Bose's smallest and most affordable wireless speaker is arguably the best sounding speaker in its tiny size class.
A tiny Bluetooth speaker you can literally carry in your pocket sounds like a great concept, but going small -- and I mean really small -- usually means sacrificing sound quality, or more specifically bass performance. Bose's SoundLink Micro, the company's smallest and least expensive Bluetooth model yet, at $100, £100 or AU$150, aims to defy those small speaker conventions. It mostly pulls it off.
In the US and Australia, the price of the SoundLink Micro has dropped $10 and AU$20, respectively, in recent weeks. That's not a huge price cut -- you're still paying a premium for the Bose name and this speaker's portability -- but it's a welcome move in the right direction. (A Bose representative confirmed to CNET that the price cut is, indeed, permanent. Bose has also recently cut the price of its SoundSport Free wireless headphones.)
Available in three color options -- black, midnight blue and bright orange -- the SoundLink Micro is IPX7 certified, which means it's totally waterproof and can be completely submerged. (We dunked it in a vase full of water and it continued to output sound.) While it may be small it does have a bit of heft to it, weighing in at 10 ounces (290 grams). It has a built-in speakerphone for making calls.
Overall I was impressed by its build quality and liked its integrated "tear-resistant" flexible rubber strap, which you can use to clip the speaker onto a bag or just about anything else you want to clip it onto, including your bike's handlebars. That said, the speaker has a bass port on its underside and is designed to sit on a flat surface to maximize bass performance. (I clipped the speaker to the front strap on a backpack and could feel the bass on my chest.)
There's a battery-life indicator near the Micro-USB charging port and volume controls on the speaker, plus a multifunction button for controlling playback. Battery life is rated at 6 hours, which is pretty standard for this type of speaker.
In my tests the speaker maintained a rock-solid Bluetooth connection and you can wirelessly link it with other Bose SoundLink speakers using the Bose Connect app.
As far as the sound goes, I was most impressed by how much bass this little guy was able to output for its size. It doesn't offer the sound quality of Bose's larger, more expensive Bluetooth speakers, including the SoundLink Mini 2. But in terms of low-end performance it delivers significantly more bass and volume than JBL's Clip 2 and other essentially pocketable speakers.
Although its sound quality should exceed most people's expectations, I don't want to raise those hopes too much. With one of our demanding, bass-heavy test tracks, 3WW's "alt-J," the speaker distorted slightly and like a lot of these small wireless speakers, the speaker's performance isn't entirely consistent -- it sounds quite good with some tracks, less so with others.
I didn't think it outclassed larger, similarly priced speakers like the JBL Flip 4 or the Bose SoundLink Color II, which is about a third more expensive. However, it's not a big downgrade in sound and is a lot smaller and easier to carry around. So if that's what you're after -- maximum portability -- this is probably the best sounding tiny wireless speaker currently available.
Here are the SoundLink Micro's key specs, according to Bose.
First published Sept. 15, 2017 at 2:40 p.m. PT.
Update April 16, 2018 at 4:15 a.m. PT: Reflecting a price drop in the US and Australia.