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Comparison Review: B&O Play A2, Bose SoundLink III and Teufel Boomster

Daniel Schmidt, Stefanie Voigt (translated by Bernie Pechlaner), 10/02/2016

An earful. The speakers most manufacturers integrate into their smartphones, tablets and even notebooks often leave something to be desired. One option is to hook up external speakers which can easily be connected via Bluetooth technology. We check three different speaker systems and evaluate their sound quality.

For the original German review, see here.

Our brave and heavily connected new world makes it possible to stream music to various devices - including smartphones, tablets, or notebooks - whenever it strikes the user's fancy. The quality has gotten better as well and even loss-free FLAC audio streaming is available. Even the best source material doesn't do any good when the playback equipment is mediocre. Most of the integrated speakers smartphones and tablets come equipped with are fairly decent when it comes to the highs, but mids and bass in particular are generally lacking, so the sound is far from balanced and the quality generally not at a very high level.    

External Bluetooth speakers are a good alternative for those who care about decent sound even when they're away from home. Thanks to short-range wireless technology, these speakers can connect to all mobile devices and - in some cases - can be used as a speakerphone as well. The integrated batteries last a long time, so the speakers generally last the entire day without the need for any outlets.

We'll take a closer look at three Bluetooth systems, namely the Bose SoundLink III, the B&O Play A2 (Beoplay A2) and the Teufel Boomster. These systems retail for 300 to 400 Euros (~$340-450), so our expectations are pretty high accordingly. Read on to find out which speaker came out on top.

Since this is the first time we've conducted a review like this, we welcome any and all constructive criticism and suggestions for improvements. Please use the comments section at the end of the review. For each subcategory we award up to three points, but we use weighting as well and the sound counts double.

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Case Design and Mobility

Bose SoundLink III

The Bose SoundLink III is one of the more compact models and features a high-end body made from aluminum. The speaker looks upscale, is quite robust and - at only 1.36 kg / 3 lbs - it isn't too heavy, either.   

The base and the upper edge are made from anthracite-colored plastic. The bottom features two contacts for charging and is rubberized as well, so the speaker won't slide around on smooth surfaces. The build quality is decent and we can find no cause for complaint. We do think that Bose could've protected the ports on the back with a cover so they're protected even while traveling. 

The buttons are easy to operate and feature clear pressure points. Right next to the power switch are the buttons for Bluetooth as well as AUX; on the right side we find a mute button and volume up and down keys. The corresponding LEDs are up front and light up discreetly. 

An optional cover selling for 35 Euros (~$40) not only protects the speaker, but adds a splash of color, as it is available in black, gray, blue, green, and red. A handle to carry the unit or something similar is unfortunately not integrated.

B&O Play A2

The B&O Play A2 is about the size of the Bose unit but made entirely from plastic. At 1.1 kg / 2.4 lbs, however, the A2 is the lightest speaker in our comparison. The speaker comes in black, silver gray, and green with two seasonal versions (ocean blue and champagne gray) available at the time of writing. The A2 looks more like a fashion accessory and less like a speaker.  

The build quality is very good: the gaps are even and nothing rattles. The speaker grills are pretty flexible though and easily yield to pressure applied in the middle. The ports are also not covered. The B&O Play A2 ships with a leather loop, which is used as a carrying handle. If not needed, this loop can simply be removed.

Four small rubber feet on the bottom of the unit prevent it from sliding around. As far as the controls are concerned, B&O offers the bare minimum, but the pressure point is very well defined.

Teufel Boomster

The Teufel Boomster is a behemoth compared to the others and weighs in at 3.35 kg (7.4 lbs). The dimensions are correspondingly larger as well. The chassis consists of matte plastic and aluminum and unfortunately is quite susceptible to fingerprints. The control elements are backlit sensor-type keys and are located up top. 

The build quality is very good and the speaker appears as if it is made from one piece. The carrying handle doesn't quite fit the bill, as it is simply too flat. Users with wider hands might have issues squeezing their fingers between the housing and the handle. Teufel celebrates the Boomster as a "Comeback of the legendary Ghetto-blaster". In our opinion, the manufacturer should've copied the original style and incorporated a fold-out handle, which would be more "proper".

The battery is swappable and even regular batteries (8x AA) can be used if no outlets are nearby for recharging. The connectors on the back feature protective rubber covers; one of these covers hides the cable antenna for the integrated FM tuner.   

The Teufel Boomster is available in black and white.

Size Comparison

370 mm / 14.6 inch 145 mm / 5.71 inch 180 mm / 7.09 inch 3.4 kg7.39 lbs256 mm / 10.1 inch 44 mm / 1.732 inch 142 mm / 5.59 inch 1.1 kg2.43 lbs256 mm / 10.1 inch 48 mm / 1.89 inch 131.5 mm / 5.18 inch 1.4 kg3.02 lbs

Subscore

All products feature very decent build quality. One advantage of the Teufel Boomster is the swappable battery and the option to use Alkaline AA batteries. The Boomster also has covered connectors, which is an advantage when venturing outside. On the other hand, it weighs significantly more - as much as three B&O Play A2s weigh - so the mobility is somewhat reduced. Both the SoundLink and the A2 are easier to use while traveling, so they score higher in this segment than the Teufel Boomster.

Bose SoundLink III: 3 points| B&O Play A2: 3 points | Teufel Boomster: 1 point

Connectivity

All three competitors rely on Bluetooth 4.0, which guarantees good compatibility, but they come equipped with a regular audio jack as well. Both the Bose SoundLink III and the B&O Play A2 lack NFC, which would make pairing very easy - the Teufel Boomster does, however, and it has an advantage here.

In addition to NFC, the Boomster also comes with an FM radio and can memorize up to three frequencies. A cable antenna is integrated into the chassis and can be taken out if needed. Although there's an automatic search function, it's hard to find a particular station since there is no display. The antenna works, the reception quality suffers while inside and isn't always perfect outside, either. Teufel has also incorporated a speakerphone. The sound quality is surprisingly good, but the integrated microphone has a limited range. Thanks to the USB port, the Boomster can be used to charge other devices. According to Teufel, the Boomster can run on battery for up to 16 hours.

The B&O Play A2 features the bare essentials and offers no additional functionality. It does feature a USB port, so it can also be used as a "powerbank" to charge other devices. An app for either Android or iOS makes operation easier and also allows control from a smartwatch. It's also possible to connect two speakers to one device, which allows true stereo sound. B&O claims run times of up to 24 hours.     

The Bose SoundLink III comes with a similar - and fairly meager - feature set. The integrated Micro-USB port is only used for maintenance purposes. Useful optional equipment consists of a charging station or a car charger (35 Euros / ~$40). With a runtime of 14 hours, the SoundLink III doesn't last as long as the competitors.

Just looking at the features, the Teufel Boomster should come out on top - if there weren't some issues with the implementation. The control app for the A2 is a pleasure to use and we also like that it's possible to link two speakers. The Bose SoundLink III is pretty barebones as far as the features set is concerned, but the optional accessories are pretty useful. The various configurations cover different needs, but the B&O Play features a very well thought out combination.  

Bose SoundLink III: 1 point | B&O Play A2: 2 points | Teufel Boomster: 2 points

Sound

Bose SoundLink III

The Bose SoundLink III offers clear sound and powerful bass, which could be a little more balanced in our opinion. Sitting in front of the SoundLink III, the range from the lower mids to the upper highs is nicely balanced and the pink noise amplitude comparatively linear. There's a drop off in the uppermost highs and medium bass frequencies. At the maximum volume level (97.21 dB), the speaker distorts slightly as well.

When walking around to the rear of the unit, it becomes obvious that the middle and lower tones are emanating from the back - those frequencies are also overemphasized according to the pink noise diagram. From a distance of about two meters, bass recedes into the background, but the mids and highs are still clearly audible. From this distance in particular, the SoundLink II offers very impressive sound and is very suitable even for medium-sized rooms.

For the best sound experience, the tweeter should face the user and the SoundLink III works particularly well on the user's desk or on a bookshelf.

Pink noise: front, distance: 15 cm
Pink noise: front, distance: 15 cm
Pink noise: rear, distance: 15 cm
Pink noise: rear, distance: 15 cm
Pink noise: front, distance: 200 cm
Pink noise: front, distance: 200 cm

B&O Play A2

B&O's Play A2 features a different concept which utilizes identical speakers on both sides of the unit, which in turn should allow the sound to cover a full 360-degree circle. This actually works pretty well, with the pink noise measurements confirming our impression. 

Even at the maximum volume level (94.3 dB), the A2 remains distortion-free. The audible range is not quite as linear as the Bose SoundLink III, but it is still very impressive nonetheless. Bass appears to be somewhat subdued but is still clearly present. Even when moving farther away, the precision remains, although the bass drops off now since it's not that powerful to begin with. 

The B&O Play A2 is the ideal companion for users on the road with a perfect balance between sound quality and mobility.

Pink noise: front, distance: 15 cm
Pink noise: front, distance: 15 cm
Pink noise: rear, distance: 15 cm
Pink noise: rear, distance: 15 cm
Pink noise: front, distance: 200 cm
Pink noise: front, distance: 200 cm

Teufel Boomster

The Teufel Boomster is the largest speaker in our comparison and therefore offers the most room for high-end componentry. Equipped with two tweeters, two midrange speakers, and a single subwoofer, the Boomster should be able to wow us in this price range - and it certainly does with its surprisingly powerful and precise sound reproduction.

Even at the default setting, the bass is very present and forceful - to the point where it can be felt even from a meter away. Users who want more bass can turn up the subwoofer or turn it down if so desired. The sound is very balanced overall. Even though our pink noise measurements indicate slightly lower performance compared to the competitors, the Boomster can make up for it with its power and particularly with the bass reproduction. The lows are very powerful, yet still transparent and integrate seamlessly into the overall sound experience. It's simply a pleasure listening to music. 

Since the sound is projected forward only, it's not surprising that mids and lows sound a bit more muffled when standing behind the speaker. A positive aspect of the Teufel Boomster is the fact that the bass can still be felt from about two meters away. Even at that distance, the audible range is very balanced, so the Boomster is particularly well suited for outdoor use with several listeners. 

Pink noise: front, distance: 15 cm, medium bass
Pink noise: front, distance: 15 cm, medium bass
Pink noise: rear, distance: 15 cm, medium bass
Pink noise: rear, distance: 15 cm, medium bass
Pink noise: front, distance: 200 cm, medium bass
Pink noise: front, distance: 200 cm, medium bass
Pink noise: front, distance: 15 cm, low bass
Pink noise: front, distance: 15 cm, low bass
Pink noise: front, distance: 15 cm, heavy bass
Pink noise: front, distance: 15 cm, heavy bass
dB(A) 0102030405060708090Deep BassMiddle BassHigh BassLower RangeMidsHigher MidsLower HighsMid HighsUpper HighsSuper Highs2031.6612525.462.83125.362.74032.969.25033.680.16331.683.58028.487.81002787.112520.884.81602283.320021.386.325020.887.431521.284.140019.485.450019.58563017.78380017.982.6100017.882.4125017.381.3160017.480.8200016.779.2250017.282.2315018.283.8400017.981.3500017.679.7630017.775.9800017.873.11000017.971.71250018.171.81600018.266.7SPL3093.5N1.3125.5median 17.9median 82.4Delta1.33.131.659.725.465.925.366.232.967.133.669.531.677.928.480.72785.620.886.82288.221.388.720.88821.282.919.486.919.58417.784.317.984.417.885.717.385.517.486.816.787.217.286.318.285.817.984.917.684.317.781.617.879.917.979.418.181.218.277.73097.21.3150.7median 17.9median 85.51.31.831.661.525.459.925.361.332.971.733.682.131.68628.483.62782.620.885.92286.121.387.520.88421.282.119.486.919.586.817.786.117.984.917.883.617.381.417.479.516.77917.281.918.281.617.981.117.681.917.78117.874.717.978.318.181.418.277.33094.31.3133.3median 17.9median 81.91.32.5hearing rangehide median Pink NoiseTeufel BoomsterBose SoundLink IIIB&O Play A2
Teufel Boomster audio analysis

(+) | speakers can play relatively loud (93.52 dB)
Bass 100 - 315 Hz
(+) | good bass - only 3.1% away from median
(+) | bass is linear (3.1% delta to prev. frequency)
Mids 400 - 2000 Hz
(+) | balanced mids - only 1.5% away from median
(+) | mids are linear (1.4% delta to prev. frequency)
Highs 2 - 16 kHz
(+) | balanced highs - only 4.6% away from median
(+) | highs are linear (3.7% delta to prev. frequency)
Overall 100 - 16.000 Hz
(+) | overall sound is linear (6% difference to median)
Compared to same class
» 2% of all tested devices in this class were better, 1% similar, 97% worse
» The best had a delta of 3%, average was 19%, worst was 41%
Compared to all devices tested
» 0% of all tested devices were better, 0% similar, 100% worse
» The best had a delta of 3%, average was 21%, worst was 53%

Bose SoundLink III audio analysis

(+) | speakers can play relatively loud (97.21 dB)
Bass 100 - 315 Hz
(+) | good bass - only 2.1% away from median
(+) | bass is linear (3.4% delta to prev. frequency)
Mids 400 - 2000 Hz
(+) | balanced mids - only 1% away from median
(+) | mids are linear (1.9% delta to prev. frequency)
Highs 2 - 16 kHz
(+) | balanced highs - only 2.6% away from median
(+) | highs are linear (1.6% delta to prev. frequency)
Overall 100 - 16.000 Hz
(+) | overall sound is linear (3.3% difference to median)
Compared to same class
» 0% of all tested devices in this class were better, 1% similar, 99% worse
» The best had a delta of 3%, average was 19%, worst was 41%
Compared to all devices tested
» 0% of all tested devices were better, 0% similar, 100% worse
» The best had a delta of 3%, average was 21%, worst was 53%

B&O Play A2 audio analysis

(+) | speakers can play relatively loud (94.3 dB)
Bass 100 - 315 Hz
(+) | good bass - only 2.8% away from median
(+) | bass is linear (3% delta to prev. frequency)
Mids 400 - 2000 Hz
(+) | balanced mids - only 3.1% away from median
(+) | mids are linear (2.5% delta to prev. frequency)
Highs 2 - 16 kHz
(+) | balanced highs - only 1.8% away from median
(+) | highs are linear (3.4% delta to prev. frequency)
Overall 100 - 16.000 Hz
(+) | overall sound is linear (4% difference to median)
Compared to same class
» 1% of all tested devices in this class were better, 1% similar, 99% worse
» The best had a delta of 3%, average was 19%, worst was 41%
Compared to all devices tested
» 0% of all tested devices were better, 0% similar, 100% worse
» The best had a delta of 3%, average was 21%, worst was 53%

Frequency Chart (Toggle checkbox above)

Subscore

All three speakers do sound really good - especially when compared to the likes of smartphones, tablets or notebooks. Nonetheless, there's no question that the Teufel Boomster offers monster sound and is the top choice for uncompromised sound quality at this price point.

Bose SoundLink III: 2 points | B&O Play A2: 2 points | Teufel Boomster: 3 points

Verdict

If we tally up the points, the Teufel Boomster and the B&O Play A2 tie for first place; the Bose SoundLink III doesn't trail them by much though. 

There are significant differences - particularly concerning the concept - in the price range between 300 and 400 Euros (~$340-450). For that reason, we can't declare a clear winner, since each of the contenders has different strengths. 

The Boomster offers uncompromising sound quality, but both the SoundLink III and B&O Play A2 score with their better mobility.

From a mobility standpoint, the B&O Play offers the best overall package, as it is light, compact, lasts for a long time on a charge and offers a carrying handle. The Bose SoundLink III will likely appeal to users who like powerful sound and would like a speaker suitable for an office or a larger room but don't want to compromise on mobility. For users who don't mind carrying a few extra pounds and who want the best sound possible there is no other choice but the Teufel Boomster.

In Review: B&O Play A2, Teufel Boomster and Bose SoundLink III, courtesy of B&O Play Germany, Teufel Germany and Bose Germany.
In Review: B&O Play A2, Teufel Boomster and Bose SoundLink III, courtesy of B&O Play Germany, Teufel Germany and Bose Germany.
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Comparison Review: B&O Play A2, Bose SoundLink III and Teufel Boomster
Daniel Schmidt, 2016-10- 2 (Update: 2018-05-15)
Bernhard Pechlaner
Bernhard Pechlaner - Review Editor
Ended up in the IT sector in the 90s more or less accidentally and have remained in the industry (as a sysadmin) ever since. Always been interested in laptops - first purchase was - if memory serves correctly - a Toshiba Satellite T2115CS with DX4-75 processor, 4 MB of RAM and 350 MB hard disk drive (and Windows 3.1). To this day, laptops appeal to me - much to the chagrin of my wife, who doesn’t seem understand why we need 5-10 of them at any given time ;-).