it's all about bass: the Beosound Explore can handle the full range in a nicely balanced way, so vocals don't ever feel lost, for example, while higher-end titters have just enough sparkle.
Another feature this tin-can-like speaker delivers strong is the battery life. We've been getting more than 20 hours per charge - we listen louder than the claimed 27 hours typical delivery, clearly! - which is better than the Beosound A1 2nd Gen for sure, if longevity is more important to you.
The Beosound Explore is Bang & Olufsen's answer to its absence in the 360-degree portable speaker market - because it delivers a nicely balanced and truly all-round sound from every degree of its cylindrical design. The battery life is great too.
However, despite answering that question - which so many competitors have been delivering for years now - the Explore doesn't hit the same sonic heights as Bang & Olufsen's own Beosound A1 2nd Gen, so if you can forego the 360-degree output then that speaker is a far better choice.
Beosound A1 2nd Gen
This is one unbeatable portable Bluetooth speaker in our view: you'll get bigger sound, bigger bass, and a more appealing design overall.