Bose SoundLink Revolve review: Mini Bluetooth speaker, maximum sound

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The Good The sleek Bose SoundLink Revolve Bluetooth speaker sounds excellent for its compact size. Battery life is good at 12 hours, there's a threaded tripod mount on the bottom of the speaker and an integrated microphone for speakerphone calls.

The Bad Expensive, and the cradle that makes charging easier is an optional $30 accessory. The pricier Revolve Plus sounds even better.

The Bottom Line While I'd lean toward the bigger Revolve Plus, Bose's SoundLink Revolve is still of the best-sounding Bluetooth speakers for its size.

8.2 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Sound 8
  • Value 8

Cylindrical design, 360-degree omnidirectional sound.

If you've been monitoring the Bluetooth speaker space, you're probably aware that such descriptors are nothing new. Ultimate Ears led the 360-degree charge with its Boom, Boom 2 and Megaboom, and JBL's popular cylindrical Flip and Charge series speakers are on their fourth generation. They all promise full-range sound without having to worry about placement.

Bose's two versions of the tubular, portable, battery-powered Bluetooth speaker are the SoundLink Revolve ($199, £199.95, AU$299) reviewed here and its bigger brother, the Revolve Plus ($299, £279.95 or AU$439). They're expensive, but their design is excellent and they both sound great for small speakers. Between the two, I like the Plus best thanks to superior bass and an ability to play louder. The smaller Revolve is no slouch though, and is one of the best sounding speakers for its size.

The smaller SoundLink Revolve (left) compared to the SoundLink Revolve Plus.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Like its larger sibling, the Revolve features a "seamless" aluminum enclosure, but it leaves off the handle found in the Revolve Plus. It reminded me a little of the Google Home speaker without its top shaved off at an angle. The Google Home however feels cheap in comparison to the Bose: It weighs less, doesn't have an integrated battery and must be plugged into a power source. The Revolve also sounds better.

While the Revolve seems at first glance more like an indoor speaker, it's both water- as well as shock-resistant and is designed with outdoor use in mind. It's also worth mentioning that it has a threaded tripod mount on the bottom of the speaker that allows you to attach it to a wall mount or a stand. And Bose sells a charging cradle for $30 (£25, AU$40), which makes charging easier than using the included USB cable (it's a shame the charging cradle isn't included like it is with the SoundLink Mini II, which has now dropped from $200 to $180 in the US while costing £170 in the UK and AU$249 in Australia).

The buttons on top of the speaker control playback and volume.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Raising the sound bar for tiny speakers

As I stated previously, there are a lot of cylindrical shaped speakers out there, and the Revolve's biggest competitors include the UE Boom 2, UE Wonderboom ($58 at Amazon), JBL Flip 4 and JBL Charge 3 (a Charge 4 is on the way). JBL also has the Pulse 2, which puts on a light show.

Most of these speakers cost less than the Revolve -- and the UE Wonderboom and Flip 4 cost half as much. Is the Revolve twice as good as those speakers?

The short answer is no, but it does offer superior sound. It not only plays louder but its bass response is better and it sounds a little more natural with a little better detail. It also beats the higher priced UE Boom 2 and B&O Play's hamburger-sized Beoplay A1, which costs $250 (£199, AU$379) and sounds very good for its size.

However, both those speakers do offer better battery life. The SoundLink Revolve is rated to play for 12 hours at moderate volume levels while the Beoplay A1 is rated for 24 hours and UE Boom 2 is rated for 15 hours. The Boom 2 is also fully waterproof and is very well suited to outdoor use (I still think the UE Boom 2's an excellent speaker, the Revolve just sounds a little better).

The threaded tripod mount.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Not surprisingly the larger Revolve Plus plays louder and outputs more bass than the Revolve. But the Revolve is still able to come out on top of the SoundLink Mini II and approaches if not slightly exceeds the sound of the SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III.

Both Revolve speakers play much bigger than their size would indicate, and although they do have their sound limitations, they can fill a small to medium room with sound. They'd work well in a dorm room, home office or bedroom.

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