Tech Review: Bose SoundLink Micro is a top performer for something so small

Let’s get straight to it: Bose have struck excellent balance with their SoundLink Micro, released earlier this year, and it’s arguably the best sounding speaker of its size that you’ll find on the shelves this holiday season. The soft, rubbery square Bluetooth speaker with rounded edges is being pushed as the reliable audio company’s appeal to the rough and rugged adventurer type, presenting a device ideally designed for outdoor use with an IPX7 waterproof rating, which means it can be fully submerged in about 1 metre of water for up to 30 minutes without issue.

The outdoor-first design also means an elegant, minimal aesthetic that is pleasant when compared to the candy-coated glow of its competitors. Available in bright orange, standard black or midnight blue, the one-colour design is a confident, grounded look that fits in well with the speaker’s impressive, mature performance. The SoundLink Micro is surprisingly loud for something that weighs only 290 grams; the profile is rich and nuanced at all ranges, saving noticeable distortion at max volume. It’s crispy and articulate sound is punctuated by bass that’s got some real depth to it, but again this is less appealing at max volume, where the bass does compress a bit.

The detailed sound is beautifully handled by a custom mounted transducer and two passive radiators, most valuable at the near-perfect (given the size and the need for waterproofing) lower end. Performance wise, there’s little to fault here, especially when complemented by the smart and functional design that largely relies on a deceptively strong tear-resistant silicone strap that can easily clip onto anything from bike handlebars to poles. The problem here is that the sound is only really at its best in one direction – that of the front-facing speaker grille. The linearity is a limitation but hardly surprising for, again, something small enough to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand.

Bose promise a playback time of around six hours; from my time with the device that claim is definitely substantiated. Actually, you could squeeze one of two hours longer out of this thing if the volume is kept at a reasonable level, making it ideal for the camper or (respectful) beach-goer.

On the speaker itself are just five buttons in total as well as a micro USB port. No AUX port is included which is disappointing but that could be to improve the waterproof rating. The top of the device features the simple on/off switch on one side of the USB port and the Bluetooth connectivity button on the other. Four small LEDs are included to indicate battery life, which is clearly vocalised each time the speaker is turned on (in addition to what device the speaker is connected to).

Between the speaker grille and Bose logo are volume buttons and a central multi-function button that can access a device’s voice assistant like Google Assistant (Android) or Siri (Apple) and all the benefits that brings. As we move into a world where smart homes and voice assistants are on the uptake, even for casual consumers, this smart button is a welcome addition even for those who won’t get much use out of it. A microphone has also been included for issue-free voice calls, all of which can be answered with the multi-function button.

Like the sturdy strap on the back, all of these buttons are seamless on the silicone exterior and only very slightly raised to ensure the speaker looks and feels as smooth as possible.

The Bose Connect smartphone app is only really necessary for those who want to pair the device with an additional Bose speaker. Only allowing two devices to be paired at once is limiting, especially when competitors are opening up their ecosystems to multiple speakers, but for primary use this isn’t really an issue. The app can also be used to turn the device on and off, which is deal for those who like to place it out of reach.

While not perfect, it seems like Bose have nailed it with this tiny practical Bluetooth speaker. Something this small shouldn’t be as high in price as it is, but the company have upped the value a bit by ensuring this is one of the best – if not the best – performing ultra-portable speakers on the market. Still, while it does have a slight edge over something like Sony’s almost-as-good SRSXB10, it’s more than double the price. Best wait until to see if this dips for Boxing Day sales before you go and out and buy one.

Score: 8.8 out of 10
Highlights: Best sound for size you’ll find out there, at low and mid volumes; intuitive app and easy set-up; access to voice assistants with multi-function button; calls are clear and issue-free; beautiful and durable design; exceptional waterproofing; convenience.
Lowlights: Can only pair two devices; price point a bit too high; distorts at max volume.
Manufacturer: Bose
Price: AU$169.00
Available: Now