Strong audio performance, with rich lows and well-defined highs. Waterproof. Good speakerphone mic.
A little overpriced. No aux input.
- Bottom Line
The Bose SoundLink Micro speaker delivers an impressive Bluetooth audio performance for its size, but its price feels a tad high.
As the name implies, the Bose SoundLink Micro Bluetooth speaker is quite small. Its $109.95 price might therefore come as a surprise—the comparably sized JBL Clip 2, for instance, costs less than half that amount. Meanwhile, several speakers in the $100 to $150 range deliver more power and better sound quality—albeit in a larger form factor. It's a common conundrum with Bose—we love the speaker, but not the price. Regardless of how much it costs, though, the SoundLink Micro sounds great and is surprisingly powerful for its size.
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Measuring 3.9 by 3.9 by 1.4 inches (HWD) and weighing in at about 10.2 ounces, the SoundLink Micro is pretty tiny. The speaker is available in black, blue, or orange, and its rounded contour is covered in matte, water-resistant silicone rubber. Its IPX7 rating means it can be immersed in water up to one meter deep for up to 30 minutes, making it a solid poolside companion and a good choice for the outdoors in the general.
The speaker is designed to sit flat, projecting sound upward through its perforated grille. Behind the grille, there's a single mono transducer next to a passive radiator, with another passive radiator firing out the opposite panel. Bose was wise to opt for more bass response rather than adding in a second driver for left/right channels—you're not going to get stereo separation with a speaker this small.
The front panel holds three buttons, located above the perforated grill. The volume up/down buttons work in conjunction with your phone's master volume levels, while a central multifunction button controls playback, call management, and track navigation, depending on how many times you tap it. The panel also houses the microphone for the speakerphone function, which offers better-than-average intelligibility. Using an iPhone 6s, transmissions were easy to understand, without any real hints of distortion or fuzziness.
The top of the speaker holds a power button and a Bluetooth pairing button, separated by a rubber, flexible band. The band snaps open and closed at the bottom, so you can fasten the speaker to a variety of objects. The top of the band is melded to the body of the speaker and houses an LED readout that displays battery life. There's no aux input, which is a slight bummer.
The Bose Connect mobile app (for Android and iOS) is not essential, but it offers you a few extra features when using the Micro. If you have other speakers in the SoundLink family, you can group them together in Party Mode using the app. You can also set an auto-off timer to preserve battery life, with choices ranging from five minutes to three hours (or never). The app aso lets you adjust the volume and control playback, as well as check battery life, but those features can all be done using your phone's built-in controls and the battery indicator on the Micro's top panel.
The speaker ships with a micro USB charging cable and nothing in the way accessories. Bose rates the battery life at up to six hours, but your results will vary with your volume levels.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife's "Silent Shout," the SoundLink Micro gives solid bass response for its size. It thins out considerably when you pump the volume up to maximum—nothing distorts as a result, but there's audibly plenty of DSP (digital signal processing) at play. Much of the new Grizzly Bear record produced similar results: The audio dips at loud moments, and rises when the mix gets less intense and more spare. This isn't the worst possible scenario—no one wants distorted bass—but purists looking for a speaker that doesn't do to much to the dynamics probably won't enjoy it.
Bill Callahan's "Drover," a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the SoundLink Micro's sound signature. On this track, the drums can sound overwhelmingly heavy on heavily bass-boosted systems, and brittle and thin on speakers that don't push out enough low frequency response. The Micro delivers a natural-sounding response here at modest-to-high volumes. The drums aren't thin, but they're never going to sound huge on a speaker this size. Callahan's baritone vocals are rich and have a generous low-mid presence, and there's also a solid dose of high-mid and high frequency, giving the guitars a crisp edge and the percussive attacks some nice, bright presence. It's a sculpted sound, but one that ends up far bigger and richer than you might expect from a such a small frame.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the kick drum loop receives a solid amount of high-mid presence, allowing its attack to stay sharp and cut through the layers of the beat. The Micro also beefs up the drum loop's sustain a bit, while the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat lack the deep bass you'd hear on a larger system. The high-mid and high frequency sculpting benefits the vocal performances on this track, providing clarity without added sibilance or harshness. This is a bass-leaning sound, with the emphasis on the lows and low-mids, and enough brightness to keep things reasonably balanced.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary, sound great through the SoundLink Micro. There's some boosting of the lower register instrumentation, but it's subtle, and lends the orchestra some added body, which is always welcome when listening to a speaker this size. The higher register strings, brass, and vocals never lose their bright, well-defined presence. It's a balanced, clear sound.
The Bose SoundLink Micro is certainly one of the better-sounding speakers we've tested in its size category. At $110, though, it definitely faces stiff competition. The hardest thing for us to reconcile is that the SoundLink Micro is basically twice as expensive as the JBL Clip 2, but offers similar performance. It sounds a little fuller and more powerful, but there are speakers in its price range that produce a notably bigger, impressive sound field, like the Sony SRS-XB3. We're also fans of the Sony SRS-XB10 and EcoXGear EcoCarbon, as far as compact, durable, portable Bluetooth speakers go. The SoundLink Micro gets just about everything right for a speaker this size, but it seems a tad pricier than it should be.
By Tim Gideon Contributing Editor, Audio
Contributing Editor Tim Gideon has been writing for PCMag since 2006. He specializes in reviewing audio products, and is obsessed with headphones, speakers, and recording gear. More »
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