Bose-SoundlinkIII

I was a huge gushing fan of the Bose Soundlink Mini when I reviewed it this summer, calling it the “Best Sounding portable Bluetooth speaker ever”. For $199 you’d get bookshelf type of power and clarity with 6 hour battery in a portable package that you could throw in a coat pocket, bag, or purse.

This week, Bose started shipping a bigger version, the $299 Soundlink 3 which is officially the successor to the Soundlink 2 but it grabs a lot more technology, features and appearance from the very successful Mini.  The big bro ‘III’ boasts an impressive 14-hour battery, 6 Bluetooth device memory, and doubles the Mini with four drivers and two passive radiators. In the process it doubles in size to a 3-pound package that isn’t nearly as portable as the Mini at 5 inches high, 10 inches wide, and 2 inches deep.

But does that $100 and double size give you appreciably better sound?

The short answer is yes. This has a better sound and volume than the Soundlink Mini, giving it the title of ‘Best Sounding Portable Bluetooth Speaker’ in my book. How much better the sound is, however, is debatable. Bose tends to artificially boost the bass in music and doesn’t quite compensate in the midrange areas (highs are good). For most stuff this sounds great but people can argue forever on their respective tastes. I found it also sounded much better in front of the wall so that the bass bounced off the back of the speaker into the room.

The Soundlink Mini gets really loud and easily fills a normal room with deep, clean music and is plenty loud for a small group of people to listen to outside on a bike, at a park, or on the beach. The Soundlink III goes one step further, filling a large room and possibly annoying the neighbors in the process.

Bose-Soundlink-III

The buttons and lights work mostly the same as the Mini and are relatively straightforward. On one side, you have volume and mute buttons. On the other, you have power, Bluetooth and AUX buttons.  These are real buttons with a deep push, not capacitative like cheaper products.

The product overall is solid. The speaker feels substantial because of the heavy magnets in those speakers inside and it has a polished metal grill on the outside that will go well with aluminum and stainless steel Apple products.

On the back you get a proprietary AC power adapter, a micro USB service entrance, and an AUX-in port for non-Bluetooth connectivity, again, very similar to the Mini. On the bottom you’ll see two brass prongs which seem to indicate a future dock connector but as of this writing none has been announced.

Bose-Soundlink-III-review

As I said in the Mini review, charging via Micro USB would have been much preferred, as dragging around the power adapter can be a … drag. Luckily, you don’t really need to charge this one that often…

Bose says you can get 14 hours of playback from a single charge. To test this, I listened to the Soundlink III for a few hours each day for a full week during a 9-day ski vacation on which I didn’t bring the charger. True to form, the Soundlink died on the 7th day – well on its way through 14 hours. A battery indicator is on the front but it doesn’t convey much information – compare to the Logitech App that comes with its UE Boom line that tells you exactly how much battery you have left.

The pictures I took above are with the $35 accessory covers which are available separately for $34.95 each. They add some personality and protection, but not much else. You can probably pass on these.

SoundLink_speaker_III (1)

This is what it looks like ‘naked':

Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III

Bottom Line:

This is the best-sounding portable Bluetooth speaker I’ve heard but it isn’t appreciably better than the $100 cheaper Soundlink Mini and it is significantly less portable. Moreover, Bose didn’t fix any of the gripes I had with the Soundlink Mini:

  • It still has a proprietary AC charger to lug around rather than using micro-USB (or better yet, accepting both)
  • It still turns completely off after a few minutes of non-use and requires turning it back on rather than re-pairing automatically
  • Bluetooth 4/LE would improve distance, power usage and sound quality. Bose needs to get there.
  • There is no mic and you can’t use this as a speakerphone
  • No app to measure battery or pair multiple speakers like Ultimate Ears

For most people, I’d still recommend the $199 Soundlink Mini. It sounds as good 95% of the time and it is cheaper and smaller. For me, I almost never needed the extra volume or battery life that the Soundlink III included. Still, I know some will appreciate those features.

For those who don’t like the downsides above, check out the Ultimate Ears Boom and Mini Boom which offer sound almost as good as Bose but add Micro USB charging, the ability to use it as a speakerphone, and better pairing/app/experience. For a full review of the portable Bluetooth Speaker landscape check out our mega-review. 

We Are The Rhoads Client: BOSE

The new SoundLink Bluetooth speaker III is available now from Bose for $299, at select authorized Bose dealers, and on Amazon.com.

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32 Responses to “Review: Bose Soundlink III portable Bluetooth speaker — is bigger best?”

  1. I haven’t compared this to the previous model, but I just bought this last week and the sound quality is comparable to my $700 sound bar. The bass reproduction on this slimline speaker is astounding and the battery runs forever over bluetooth. The buttons on this are very user friendly too, and is easy to operate blindly with a swat to change input or volume blindly. Terribly happy with it.

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  2. Josh Mobley says:

    I purchased the sound link mini based off of your review and it is a thrilling bluetooth speaker. The sound is quite good and the physical design is just brilliant. I demoed the sound link III today and while it certainly does sound better, it doesn’t sound better enough to justify replacing the sound link mini. In fact, I’m much more interested in the successor to the mini than I am in these larger class of devices. Aside from the better sound quality, I don’t like the physical design. I think it’s a step back. The beauty of the mini is how portable it is. Esp in a house. The soundlink III while portable, just doesn’t have the same in your hand experience if that makes sense.

    While I was checking out the speaker, I happened across the Bose QC15 noise canceling headphones. You should review those. They are AMAZING. A lot of people like to rag on bose. They say their products are a scam. This is simply untrue. While they do tend to treat the source material they are demoing, the sound quality is very real. I plan on getting those headphones and the 5.1 system they make. Like apple, their products are higher priced but, you seriously get what you pay for.

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    • Glad to hear and agree 100%. Will look into the headphones too!

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      • shazamo says:

        I have both the QC 15 headphones, and SoundLink mini,both are amazing.
        For those deciding on the speaker, get the mini! I am in college, and it is amazing for dorms, and for trips to the park, or whatever- It goes wherever and that is the awesome part of it. I have dropped it, and well college has happened to it, and it still looks, and sounds like the day I bought it. Quality build for sure! Battery is a non issue, for most uses you can get away with its 6-7 hour life.

        As for QC 15: Be ready for your mind to be blown away with its clarity, deep sound, and comfort. You are truly transported into another world while wearing them. Between the active and passive noise canceling systems it blocks out about 95% of the world. If you are in a room with constant noises, the active system will adapt, and eliminate the noise completely. Sharp sounds, alarms, and people talking within 1-2 feet can be heard. The bass is amazing, and the depth felt can really boost the effect in songs… you have to hear it. I forget that I am wearing them, and sometimes find myself after doing homework, going to bed with them still on- They are clunky so unfortunately for you side sleepers, you can’t wear them while laying down. They weigh next to nothing, and boast a good battery life. With more than average use 6-8 hours on an average day, I can get about 3-4 weeks on a single battery. It uses AAA, which is kind of a pain, but When you flip them on, it is so worth it. Coming from an avid musician, these are great!
        Also the case it comes in protects it very well- college tested. I have had mine for 5 years now, and they are still going strong- no loss of nc.
        One cool thing is that it now has a control in the wire like apple headphones (mine does not) but mine as well has the mic so if you use it with a phone, you can use the as a headset- nice for hearing your call in a crowd. Just realize how loud you are talking with them on :)
        Enjoy!

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  3. Anyone that asserts that Bose makes audio products that sound good is off their rocker. Bose makes sub-par audio products that are mid-range heavy to appeal to the lowest common denominator of audio customers. Learn what real audio is before you start reporting on it.

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    • Josh Mobley says:

      here we go again. It’s a matter of taste man.

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      • If it’s only a matter of taste, as you say, then why read reviews? That’s a simplistic rationale and essentially wrong. Taste or opinion is merely a starting point. Experience, knowledge and astute analysis are what makes someone qualified to provide a professional review that imparts something more useful than their random opinion. For the record, ask any audiophile and they’ll scoff at the notion that Bose makes serious audio equipment. It’s not crap by any means, just overpriced mid-fi that’s heavily marketed to the uninformed and brand naive.

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      • Josh Mobley says:

        Give me a break man. We know these are not audiophile speakers. Frankly, I don’t hold audiophiles advice in high regard when it comes to making purchasing decisions. Having worked in the music buisness for 20 plus years and working with high end speaker systems, the come down to bose for the simple act of enjoying music is not a bad thing at all. The next time I want advice on gold plated patch chords though, your my guy.

        As for reading reviews, it’s something I enjoy doing if it’s from a person I respect.

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    • yes of course, that’s what I also thought pre-Soundlink Mini

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    • I do not agree with your statement about Bose users being off the rocker.
      Bose is successful because they know how to market their products to a specific audience and customers who buy them are the best judges. You are obviously not one of them. Neither am I.

      If this was an audiophile forum, I’d agree with your assessment to a point. But this is a Mac forum and not all Mac or iOS users are audiophiles. Even if I don’t think Bose is the best product to get great sound for that kind of money, I can’t deny that their brand has a heft to it.

      I think that mid range warmth and the ability to produce big sound from a small package is what makes Bose what it is. I’m not a fan, but that is their signature sound and lots of people love it.

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      • Oflife says:

        I am an audiophile and consider Bose products excellent. That fact they do not feature graphic equalisers on most of their gear is enough evidence. I have a pair of QC15 noise reducing headphones that still to this day sound better than any other headphones. I also prefer their computer speakers over all other. I don’t know why people knock them really.

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    • Michel Groen says:

      Could you actually give us an alternative, in the same price range and a better sound quality like product?

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      • @ Michel
        I’m not in the market for a product such as SoundLink, so I can’t compare that area as I’m not interested in the portable all-in-one product area. I was speaking about Bose audio products in general.

        I’m a headphone user for the most part, so…
        – Audio-Technica ATH-M50 (i have these and love them. go to head-fi.org to read up)
        – Grado SRi-125 (very impressive, but have open design and have some noise leakage)

        Home audio:
        – Dayton Audio DTA-100 class T amp ($60, tiny cheap, sounds better than good)
        – Overnight Sensations (DIY bookshelf speaker kit, $130 a pair, sounds better than my ANS500 towers)

        My point is:
        Bose sounds good and many people love it because it has the right mix of design, sound, size, usability, but at premium price. I prefer quality of sound over form or design, so I’m not Bose’s target market. So,…

        If one looks for a trendy do-it-all device where sound has the same weight as portability, trendiness and usability, Bose is a compelling choice. I do not look for pocket sized product, so for home or office, I’d rather pick Harman/Kardon Soundsticks III with BT. When properly equalized to bring up their weak midrange to the forefront. But they won’t fit in your pocket :-)

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    • The QC15 headphones have the best sound blocking tech on the planet – I have tried every other brand – nothing can compare.

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  4. “Probably the most famous, and really inventor of this category are Jawbone’s Jambox and Big Jambox. ”
    Actually the Jambox is based on SoundMatters’ FoxL speaker, which was invented by a NASA engineer. Under the skin, they are almost identical.

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  5. I’m a big fan of the Soundlink Mini, people hear it and are shocked at the sound, I’ve had several friends buy their own after hearing mine, I bought it as a result of your review as well, plus all the 5 star reviews on Amazon. It’s my first Bose product, honestly, I always put Bose in the same category as Monster Cables, etc, overpriced, while it is relatively expensive, it’s a great sounding speaker.

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  6. Lee Duncan says:

    I love the new Soundlink lll the sound is rich with just enough base for me. I did have the mini but took it back for a refund, I didn’t think the sound was great. That said the mini is brilliant if your a traveler – i wouldn’t want to hump around the lll.

    I guess its personal choice but the lll is the one I liked the most.

    Agree about the bluetooth upgrade in Seth review

    Like

  7. balquin says:

    You should really give the Braven speaker line a try as well. They sound really nice and you don’t really hear about them much.

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  8. That commercial is brutal. Almost as bad as the How to Host a Windows 7 Party.

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    • Anoop Menon says:

      I totally agree that video commercial is bad. They could have made something better. I liked the Bose bluetooth headset commercial where they show a crowded city [Assuming Manhattan] and a person making a call from the middle of that noisy street. That sparked some interest in me to buy that product and always happy with the bluetooth headset, using it for more than an year and no issues so far.

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  9. zoidbert says:

    I love these things — and am a Bose fan — but I sure as hell wish they’d get a new advertising company. Getting tired of the OMG super-fun suburban hipster adverts they try to use to sell them.

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  10. I bought the soundlink II almost a year ago and I love the magnet feature of the front cover. Thats a big negative for me for this new soundlink III. Portability is key to me because I love going to the beach, fishing, lots of outdoor activities. I am also in the military and work on aircraft whether we are on land or on a ship, my bose soundlink II has always came in handy with having minimal power outlets.

    I was in a bose store recently and was told that in few months that it was possible to trade in your soundlink II for soundlink III for a discounted price of the new hardware.. I probably would never do so until mine ran out of life and plus i Love my magnet cover.

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  11. Graeme Hyde says:

    Just purchased the Bose Soundlink 3 and so far just amazed by performance. I conduct training in rooms with up to 50 attendees and it’s more than capable to cope with an udience that size for music and video clips through the Mac. I have tried 3 other devices and wasted my money. You get what you pay for….go Bose!!!!

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  12. I bought this speaker as I have been a big fan of Bose for years. I don’t get the hype. I found the quality to be muddy at best. The design is solid and sturdy, volume outstanding, the low end is amazing but obviously the designer LOVES mid-range. Too thick with little clarity.

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  13. Im thinking to buy single speaker from either Bose or Bowers and Wilkins.

    Which brand has an edge on sound quality?

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  14. THANKS GOD I’M NOT AN AUDIO EXPERT ! THIS WAY I CAN ENJOY THE GREAT SOUND THAT THIS PRODUCT OFFER WITH GREAT DESIGN AS A BONUS. PRICE ? PRICELESS EXPERIENCE !
    CONGRATULATIONS SETH FOR THE REVIEW, FROM A REGULAR PERSON.

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  15. I reviewed them a long time ago. The speaker is insane in terms of sound though not much better than the soundlink 2. For the cheap-ish price you can get it for now – (http://amzn.to/1nPeN9g) its pretty good value, why would you get the 2 when you know the 3 is that bit better. There are better speakers for less though.

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