The Bose SoundLink is the latest device to take a crack at wireless music streaming in the home. With audio credentials few rivals can match and superbly simple setup, it’s an intriguing notion. Read our Bose SoundLink review to see if it can live up to its potential.
The SoundLink may mark Bose’s first foray into networked music streaming, but the concept itself is hardly new. By now, many of us have ‘set our music free’ several times over, and for significantly less money than Bose wants for the SoundLink.
In fact, the price difference between the Bose and just about everything else is enough to make direct comparisons all but impossible, although the new Sonos ZonePlayer S5 is its nearest rival. The design of the speaker unit is clean and unfussy, looking rather like an iPod dock with the docking station removed. The only buttons on the unit itself are volume controls down the right edge, with a small eight-button remote adding transport and power controls.
An Aux port on the back of the unit means allows you to hook up external devices, but the SoundLink’s primary purpose is to play or stream music from a computer, and here the included USB key comes in.
This thumb-sized device has a small antenna that swings to vertical and hijacks any audio your PC or Mac produces, sending it to the speaker unit rather than the computer’s own speakers.
It does this using RF frequencies between the two devices, rather than a wireless home network as is the norm. The reason is simplicity: switch on the speaker unit, plug in the USB key and you’re good to go. There’s no software to install or setup process to follow whatsoever.
At this point the SoundLink starts to make a lot more sense. It’s a high-end product designed to give well-heeled music fans the same simplicity and audio performance from their digital audio that they would expect from a good hi-fi system. The SoundLink is all about the music, and given Bose’s reputation for room-filling sound from surprisingly small speakers, that’s how it should be.
In fact, the SoundLink did more for our digital music collection, including a good few humble 128kbps MP3s, than any other similar system we’ve used. The sheer size and quality of the sound really is exceptional for such a small unit, and with setup so simple, even the most PC-hating audiophile can have little to complain about.
And that is the SoundLink’s success. Until now, digital music collections required a computing solution to listen to audio on an external device. The SoundLink is an audio solution, and the results are quite literally music to our ears.