Music: Portable sound quality with the Bose Soundlink Mini

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Bose Soundlink Mini

The growing popularity of Bluetooth speakers

The Bose Soundlink Mini joins an ever growing category of the Bluetooth connected wireless speakers. The consumer gadgets stores have been awash with Bluetooth speakers over the last six months, and according to CNET,  at the CES 2014 show there seemed to be hundreds more, including one dressed up as a full sized Dalek

It’s easy to see the appeal, the mix of easy to use wireless connectivity together with instant sounds that can be shared with friends at the beach in the hotel room, coupled with a smartphone and Spotify, is an appealing proposition

I’ve resisted buying one until recently, as a self confessed audiophile, the Bluetooth’s low compression rates, and pretty terrible speaker range, didn’t ever wow me into making a purchase.

Bose Soundlink Mini

However, Bose recently launched another more portable product in their Bluetooth range, the Soundlink Mini.  Handsomely clad in aluminium, it’s design caught my eye.  Passing a Bose stockist in Singapore, I gave it a very quick workout with my iPhone and Spotify, and the following week, stranded in Schiphol airport for a whole day, gave me ample time to test every Bluetooth device they had in the excellent gadgets shop. Impressed with the little Bose’s sonic performance, and with a two week holiday coming up, I bought one.  (BTW – the runner up in my Airport sample was the Sony SRS-BTX500, which had a wider soundstage than the Bose, but is significantly larger)

I’ve never previously been that wowed by Bose gear.  Yes, it’s undoubtedly good quality and well engineered, but I’ve always thought of them as a brand bought by people easily swayed by Bose’s print advertising, often trumpeting gimmicky sounding terms like Acoustimass, rather than for hi-fi audiophiles.

The Soundlink Mini though is by the best sounding Bluetooth speaker I’ve come across.

Music Quality

The bass response is a standout.  For such a tiny unit, it can grip and render low frequency notes with impressive solidity, punch, with none of the boxiness from cheaper rivals.  There is virtually no distortion, almost right the way up to full volume.

Mid and upper range are consistently good too, and while overall sparkle and definition are lacking, this may be down more to the resolution limits of Bluetooth.  Switching to the 3.5 jack, and selecting aux, reveals more of the top end, but at the expense of a little harshness.

The bass response makes this unit perhaps better suited for more electronic and dance genres, rather than say classical or rock, where a wider, coherent frequency range is needed.  But pretty much everyone who heard the Bose on my travels was impressed that something so small can belt out music with such gusto.

Build Quality

This is where the Bose really excels.  It feels superb quality with real heft and weight for the size.  The one piece aluminium housing clads the speakers in a rigid enclosure, eliminating hollowness and vibrations, but does make the unit reasonably heavy – worth thinking about if you want to use the unit on short haul trips where hand luggage weights maybe limited

Soft rubber control buttons on top are well laid out, with raised buttons for the volume controls – handy when you’re fumbling in the dark.

On the side are two inputs, one for power, and the other for an auxiliary jack.   The unit comes with a charging cradle, which makes for easy re-charging, but can be dispensed with if on the move.  It doesn’t support charging via USB unfortunately, meaning you’ll have to carry the dedicated Bose charging plug.  I get about 6+ hours playback on a fill charge

Optional extras – at a price –  include a rubber bumper cover, which protects the little Bose from knocks, and also a carrying case.

Other Specs and Recommendation

The Bose doesn’t come with a some of the features some of it’s competitors have.  The most notable absence is the lack of hands free facility for Smartphones, which might be handy for long calls.  It’s not a feature I particularly need however.

Being Bose it’s not cheap, I picked mine up for 160 euros, and it costs significantly more than that in SE Asia, but considering the brand and quality, it’s reasonably priced.   If you’re looking for the right balance of  size to sound quality,  and you travel a lot, then the Bose is worthy of strong consideration.




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