Review: Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker

Bose Soundlink Wireless Mobile Speaker connected to Spotify on my EVO

Bose Soundlink Wireless Mobile Speaker connected to Spotify on my EVO

With more and more people turning to their smartphones and tablet devices for music, podcasts and other media; the demand and interest in (wireless) Bluetooth-enabled portable speakers is on the rise. I review one such option, the Bose SoundLink® Wireless Mobile speaker.

Pros:
Outstanding sound performance in a small & compact package. Portable. Wireless. Sturdy design. Cover cleverly doubles as a stand. Wirelessly stream music, podcasts, movies and more via any Bluetooth compatible device. Solid battery life. It’s Bose.

Cons:
A little pricey for a portable speaker system. Compression at high volumes – although intended to prevent distortion – might sound monaural to some when at a distance from the device. For some, audio may be too “fat” at low volumes…if you like a solid bass sound, this is not an issue.

Verdict:
Although there are cheaper wireless | portable speaker options available, you would be trading audio quality in favor of savings. This newest offering from Bose continues to solidify and strengthen their position as the premiere audio provider of outstanding consumer speaker solutions.

Shiny New Toy…

Recently Bose released the SoundLink® Wireless Mobile speaker, similar to their SoundDock® for iPod®, but in a more platform-agnostic and Bluetooth centered package.

Previously I had a JBL On-Time portable speaker system, however as I have moved further towards using my smartphone for most of my media & music needs – and further away from my iPod – I had been looking for a wireless solution that was less Apple-centric. Although a decent and attractive device (but over time the sound began to suffer and the “halo” array made it only suitable for listening in front of the device and not so much when on a bedside table with only one speaker pointed towards you), the On-Time required me to use a AUX line in order to connect my device, unless I was physically docking my iPod. With everything being available to stream or download via my mobile device, it was no longer practical to constantly have to connect my (non-WiFi-enabled) iPod to a computer, download files to (and clutter) my computer HD, transfer over downloads to the iPod…rinse & repeat.

Also, as I am not an Apple fan-boy, I had no intention of upgrading my iPod to the more WiFi friendly Touch, since my Android phone does all of my media & musical heavy-lifting these days. However, the Soundlink is still an outstanding option for iPhone users who wish to connect wirelessly via Bluetooth and don’t want to sacrifice audio quality on cheaper solutions.

Judging a Book By It’s Cover (aka: Design)

The SoundLink measures 5.1 by 9.6 by 1.9 inches and weighs 2.9 pounds, with a front face that is mostly a black steel speaker grille, with black matte plastic and “automotive-grade” brushed chrome around the sides. The smaller flat size and almost hardcover book-like shape make it ideal for easily packing it away and taking with you on the go. Although very convenient for the beach or an impromptu jam at a friend’s BBQ, my intent was for the speaker to stay home, but easily picked up and taken to other rooms as needed (i.e. bedside table, bathroom while getting ready, in the kitchen while cooking and in the backyard grabbing some sun etc).

Hardcover Book Design with Closed Vinyl Cover. Easy to Grab & Go.

The standard design at $299.00 (shown above) comes with a dark gray nylon magnetic snap-shut cover that doubles as a stand when folded back. For $349.95, the SoundLink comes with “premium trim” (aka: all chrome), no black plastic—and a dark brown leather cover. Also, the covers for both models can be replaced with two nylon options (red or purple, for another $29.95) or two leather options (burgundy or tan, for $49.95)…easily swapped out and personalized with an included Allen key (when you buy the individual cover accessories).

Along the top you’ll find a row of function buttons (from left to right): Power, Aux, Bluetooth, Mute, Volume Down, and Volume Up. The back panel has a 3.5mm aux input to connect non-Bluetooth devices (cable included), a micro USB connector for firmware updates, and a power supply connection. Inside, there’s a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. There is no included remote control, but for me this is a non-issue since most devices these days work as their own remote and volume control. Bose rates the battery life for a full charge at about 3-4 hours of high volume listening and roughly eight hours at moderate | normal levels (I have found both statements on battery life to be true). Of course, when you plug the system back in, the battery will charge.

When the magnetic cover is closed (it works much like the Smart Cover for the iPad 2), the device will automatically power off. In addition, if you have not connected or played a device through the system after roughly 10 minutes, the Soundlink will shut itself off to preserve the battery. I venture that most people will have it plugged in for the majority of time, but the ability to grab and take it anywhere you want for a truly wireless experience is very nice. I also noticed very little difference in audio quality and volume levels between being on battery power or directly plugged in.

“Yeah, But How Does It Sound?

Patience, I’m getting to that part!

Obviously, the design of a speaker system means absolutely nothing if it doesn’t sound good, right? As is the case with all of Bose’s speakers, you are unlikely to be disappointed. In fact, I purchased the Soundlink without actually ever hearing it first. Normally this is not the smartest way to purchase a $300 product, however I currently own the Companion® 5 multimedia speaker system , which continues to sound incredible and utilizes similar low-profile neodymium transducers as the Soundlink, with the exception of the Acoustimass sub-woofer module.

Bose likes to do demonstrations where they bring you into a room and fill it with incredible sound, only to pull away the curtain to reveal that everything you just heard had been coming from a tiny device. The Soundlink is no exception to this trend.

Keep in mind that the Soundlink is intended to be a portable speaker system, therefore it won’t sound as “big” as their larger Sounddock systems, which have to be perpetually plugged in and are far-less conveniently portable. Despite that caveat, I would be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t raise their eyebrows and nod in acknowledgement that the sound that does come out of this tiny system is extremely impressive. I was amazed at how “fat” and bass-y the sound was, considering its slim design. This is because Bose uses a 6 speaker internal system. This includes four low-profile neodymium transducers (high and mid frequencies) and 2 dual-opposing passive radiators that create the amazing bass reflex. The dual-opposing passive radiators essentially push the low frequencies against each other, thereby pushing bass out of the front and back of the device. In fact, for even better bass performance, it helps to place the Soundlink with the back facing towards a wall, which generates an even fuller and deeper response.

Inside the Soundlink. 4 low-profile neodymium transducers (left & right) and dual-opposing passive radiators (center).

When I received the Soundlink (which I purchased directly through Bose.com), I immediately paired it with my EVO and iPad. Pairing was a snap and I was connected within seconds. The Soundlink remembers up to 6 devices, but will (obviously) only play one device at a time. Therefore I can have my phone, my girlfriend’s phone, iPad, computers etc all paired with the system and not have to worry about re-pairing whenever I change devices. The Soundlink will attempt to re-connect to the last device that it played through, however a simple touch of the Bluetooth button will connect it to one of the Bluetooth-enabled devices already paired with it.

Once connected, I wanted to test this puppy out, so I increased the volume on my cell phone to roughly 80%, launched Spotify and began increasing the volume on the Soundlink. The sound that came out really surprised me! Again, the bass that emits from such a slim device was very impressive. The highs, mids and lows were clean, solid, full and completely filled my office. Later I tested it at home in different environments and continued to be impressed.

The only con that I can think of is that due to the close array of the speakers, the further you get from the device the less “stereo” it sounds and the more mono it can be (not to be confused with sounding worse). The instruction manual recommends that you have the Soundlink at a minimum height of 24 inches if it is placed in a big room, which is certainly reasonable, as I doubt many people plan to place the system on the floor. Also, when at max volume, a discerning ear may pick up on the fact the the compression “flattens” the sound a little in order to prevent any distortion (you never feel like the speakers are about to blow or sound worse, even at top volume). Thanks to the digital signal processing, the speakers won’t distort, even at maximum volume. However, this means the low frequencies, particularly, get slightly sculpted in a way purists won’t like, but for casual listening or parties, it’s ideal. One side effect of the processing is that, at low-to-moderate volume levels, the SoundLink produces a richer, rounder bass response than at higher volumes, where the bass becomes toned down fairly noticeably. This almost creates the aural illusion that some songs with very deep bass are actually louder at just-below-maximum volume than they are at max volume.

Tell you what, instead of telling you what it sounds like…why don’t I just show you:

Verdict | Conclusion

At $299.00, the Bose Soundlink might be a little on the pricey side for those simply looking for a decent portable system or one that is just likely to sit in the same place in the house everyday. However, for those familiar with the quality of Bose products, their stellar customer care and the long life that you get from your investment, the Soundlink is a no-brainer.

I have compared the Soundlink to other comparable systems (i.e. from Logitech, JBL and the Jawbone Jambox)…and there is no comparison. Especially in the case of the Jambox, where the difference was like listening to a plastic toy. For many of the others, they are so iPod-centric (docking stations) and don’t offer the ease and convenience of Bluetooth, that none of them were ever under consideration, as they were basically the same device I was looking to replace (my old JBL).

If you are seeking full sound, with solid bass reflex and excellent audio quality that is almost shocking coming from such a small speaker, I would recommend that you take a look at the Bose Soundlink. Although it is slightly larger and heavier than other competing device, it feels and sounds well worth the investment if you are willing to part with 300 bones.

Additionally, Bose is famous for the rigorous testing that it puts its devices through. There is testing video available in which all of the buttons along the top of the Soundlink are pressed thousands of times in order to ensure continuous performance and quality assurance, in addition to placing the speaker in a salt-fog tunnel (for those planning on taking their tunes to the beach) and subjecting it to moisture and even drops on different surfaces. It is this attention to quality and support that makes the price tag perfectly within reason for me, as I know what I will be getting for my investment.

By:

I Recommend: Bose Soundlink Wireless Mobile Speaker





Summary
Reviewer
Dana Sciandra
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Bose SoundLink® Wireless Mobile Speaker
Author Rating
5
Bipedal. Podcaster. Blogger. I Occasionally Pee Sitting Down.
  • Anonymous

    don’t you think the Soundlink is a little treble-shy? I compared it to my Sounddock portable, and although the Sounddock is not the brightest sounding speaker around, the Soundlink is even duller.
    Even my wife who by no means is an audiophile, prefers the sound of our “crappy” Tivoli PAL, which sounds like a toy to my ears.

    I have written a detailed review about the Soundlink with lots of Images, although in german, maybe i will translate it once into English, here is an automatic translation from Google:

    http://tiny.cc/fnxo9

  • http://www.stimulatedboredom.com Dana: Stimulated Boredom

    @oluv:disqus  I agree that the Soundlink has a very “fat” sound, as I mentioned in the review (especially at low volumes), however I would prefer this fuller sound over a device that sounds too tinny. In fact the bass is one of the most impressive frequency outputs of the Soundlink and its ability to easily fill a room.

    I also think that, since Bose intended for people to also bring the Soundlink outside, that the fatter sound might be intentional in order to perform better in an outdoor environment.

    When I compared similar devices that were more treble-heavy, I did not like the sound…as we both agree, they sound like plastic toys. I also think a lot depends upon the song (of course). 

  • Anonymous

    You are definitely right that the Soundlink sounds even pretty impressive outside, where most other speakers struggle and need some tricks with positioning near a wall etc. The Soundlink sounds pretty “fat” standing completely free. Still i would have preferred slightly more presence in the upper frequencies. I got responses from others who read my review, that they were quite disappointed with the Soundlink because it sounds too dull to them.
    Today i heard the minuscule Bose Computer Music Monitors. The MusicMonitors have similar power in bass department, but without this particular “basshump” of the Soundlink. I was so impressed by the MusicMonitors that i bought them for my office listening to them right now.
    My biggest wish would be that Bose makes the MusicMonitors wireless with built in battery. One could use a single speaker to be as portable as possible (one single speaker would be even more portable than the Soundlink) or 2 speakers which would sync wirelessly and act as a complete stereo system. I would say that the Musicmonitors sound even more impressive for their size than the Soundlink, because they are more balanced overall.
    http://tiny.cc/szwfq

  • Nitin Gupta

    Hi Guys,
    I am not Bose fan but my requirement is to enjoy music from my IPad and Apple iMAC. I have gone through Soundlink Wireless System and Soundlink Wireless Mobile system. I am looking for portable system using which I am in posiition to enjoy my music. I am /was interested to go for Altec Lansing IMW725 which comes in similar price range but has added advantage of remote.
    Please suggest me if I need to consider Soundlink Wireless which provides Bluetooth dongle using which I can connect my Windows, Mac and IPAD ( without bluetooth) or I must concentrate for Soundlink Wireless Mobile Speaker. Price is not constraint for me.

  • felipe

    Comparing this device vs the sounddock portable in terms of sound, which one is better? the sounddock  portable beats the soundlink sound for too much? THANKS

  • Brian

    Hi,

    Congratulations on an excellent review. The video was great too, especially to understand the low end performance of the system.

    I’ve read other reviews including Oluv’s, plus another video comparing the Soundlink to the Altec Lansing Inmotion Air. The Bose sounded fuller whereas the Inmotion Air was more trebly. I feel this can be sorted out by using good equalizer apps available.

  • BananaMan

    is it possible to pair 1 phone to like 3 soundlinks and play ‘em simultaneously??

  • maccid

    The musicmonitors suck. Go for the companion 20s instead.

  • maccid

    Price is not a constraint for you but your horrible English is.

  • subhamoy

    does bose soundlink turn on pressing mute button

  • http://www.stimulatedboredom.com/ Dana Sciandra

    No, there is a dedicated power button. However, long pressing the mute button does soft reset the device, should you be having any connection / pairing issues.

  • http://www.stimulatedboredom.com/ Dana Sciandra

    No, there is a dedicated power button. However, long pressing the mute button does perform a soft reset, should you be having any connection / pairing issues.

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  • Rob

    You can probably tell from my blog posts, I prefer the Sonos® Soundlink.

    I can get you a coupon code for
    a totally free Sonos® Bridge®
    (which is $49 retail). That’s the Soundlink equivalent in Sonos brand.Saves a few bucks.If you’re interested, I can email it from the
    Sonos site.Just let me know first name, last name and email so I can add you in
    the system to send coupon.I will promise to get to it within 1-2 days
    of hearing back.I’m Rob.Enjoy whatever sound system you end up
    choosing! – Rob

    sonosboulder@gmail.com

  • Matt

    Love this review