Bose may be best known for going bigger and better when it comes to their audio products, but they're going for a slightly different tact with their new SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker. A portable, durable unit, it's designed to bring high quality sound into an "on-the-go" form factor. We went hands-on at a preview event last night. Read on for our initial thoughts.
The SoundLink looks a treat. Available in two builds (one with a range of leather finishes and chrome edging, and a cheaper version with a nylon cover in a range of colours with matte edging), it's a neat speaker that has a slight retro feel to it. It's a little bit bigger than your average portable sound box, and a little bit on the heavy side too, but with quoted playback times of 8 hours from a single charge at average volume levels, it seems most of the weight may be down to a sizeable rechargeable battery on the inside.
It's also incredibly durable according to the Bose reps we spoke to. Though we didn't put it through the same rigorous tests Bose claim to have, the SoundLink can apparently survive hundreds upon hundreds of drops, and can take a soaking if left out in the rain for a short while. In a smart move, the front coloured covering also contains a sheet of aluminium to help protect the speaker grille when it magnetically snaps shut. The cover also folds back to act as a stand for the SoundLink, and even automatically swtiches the speaker off when it is closed.
A Bluetooth speaker, pairing your smartphone or Bluetooth-enabled device with the speaker is a piece of cake. It's simply a matter of hitting the Bluetooth button on the speaker and scanning for local Bluetooth devices on your mobile, and will work just as well with an Android, BlackBerry or Nokia phone as it would an iPhone. Surprisingy, there's no AirPlay support, though the Bluetooth pairing itself is more-or-less just as simple. There's no docking station here, and thus no charging of your music player, but even older, non-Bluetooth devices can be hooked up through a 3.5mm aux port on the back.
Most important of course however is the sound quality. For the most part this seemed very good indeed. Despite its size, the SoundLink can be cranked up to high volume levels using digital signal processing to avoid distortion. The trade off here is that compression becomes evident at higher volumes, capping the dynamic range of tracks somewhat. However, it was good to hear the super lows of Daft Punk's "Da Funk" blare out without clipping, and likewise the sharp highs of Del Shannon's "Runaway" surviving without too much scratching.
High performance then, but also at a high price; £259 for the nylon-covered model, and £299 for the premium LX version.
We'll have a full review shortly, so keep your peepers peeled.