23 Bose SoundLink blackYears ago I was wandering around a European airport and heard interesting music coming from an electronics shop, and I wondered what was creating it. It turned out to be a Bose SoundLink Mini; sized like a fruit juice carton yet pumping so much music it didn’t just fill the shop, it spilled into the concourse to draw in people like me. How could something so small work so hard?

But getting heaps of volume from tiny speakers has been a Bose hallmark since its Acoustimass systems of the late 1980s, and it continues with the latest Bluetooth offerings, the $439, 18 cm tall Revolve Plus and the $299, 15 cm Revolve (without a plus). Pair even the small Revolve with your Bluetooth player and you’ll get enough volume to power a small party, and with the volume maxed out the distortion is so minimal that most of your guests won’t notice it. The Plus goes a bit louder, again with minimal distortion.

Wind the volume back and sit one of these on your desk and you’ll get good quality musical reproduction while you work. Good enough for background music anyway but not good enough to get you involved, emotional or tapping your foot. Which brings me to why I find these two speakers puzzling.

23 Bose Sound Link Revolve bWhen my little hi-res audio player, carrying all my test music at CD quality, told me the connection was being made with SBC – standard Bluetooth – rather than the audibly much superior aptX I wondered why Bose of all people, was not using aptX. So I fired off an email and received the following reply; nine-tenths PR, one-tenth tech.

“AptX is a proprietary codec that requires both source and receiver to support,” someone there replied. “Bose supports the latest Bluetooth 4.2 A2DP industry standard that is compatible with the majority of Bluetooth products in the market.”

Is this writer trying to imply that aptX isn’t compatible with other Bluetooth products, well, audio products anyway? The statement gave me the impression that were the Revolves fitted with aptX they wouldn’t work with standard Bluetooth devices, and that’s certainly not my experience. Okay, connect an aptX device (like my hi-res player) to a non-aptX device (like the Revolve greater or lesser) and you’ll get music. Only at SBC quality but music nevertheless. But when both player and receiver have aptX you’ll get the superior audio quality the codec offers. Bluetooth audio devices work with all other Bluetooth audio devices, but the audio is only ever at the capability of the lowest-fidelity device.

23 Bose Sound Link Revolve innardsFor all of that both Revolves (available in black or silver) sound pretty good with a nice balance between highs and lows and good definition, and they’re a step up from most SBC-only Bluetooth speakers and pretty good value. My frustration is that with aptX they’d sound better. I have a pair of hard-wired Bose desk speakers either side of my monitor that I use mostly for music and these, bought on run-out for $99 the pair, sound better than the unapologetically monaural Revolves. But the great attraction with the Revolves is portability, not to mention water resistance. You’ll get up to 12 hours of music between charges with the Revolve depending on the volume, and up to 16 with the Plus. The Plus, with a handle, weighs 900 grams, the smaller one is 660 grams.

The other thing is that they’re omnidirectional and this really works. Plonk them down facing in any direction and the sound radiates evenly through 360 degrees meaning no one gets favourable treatment over anyone else.

Published June 2017


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