Bose SoundLink Mobile speaker review: Bose SoundLink Mobile speaker

That said, we did connect an iPhone 3G running a less-than-current version of iOS and found that the volume control didn't work, so it's possible to run into some snafus depending on how ancient your phone is.

At the launch for the product, Bose talked about the engineering challenges of getting good sound out of a very compact speaker, and a Bluetooth one at that, as Bluetooth compression diminishes sound quality.

If you want to see what's going on inside the speaker, the design for the speaker's four low-profile neodymium transducers (mid- and high frequencies) and dual-opposing passive radiators (bass) are detailed on Bose's Web site.

While the cutting-edge hardware design is the biggest factor behind the speaker's sound, there's also a nice piece of software running in the background to process what's coming into the speaker and make it sound as good as possible going out.

The results are shockingly good. As we said, the speaker plays incredibly loud for its size. This thing can actually fill a medium-size room with sound and blows away the $200 Jawbone Jambox. What's also impressive is that the sound doesn't distort at higher volumes. You can crank the Bose and it does just fine, with the bass holding together well and without any rattling or shaking of the speaker.

We played the new Wilco album "The Whole Love" and the mellower, acoustical guitar tracks sounded rich and detailed, like what you'd get from a larger speaker. We then hit it with some hip-hop, and our old standby test track, Snoop Dogg's "Drop It Like It's Hot," sounded pretty solid, but as we ratcheted up the volume the heavy bass line did feel a bit subdued--or perhaps restrained is the better word.

After plowing through a variety of other music, this reviewer tested the SoundLink Wireless with a jury of a few other editors here at CNET, and all of them came away impressed by how loud it played for its size and how full the sound was, particularly for a small Bluetooth speaker.

Some noted that the bass didn't have quite the oomph they would've liked, but it's just not fair to expect subwoofer-level performance from a speaker the size of a hardcover book.

In terms of 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." In other words, for light listening on the porch or patio you should be fine for most of the day. But if you're having a party, you probably want to get the speaker fully charged first and be able to plug it in somewhere if the party runs long.

What can we say--we were impressed. Not often does a product come along and blow away the competition in its category, but that's what the Bose SoundLink Wireless speaker has done.

This guy isn't as small as the $200 Jawbone Jambox, and it's a little more than twice as heavy. Nor does it offer that product's speakerphone capabilities. But it sounds much better and plays much louder.

Likewise, the Bose is bigger and more expensive than the $200 Soundmatters FoxL v2, but we think the Bose sounds better than that model, too.

Logitech, meanwhile, offers two competing products: the $149 Logitech Wireless Boombox for iPad and the sub-$100 Logitech Z515.

But the Bose's speaker is a big notch up both in terms of design and build quality, and in terms of sound quality. The company also gives a 30-day money-back guarantee on the product and generally offers good customer service should something go wrong. Reps told us that the rechargeable battery will be replaceable, though no cost was given for the replacement.

So, yes, $300 (or $350) is a lot to spend on a portable speaker--and we say the same thing about Bose's noise-canceling headphones. But in this case it seems worth it if only because the SoundLink Wireless Mobile speaker is in a class by itself.

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