Portable speakers have become a billion-dollar industry globally, which shows in the steady release of new mobile speakers by top audio brands.
You can see these products made by Sony, JBL, Marshall, Ion – and in the case of this article – Bose (SoundLink Flex) and Bang & Olufsen (Beosound A1). While Bose might be the more recognizable name, both of these companies have been reliably making electronic products for decades now.
Despite what the name implies, Bang & Olufsen is not a Danish law firm, but a century-old audio and electronics company that originates from Denmark. Bose is a globally known audio company that has become synonymous with speakers, originating in Massachusetts in the 60s.
Today we will be comparing their own entries into the portable speaker industry to see which product is better across a variety of categories.
Not only will we factor in price and sound quality, but the overall design, its ability to withstand wear and tear, how long its battery will last, and any accompanying features and software that come with the product. If you are a consumer who is looking for certain qualities in your next portable speaker, we will highlight everything you need to know to make an informed purchase on either of these devices.
Both of these products are fairly strong purchases for any consumer and sit in a more reasonable price range than a lot of their more expensive alternatives. My biggest criticisms of these products are their subpar volume capabilities and less than ideal audio quality, though outside of these setbacks they are still solid acquisitions for any mobile audio junkie.
The Beosound A1 is going to be considerably more expensive than the Soundlink Flex at a pricey MSRP of ~$250, which feels higher than this product deserves.
It offers solid audio projection, impressive battery life, and an impressive list of features that all feel useful and worthwhile. Like its competitor, this product is very resistant to water and dust, though it is more fragile to impact.
The Soundlink Flex is much more agreeable in price, sitting at an MSRP of ~$150. Not only is its price much more reasonable, but its volume and audio fidelity are also superior to the Beosound A1 as well.
Consumers will appreciate this product’s durable design, sleek exterior, improved sound quality, reasonable price tag, and competent battery.
If I had to pick one of these products to take home with me, I would personally choose the Soundlink Flex and pocket the extra cash needed for the Bang & Olufsen product.
Despite what the marketing of some devices would lead you to believe, nothing is more important to a speaker than its ability to output clear, crisp sound.
While these smaller speakers lack the torque of their larger siblings, they can still produce some pretty admirable audio. We will be taking a look at both products in terms of their frequency response, soundstage, audio quality, and volume.
The Beosound A1 offers what Bang & Olufsen have named “True360 sound” and while it doesn’t feel like the audio is omnidirectional, its projection does feel superior to that of its competitor.
Its sound quality is middling and slightly inferior to the Flex and this is true when it comes to its volume as well. This product does not go to eleven, so if you do purchase it just know that it is not going to be helpful in crowded or large environments.
The Beosound A1 does offer an equalizer, however, which the Flex does not.
The Soundlink Flex does not blow away the Beosound in any category, but edges it enough in frequency response and volume to slightly beat its competitor.
This product has a subpar soundstage despite the marketed “positionIQ” technology. Where it shines is in its competent audio quality (which falls short in terms of bass) and its slightly superior volume, though it still is not anywhere near the louder end of these miniature products.
Verdict – The Soundlink Flex barely wins over the Beosound A1, despite it lacking an equalizer and proficient audio projection.
Design & Durability
Whether we want to admit it or not, looks matter a lot in this world. So while the overall appeal of the device is not solely measured by how attractive it is, it certainly doesn’t hurt either.
In this category, we will be judging these products on the exterior design, material, size and shape, and the ability of the product to withstand the elements.
In terms of water and dust resistance, both products have a very impressive IP67 rating.
The Beosound A1 is an incredibly portable, water-resistant speaker that comes in six different colors (anthracite, green, grey mist, nordic ice, pink, and sport).
Its menu interface is located cleverly along its side, its body is composed of an aluminum grille and you can fit this thing almost anywhere, which is important for speakers intended to be on the move. Its dimensions are 1.83 H x 5.2 D and it weighs a bit over one pound.
The biggest drawback is that it is pretty fragile to impact so you will want to be wary of letting it slip off a surface.
The Soundlink Flex is a slightly larger and longer device overall that comes in three distinct colors (black, stone blue, white smoke).
This product offsets its bulk by being more resistant to impact than its competitor. The exterior is constructed through a well-designed fusion of silicone on the perimeter with a steel grille protecting the middle of the device. Its dimensions are 2.06 x 7.93 x 3.56 inches and it weighs a bit over one pound.
Verdict – If you want a more durable device, pick the Soundlink Flex. If you want a more portable one, the Beosound A1 is ideal.
With all portable devices, it’s fair for a consumer to want a good amount of life between charges. If an individual is traveling, camping, or going to locations that don’t allow them to recharge their speaker, they will want a device that can last for a lengthy period before the battery dies.
In this category, we are going to judge the products on battery life, charge times, and any additional features that help the device last longer.
All portable speakers will drain their battery faster at higher volume levels and the listed specifications are taken directly from the manufacturer and not stress-tested by yours truly. Your own personal use may vary by comparison.
The Beosound A1 is listed as having 18 hours of battery life at higher volumes, with more hours at lower volume settings. If the speaker is connected to a charging adapter that is connected to a power outlet, charge times are estimated to be around two hours for a full battery.
While the battery life is impressive on this speaker, it would have been nice to include a power-saving feature. This is a minor criticism however that doesn’t negate its impressive lifespan per charge.
Looking at the Soundlink Flex, it has a listed battery life of somewhere near 12 hours. To charge this device fully, it will take closer to three hours in total. While its charge time and battery life are inferior, both products have satisfactory batteries and neither should be considered subpar.
The Flex does excel in its power-saving feature that allows you to program a specific time that it shuts off after remaining idle. The time differences can be 5, 20, 40, 60, or 180 minutes and the customization of this option is refreshing and unique.
Verdict – The Beosound A1 has a superior battery and charge time though the Soundlink Flex has a really well-designed power-saving option.
Features & Software
Speakers are going the way of the telephone, with each new generation of these portable sound systems adding new features until they barely resemble the boomboxes of previous decades. This steadfast march towards technological efficiency will only continue as time progresses, and we will be here to tell you why certain attributes are unexcusable gimmicks.
It’s also important to take into consideration what benefits the speaker as an audio device (EQ comes to mind) and what is an afterthought meant to bring in more consumers.
The Beosound A1 is one of the first portable speakers I’ve come across that offers Amazon Alexa, though rest assured it almost certainly won’t be the last. It also offers the ability to use vocal commands, three microphones, Bluetooth 5.1, multi-speaker pairing, a leather strap, and an equalizer that can be found in the corresponding mobile app. This is a product that certainly measures up to its price point when it comes to what you get from it feature-wise.
The corresponding app for the Beosound has an average rating of 3.2 on the Google Play store, which sounds awful. Regrettably, this is par for the course when it comes to the apps we are stuck using to get the most out of these portable speakers. Critics report that it has a lot of stuttering, freezing, connecting, and user interface issues that make it frustrating to use.
Looking at the Soundlink Flex, Bose has certainly pushed itself to meet its competitor’s abilities. It offers a microphone that is compatible with your phone’s Google Assistant or Siri, Bluetooth 4.2 compatibility, speaker orientation technology (adjusts sound output to match how the speaker is placed), Bose soundbar compatibility, and multispeaker compatibility. Unfortunately, the Soundlink Flex offers nothing in the way of an equalizer.
The Bose Connect app has an unthinkably good 4.5 rating on the Google play store. To be frank, this is the highest rating I have seen yet for mobile speaker apps and it makes the Bose app stand in a separate division from its competitors. It should be said though that like the Bang & Olufsen app, this one can struggle to pair with certain devices.
Verdict – The Beosound A1 simply does every feature better than its competitor, including the equalizer that comes with the app. As far as their software goes, the Bose Connect app is superior.
Both products are competent and worthwhile, though the Bose product is my personal pick due to its budget-friendly price and superior sound quality. What also puts it above the other product is its slightly more durable exterior, which also feels better in your hand.
The Beosound A1 is not a bad product, though I do believe it to be a bit overpriced. This is only made worse when you consider that the Bose product offers more in the way of audio, making it the superior product overall.