42 Bose SoundLink Micro bThere’s a ridiculously simple trick hi fi salespeople use when they want to steer you into buying a particular speaker; they turn up the volume. We humans have a common quirk with
hearing; louder always sounds better.

Bose cottoned onto this decades ago and it has become very good at loud, particularly at getting lots of volume out of small packages. Exhibit A: Its latest SoundLink Micro. The box it comes in reinforces the Bluetooth speaker’s abilities by having just one word on the lid: ‘Tiny’. Open the box and you’re greeted with the device alongside the words; ‘Until you turn it on’. Bose is also very good at marketing.

The phone-compatible Micro is 9.5 cm square and 3.8 cm deep. Take it out and you’ll note the belt strap on the back, I guess for all those times you want a speaker strapped to your belt. I used it to hang the Micro from the line while I was pegging out last week’s laundry; it’s waterproof by the way. Actually Bose claims you can drop it in the ocean without damage but a note of advice here: Bluetooth doesn’t work under water.

42 Bose SoundLink Micro cThe quick-start guide tells you to download an app, and that’s all the guidance you get, but you don’t need it to operate the Micro, it will connect with any Bluetooth sender in the regular way and has voice prompts to advise status. It’s only a standard SBC connection; in a speaker of this size SBC probably provides adequate quality for all but the nutters.

It goes up to full volume without distorting, but high-range notes get noticeably harsh up here, even a bit grating. However it’s good enough to keep a small outdoor gathering of friends happy, and I guess the sound quality will be acceptable to all but fussy folk like me.

I did a big rave a few months ago about Sony’s terrific little SRSXB10 so I grabbed one for comparison. It’s also very compact and a little lighter than the Bose, and also operates Bluetooth SBC. And it’s way cheaper. At its then recommended retail price of $79 I said it was one of the best bargains in audio. Now it’s $59. The Bose is $170.

42 Bose SoundLink Micro aProvided you buy two of either, both the Bose and the Sony can be set up as stereo pairs, both have been built tough and the Bose is waterproof to the Sony’s water-resistant. But turn the volume up and the Bose shows its edge. The Sony is no slouch but the difference in maximum volume is noticeable and the Bose fills a bigger space. This comes at a price and it’s more than the extra $111; the Bose needs charging after six hours, the Sony is good for 16.

Play both of these at the same volume level, enough to provide company while you’re working in a home office or reading on the couch, and it’s hard to pick much in the way of sound quality differences although to my ear the Sony has a rounder, better balanced sound. The Bose is a little stronger in the low range but the bass is not pronounced. I’d find it hard to justify paying almost three times the price.

That would be different were I into bass and needed lots of volume, or wanted music at the beach or by the pool. But for a more mellow sound across the full audible range, something loud enough to fill my personal space nicely, I’d buy the Sony.

Published November 2017


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