Bang & Olufsen is well known as this 'atas' brand coming out of Denmark. They engage some of the best designers and incorporate cutting edge audio technology, but usually charge freakin' high prices for their products.
B&O's flagship portable bluetooth speaker, the BeoPlay A2 is their first ever mass-premium speaker aimed at the mid-end market. I know this because they are marketing it in this not so 'atas' place like Epicenter, and charge only $549 instead of $5,499. I happened to be there to sample it, which felt like eating Foie Gras at a kopitiam.
The BeoPlay A2 looks and feels pretty awesome compared to the other products sitting in the store. They look like cheap plastic toys compared to this rather flat, solidly-built machined metal rectangular structure with a thick leather strap. You can use the strap to hang it up somewhere, but I feel paranoid doing this with something costing $549. Available in all-black, grey, and metallic green, the BeoPlay A2 has a freaking 24hour (!) battery life, longer than anything I have ever sampled in the market. This means that after you play music or dramas from your phone for 3 hours on Bluetooth, you can charge your phone back to full with its full-sized USB port, and the speaker will still be sitting there like an Energizer Bunny!
Connecting my iPhone to the speaker is quick and easy. I proceeded to play my standard test tracks to fairly compare this work of art to the other speakers I tried before. The 1.1kg BeoPlay A2 boasts a triple-driver on both sides, (2 passive radiators, 2 full range and 2 tweeter drivers). It's said to have True360degree audio, which I am very skeptical about.
The drum kit in "Have a good time" by the Brand New Heavies sounded lively with sufficient kick in the bass drum and crispness in the cymbals. Bass guitar sounded full and did not sound lethargic. The first 10 seconds of the track already had my feet tapping in agreement. What sorcery! I expected a bit more bass extension from the bass guitar considering that this costs $549, but the sound quality still made the song quite enjoyable. Trumpets sounded airy and yet clearly distinct. The BeoPlay A2 passed the first round in one piece, but will it survive my next track that demands more staging and spaciousness?
"Baby it's cold outside" from the ISSE 2013 Album, when played on the A2, sounded clear as crystal. The opening guitar strings were getting plucked in a realistic fashion, oozing with jazziness and getting me in the mood. Vocals sounded where they should be, female vocals little more left, male vocals little more right in the middle of the speaker. The female and male vocals did not extend upwards or sideways of this rectangular fashion-statement, but it extended forwards to me. It felt like the singers stepped out of the box and sang into my face! I stood further away at 2 meters and the layering became a little more distinct. I was impressed.
I put B& O's claims that this speaker provides full 360 degree sound to the test. Rotating the speaker 360 degrees revealed that there was some slight bullshitting to that claim. The sides of the speaker did not allow for true 360 degree stereo imaging, although the dispersion was extremely wide both from the front and back. I tend to take these claims of all-round dispersion as complete smoke-bombs nowadays.
I'm very impressed with its premium battery life, its premium B&O build and finish, and excellent sound quality. But, at $549 there are comparable, less elegantly built speakers out there that have water resistance and higher durability. I feel safer carrying those to the beach, or out stalking my favorite celebrities. But if I were to look for something just to take out to a friend's or around the house that sounds great and looks even better, the B&O BeoPlay A2 would be high on my wish list.
BeoPlay A2 is "Buy it for the crazy battery life, beautiful sound and excellent product design, but tell your wife it's also for her to use. Wait CFO angry."