We took a look at the Bowers & Wilkins Z2 wireless music system last week, and today are checking out their A5 model. They've been making high-design AirPlay speakers for a while now - and the A5 is our favorite of all the AirPlay speakers we've tried.
We're repeating ourselves here, but, Bowers & Wilkins (or B&W as they're generally referred to) have been around since 1966 making high-end audio equipment. Back then, it was John Bowers and his buddy Roy Wilkins, handcrafting speakers in the back of an electronics shop. They're a British company, based in Worthing, England (West Sussex) - and really, if you aren't already familiar with B&W, you probably aren't an audio enthusiast.
In the Box
The box, like all B&W boxes, is a study in minimalism. The clean black box shows just a photo of the A5, along with it's name and the brand. An AirPlay logo lets you know the A5 works wirelessly.
Inside, you'll see your power cord (a small brick and a cord), the manual, and the B&W remote (a little egg shaped black remote). Each item is snugly in it's styrofoam holding place, and when lifted up the A5 slides out easily.
Design / Use
First - set up of the A5 is extremely easy. As with all B&W AirPlay speakers, you download the B&W control app from the App Store, open it and follow the prompts. It takes less than 2 minutes to complete, and then the A5 shows up as an AirPlay destination in all your compatible devices on the same wifi network.
Like the Z2 we reviewed earlier, the A5 is sleek and clean in it's design. Lacking a dock, it stands out even more as a piece to be displayed. Brushed aluminum in a conical spiral is on the top of the system, as well as a wraparound band which shows off the logo on the front and the controls on either side. On the left is a power button, and on the right are volume up and down. Of course we rarely used those in testing - AirPlay compatibility was perfect, and we controlled the A5 purely from our Apple devices.
Black cloth wraps around the A5, hiding the two 1" aluminum tube tweeters, as well as the two 4" mid/low range drivers. There is a single LED light on the left of the front aluminum band, which lets you know whether the system is on or off, and alerts you to wifi connectivity.
Honestly the A5 is one of the best designs we've seen for a wireless speaker - sleek enough to be put on display, while remaining understated enough to be timeless.
Sound / Sources
Definitely our favorite AirPlay speaker we've tested (although we haven't yet played with it's big brother, the A7).
Clarity of sound has been present in every B&W speaker we've tested, and this one make no deviation. You'll get crystal clear reproduction of your favorite music - whether you're jamming to Jay-Z or Mozart. The A5 is the best wireless speaker we've tested.
Like the Z2, the A5 features a "Flowport" on the back which has a dimpled surface. B&W claims this creates a "cleaner, clearer, richer bass response." Bass response was great on the A5 - much fuller than the Z2 we tested, and definitely able to fill a few rooms with clean, pure sound across a pretty wide spectrum.
The back features a line-in aux input, as well as an ethernet port for other methods of getting audio to the A5.
Price / Conclusion
The Bowers & Wilkins Z2 retails for $499.95, and can be purchased through the Apple store with free shipping.
We're giving the A5 5 leaves - it's our favorite AirPlay speaker so far.
Bowers & Wilkins are providing us with an A5 to give away! Simply use the widget below to gain entries to our raffle, and we'll pick a winner Monday. This is a $500 speaker system!
Bowers & Wilkins A5 Wireless Music System