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Bowers & Wilkins A5 review: an AirPlay wireless speaker

B&W is a premium speaker manufacturer and is well known for its Zeppelin dock for iPods and iPhones. The A5 is smaller than you might imagine, but retains a similar design with black cloth and polished metal details.

The stainless steel band hides a tiny status LED and, on the left side, a power button. Opposite on the right side is a volume control. Around the back is a bass port and a 3.5mm aux input but only the egg-shaped remote control has a button to switch between AirPlay and the aux input.

Configuring the A5 for AirPlay is pretty easy thanks to the free B&W Control app, once you realise that the name has changed (the instructions refer to an AirPlay Setup app). This guides you through connecting to the A5's Wi-Fi network, then configuring it for your own wireless network. Once that's done, you'll see the AirPlay icon available in compatible apps.

If you have deep pockets, you can buy multiple A5s (or the bigger A7) for a multiroom setup. Although you can play to only one speakers at a time using AirPlay, a MacBook can stream to several when you want to host a party.

Along with the minimalist looks, you get a minimal set of features. There's no Bluetooth support and no USB port or dock for charging your iPhone. You don't get any control over the sound, either. There's no bass control as with the Cambridge Audio Minx Air 100, nor any EQ controls in an app.

Fortunately, most people won't miss these controls as the A5 delivers pretty good sound for its size. It will happily sit on a shelf, yet fill a medium-size room with distortion-free music. We played a variety of test tracks from pop to rock as well as jazz and classical, and the A5 handled all with aplomb.

Vocals were crisp, as was the high-end. Bass is also tight, but don't except the kind of thunderous kick you get from a Zeppelin. The A5 provides a smoother, more laid-back sound.

We wouldn't usually mention it, but the power supply is external. This isn't ideal if you're planning on putting the A5 on a bookshelf as you'll have to find some way to hide the unsightly black brick which sits half way along the power cable.

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