Bose SoundTouch app_03

Bose invited us to New York City this week to preview their new ‘SoundTouch’ speakers and corresponding apps for iOS, Android, Mac and Windows.  We were recently turned from Bose haters to fans by Bose’s Soundlink Mini Portable Bluetooth Speaker so we took them up on the offer.

Photographers |  We Are The Rhoads | Chris & Sarah Rhoads   Client: Bose

The knee-jerk thing to do is to compare the SoundTouch idea to Sonos/app because on the surface, Bose’s app and stand alone speakers do the same thing: Play music via Wifi all over your house (also Airplay for iTunes and Apple device direct play is also included).

Bose SoundTouch Wi-Fi music systems

However, Bose differentiates in a small but profound way by going retro…

The idea is that after a long day at work or getting up in the morning, you don’t want to have to open your smartphone, browse to an app and dig through some music to find what you like.  You’d rather just push a button on the speaker like you do on a car radio and hit a preset.

The Bose App lets you set up your speakers and play music over Wifi all over your house, but the differentiator is the six preset buttons on each device (notice on top). You can simply push a button walk away and in a second or two, music that you’ve preset is streaming to your speakers.

Setting these buttons is fairly straightforward in the app which can be done from any iOS or Android phone or tablet or from a Mac or PC.

Bose SoundTouch app with SoundTouch 20 system_01

As you can see above and below, the app allows you to set 6 presets such as Pandora Radio Stations, Internet Radio, iTunes playlists or other music (many more streaming options are coming we’re told).  When you walk into a room and want to hear some music, just click one of the hardware buttons on top of the device like you are switching on a light.

It seems obvious, but it really changes the game.

During my hands on time I was able to set up stations within a few seconds and then push the hardware button on the top to begin playing what I’d set up. Moving stations around is very intuitive.

Bose SoundTouch app_02

The Bose SoundTouch App is now available in the App Store for Free.

New Hardware:

The SoundTouch app requires all new Bose hardware and boy do these things sound great. There are three different sized SoundTouch all-in-ones. The SoundTouch 30 ($700), SoundTouch 20 ($400), and SoundTouch 10  Portable ($400) which includes a Lithium ion battery giving it around 6 hours of free usage. Because these devices rely on Wifi rather than the more portable Bluetooth, taking this out of the house might be better suited to using the AUX port on the back rather than Airplay or the Bose App. The portable is something that you would put on your desk or by your bed.  Meanwhile the 30 fills up a large room with a lot of really big, crisp sound. The 20 is better suited for medium or small rooms, kitchens, bathrooms basements or garages.

Bose is also updating its Wave Line to the new SoundTouch technology with new products that will hit the market this month.

But perhaps most interesting is something that looks like a Nest thermostat and is scheduled for an early 2014 release. Bose plans new indoor and outdoor speakers with a new round SoundTouch controller.  I tried it briefly in their demo, and while not quite ready for prime time, it does have a unique interface for streaming music and controlling the house speaker systems.

Did I mention yet how good these things sound?


The bottom line is this: Bose does something similar to Sonos by giving you full house audio control via an intuitive app, but changes the game with the preset buttons, which make listening to your favorite music as quick and easy as flicking a light switch.

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19 Responses to “Bose SoundTouch home audio: a refreshingly easy but powerful hardware and app ecosystem”

  1. No highs, no lows, must be Bose. Bose will always be an over marketed, underperforming, and over priced speaker company.

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  2. I’ll need to hear the SoundTouch 30 versus the Sonos Play 5. The Bose is more expensive so I would need to hear a substantive improvement. Sonos always has a solid Wireless Subwoofer and i’ve NEVER heard a Bose Subwoofer that I liked. Also can you pair two SoundTouch speakers into stereo like you can with the Sonos speakers? I admit I like that Bose and Samsung are entering this market adding more choice.

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  3. It just isn’t possible for speakers this size using this driver technology to sound as great as you’re claiming. You were snowed by a demo with sound jazzed up to make a good initial impression but not the more natural neutral sound that you want to listen to over time.

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    • mistergsf says:

      I’ve never been a fan of Bose but I’m telling you, when a friend of mine purchased a SoundLink mini, the sound BLEW me away! I couldn’t believe what was coming out of such a small, bluetooth speaker. I always keep an open ear when I’m shopping for speakers. Had my friend not turned me on to the SoundLink mini, I would be missing out.

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      • I’m sorry you feel that way, ignorance is bliss I guess. The enclosures Bose uses to make that “big” sound pretty much ruins any detail and subtleness to any music its played through, it’s not rocket science.

        This almost sounds like a PAID shill wrote that….

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      • mistergsf says:

        Really Jarred? You are accusing me of being a “PAID shill”. If you’d like to put your money where your mouth is, I’m happily inviting you to email me at mistergsf@gmail.com and I can send you actual photos of me using my Bose mini and better yet, a copy of my receipt. Get your nose out of your tight azz and stop being elitist as if good sound begins and ends with your ears only. What a jerk.

        For Chrissakes, we are talking about a bluetooth speaker for portable use and it sounds great for my uses and needs. So please, tell me, what bluetooth speakers do you prefer that is comparable to the SoundLink mini?

        At home when I want to listen to music in the best way possible, I have a pair of Dali Ikon 7 floor standing speakers hooked up to my old Macintosh amp. How about you?

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  4. I’m liking this thing more as I read about it.

    1. Airplay support
    2. FLAC and Apple Lossless supporting coming in 2H ’14
    3. Qualified NAS will be supported 2H ’14

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  5. Can’t believe Apple will leave this business to Sonos and others for much longer. The Apple HiFi failed before AirPlay – before the iPhone for that matter. Things are different now.

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  6. So by Seth’s review simply adding a static button to a device “changes the game”…. hmmm

    After reading this article I recall my Bose Quite Comfort 15’s, Bose Soundock, Bose CineMate GS II, and Bose Companion 5’s, all of which fall short. This year I decide for REAL home audio and met with a home audio engineer. He laughingly described to be how Bose focus on a very small frequency and steered me toward Sonos for the house and Monitor Audio for the living room. After a week of listening to both Sonos (Play 3, Play 5, Connect, and Sound Bar) and my Monitor Audio system I Craigslist’d my Bose speakers within 10 minutes. Don’t be fooled by over priced mid quality…

    As for options I can’t see Bose coming close to what Sonos brings to the game. The idea of a static button preset for a specific track / playlist is nice but a far cry from true options or an app that really REALLY Changes the game.
    Here are a few points I would like to make
    ~ Sonos will allow you to setup 2 play 3’s in conjunction with their sub and sound bar for a full surround sound setup.
    ~ Sonos can increase the vocal volume (when watching a movie or TV) while toning down the other sounds… i.e conversions are heard better but the gun shots are toned down (this is great when in bed watching TV)
    ~ Sonos has every internet streamed music (less Apple’s Radio) available and works flawlessly.
    ~ Sonos can connect to a NAS or any other device through their Connect. This is how I connect my home theater to my Sonos.
    ~ Sonos includes a Bridge ($50) with every purchase. This little device creates the wireless network the speakers connect to instead of using your current router. This is HUGE for me as I have a LOT of WiFi devices connected to my Time Capsule and adding 6 more WiFi connections is not a good idea.
    ~ Sonos speakers can be mounted with basic wall mount brackets, for instants on my deck I mounted a Play 3 in the top corner of the ceiling. This of course negates the ONLY selling point of the Bose when you can’t get to their buttons. Let me also remind you that Bose requires SPECIFIC proprietary brackets on the CineMate GS II wall speakers. This is bad business in my eyes and indicative of Bose and their lack of attention to detail.
    ~ Sonos can be mounted Horizontally or Vertically and are so advanced they can adjust the audio if the speakers are rotated. When the speakers (there are multiple speakers within the Play 3/5) are on top of each other they hit the ear different then when they are side by side. This is not just a feather in the cap of Sonos but also an indication that Sonos is concerned with every detail.
    ~ Sound quality is SUPERB. My Play 3 (priced at $299 and comes with a free Bridge) out preforms not only my Companion 5 setup but also the CineMate GS II.
    BEST FOR LAST
    ~ The iOS app Sonos has can create a playlist from every freaking source of music that you have in one tap. I’ll elaborate. Say you have a party… and you have the Sonos hooked throughout the house (5 rooms) and you want to blast the same song and then you want to listen to one genre in half the house and different genre in another room. Sonos’s app will do this and does it perfectly with No LAG and on the fly…. back to the party, so as you pass around the iPad running the Sonos app people can make a playlist (the cue) on the fly from ALLLLLL sources of music you have. From every internet streaming service to your NAS to your iTunes library on the device. NOBODY has this and nothing can compare. You can DJ multiple rooms all with different music all from different sources.

    This is most of what I love about Sonos but there are still more options. I’m sure nobody read all of this but I felt I owed Sonos this review since there products are superb.

    Thanks

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    • Amen !
      I have five rooms with the Sonos system. AWESOME. 2x Play3, Sonos:Connect in my office (at home) with four speakers, Sonos: Amp (living room and bedroom) .
      On Wednesdays when the grand kids come to visit after school, early release day, they set up their own music with their iPods in the room that they happen to be. If the music is too loud I can lower the offending speaker with my iPhone, from wherever I am in the house.
      I did an A – B test with Sonos:Play3 and Bose WaveRadio. Sonos was much better.
      Bought two Sonos: Play3 on eBay for $400, and the Bridge for $20. shipping included.

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    • Greg Frith says:

      Hi,

      I’m a Sonos user myself, and on the whole do love the system primarily for its quality in both build and sound. However, a few points:

      – Are you sure Sonos include a Bridge with every purchase? I think they often have deals on where they throw one in, but I don’t think you get one with every purchase.

      – Your point on Sonos wall mounts and Bose buttons. Don’t forget, Sonos also has button for volume control and mute.

      – Sonos IOS App. Valid point on playlists, but I do feel the IOS app (particularly on iPhone) feels to be getting a little old. There are better example on music apps (spottily) on IOS that make searching a music collection easier.

      I think the most appealing part of the Bose offering in comparison to Sonos however would have to be the short cut buttons. This is what I always miss on my Sonos. For example, I walk in the Kitchen and want to switch on Radio 4: I have to find a phone or iPad, swipe, put in passcode, locate Sonos app, wait for it to start, select kitchen speaker, select radio, select my radio stations, select radio station. If I completed this procedure in less that 30 second I’d be doing well…. And even more annoying when you have to do a similar procedure when you want to walk out the door. If I had short cut buttons to do this in a single press that then would be a huge functional improvement. So ‘game changer’ might be a bit of an exaggeration, but its not far off.

      I’d love to see S3/5 speakers with a few programmable buttons and support for Airplay.

      Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t swap Sonos, it is brilliant, and I look forward to a time where I can expand my network. However, they need competition, and they also need to watch what the competition are doing and bring some new products to their lineup.

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  7. You buy Bose than you’ve bought the marketing hype. That being said they do a good job at it so kudos to them. It’s great to see somebody come up with another Sonos competitor, just like http://www.bluesound.com. Not that I will buy any of it cause the sound is just to crappy.

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  8. Is there a limit how many tracks your library may include? This is what keeps me from buying a complete Sonos system.

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  9. I think these new SoundTouch speakers are really going to change peoples opinion on Bose. I’ve always seen Bose like Apple. Tons of people love it, just as many hate on it and are loyal to something else. Thats totally fine, but understand why other people love it too, even if its different than how you feel. Bose also is similar to Apple in its objectives; create a simple to use, rich user experience while maintaining an elegance and a quality that unique and unmatched. All these people who bash Bose for being overpriced; reach in your pockets and pull out your iPhone. (S4/One applies here too…) Its the same idea. Sure, it costs more than other competitors, but for a reason. Their is a unmatched ecosystem and support system. Same with Bose. Are there “more powerful” phones on paper? Sure! But does that always translate to a better experience? Not always, no. Same with Bose. Are there better sounding speakers available? Sure! We all know that. Bose knows that. Bose and Apple both know this stuff.

    But do you always need the absolutely best in everything? Sure, if you want a top of the line system in a “listening room”, where the main goal is to only listen, of course, go for it. But suppose your looking for a small, simple Wi-Fi speaker for your kitchen or bathroom. Do you really want to go top of the line? Does it add anything by doing so? Its a small speaker for background music! Their will always be audiophiles but for the other 90% of people who don’t have a listening room or theater room and just want some easy to setup and use speakers for around their house, Bose wins. People forget that a massive majority of the market for home audio is average joe’s who just want something simple, small and built to last, read: Bose.

    Bose has made quite the impact on the audio world, however you see the company. They’ve been a USA based private company for nearly 50 years and continue to be successful for one reason: They make a quality product does sound good. Simple as that.

    And as far as the review goes: As I write this, I listen on a SoundTouch 20 which I’ve been using for weeks now. And yes, the preset concept really won me on this product. At first I just saw it as a clever idea, but not sure how it would translate to daily use. Its used every day by my girlfriend when she gets up, comes home from work, while were at home at night; its ALWAYS on. I have about 3948 other good speakers in our place, but all require some type of hookup, pairing or using my computer. She doesn’t want to bother with all of this…she loves that she can walk up to it and push “5” and get her favorite Pandora station. That is where this product will blow away competitors like Sonos. Sonos is a nice system, but even as simple as it is, your average house wife or tech luke-warm user will “learn” Sonos, but after a few days, not bother because its not “worth the hassle”. This is concept people have been doing for years in their cars; set your favorite presets. I think this is a winner, hands down. Oh yeah, it sounds fantastic too!

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  10. pecospeet says:

    The logic from the comments appears to be that since Bose has hitherto produced mid-quality sound then they are incapable of producing anything with great quality sound. I’m glad to see that Seth has an open mind, as is obvious if you read the article carefully. I’m interested in taking a listen to these to hear what Bose have done to turn Seth from a hater to a supporter.

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  11. If you already have a reasonable home stereo nothing beats the app EQu and an Apple TV hitched up to your existing home stereo via Toslink. EQu makes even cheap systems sound like something worthy of an audiophile. Run the app and airplay it across.

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  12. So it is missing the independent wireless network of Sonos, so airplay would be struggling like on old Zeppelin’s
    Can it pair two Soundtouch 20, to increase the music stereo atmosphere like two Sonos A3 ?
    Can it managed different location on airplay? or still limited by Apple?

    As for the portable one… not sure what it is for, if stuck on WiFi, no Bluetooth capability for on the move?

    Seems like streaming from Android device is limited too?

    Let’s hope it will sound better than Bowers & Wilkins….

    Sounds like the last on the scene is neither refreshing, neither competing with what is already there…
    Disappointing for sure.

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