It’s well-known that I am constantly looking for high quality audio products, and today I want to talk about one that I initially had misgivings about, but later felt much more comfortable with. It is the **Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile Speaker. Before I get into my impressions, I want to let you know that if you’d like to hear all the products I speak about in this review, side by side, you can go into any Apple Store where they have all the products I’ll be discussing in one place.
When I first got the SoundLink Dock, I set it on a shelf and connected it with my phone. At that point, I hadn’t examined a manual at all, so this was not a terribly easy or intuitive process. The product is about the size of a hard-cover Bible when closed, with a choice of either a leather cover, which sells for $349, or a nylon cover, which sells for $299. To use the dock, you flip back the cover and basically stand the book on its spine. Across the top you have three slightly indented buttons which are, from left to right: power, auxiliary, and bluetooth. After a space, there are three more buttons: mute, volume up, and volume down. Note that when you mute the device, you need to either press mute again or volume up to unmute it. The only documentation that came with the unit was a print manual, but a Google search for the PDF, available from the Bose Website put me in charge of what I was doing in short order. After that, setup was very easy. I was anxious to try this with bluetooth. So, I held down the bluetooth button on the dock for a count of ten. This puts the dock into discovery mode. After that, it was easy to go into my iPhone’s Bluetooth settings and it connected immediately. Now, whenever I want to connect the iPhone, I only need to tap the Bluetooth button on the Bose, and it connects automatically, with no further interaction from me. The doc will remember up to six Bluetooth devices.
The mistake I made with this product when I first got it is that I compared it to the sound of other Bose products, like myBose SoundDock Portable Digital Music System. Ricky has the Bose SoundDock Series II Digital Music System for iPod, which is similar but does not have a battery for portable use. Look for reviews of these and other docks in the archives. Both Ricky and I were thoroughly impressed with the sound of these docks, and I expected the SoundLink II to be comparable in that respect. This isn’t the case, as there’s a definite difference in sound quality with the SoundLink. With that said, there are certainly reasons to choose the SoundLink over the portable dock. For example, with the SoundDock portable system, be aware that it is for iOS devices only. It has a 3.5 inch jack for auxiliary input, but it does not lend itself to being thrown in a backpack. If you carry the iPod in the dock while walking, the iPod moves around and can become disconnected. In comparison, this morning, I was out tandem biking with my workout partner, and we were able to put the SoundLink in a backpack with no problem. One thing I didn’t like was that the cover needed to be open, so it had to sit on its little stand inside the backpack. The sound was phenomenal, although not as bass-intensive as my portable dock. The beauty of the SoundLink is that it is compact, but has big sound. While the sound is not as good as that of the portable dock I have or the SoundDock Series II that Ricky has, that slight trade-off in sound is made up for by its portability and the fact that you can connect it to a variety of devices. The battery life is documented at eight hours, although if you play it at maximum volume, it will only last about three to four hours, as stated in the manual. It is a little expensive, but is worth the money.
One of the things I like about Bose is that you can buy it directly from them, and you can choose to pay it off over a year. They charge your card monthly, and there is no interest. This makes ownership of one of these products quite compelling. Of course, if you want to buy one of these products outright, you are welcome to buy it from Amazon.com. You can do that through the links in this review and support our podcasts in the process.
I am one of those people who don’t necessarily trust Bose because there is a lot of variability among their different products. For that reason, I won’t buy a Bose product without first hearing it. Bose and Amazon both have 30-day return policies, but the ability to walk into an Apple or Bose Store in the mall really made a difference in my decision. Still, having it at home, and being able to use it in various real-life scenarios was the clincher. I will be keeping this dock and adding it to my essential gear when I travel. Overall, this is a great gift, but expensive, so buy it for someone you really, really love, or buy it for yourself.
I think it’s a “thumbs-up” for this product, and if asked, I’d give it four out of five stars. It’s just my opinion, but I think Bose could have worked a bit harder to make the audio a little closer to the other sound dock. If you want a nice shiny toy for Christmas, (and I’ll be talking about a couple other shiny toys for Christmas before the holidays come), this is one you definitely want to get for yourself. I know there are other sound docks out there, but you get what you pay for, and I think you’ll find that if you get this one, you’ll feel it was a good investment as I did.
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