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Bose SoundLink Color II review: A great speaker gets even better


I was a fan of Bose's original SoundLink Color Bluetooth speaker and praised it for being relatively affordable -- by Bose standards anyway -- and sounding good for its compact size. Its mostly improved sequel, the SoundLink Color II, also comes in a few different color options and is similar in shape, though it's slightly shorter and squatter, and weighs a tad more (1.28 pounds. or 581g vs. 1.20 pounds or 544g) while costing the same price: $130, £120 in the UK, and AU$179 in Australia.

The Good

Like its predecessor, the Bose SoundLink Color is a compact portable Bluetooth speaker that delivers impressive sound for its size (the sound is improved) and 8 hours of battery life. It's now water-resistant and adds speakerphone capabilities.

The Bad

Soft-to-the-touch finish attracts dusts and lint. No AC adapter included.

The Bottom Line

Modestly redesigned, the next-generation SoundLink Color is an excellent compact Bluetooth speaker that's water-resistant and has speakerphone capabilities, as well as improved sound.

While the original's finish was mostly smooth, hard plastic with some rubberized trim on top of the speaker and sides, this new model is entirely covered in soft-t0-the-touch rubber, which has a little give to it and seems better designed to withstand drops. The new speaker is officially water-resistant, too: Its IPX-4 certification makes it splashproof, though not waterproof. Or to put it another way, it should be able to spend some time out in the rain and survive.

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The speaker has a soft-to-the-touch rubberized finish and is water-resistant.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Other bonus features include a microphone for speakerphone capabilities, as well as NFC tap-to-pair technology for devices that support it. The SoundLink Color II can remember up to eight devices paired to it, while its eight hours of battery life -- at medium volume levels -- is the same as the original's. (That's decent enough but not exceptionally good).

I personally don't think the design is an aesthetic upgrade, but the speaker does look a tad more understated and mature. I like the soft-to-the-touch finish, but the one downside is that it's a magnet for dust, lint and carpet fibers, so you may find yourself having to wipe it down from time to time (as I said, it is water-resistant, so taking a wet cloth to it isn't a problem).

Note, too, the USB-powered speaker does not include an AC adapter. That may be an annoyance to some, but I was fine with it -- any standard phone or gadget charger you have will do the trick.

I had no trouble pairing and re-pairing the speaker with an iPhone 6S and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge -- there are voice prompts to guide you through the process. There's also a companion app for iOS and Android -- Bose Connect -- that doesn't do all that much but does allow you to rename the speaker to your liking, disable those aforementioned voice prompts, and check in on your remaining battery life.

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The speaker comes with a USB charging cable but no USB power plug.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The SoundLink Color sounds a little better than the original -- which makes it arguably one of the best-sounding Bluetooth speakers for its size. I ran a bunch of different music through it and came away impressed with the sound it was able to produce, though it does have its limitations. (It can envelop a small room with sound but don't expect it to fill a larger space).

It does best with jazz, classical, acoustical live music, and your soft rock favorites. It had good tonal balance with U2's "Running to Stand Still" and Eric Dolphy's jazz track "Sketch of Melba."

There isn't a ton of bass, but with well-recorded techno and hip-hop tracks it's got enough kick to surprise you sometimes. For example, Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot" and Swedish House Mafia's "Greyhound" came across better than I expected they would. However, tracks where a lot of instruments are playing at once are more challenging for this little guy, and you'll notice at times that the speaker ratchets back certain frequencies as well as the volume to keep from distorting.

You can get speakers that have better battery life, such as the JBL Charge 3, or ones with more robust water-resistance, like the UE Roll. But given for the choice for sound, I'd opt for the Bose. It's a little expensive at $130 (it'd ideally be priced closer to $100), but it's a very likable little speaker with only a few minor drawbacks.


Bose SoundLink Color II

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Sound 9Value 8