Bose is forging ahead in the wireless multiroom audio market with a set of next-generation Wi-Fi SoundTouch speakers -- including the brand-new SoundTouch 10 -- which add Bluetooth to their features list.
At $200 (£170, AU$300), the compact SoundTouch 10 competes with Sonos' Play:1 speaker and is similar in size, though the Bose is taller and thinner, measuring 8.34 inches (21.18cm) by 5.56 (14.12cm) inches by 3.43 inches (8.71cm). Shipping now, it comes in black or white and may be Bose's breakout product in a category that Sonos has long dominated.
The Bose unveiling comes on a day when wireless audio news was boiling over, with Sonos announcing a new version of its $500 Play:5 wireless speaker and Google showcasing its new Chromecast Audio , a $35 add-on dongle that turns any stereo with a line-in connection into a wireless audio base station that's controllable from a smartphone.
Why add Bluetooth to a Wi-Fi speaker? Well, although Bose has done its best to make setting up a multiroom audio setup as easy as possible (it's been working out the kinks after the initial SoundTouch launch last year), it's still easier -- and less intimidating -- for consumers to directly connect to a speaker using Bluetooth for what Bose calls "instant listening."
"With Bluetooth, you can stream any song, playlist, music service, and YouTube directly from your phone or tablet," Bose explained. "With Wi-Fi, you can broadcast it to as many SoundTouch speakers you have, or use the intuitive SoundTouch app to explore integrated music services, set personalized presets, and enjoy different music in different rooms."
Every SoundTouch speaker going forward will have both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and Bose's other SoundTouch products -- the SoundTouch 20 Series III, SoundTouch 30 Series III, and two new sound bars, the SoundTouch 120 and 130 systems, as well as a 5.1 system, the SoundTouch 520 home theater system -- have all been updated with Bluetooth. A new, "more efficient" SoundTouch SA-5 amplifier for powering outdoor weatherproof speakers is now on sale, too.
Bose is also finally going to integrate the Spotify music streaming service into its SoundTouch app. Along with Spotify Connect which currently allows you to control any SoundTouch system from the Spotify app, in early 2016 Spotify will be integrated into the free SoundTouch app for iOS and Android devices via a software update.
What makes the SoundTouch 10 a potential breakthrough product is a combination of price, performance, and styling (Bose also includes a remote with buttons that duplicate the six presets on top of the speaker). While it isn't a portable speaker like the SoundLink Mini II is, it's relatively modestly priced for a Wi-Fi speaker and clearly sounds better than the Mini for the same amount of money.
Bose says its new Unidome transducer is a 2.5-inch "powerhouse" that produces the "highest excursion for any transducer of its size in Bose history." In plain English, that means it moves the most air for its size. That's a good thing when it comes to speakers.
While the SoundTouch 10 sound may not be quite as smooth Bose claims (there was some slight distortion at higher volumes in the demo we heard), it sounds very good for a compact wireless speaker. However, it's hard to make a firm judgment from a short demo, so you'll have to wait for us to get the speaker into our audio room here at CNET for us to tell you more about the sound quality and how it stacks up against the Sonos Play:1.
It's worth noting that one thing Bose speakers can't do yet is get paired up to create true stereo sound (with Sonos you can join two speakers and designate them left and right). Bose says that feature is coming next year.