B&O Play BeoPlay A3 iPad speaker review

The B&O Play BeoPlay A3 is a novel iPad speaker accessory and stand that offers rich, detailed sound.

If you haven't heard the name before, Bang & Olufsen, or simply B&O, have been making luxury, designer items for the home for the best part of a century. Televisions, music systems, loudspeakers, telephones and multimedia products are now joined by Apple accessories, including the BeoPlay A3 from subsidiary B&O Play.

It's a novel iPad speaker and stand that embraces Apple's tablet snugly thanks in part to supplied rubber collars for iPad variants. Once fitted, a fairly painless process, the speaker looks rather like a picture frame. Like many B&O designs, this one by Steffen Schmelling, resembling an emancipated pyramid, is stylish yet just a touch dated-looking - it's a design that could easily pre-date the iPad.

As you might hope from a company who has built a reputation for expensive, well reviewed speakers, the A3 sounds pretty impressive, especially considering it's relatively small size. B&O point to an increased sound range compared to the iPad alone, which isn't saying much, but is a significant step up in sound quality compared to the iPad naked. Music mostly sounds rich and more detailed, while TV and movie watching appears more punchy and involving, especially during action sequences.

For the technically minded the A3 comes with 2.1 stereo system, 3 x ½" tweeter, 1 x 2" woofer offering 1 x Bass: 25 W/4 Ohm Class D2 x Midrange/treble, 25 W/4 Ohm Class D, with an effective frequency range of 60 – 17,000 (Hz).

Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A3 iPad speaker

B&O uses 'Adaptive Stereo Orientation,' which means the speaker adapts to being positioned either in landscape or portrait modes. Essentially the sound stage adapts to the position of your iPad, either vertically or horizontally, standing up or lying down. In practice this means the A3 sounds consistent in whatever position you choose to place it, although we suspect most will opt to sit the speaker in landscape mode for watching TV, catch-up services and movies. For anyone using their iPad as a substitute television this is the speakers real appeal.

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Build is good, solid yet not too weighty at 1.5 kg, a mix of protective PC ABS plastic with aluminium frame, which we hope would withstand the occasional knock. If you’re planning to take the A3 on your travels, a dedicated carry case or cover, neither supplied, would help. Buttons are kept simple, On/Off, volume controls, and battery level indicator, which B&O insists are always available to the user whatever the orientation. B&O note the speaker's software is upgradeable online via a dedicated Setup Utility app.

Battery life also appears good at around five or six hours use after a full charge, someway short of the seven hours claimed in some B&O listings and shorter still than the ten hours achievable from the first and second generation iPads. The speaker is supplied with both USB and mains adaptor and once connected to the mains, the power supply charges both iPad and A3.

At launch, and at the time of writing this review, the A3 still isn't natively compatible with Apple's latest third generation iPad. It's an issue, soon promised to be fixed, that should concern anyone worried by the accelerating pace of technology. B&O, and other accessory manufacturers, are at the mercy of Apple here and such a speaker, tightly integrated into the iPad design, could quickly become redundant should the iPad makers choose to radically change designs. That tight integration also prevents the A3 from being much use to iPad gamers, the additional bulk making many games less tactile.

B&O Play is a subsidiary brand, which is pitched as more affordable, yet the iPad speaker system still costs a premium price at £449. It's a serious investment, and more expensive than the cheapest iPad, which we suspect will limit the speaker's appeal, especially at a time when every penny counts. B&O also has a tremendous reputation and history to live up to and those anticipating peerless sound are likely to be left wanting.

Bang & Olufsen BeoPlay A3 iPad speaker

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OUR VERDICT

The BeoPlay A3 is clearly a quality product from a quality brand in B&O, that is especially appealing to anyone who keeps their iPad at home and close to hand. Great for desktops and bedside tables, for such a portable speaker the A3 is impressive, with a rich, detailed sound. The premium price tag however, makes the A3 a serious, if sound, investment.

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