- Excellent Build Quality
- Classic design
- Good sound quality for the size
- Too large to travel, too weak for the home
- Premium pricing
- Review Price: £259.00
- Bluetooth with A2DP Connectivity
- Integrated Lithium Ion Battery
- Built in cover doubles as a stand
- Entry Level Bose Sound System
The ‘SoundLink Wireless Mobile speaker’ was announced earlier this month to a great deal of fanfare. The SoundDock Portable has been the company’s long serving iPhone dock for those who like their music on the move, but the SoundLink is significantly smaller, lighter and cheaper. For those lusting after a Bose system it presents a new low entry point.
How much smaller, lighter and cheaper? The SoundLink measures 244 x 130 x 48mm and weighs 1.3Kg verses the SoundDock’s 307 x 175 x 103mm and 2.37Kg. It is also £90 less expensive. It’s a positive start and seems to fill a hole in Bose’s product range. So what do you get? Bose is typically hush hush about the technology inside the SoundLink giving no performance specs whatsoever. To quote the company:
“It combines four low-profile neodymium transducers for clear high- and mid-frequencies, with new dual-opposing passive radiators – designed with a patented waffle-shaped surround – for rich, deep, low notes. With the radiators placed in an opposing fashion, vibration is eliminated, turning the energy into acoustic power. The speaker’s audio package is complemented with sophisticated electronics, including Bose digital signal processing algorithms, to reproduce instrument definition and detail at any volume.”
That’s your lot.
Less ambiguous are the SoundLink’s other attributes. It uses Bluetooth and A2DP to pair to devices, holds up to six devices in memory, but only connects to one at a time. Bose quotes a pairing distance of up to 10 metres, a battery life reaching eight hours with a three hour charge time and the obligatory 3.5mm auxiliary jack to connect to any device lacking Bluetooth.
Styling is retro and angular with Bose’s distinct silver grill and build quality is typically excellent. The large controls (power, auxiliary source, Bluetooth source [hold to pair], mute and volume up and down) eschew the trend for touch sensitive buttons and feel substantial and durable when pressed. A built in cover automatically switches off the SoundLink when closed and folds underneath creating a stable base when open. The standard version of the SoundLink has a nylon cover, a ‘premium’ edition upgrades this to leather for £40 more – bringing the price to a hefty £299. Our review unit was the leather edition, which does add a luxury feel, but your bank balance and feelings about animal products will determine whether you have the slightest interest in this.
More to the point, your interest will be far more reliant on how the SoundLink performs and that is far from straightforward…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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