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Bose SoundLink Mini II review

Andrew Williams

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Bose SoundLink Mini II
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Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Power and refinement from a tiny box
  • Great charge dock

Cons

  • No aptX or NFC
  • Cheaper alternatives are available

Best Deals for Bose SoundLink Mini II

  • amazon
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Key Features

  • Charging dock
  • Bluetooth wireless
  • 3.5mm aux input
  • Manufacturer: Bose
  • Review Price: £169.00

What is the Bose SoundLink Mini II?

The Bose SoundLink Mini II is a small Bluetooth speaker. It isn't small enough that you'll carry it with you every day, and you’re definitely not going to fit it in a pocket.

However, it's about as small as a speaker can get without compromising on sound quality. And if you haven’t heard one of these small size, big output speakers before, you'll most certainly be impressed by how good the Bose SoundLink Mini II sounds.

Cheaper rivals are available, but if you're after powerful bass in a tiny box then the Bose SoundLink Mini II is worth its £169 asking price.

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Bose SoundLink Mini II – Design

The Bose SoundLink Mini II looks and feels much the same as the first SoundLink Mini. It’s a lightly curved brick of aluminium, small enough to grasp easily in one hand, but it's too long and deep to fit in a pocket.

This doesn't rule it out as an ultra-portable speaker, though; you’ll just need to put it in a rucksack.

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It might also be worth investing in a Bose rubber cover for your speaker. While the SoundLink Mini II feels superbly well made and pretty tough, its aluminium outer shell will probably show up damage pretty readily.

Bose SoundLink Mini II 17

Fresh out of the box, the Bose SoundLink Mini II is of the perfect size for "around the house" portability. And for its charging dock it wins bonus points.

Rather than using a charging cable – although this is an option – you can place the Bose SoundLink Mini II onto a plastic dock. This charges the unit on contact, thanks to metal contacts on both the dock and the speaker.

As with the original Bose SoundLink Mini, rubber-topped buttons sit on the top plate.

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Bose SoundLink Mini II vs SoundLink Mini – Features

So far, so familiar. But what’s new in this second version of the SoundLink Mini? The good news is that Bose has addressed virtually all of the hardware complaints about the first version.

First, rather than using a cylindrical charge plug, the Bose SoundLink Mini II uses the micro-USB standard. This means that owners of Android handsets will be able to use their phone charger to power up the battery.

Bose SoundLink Mini II 3

The original is on the right, with one of the optional rubbery cases attached

There are charge ports on both the dock and the speaker itself, providing plenty of flexibility. Using an external battery to juice up the Bose SoundLink Mini II is also an option.

By adding a microphone to the speaker, the SoundLink Mini II can also now be used as a loudspeaker for phonecalls.

There's still no NFC for easy pairing, but there is a new voice system. A slightly robotic-sounding woman reads out the battery level when the Bose SoundLink Mini II is turned on, alongside the names of connected devices. It sounds rather like an electronic train announcer giving a roll-call of stations. Two devices can be paired at once, although you can play audio from only one at a time.

Bose SoundLink Mini II 9

Other optimisations for 2015 include a simplification of the buttons up top: the dedicated Aux button has been ditched in favour of a system that automatically switches to the Aux input as a device is plugged in. Like most wireless speakers, the Bose SoundLink Mini II has a 3.5mm jack input on the side that lets you plug in anything that doesn’t have Bluetooth.

Bose SoundLink Mini II 13

Battery life has improved, too, from a quoted 7-8 hours to 10 hours. You won’t get that long if you blast the Bose SoundLink Mini II at full volume, however. Although having used the speaker for almost-full days on a couple of occasions, we can say that we're pretty happy with its stamina.

Bose SoundLink Mini II – Sound Quality

The Bose SoundLink Mini II still doesn't support aptX – the higher-quality codec than the Bluetooth standard SBC. However, it would be somewhat limited in a speaker trying to deliver a big sound from such a tiny box.

Bose hasn't made any radical changes to the sound signature of the Bose SoundLink Mini II. Nor should it have.

The Bose SoundLink Mini II is an astonishingly bassy and powerful-sounding speaker for its size. It doesn't quite fit the grown-up Bose image; we'd describe it as boisterous. But it’s certainly good fun.

Bose SoundLink Mini II 19

Detail is good too. The SoundLink Mini II delivers a smooth and well-textured tone, with decent mid-range presence that isn't only about pounding out bassy beats. Vocals are both full and natural, without being softened by too much mid-bass.

There are plenty of competitors in this size and class of speaker, including the Pure Voca, the Denon Envaya Mini and Jam Heavy Metal. However, the Bose SoundLink Mini II trounces them all when it comes to sound quality with deeper bass, silkier mids and smoother treble. Admittedly, it's significantly more expensive too. If you're on a budget then you can get comparable – but not quite as good – options for around £90-£100.

All these speakers manage to crank out sound much larger than their stature because they use passive radiators. These aren’t traditional speaker drivers, but complement standard drivers, exponentially increasing the low-frequency sound they're able to output.

Since Bose has aced this radiator-led style so well, you'll really need to find a good traditional driver speaker to get much better sound. And this, in effect will mean a larger box. The Loewe Speaker2go is a great alternative, available at a similar price, but it's quite a lot larger – although larger speakers are able to deliver better bass.

While the Bose gives the impression of having deep and full bass, it's capable of bringing out sub-bass frequencies due to the limitations of its small driver/radiator array.

Bose SoundLink Mini II 5

While the Bose SoundLink Mini II looks and sounds much like the original Mini, some audio improvements have been made. Listening closely to the two side by side, Bose seems to have cut down the mid-bass slightly in the new model. While that also reduces the smoothness of the sound in certain instances, it also helps to avoid any sense of congestion. It also improves mid-range clarity and the separation between the mid-range and bass.

It’s also worth noting that while we’ve been a bit sniffy about Bose’s audio style in the past, the wireless speaker space really makes great use of its tricks. A lot of Bose’s audio USP is about psycho-acoustic processing, which uses digital signal processing to charm your ears. It's about our perception of sound, rather than trying to chase the audiophile's ideal frequency response.

We get a bit suspicious of this tech when it’s used to cut down the size/quality of drivers in "hi-fi" products, but in the necessarily compromised world of Bluetooth speakers, it works wonders.

With the SoundLink Mini II, Bose has also managed to rid the "sweet spot" – the treble part of the mix that only sounds right in a fairly narrow spot. Naturally, you don’t get a proper stereo image here, but we can’t imagine many people would look to the SoundLink Mini to replace a hi-fi.

Bose SoundLink Mini II 7

Should I buy the Bose SoundLink Mini II?

The Bose SoundLink Mini II is a tricky product to call. It’s a total class act that makes meaningful changes to the original, including tweaks to the sound quality. It also outperforms just about every other wireless speaker in this size and class, delivering deeper, richer bass from a box that has roughly the same-sized drivers as Denon Envaya Mini.

However, it's pricier – and there are now several competent alternatives available at around £90-£100. If you don’t think you’ll use a speaker such as this often, these may be a better option. The Denon, for one, is a great choice.

Buy Now: Bose SoundLink Mini II at Amazon.co.uk (£149) | Amazon.com ($179)

Verdict

There are plenty of cheaper alternatives out there, but the Bose SoundLink Mini II is the best wireless speaker in this class right now.

Overall Score

9

Best Deals for Bose SoundLink Mini II

  • amazon
  • ebay

Dead Words

July 29, 2015, 3:55 pm

If I'm willing to give up a fair amount of portability, what speakers would be available with great sound quality at a lower price point?

ElectricSheep

July 30, 2015, 12:01 am

No aptX or NFC is unforgivable! The Creative SoundBlaster Roar (v1 or v2) offers the Bose a run for it's money in the sound quality and volume department (I have both a bose mini 2 and the SoundBlaster) and it has far more features than the Bose. The bose is cute, but the volume is not great at the higher ends and I found the battery life to be shorter than the stated longevity. I've also had several issues with the Bose Bluetooth not connecting properly with certain phones. But I think they are all well over-priced.

Wanting a lot more volume, clarity and battery life from a portable bluetooth speaker system, I built a 12v, 20Ah Ammo can Boom Box last weekend for under £100 and it blows any bluetooth speaker I've heard into the weeds. I recommend the more adventurous of you to give this project a go :)

Prem Desai

July 30, 2015, 7:33 am

Many people who buy this will be because of the badge.

I'm sure it sounds very nice but most who stream mp3 using bluetooth, which is what this is, don't care too much about sound quality - they are not audiophiles.

For £20-£30, there is a whole gaggle of decent sounding alternatives out there that are more portable (rechargeable battery) and, arguably, better looking.

Kulti Vator

July 30, 2015, 9:27 am

I mount a Bose Soundlink Mini on the handlebars of my CycloCross bike on longer training rides. Really helps the miles pass by nicely. Offers a great balance of sound quality and volume for the often blowy environment a cyclist operates within. Much better than a couple of other cheaper, but more feature-rich 'rugged' speakers I'd previously owned (from WAE and GoalZero).

Despite not offering APTX, the sound quality is excellent (though I play mostly losslessly encoded / high bit-rate tracks). The price is quite high, but I'd rate the value factor quite high also and strongly disagree with Prem about the badge, as my decision was made only after testing just about every mobile speaker system John Lewis had in stock with my own devices & music.

@ElectricSheep - That Ammo Can Boom Box project looks really good. Might have a stab at that at some point. Maybe a little chunky for mounting on my bike, but probably a superb gardening and BBQ sound-system!

Kulti Vator

July 30, 2015, 10:39 am

Risky business... asking other's opinions on a subject as personal and as polarising as consumer electronics ;-)

Few people will want to research this for you - do some digging around on review sites and Amazon to get a feel for what's out there and what people like / dislike about each contender.

snaxo

July 30, 2015, 11:09 am

I'm a bit of an audiophile at heart (I have a Naim Hi-Fi system) so I don't expect too much from stand alone Bluetooth speakers - however I recently purchased a Creative SoundBlaster Roar 2 and I have to say, for what it is, it's extremely impressive - both on the feature and SQ front. I'd be interested to see you review it in comparison to this new Soundlink

Kulti Vator

July 30, 2015, 11:14 am

Prem - Looks and desired features are very subjective, but the SoundLink does have a rechargeable battery, so I'm not sure what point you're making on portability (it works fine on my bike, without a long JoJo cable trailing back to the house LOL).

Kulti Vator

July 30, 2015, 11:17 am

I'd be interested too.

ElectricSheep

July 30, 2015, 11:26 am

It is a *tiny* bit heavier than the bose or creative offerings, probably more suitable for a Harley Davidson's handle bars! As you suggested, it makes a fantastic garden / bbq / festival sound system and it can charge my phone 5 times, has a torch inbuilt and gives me 12+ hours at 3/4 volume and 20+ hours at half volume (including 10Ah given over to phone charging). I received 6 order requests at the first small BBQ I took it to!

Kulti Vator

July 30, 2015, 11:28 am

I thought APTX would be a big deal and wanted it - however, the SoundLink Mini still sounded better than APTX-sporting alternatives when I went out on a testing spree.

Many of the other speakers I auditioned had good volume, but were harsh or tinny sounding - most with over-pronounced mid-range and poor or distorted bass at workable volume levels for my needs.

I was hoping to find something lighter in weight than the SoundLink Mini - but nothing else measured up in the listening pleasure department.

ElectricSheep

July 30, 2015, 11:38 am

I agree - on size / weight basis, nothing compares to the Bose Mini Soundlink. It really is a marvel of engineering. The sound stage is large and the sound is bright and three dimensional with good mids. I valued the extra features of the SoundBlaster but in a direct comparison I'd give the Bose the edge (just) on sound quality at lower to mid volumes and then the SB is better at higher volumes. And the addition of NFC is a no brainer, I can not believe this hugely popular party feature isn't included in the Bose - for so much money. I'm surprised that APTX isn't the standard for all BT modules by now...although picking up a compliant receiver isn't cheap. Luckily my el-cheapo Nokia 830 is APTX enabled, unlike my expensive Androids or friends i-Products.

Dead Words

July 30, 2015, 12:33 pm

I wasn't particularly asking anyone to research it, only if someone knee of or owned a product that fit this criteria. I've done research, but there's a seemingly endless wave of devices out there, ad you very well know.

Kulti Vator

July 30, 2015, 1:02 pm

Sounds like you could have a great little cottage industry in the making there!

Remember to include a builder's fee in your costings ;-)

Prem Desai

July 30, 2015, 4:29 pm

I just read my comment - clear as mud!

I was trying to say there are smaller ones out there and though they're smaller, they don't miss out on the rechargeable battery.

Kulti Vator

July 30, 2015, 4:45 pm

LOL - Easily done!

o luv

December 2, 2015, 12:19 pm

the Roar 2 is more than twice as large, in this sizerange there are quite a bit better alternatives. I know the old Roar and was not too impressed with it, it was solid but couldn't do anything really good. treble was somehow veiled, at low levels it sounded rather tinny, and at high levels it started to pump and compress while not being even as loud as the TDK A33.

snaxo

December 2, 2015, 12:34 pm

That does not reflect my experience at all with teh Roar 2, I have to say....

o luv

December 2, 2015, 12:40 pm

maybe the Roar 2 is better, but from what I heard they still sound pretty similar. check out the Denon Envaya Mini which really sounds spectacular for being much smaller. Sure it cannot reach the same loudness, but for overall sound quality the Denon wipes the floor with the Roar 2.

snaxo

December 2, 2015, 12:48 pm

not heard the Denon, admittedly, but it seems your opinion is not shared by all ==> http://gadgets.ndtv.com/tv/rev...

What Hi FI (not that its opinion is to be trusted above others) also seemed to question aspects of the Denon's SQ.

o luv

December 2, 2015, 1:13 pm

WhatHifi also gave the B&W T7 5 stars, biggest junk. You can check out some of them from my database, unfortuantely I didn't have the chance to add any of the Roars yet, but please use headphones as these are all binaural recordings
http://switcher.oluvsgadgets.n...

Shugs

December 26, 2015, 12:04 am

Just got one for xmas.... LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE IT!

Ryland Johnson

December 28, 2015, 5:17 pm

Been buying hifi for over 45 years. Heard most of it and owned an awful lot. Though this tiny speaker cannot be classed as hifi it is certainly a phenomenal speaker taking into account its size. Its expensive but it is value for money.
I was truly surprised by the sound reproduction of this tiny portable speaker. Made like a Bulgarian shot putter yet a subtle sounding as a member of the Bolshoi ballet.
Superb piece of audio mini engineering and for once I actually agree with a review written on Trusted reviews, now THAT does concern me!

Ryland Johnson

December 28, 2015, 5:27 pm

Audio sound is highly subjective. No pair of ears are the same hence the choices we thankfully have.
Many of these 'comparisons' are in reality futile. Its what sound YOU enjoy that counts and not what a reviewer-peer thinks is 'good' or how well it 'compares' with another speaker.
Buy speakers with your own ears. In reality there is no such thing in hifi as 'the best'. Far too many parameters to take into consideration. Age being one of them. I have found that as I age I no longer find that highly clinical top end sound of multi thousand pound hifi systems particularly rewarding.
I tend to enjoy a less clinical, less demanding sound. As a teen, young man it was bass bass bass. That has also changed.

Ryland Johnson

December 28, 2015, 5:30 pm

The Denon is fine. Again its musical taste. Sound is so subjective.
I prefer the Bose but others will thankfully prefer the Denon. Use YOUR own ears.

Ryland Johnson

December 28, 2015, 5:39 pm

I suggest to hear this speaker before passing judgement. Where has anyone even suggested this tiny portable speaker is "Audiophile" quality?
One needs to be realistic when reviewing such devices. The Bose is a portable tiny bluetooth speaker not a multi grand home audiophile system.
Taking into account what the Bose is, its size and costs, its a highly accomplished speaker.

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