Performance & Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

7

Put simply the SoundLink sounds good… for its size and it is this latter part which causes frustration.

Bose systems have a typically 'warm' sound and the SoundLink is no different. It is happiest at comfortable listening volumes where the speaker's bass and midrange detail combine well to create a rich and enjoyable listening experience. This is important and it is where the SoundLink will likely spend the majority of its time.

6

Where it becomes less comfortable is low and high volumes. When quiet the SoundLink suffers from a lack of detail, the bass becomes heavy and the sound is muddier. It won't trouble a mainstream consumer, but audiophiles will take issue. The problem inverts when you crank up the SoundLink. Maximum volume is surprisingly loud for its size, but the bass cannot keep up and rock, dance and hip hop fans will find the SoundLink sounds restricted and held back. We were surprised at the omission of AirPlay, but it would not have fixed this flaw.

4

What makes our analysis less straightforward is the aforementioned size. 244 x 130 x 48mm and 1.3Kg makes the SoundLink easy to carry into the garden, but less convenient to pack into a suitcase. If you want the SoundLink for home use you'd be far better off paying a little more for the Arcam rCube, especially at its new reduced price. Likewise for a traveller the tiny Aliph Jawbone Jambox (151 x 57 x 40mm, 327g} may not sound as good, but it will still do justice to a hotel room and at £159 it is significantly cheaper. The SoundLink fits in well with Bose's product portfolio, but we're not sure where it fits into our lives.

The SoundLink also faces a substantial challenger in the Bluetooth equipped Altec Lansing InMotion Air. It may look uglier, be bigger and come from a less fashionable brand, but the audio is almost as good, it is certainly as loud and it costs just £149. All of which is something of a shame, because the SoundLink is a good product. It is well made, for its size the sound quality is strong (especially at its mid volume sweet spot) and there is excellent battery life. We didn't manage to hit Bose's claimed eight hours, but you'll get six to seven at the volume the SoundLink is most suited.

5

Verdict

Bose has created an attractive, high quality mobile speaker whose biggest failing is its market positioning. Big in the suitcase, but underpowered for the home it is hard to see where the SoundLink Portable fits in. Were it cheap this would cease to be a problem, but £249-£299 (depending on the choice of finish) places it too close to top notch home docks and too far from more convenient, ultraportable travel speakers. We like it Bose, we just can't work out where to use it.

Overall Score

7

Scores In Detail

  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Usability 9
  • Value 6

oluv

September 28, 2011, 3:17 pm

too large for travel? so please show me a better alternative! the jambox? it sounds like a toy compared to the soundlink and the jambox distorts at levels where the soundlink sounds best.
a logitech wireless boombox? it is even larger than the soundlink and sounds worse, especially when run from batteries.
i would have also liked the soundlink to be even smaller, but for what it is, it sounds pretty perfect and blows away most larger "portable" speakers i have tried.

Downing

September 28, 2011, 11:08 pm

I'd have to agree with oluv's take on this.

I bought the SoundLink precisely because, at the size of a typical hardback book, it's perfect for travel. I used to take my SoundDock Portable with me on vacation, but now I can simply slip the SoundLink into my satchel and free up some valuable room in my carry-on bag by leaving the SDP at home.

As far as what audiophiles think of the SoundLink's audio performance, let's remember we're talking about a bluetooth portable speaker, not a Bowers & Wilkins home theater system. Apples and oranges.

For its size and weight, the SL sounds great. As noted in the review, the build quality is excellent and the unit is simple to setup and operate. Bose hit a home run with this one.

Gordon394

September 29, 2011, 3:24 pm

Size is a matter of opinion. For my money a portable speaker which ways more than a portable laptop is a significant size and a large part of luggage allowance. It also costs within £50 of the best premium iPod dock currently on the market (the Arcam rCube).

I'd suggest it is too large and too expensive for it is, but what it is IS a good product. Make it 30% smaller and 30% cheaper and it would be superb. We'll keep our fingers crossed for version 2.0.

Gordon394

September 29, 2011, 3:28 pm

Please see my reply above. Of course the Jambox doesn't compare, it is 1/4 of the weight, 1/4 of the size. But it is not 1/4 of the sound quality and it is almost half the price. For a hotel room it is more than adequate for most unless you are planning a room party... at which point the SoundLink isn't loud enough.

The SoundLink is a good product, I do say that but it falls between too stools: it is 80% of the cost of a high quality home dock like the rCube and 4x the weight and twice the cost of many travel speakers.

oluv

September 29, 2011, 6:45 pm

@Gordon: I appreciate your comment, but I still beg to differ.
The Jambox costs 199,-€ officially here in Austria, the Soundlink 299,- So the Jambox is rather 1/3 cheaper instead of 1/2.
Also sizewise I would never manage to fit 4 Jamboxes inside the Soundlink, maybe 3.14159... ;-) have a look here: http://img828.imageshack.us/img828/7964/jamboxundsoundlink10890.jpg

And i don't know if there is sample variation, but my Jambox sounds horrible at higher levels. I had to exchange it twice, but mine still does resonate inside the body, and although I opened it and tried some dampening I was not able to fix it. There are particular frequencies from guitar and piano sounds that make the Jambox sound like a trumpet. Soundwise it is no comparison to the Soundlink. I would definitely say, that the Soundlink sounds 3-4 times better and louder than the Jambox (at least mine).
The Jambox would sound nice near maximum volume, but you already have to fight with distortion at these levels and you have to apply some tricks and place it near a corner or at the ground in order to improve bass-response. At low levels it has no bass, no power, it sounds just like my notebook-speakers. Therefore in my case the Jambox is not an option (even with the new Liveaudio update, which makes the Jambox sound better at low volume but starts to distort at medium levels)

And because you mention a room party: I had the Soundlink in the garden at the pool with some friends and I didn't even need to turn it up to the max to have lots of fun to some Miguel Migs housetrax. This thing can really pump out some serious bass and annoy your nearby neighbours.

The rCube is definitely a compelling speaker, now with the announced discount, although I haven't heard it yet. But here in Austria it still costs 600€. For that price I'll rather take 3 Altec Lansing MIX and spread them around in my garden for maximum sound ;-)

Christopher

April 1, 2013, 10:37 am

that is great! really, i mean it! thanks for sharing!

Mouldy

September 2, 2013, 2:09 pm

Went to isten to the SL never heard a better portable ever

oluv

October 14, 2013, 3:30 pm

the new soundlink mini is the best portable speaker, period!
it even beats the bigger soundlink, which was no slouch either. of course it cannot reach that high levels, but at comfortable volume it is hard to beat at this size. jambox, jbl charge, beats pill etc become toys soundwise when directly compared.

oluv

October 14, 2013, 3:31 pm

so why haven't you already tried or reviewed the soundlink mini then?
it is 1/4 the size, but soundwise even better than the bigger version.

Andrew Corris

January 12, 2015, 4:37 pm

I tried out every bluetooth speaker I could find and very nearly went down the Bose route. However, at the last moment I discovered the recently announced Denon Envaya Mini DSB100 (smaller brother to the larger Envaya DSB200).

It has literally unbelievable sound for £99 and really sets an incredible standard for a speaker that size. TR should definitely try to get hold of one for testing.

Genuinely, if you are looking to buy the Soundlink Mini or similar, then do all you can to try the Envaya Mini first. I cannot recommend it enough.

comments powered by Disqus