alt

This may be the easiest product to sell we’ve ever seen. Twice we left it playing in the lounge roughly between our hi-fi speakers, streaming tunes from an iPad or iPod touch, and after conversing with visitors, we lifted it, still playing, from its little dock stand and handed it to them. ‘We’re listening to this?’ they say. And then, ‘How much is it?’

Of course there are many dozens of small Bluetooth speakers currently flooding the market. So what makes the Bose SoundLink Mini attractive to all who play with it?

Firstly, it’s above the entry level. Tiny sub-$100 Bluetooth speakers can be good for travel, but you wouldn’t want to live with them.

Secondly it’s neat. It exudes executive elegance (you can add a colourful soft cover if you wish), and at 18cm wide, you could slide it into the inner pocket of a jacket, or stow it in a daybag, even a handbag. With its internal recharging battery it’s solid but not heavy at 670g, and it feels nicely balanced. Its controls are obvious; we never consulted the manual, other to check we hadn’t missed something.

There’s an analogue auxiliary input, but most users will beam their tunes using Bluetooth, which requires pairing (it must be turned on to remember a previous pair) in the usual way, prompting a little chirrup when successful. And thirdly, it performs. If you’ve heard Bose’s Desktop Speakers, the SoundLink Mini has similar sonic DNA, though, of course, can achieve its results without mains power if required. As with any small speaker, positioning has a huge effect on its sound qualities, but it presents a rich sound and power enough for plenty of level without sharpness or distortion creeping in; indeed it is remarkably easy to mistake it for a small hi-fi system (fooling even ourselves on one occasion when we tried to turn it down using the knob on our hi-fi preamp). If your source is a phone, it doesn’t blast incoming calls through the speaker; it mutes and lets you take the call on your phone. It’s for music, not hands-free.

Ultimately, of course, the SoundLink Mini’s sound is limited in scale and depth by its size and by the airshifting abilities of its twin high-efficiency woofers and dual passive radiators.

We wouldn’t tell you to junk your hi-fi and replace it with a SoundLink Mini. Even against other Bluetooth speakers the size rule holds true — bigger speakers sound bigger, although from the eight others we had in situ at the same time, it was also clear that established hi-fi companies do Bluetooth speakers best.

But what the Bose does do is very impressive, far beyond expectations, and of course if small is what you want, then it’s a marvel.

We particularly like the compact charging cradle into which it slots with almost magnetic accuracy; offbase, it promises around seven hours battery life, its LED changing from green to yellow to red.

Lastly there’s the price — $249, not unreasonable compared with competition, indeed rather less than we might have guessed, and fairly pitched in comparison with the US price of US$199. This makes it a value proposition as well as a cool unit.

Bose is renowned for its marketing skills. Those won’t be needed here. The SoundLink Mini sells itself.

Download the PDF version of this review here.

Product page: Bose Australia