Bose started off at a time when there were a number of underwhelming audio products. The company was founded on the principle of always delivering quality audio, a promise that many of their speakers and headphones deliver (at least those we've personally tested). Does the SoundLink keep up this tradition? To test out the Bose SoundLink, we brought out our Samsung Galaxy Nexus S and loaded it up with our standard test tracks that you should be familiar with. Of course we've also tried out many other audio tracks from our general usage, but for the purpose of direct comparisons against products we've tried in the past, we'll be reporting on the speaker's performance on these specific tracks.
Melt My Heart To Stone by Adele has turned into somewhat of a starting point for us when we are evaluating speakers. The mellow track is an excellent way to gauge the high frequency performance of any audio product. It also brings to the fore the tonal qualities of the device. The SoundLink displayed that typical 'Bose' audio characteristics that typical audiophiles and Bose owners will instantly recognize, with clear highs and strong mids. Adele’s rich vocals sounded full and bright adding to the overall enjoyment of the track.
To evaluate the low frequency performance, we shifted over to our bass heavy, techno track Elements of Life by Tiesto. Well defined, round bass meant that the inherent movement of the track was well rendered. The waffle cone enclosure for the dual opposing passive radiators also seems to be doing its job as the SoundLink cast an impressive soundstage for its small stature. In our experience, smaller speakers tend to falter with this song, mainly because they do not possess the capacity to fully recreate the atmosphere required. But we were pleasantly surprised when this speaker held its own and gave a good showing.
Buckethead’s Sail On Soothsayer is a guitar piece that melds heavy distortion with chiming guitar lines. Without the inclusion of vocals, the listener is forced to focus on the instruments. When heard with the Bose SoundLink, the notes had brilliant attack and a certain sharpness which helped bring across the emotion of the song. The distortion itself was also well handled, although in our opinion could have done with an extra dose of definition. The slight sprawling of the rhythm track, though not a huge defect, still took a little shine off the overall performance.
We ended our formal listening tests with the live and acoustic version of Hotel California by The Eagles. With its strong mids and excellent highs, the Bose SoundLink handled the main melody of the song with aplomb. What we were looking out for when performing our hearing tests were how the the subtle nuances of the track were rendered. We found that the shakers and alternate percussion could be crisply heard during our play through, which points to these speakers having a good transient response.
However, there are certain flaws with the SoundLink’s performance. While the 'Bose' sound characteristics can be pleasant, in the case of these speakers, it cannot be classified as neutral. We found that when bumping up the sound levels, the mid tones had a tendency to overpower the rest of the mix. The bass tended to suffer the most from this and sounded subdued. Similarly the attack, which is sharp and pleasant at medium volumes, tended to add to the overall harsh nature of sound at high volumes. In addition, we found the tracks to sound just the slightest bit flatter than expected of their 256-bit variable-bit rate nature, which is most likely due to audio degradation from using the A2DP profile.
Summing its audio performance, at medium volume levels, the powerful delivery of the Bose SoundLink works in its favor. The speakers have a presence and impact that is truly impressive for their size. However at louder volumes, we would say that the device is too powerful for its own good.
|Melt My Heart to Stone - Adele||8.5|
|Elements of Life - Tiesto||8.5|
|Sail on Soothsayer - Buckethead||8.0|
|Hotel California - The Eagles||8.5|