Last night we got to check out the latest offering in Bang & Olufsen's wireless-lifestyle Play line, a wireless speaker system known as the BeoPlay A9 ($2,699). Now, obviously at that price it's got to offer something more than the average dock, and indeed it does.
Resembling one half of the company's existing luxury A8 dock, but blown up to giant size and perched on a minimalist Danish modern painter's easel, the A9 offers up a full-fledged system's worth of amplication — 480 watts of Class D amplification (a product category B&O knows a lot about as the driving force behind the ubiquitous ICEpower modules) powering five drivers: 160 watts pushing an 8-inch woofer, 2 80-watt amps behind the 2 3-inch midrange drivers, and another 2 80-watt modules powering a pair of 3/4-inch tweeters. It had no difficulty reaching room-filling levels, in a rather large hotel suite, without any hint of strain.
As is the case in Parrot's Zikmu Solo, there's a lot of DSP heavy lifting making the single-point magic happening. There's an active room position compensation subroutine, with modes for corner, wall, and freestanding placemnt; B&O's Adaptive Bass Linearization algorithm manages bass levels. Stereo wasn't as striking as the Parrot, to my ear, but the A9 has enough kick for most any application.
You can connect to the A9 via DLNA or AirPlay; physical connections include USB (a Made for iOS connection that will stream over a sync cable), ethernet, and analog line in. You can control levels from your device, or simply sweep your hand across the top of the A9's metal rim, which is an inductive/capacitive touchpanel volume control and mute switch. Super slick, as you'd expect.
Also super slick is the fact that you can get the A9 in your choice of 5 color covers (you can swap these out as you like, by the way — the covers conceal the grille, which is a rather striking Fibonacci-sequence–inspired spiral design by Alexander Slatto, and you also have your choice of three wood finishes for the support tripod. You can even dispense with the tripod and hang the A9 on the wall.
Obviously the A9 isn't for everyone, but among those with the free cash on hand, its mix of striking design and sheer horsepower should win it some fans.
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