Bose bets on Bluetooth with new SoundLink Wireless Mobile speaker

Bose has started shipping a sexy new portable Bluetooth speaker--the SoundLink Wireless Mobile--that plays bigger than its size.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Nook e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Mobile accessories and portable audio, including headphones, earbuds and speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
3 min read
The Bose SoundLink Wireless Mobile speaker starts at $299.95 and is available now (click to enlarge). Bose

In the early days of the iPhone, Bose was one of the first major companies to make a big push into the iPhone/iPod speaker dock market with its SoundDock. Now the company is hoping to reach an even larger, platform-agnostic audience with a new portable Bluetooth speaker, the SoundLink Wireless Mobile.

As with all of Bose's significant launches, the company takes great care in introducing its product to the media, with a carefully orchestrated presentation followed by hands-on demos using iOS and Android Bluetooth-enabled devices. The top of the Trump Soho was the stage for the SoundLink Wireless Mobile's unveiling and we were generally impressed with what we saw--and heard--when we weren't being distracted by the near panoramic views of the Hudson River and lower Manhattan.

In a nod to Apple's brilliant accessory strategy, the speaker is currently available in two models, one that has a "standard" trim level and comes with a dark gray nylon cover for $299.95, and a higher-end version called the LX that has "automotive-grade" chrome trim and a dark brown leather cover for $349.95. Like Apple's Smart Cover for the iPad 2, Bose's cover acts as a stand and automatically shuts off the speaker when you flip it over to protect the front of the speaker. And as you'd expect, Bose is selling additional nylon and leather covers for $29.95 and 49.95, respectively.

The guts of the speaker (click to enlarge). Bose

Not surprisingly, Bose talked about the design and engineering challenges of getting good sound out of a very compact speaker. The speaker's four low-profile neodymium transducers (high and mid frequencies) and dual-opposing passive radiators (bass) were detailed, and from what we heard, the speaker played loud and sounded quite decent for its size. Bluetooth compression diminishes sound quality, but in a smaller speaker such as this (that has its sound limitations), it's less of a factor (translation: bigger, higher-end speakers would be more apt to accentuate the flaws in your source material).

As for battery life, Bose rates the unit at 3 to 4 hours playing at loud volumes, but says you can get double that at "typical listening levels."

While the SoundLink Wireless Mobile looks sleek, elegant, perhaps even a bit dainty, and would seem more suited to indoor listening, Bose made it a point to promote how durable and rugged the unit is, showing video from its testing facilities in Framingham, Mass., where the product was dropped repeatedly on various surfaces, had its buttons pushed thousands of times, and put in a chamber and exposed to salt-fog.

The speaker's cover is detachable and comes in leather or nylon (four colors are available at launch). Nylon covers cost $29.95, and leather goes for $49.95. Bose

At this price point, Bose is targeting the same type of people who buy its noise-canceling headphones and would be looking for a premium portable speaker to take on the road with them. Bose's portable Blueotooth speaker isn't nearly as small as the Jawbone Jambox (it's probably 3 times heavier). Nor does it offer speakerphone capabilities. But it plays considerably louder and sounds much better.

We should be getting a review sample soon and will post a full review by the end of the month. In the meantime, let us know what you think of the speaker in the comments section.

Editors' note: In 2009, Bose released the $550 SoundLink Wireless System. It was promoted as a home audio system that allowed you to stream music from your PC to the speaker. We have a feeling this model will fare better in the market place.