Bose Soundlink Mini: The Small but Mighty Portable Speaker
The Bose Soundlink Mini ($199) is made by a company whose noise-canceling products are best known for tuning out wailing babies on airplanes (an otherwise impossible task) — so we had great expectations. A wireless speaker is a gadget company's hottest ticket these days, and Bose, a 50-year-old audio veteran, has been relatively slow at conforming to the latest trend, while Jawbone, Beats, and others have unveiled smaller, lighter, and more affordable speakers yearly.
But it was well worth the wait. We spent a couple of weeks with the Soundlink Mini, which felt, looked, and sounded like an all-around high-end product. Keep reading to learn more about this small but mighty speaker, and find out if we think it's worth the money.
The first thing I noticed is that the Bose Soundlink Mini is a striking sight. It has a markedly different look than its more premium predecessor, the Bose Soundlink, in the best way possible.
The textured plastic and rubberized metals of its competitor, the Beats Pill, as well as the Jawbone Jambox are not apparent in the Bose speaker. When next to a MacBook, it's hard not to see the hardware similarity. The Soundlink Mini is wrapped in the same brushed aluminum, which gives the speaker a premium feel and weight when you first pick it up.
The Big Bass Challenge
The front and back are encased by a fine metal mesh, the kind you'd see on a $1,500 surround sound system. It's not exactly rugged, which is why Bose offers a variety of covers ($25) to protect the speaker from the elements.
The sound coming from behind that mesh certainly matches how good this speaker looks on the outside.
The Soundlink Mini was a champ, playing everything from George Gershwin's full-bodied Rhapsody in Blue to Led Zeppelin's sweet, melodic Stairway to Heaven. Midtones were warm yet crisp, low registers had great depth, and the percussions punched through.
James Blake's Limit to Your Love, which has the deepest womping bass of any song I know, was the only challenger. The Soundlink Mini struggles only slightly with the lowest frequencies. The speaker works so hard to accommodate these bass sounds that it vibrates.
This is disappointing to any diehard dubstep or electronic music fan, but the Soundlink Mini is fantastic at producing the sounds of rock, classical, R&B, hip-hop, blues, pop, and just about every other genre.
A Fuss-Free Charging Cradle
There's one lithium ion battery in the Soundlink Mini. It holds up to seven hours of battery life, which was enough to keep the party going and then some. I can't imagine taking this speaker outside, since its aluminum casing and fine metal mesh is so precious, but I can imagine it on the desk of some student or apartment dweller who's not quite ready to splurge on an audio system but still wants great sound that fits into a small space.
A charging cradle is included with the speaker. While it takes a bit of practice to line up the charging port with the cradle, I do love how elegantly and seamlessly the speaker fits into the dock. It keeps the cable out of the way, and it makes moving the Soundlink around after charging very simple. If you're moving to the kitchen from the bedroom, removing the device from the cradle is as simple as lifting it.
A Rubber Grip That Stays Put
The rubber grip on the bottom is meant to keep the sleek aluminum casing from sliding around on surfaces, and it certainly does its job. Sticky is one word to describe this rubber. An unfortunate side effect is the grip's ability to attract dirt, but that shouldn't really matter since the rubber is bottom-facing anyway.
There are only two ports on the side of the device: one for wall charging without the cradle and an auxiliary port for a wired audio connection.
The Bose Soundlink Mini and any phone, tablet, or laptop make the perfect pair. Like any Bluetooth-enabled device, the speaker works wirelessly up to 30 feet away, but I think it looks/works best right on my desk. I can't imagine the results of dropping this beautifully designed audio product, so I'd say it loses a few points on portability, but Bose does make accessories to protect the Soundlink Mini.
Hands down, it's the best wireless portable speaker I've listened to, and I'd definitely fork over two Benjamin Franklins for this device.