Bose SoundLink Revolve review: Mini Bluetooth speaker, maximum sound

While you'd think that 360-degree sound would mean they're best placed in the middle of a room, it actually helps to place these speakers near a wall to get some reflection, which improves the bass.

The Revolve sounded the same whether plugged in or running via battery, although Bose says output is limited slightly to conserve power when the battery dips below 30 percent. It was hard for me to tell the difference, but some people might.

The smaller Revolve next to the Revolve Plus.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Revolve has an integrated microphone so it can be used as speakerphone, a feature that worked well in my tests. There's NFC tap-to-pair technology for devices that support it, and more importantly you can wirelessly pair two of these speakers (or other recent Bose Bluetooth speakers starting with the SoundLink Color II) using the Bose Connect app, configuring them as a set of stereo speakers or doubling them up to augment the sound. (You can also upgrade the speaker's firmware via the app which is important to do because Bose is already updating the speaker's software to quash any bugs and hopefully improve the overall performance).

To test stereo pairing I threw on some tracks from the '60s and '70s (The Rolling Stones, The Doors and The Beatles) that feature a lot of stereo separation. They sounded good for compact, battery-powered wireless speakers, but don't expect a pair of Revolves to beat a decent set of wireless powered speakers such as Bose's own SoundTouch 10 or Sonos Play:1 speakers, both of which can be set up as a stereo pair.

Louder, meet smaller

I'll repeat what I said about the Revolve Plus. When I say this Bose sounds excellent, what I really means is that it sounds excellent compared to other very compact Bluetooth speakers. The fact is you could hit a patch where you say to yourself that sounds a little rough -- or a little weird. The Revolve is only capable of so much, and can't quite escape the boundaries inherent in streaming audio over Bluetooth to a small speaker.

What separates the Bose from its competitors is the ability play a little louder, put out more bass without distorting and sound a little more natural with decent detail. For example, UE's Wonderboom, which retails for a third of the price and is an excellent mini Bluetooth speaker, stumbled over parts of the bass line in the Shaun Frank remix of The Chainsmokers' "Closer." The Revolve managed to get through those sections without breaking up. It didn't sound great when I hit with deep bass or complicated music, but it sounded better than most small speakers.

Audiophiles will find fault with the Revolve's sound, particularly compared to wired $200 speakers. But the vast majority of people will think it's a great sounding little speaker that can be easily moved from room to room or carried outside, where it can fill a patio area with sound -- maybe not at dance party-level, but certainly at background music volumes.

As I said, I personally find myself leaning towards spending the extra dough on the SoundLink Revolve Plus, but if you don't need that extra bit of fullness and volume, you'll be quite happy saving some money with the Revolve.

Key specs:

  • Dimensions: 6 inches high, 3.25 inches deep, 1.5 lbs.
  • IPX4 water-resistant
  • Shock resistant
  • Threaded tripod mount on bottom of speaker
  • Battery life: 12 hours
  • NFC tap-to-pair technology (with devices that support NFC)
  • Bose Connect app connects two SoundLink speakers starting with Bose SoundLink Color II ($130 at Best Buy) (stereo pairing or double-up party mode).
  • Integrated microphone to use as speakerphone or with Siri and Google Assistant
  • Colors: triple black, gray lux
  • Price: $199, £199.95, AU$299

Hot Products

More Best Products

All best products