This week we are reviewing the BeoPlay A6 loudspeaker, a wireless model equipped with 5 drivers and compatible with WiFi, AirPlay, DLNA, Spotify Connect, Deezer, TuneIn, Bluetooth and even multiroom.
As can be expected from a product in Bang & Olufsen’s BeoPlay range, the BeoPlay A6 loudspeaker undoubtedly resembles no other. With its slim, curved silhouette, the A6 is a sight to behold if only for its dimensions (almost 54 cm wide and 30 cm high). Its gray mesh fabric grill gives the loudspeaker a striking air that?s sure to bring an added touch of distinction to any interior.
BeoPlay A6: technical specifications
The BeoPlay A6 is a 2-way, sealed enclosure speaker equipped with 4 drivers along its front panel and one wideband driver in the back. Among the 4 frontal drivers are a pair of bass drivers, each measuring 5″ in diameter, and 2 soft dome tweeters (.75″). For its part, the wideband driver at the back of the loudspeaker measures 1.5″ in diameter. The system is driven by three digital amplifiers: 2×60 W (5″ driver), 2×30 W (tweeters) and 1×60 W (wideband driver).
BeoPlay A6: Why put a driver in the back?
The BeoPlay A6 was designed to give you a wide range of placement options and has the particularity of being snugly at home right in the middle of your living room. To make this possible, B&O opted for a 360° audio diffusion solution by placing a driver in the back of the speaker. With its limited diameter, this rear driver can’t be expected to have the same qualities as the 4 frontal speakers and mainly covers medium and treble frequencies. Nonetheless, the presence of a driver in the back of the loudspeaker makes for a clear and coherent sound from behind the speaker.
BeoPlay A6: extensive streaming functions
The BeoPlay A6 is equipped with a wireless WiFi network controller compatible with 2.4- and 5-GHz transmission bands, as well a 10/100 Ethernet controller. It can therefore communicate with every computer, smartphone and tablet connected to your home network, whether it?s to read files from your music collection or to access various music streaming services. The Wifi controller can also function in hotspot mode, allowing you to bypass the need for a home network entirely. This is especially useful if you want to bring the BeoPlay A6 out-of-doors, as you can continue to control it from several tens of meters away.
The A6 is compatible with Apple?s streaming protocol, which is integrated into your Macbook, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch and available via the iTunes software for Windows. It is therefore possible to listen to these devices once the A6 is connected to the network. Resolution is limited to 16 bits / 44.1 kHz (lossless CD quality).
DNLA streaming protocol is also supported. Furthermore, the DMR (Digital Media Renderer) function indicates that the BeoPlay A6 loudspeaker may be used as a rendering device. In other words, audio files are ?pushed’ through the network (WiFi or Ethernet) to the loudspeaker, which subsequently reads the files it receives from your Smartphone, tablet, computer, NAS, or Internet set-top box.
This protocol allows quality access to the famous online music streaming service. In order to use this function, first install the Spotify app for iOS, Android, Windows or Mac OS. The Spotify app will then simply become the BeoPlay A6?s remote control, as the latter will directly connect to the Spotify servers. Not a single audio stream goes through your smartphone or computer as this is direct bit-perfect audio streaming. Just keep in mind that you must subscribe to Spotify Premium in order to have access to Spotify Connect.
Although Deezer didn’t take the same initiative as Spotify to develop a direct streaming protocol for wireless loudspeakers or network audio players, BeoPlay integrated a Deezer function to their BeoMusic control app (Apple Store, Play Store). The music sent by Deezer must, however, first pass through the smartphone or tablet used as a source.
This Internet radio streaming service is directly integrated into the BeoPlay A6 speaker. You must, however, choose the station you want to listen to via the BeoMusic mobile app (iOS or Android).
The wireless Bluetooth controller makes it possible to listen to music stored on your smartphone, tablet or Bluetooth-enabled computer without connecting to the home network. Bluetooth radio waves have an operable range of about a dozen meters. Talk about practical for sharing your loudspeaker with guests! Only the universal codec SBC is supported.
The BeoPlay A6 loudspeaker is compatible with BeoLink. You can therefore use several loudspeakers simultaneously via the BeoMusic mobile app to listen to the same music in several rooms or, rather, music from a different source in each room.
As of the moment of testing, the Google Cast Audio protocol wasn’t yet actively supported. On the other hand, B&O has announced that this protocol will be supported in 2016 as a simple update of the loudspeaker?s firmware will be made widely available. Since Google Cast Audio is integrated into numerous mobile applications, listening to music via apps such as Google Music, YouTube, Deezer or Plex will thus also become possible.
Test of the BeoPlay A6
We installed the BeoPlay A6 loudspeaker in the same listening room we normally use to review products. To connect it to our home network, we wired it to a CPL adaptor via an Ethernet cable. Then, with a computer operating on Windows, we accessed its online configuration interface. The loudspeaker then appears in the file explorer, under the network tab. Double-clicking will launch the web browser, which will display the A6?s settings menu. Connecting it subsequently to our WiFi network only takes a second. At the same time, the firmware is instantaneously updated.
The loudspeaker features three audio settings, from which you can choose the one best adapted to your location in the room via the interrupter located behind the connection hatch. We chose to use the default setting, offering the greatest versatility as the other two settings reduce the level of bass frequencies and are a better choice when placing the loudspeaker in the corner of a room or against a wall.
The BeoPlay A6 delivers a balanced sound, physiologically speaking. Bass and treble frequencies are voluntarily brought to the forefront without being caricatured, while the sound retains a solid sense of fluidity. While the listening experience may not be especially exuberant, the sound is nonetheless wide and intelligible. The amplification has a lot of headroom and the volume increases promptly without any perceptible compression. Obviously, we?re not dealing with the same amplitude as is provided by hi-fi loudspeakers placed several meters apart, but the breadth that characterized our listening experience was nonetheless pleasing to our ears. A burning desire to play those HD FLAC files that you?ve been enthusiastically incorporating into your music collection’ No problem, the BeoPlay A6 proved itself perfectly up to the task once put in DNLA DMR mode via our Android smartphone.
Bass : generous considering the loudspeaker?s format, probably because of an active equalization for frequencies below 100 Hz. In any case, considering the driver?s volume as compared to its diameter, it would not be capable of delivering a properly balanced reproduction without this active correction.
Medium : Although not as noticeable as the other two registers, this frequency range is nonetheless thoroughly detailed. The human voices are distinct and we like how the instruments? strings are arranged within the soundscape.
Treble : well honed and clear without being excessively bright, even with the volume turned up significantly.
Test BeoPlay A6: conclusions
What we liked
- The physiological harmony of the various elements
- Its silhouette and finish
- The stable, dependable response of the WiFi controller
- The diversity of music streaming possibilities
- The mini-jack format of the line input (well-hidden beneath the loudspeaker)
What we would have liked
- A more well-developed BeoPlay mobile app
The BeoPlay A6 isn’t just nice to look at. It is also capable of delivering high quality sound and fits equally well into the decor of a bedroom as it does to that of a large living room (> 50m²) ? as long as you are simply looking to create ambiance. However, while the list of music streaming possibilities may be a long one, we regret the fact that the BeoPlay app is not more user-friendly. That being said, the process of integrating Google Cast Audio into the BeoPlay A6 loudspeaker is in the works and this will spare you from having to use the BeoPlay app at all.