It takes a lot for a Bluetooth speaker to stand out these days. The novelty of wireless sound has given way to an absolute explosion of Bluetooth listening devices in nearly every size and shape imaginable. Aside from dedicated speakers, you can find Bluetooth speakers hidden in artificial outdoor rocks, embedded in hats, miniaturized to fit inside a pen, and even integrated into light bulbs.
Even among standard speakers, the selection is dizzying. Since speakers typically only perform one function, playing sound, manufacturers have had to get creative about differentiating their products from one another. Aside from pure audio quality, varying form factors, battery life, and environmental resistance help to separate one from another.
Bose has a long history of speaker innovation, particularly when it comes to getting big sound out of small speakers. Adding to a strong collection of well-rated portable speakers, Bose launches the surprisingly small SoundLink Micro Bluetooth Speaker.
This diminutive device hides a surprisingly impressive sound inside a rugged little package. Bose says it perfectly on the product page: “Tiny. Until you turn it on.” While this speaker won’t blow you away with massive sound or fill a crowded party with music, if you lead an active, outdoor lifestyle, this little speaker could be the perfect companion.
Let’s take a look and see what magic Bose has worked inside the SoundLink Micro.
Specifications and Design
As the word “Micro” in the name implies, the tiny size of this speaker will strike you first. Measuring just 3.87 inches square and 1.37 inches tall, the SoundLink Micro is only about the size of a thick drink coaster. At a mere 10.24 ounces, it’s light enough to slip in your pocket or clip on your gear and forget about, even with a long day of activity.
Aesthetically, Bose generally designs products with a simple, elegant style. The SoundLink Micro is no exception. Square shaped with rounded corners and a silicone rubber exterior, the SoundLink fits easily and comfortably in the palm of your hand. The only design elements on the speaker are those demanded by function, the speaker grille, microphone holes, and buttons. In addition to the standard black, the SoundLink Micro also comes in Midnight Blue and Bright Orange, which could come in handy should you ever misplace it outdoors.
On the underside of the speaker, a latching, tear resistant silicone strap allows you to connect the SoundLink Micro to your belt, straps on a backpack, the handlebars of your bike, or anywhere else you can think to attach it.
We’ll address it in more detail shortly, but the silicone exterior and water-resistant technology show that Bose designed this speaker from the beginning with rough, outdoor use in mind. This is a welcome surprise from a company not generally known for designing outdoor gear. Between the SoundLink Micro and Bose’s recent SoundSport Free wireless headphones, it appears that Bose has chosen to take particular interest in the active, outdoor segment of the market. This decision should prove wise. As devices continue to get smaller and more portable, it’s natural that people will want to bring them into a variety of challenging conditions. The Bose SoundLink Micro is prepared for anything.
Bose has a reputation for withholding detailed specifications of their speakers. This is understandable to a degree. While many other manufacturers boast hugely inflated Wattage information or brag about driver sizes, Bose has always maintained that listener experience matters more than numerical statistics. By leaving these out, Bose removes the temptation for consumers to focus on these details.
Our expectations for audio performance were relatively low. Though we know Bose’s reputation, to a certain degree speaker size does matter. Moving air produces sounds, and a small speaker has less opportunity to move air. For the SoundLink Micro, Bose custom designed a transducer and paired it with silicone passive radiators to amplify the volume and richness produced by such a small speaker.
The end result of this dedicated engineering is a sound larger and richer than it has any apparent right to be. While it won’t replicate the experience of a dance club, the SoundLink Micro certainly has the ability to fill a room with quality sound. Even in outdoor use without walls holding the sound in, we had no trouble hearing our music from 10-20 feet away. Given that we’d normally have it strapped to our gear, we wouldn’t anticipate any problems listening unless it was an extremely loud environment.
As good as it sounds, the caveat will always be, “For its size.” Though the Bose SoundLink sounds better than other lesser competitors of similar sizes, it doesn’t sound as good when comparing directly to larger Bose products. This may simply result from the reduced size, or it could also stem from the need for water resistance. It’s likely Bose had to alter the construction of the speaker internals to withstand moisture damage. While it still sounds good, it has a different characteristic compared to other Bose speakers. One online reviewer likened the sound to “A Bose with a cold” due to a slightly loss of clarity in comparison to the larger, non-water-resistant models.
Aside from sound quality, the durability of the Bose SoundLink Micro really steals the show. In fact, you could make the argument that it is an even more important feature depending on how you plan to use it. Even if a different speaker had demonstrably better sound, you wouldn’t take it out into harsh outdoor elements if it ran the risk of damage.
The first line of defense for the SoundLink comes from the silicone rubber construction. Silicone, a highly durable material, eliminates extra seams and gaps while resisting dents, cracks, and scratches. Silicone not only keeps water out but provides an impact resistant cushion should you drop it.
While a silicone exterior may keep some water out, the nature of a speaker requires holes for sound to pass through. By sealing the internal electronics and choosing speaker materials that could withstand water, Bose achieved an official IPX7 water resistance rating.
In fact, Bose claims they exceeded the IPX7 requirements, though they neglect to specific in exactly what way. Given the ambiguity, it’s safest to assume IPX7 as a baseline. To achieve this rating, a product must withstand submersion in 1 meter of water for at least 30 minutes. This means that usage in the rain and even an accidental drop in water won’t stop the music.
Unfortunately, Bose buries one important detail in the Frequently Asked Questions section of the product page. While rated water resistant to 1 meter, the SoundLink does not float. Many people may assume the rubbery silicone provides enough buoyancy and carelessly toss it in the water. If the speaker sinks, there’s obviously no guarantee you’ll retrieve it or that the water resistance will hold if you do.
One of our primary pet peeves for electronics in general is the unnecessary need to miniaturize products at the expense of battery life. While thin, tiny products may receive a lot of attention and look sexy on a billboard, most people in the real world would gladly choose a slightly less svelte device if it meant they didn’t need to search for the charger quite so often.
Unfortunately, it seems the SoundLink Micro falls victim to this same problem. While we love the compact size, it clocks in with a mere 6 hours of runtime. Now, 6 hours may sound acceptable for average use, but Bose goes out of their way to highlight the endless possibilities of listening while biking, camping, hiking, and more. If you want to bring your audio on a day-long hiking trip, the SoundLink Micro will barely make it past lunch time before dying.
Given the tiny size and weight, how much larger and heavier would the device be if Bose doubled or even tripled the battery capacity? Obviously, a point exists at which you sacrifice portability and convenience, but in our opinion it seems like there could’ve been a better balance.
Bose enhances the functionality of the SoundLink Micro with smart voice features and the use of the Bose Connect app.
While many Bluetooth speakers only play audio, Bose has added a microphone to enable voice calls. This feature adds a lot of convenience if you keep your phone stowed away. It’s far easier to take calls with from the speaker clipped to your backpack than have to stop what you’re doing and dig around in a bag or pocket.
Additionally, pressing and holding the multi-function button will trigger Siri on Apple devices or the Google Assistant on Android, giving you the ability to retrieve information, make calls, send texts, set reminders, and more without ever needing to touch your phone.
The Bose Connect app, available in the Apple App Store or on Google Play, can switch between multiple connections to the SoundLink if you’d like to let someone else pick a song. Also, if you have more than one compatible Bose speaker you can play from both simultaneously in Party Mode or Stereo mode to play back the audio as it was originally intended.
While none of these features are groundbreaking, they are appreciated and do give the Bose SoundLink an additional edge on the competition.
You probably already have a Bluetooth speaker. You may even have multiple. Offhand, we couldn’t even keep track of how many we have. Even though most inexpensive ones are basic devices with questionable sound quality, it still takes a special product to convince us to open our wallets, given that we already have an assortment.
That said, after testing the Bose SoundLink Micro, we would seriously consider making a purchase. While many other speakers can adequately play sound, the Micro’s ability to produce rich sound from a tiny practically wearable speaker greatly impressed us.
On top of that, the durability and water resistance really had us sold. While we’ve seen speakers do each of these things separately, Bose’s ability to combine sound quality, small size, and durability in one unit really makes this one of the best portable speakers we’ve seen for highly active scenarios.
Our one criticism, as mentioned, is battery life. We’d love to see Bose improve upon this in future, even it meant increasing size slightly. For now, we’ll consider packing a portable battery bank for longer trips.
If you lead an active lifestyle, the Bose SoundLink Micro can take just about anything you throw at it. Small, rugged, and waterproof, this little speaker comes ready for big adventures.