Review: Bowers & Wilkins A5

Take B&W’s esteemed MM-1 desktop speaker, zap it with a growth ray, and you pretty much have the new A5.

Happily, the sound quality is mostly commensurate with this super-sizing. The A5 may be the smaller of B&W’s two new AirPlay speakers (the other being the hulking A7) but this impeccably designed 80-watt rig has no trouble delivering the natural, refined sound the company is known for. Much of that is thanks to dual 1-inch Nautilus tube aluminum tweeters and a pair of 4-inch mid/bass drivers. In fact, all four of those drivers are individually amplified and can easily fill a medium-size room with pristine audio.

Setup was also remarkably simple, thanks to B&W’s dedicated desktop and iOS apps. We’ve come a long way from the days of typing in IP addresses and connecting Ethernet cables to get an AirPlay network cooking.

Not everything is perfect, though. Stereo separation isn’t as pronounced as the Zeppelin Air or other wireless speakers I’ve tested. And even with DSP, the ultimate sonic signature was heavily influenced by positioning (you’ll want to keep it at least a foot away from a wall or corner to avoid overly boomy bass).

Then there’s the price. Speakers from the venerable British audio supplier have never been a budget-friendly choice, but at this size, $500 ultimately seems excessive even for a high-end AirPlay speaker.

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