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Best Bose speakers
Bose—it’s a household name with brand power, and for good reason: much like Apple, Bose understands how to manufacture user-friendly products and has developed an ecosystem to further streamline usability. While the company has some of the best headphones out there, today we’re talking about the best Bose speakers on the market. Home theater enthusiasts and outdoorsy folk are bound to find something to suit their needs.
Editor’s note: this best Bose speakers list was updated on October 24, 2022, to add the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 and Bose SoundLink Flex to the list. We also expanded the list of buying options for each Top 5 pick and added context to the Bose Portable Smart Speaker section.
Why is the Bose Portable Smart Speaker the best Bose speaker for most people?
Bose’s portable smart speaker is a worthy adversary of the Sonos One (Gen 2). Unlike Sonos’ One (gen 1 and gen 2), Bose’s speaker doesn’t require constant power to function. There are similarities: both include Wi-Fi integration for 24bit/96kHz audio streaming.
The Bose Portable Smart Speaker sets itself apart from the Bose Home Speaker 300 and Home Speaker 500 because of its wireless functionality, water resistance, and excellent audio reproduction. Bluetooth functionality is also an option, something we’ve seen with the Bose SoundLink Revolve+, but the Revolve+ lacks integrated virtual assistants.
If you want to use the Bose Portable Smart Speaker with other speakers, they must be within the Bose Smart Home family. Alternatively, you can go through the extra steps via Bose SimpleSync to pair it with a Bose SoundLink speaker to sync up music playback.
The Bose SoundLink Color II is portable without sacrificing audio quality
A splash of color can brighten anyone’s day, and Bose seems to agree given how its SoundLink Color II comes in four vivid colorways: aquatic blue, coral red, polar white, and soft black. The speaker operates via the older Bluetooth 4.2 firmware and includes a 3.5mm input, an artifact of days gone by.
The speaker can easily be held in one hand and pairs quickly via NFC or standard Bluetooth methods. Its IPX4 rating means you can splash and spill water on it without issue so long as it’s not completely submerged.
Even though this is a portable speaker, it pumps out loud, clear sound with accurate midrange and treble reproduction. When you’re on the go, you can alternate between your phone and a friend’s thanks to multipoint connectivity, meaning anyone can play DJ.
As with everything, there are a few drawbacks to the Color II: the battery life lasts just over seven hours at 50% volume, which isn’t great, seeing how it takes three hours to complete a charge cycle. What’s more, connectivity hiccups do occur when outside, but again, the 3.5mm input remedies any potential streaming issues.
If you want a solid portable speaker that emits clear audio, the SoundLink Color is a stylish, compact choice.
Home audio enthusiasts should get the Bose Smart Soundbar 600
When it comes to home audio, it seems you can never spend enough. Soundbars and multi-channel systems can be astronomically priced, which can quickly burn a hole through anyone’s pockets. Fortunately, among the best Bose speakers is the Bose Smart Soundbar 600. It’s a mid-level home audio solution that’s easy to install and has upward-firing speakers for a more immersive Dolby Atmos viewing experience.
Unlike the Sonos Beam series, which costs about as much as the Soundbar 600, the upward-firing speakers use your room’s ceilings to reflect sound back down to you. This allows for a more convincing height effect than soundbars that rely on virtualization alone. The Smart Soundbar 600 has its issues: the sound quality varies depending on where you’re seated relative to the soundbar. This is the case for any soundbar, particularly one without room correction software. Bose’s workaround for this is by giving listeners the option to purchase accessory speakers.
Ultimately, though, if you need a good quality soundbar without spending a fortune, the Bose Smart Soundbar 600 deserves a spot above the mantle. If you want extras like room correction and additional connectivity options, pick up the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 ($749 at Amazon).
The Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II is a great Bluetooth speaker with smart features
In shape and size, the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II is identical to the SoundLink Revolve+, but it packs an additional hour of battery life, giving you up to 17 hours of playtime. That’s five hours more than the more compact Revolve II ($179 at Amazon). The tapered cylindrical housing allows for evenly distributed 360-degree audio.
Bose upgraded the SoundLink Revolve+ II with an IP55 rating, protecting it against both dust and water. This and the rotating handle make it your perfect pool or beach companion. If you own an iPhone, you can enjoy high-quality audio over the AAC codec. Unfortunately, aptX isn’t supported with the speaker, but if you’re listening with it on the patio or from the pool, you’re unlikely to hear a difference.
The Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II lasts all day, meaning you can keep the party going without concerning yourself with battery life. Note that it still comes with a microUSB charging port and cable. For a speaker that works just as well in the home as it does out of it, the Revolve+ II is one of the best Bose speakers you can buy.
The Revolve+ II may be paired to another Revolve or Revolve+ speaker to enable either party mode or stereo listening. Party mode uniformly relays music through both speakers, while stereo listening designates one speaker as the left channel and the other as the right for a 2-channel system. To pair two devices hold the Bluetooth and volume up buttons simultaneously.
The Bose SoundLink Flex is for adventurers
You can access Google Assistant by holding the multi-function button to set reminders, alarms, and other basic functions. There aren’t any high-quality codecs supported by the SoundLink Flex, but it does support multipoint connectivity. When multipoint works reliably, you can alternate between devices without disconnecting from one and connecting to another.
Sound quality is about what you’d expect from an outdoor speaker, which is to say perfectly fine but not the best. The Flex gets quite loud, making it a solid pick for city bike commuters and dorm room party hosts. For $129 at Amazon, this is the toughest Bose speaker you can get for any adventure or shower concert.
The best Bose speakers: Notable mentions
If you didn’t find what you were looking for from this list, there are a few other standout Bose speakers available. Alternatively, you may want to consider stepping outside of the Bose family in favor of something by JBL. This company has a tight grasp on the consumer speaker market, especially regarding portable, durable options. Sure, you could get the Bose SoundLink Micro, but for something truly versatile, consider the JBL Flip 6.
- Bose Companion 2 Series III: This set of computer speakers may not look flashy, but it performs well and connects via a standard aux input. There’s a single 3.5mm headphone input too.
- Bose Home Speaker 500 ($379 at Amazon): If you want a true smart speaker with Amazon Alexa integration, this is among the best Bose speakers to get. It’s a bit pricey (~$400) but includes Apple AirPlay 2 support, Wi-Fi, an eight-microphone array, and a color LCD display.
- Bose Soundbar 900 ($749 at Amazon): Bose’s current flagship soundbar hosts a bevy of features including Dolby Atmos, smart assistants, and it can expand to include other Bose speakers as part of your theater. Like the Soundbar 700, it also has ADAPTiQ. It even has an ethernet connection, which is unusual, but will get you the most reliable connection.
- Bose SoundLink Micro ($99 at Amazon): The Bose SoundLink Micro directly competes against the likes of the JBL Clip 4 and UE WONDERBOOM 2. Its squared-off build is compact and easy to stow away into a bag. Worst-case scenario, you can loop it to the exterior of your backpack via the rubberized strap that partially detaches from the back.
Hold up! Something’s different:
Some of our picks’ frequency response and isolation charts were measured with our old testing system. We’re still ironing out our standardized speaker tests with the appropriate support equipment to update our testing and data collection. It will take a bit to get everything fleshed out, but we will update this article (and many others!) once we’re able with improved sound quality measurements and performance plots. These will be made obvious with our new chart aesthetic (black background instead of white).
Thank you for bearing with us, and we hope to see you again once we’ve sorted everything out.
What you should know about the best Bose speakers
When it comes to Bose speakers, and consumer speakers at large, there are a few key features to be aware of when shopping around. Each subsection has its own dedicated article, but if you just need the gist of it, read on.
Wireless streaming and Bluetooth quality
More and more speakers support Wi-Fi integration, which allows for high-quality streaming over an 802.11b/g, 2.4GHz connection, which is likely what your Wi-Fi has. Wi-Fi integration is useful as it lets you stream over an array of music services for more reliable connectivity and high-quality 24bit/96kHz audio. This is great news for Amazon Music HD, Qobuz, Apple Music, and Deezer subscribers who want to stream high-resolution FLAC files and the like.
Although Bluetooth audio can’t outperform wired listening, it can be improved with certain codecs, the technology that transmits Bluetooth from the source to the speaker. AAC and aptX codecs are commonly supported by higher-end headphones and speakers. The former works best with iOS devices while the latter is great for Android users; both facilitate perceptibly lag-free streaming. If you’re using a speaker that supports AAC, be aware that audio quality varies greatly with Android devices.
Why do so many speakers have an IPX4 rating?
If you’ve ever wondered what the “IPX” means, we have a full rundown here. The long and the short of it is this: “IP” stands for ingress protection and the X is a placeholder for a dust-resistance certification. Oftentimes following the X there’s a number (1-8), denoting water resistance. IPX4 is sufficient for most products and is commonly assigned to workout earbuds. If you want to be able to submerge any of the best Bose speakers, though, keep an eye out for IPX7 or higher.
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Frequently asked questions about the best Bose speakers
As with other smart speakers, you can stream from your favorite music services like Amazon Music and Spotify, so long as Wi-Fi is available. Apple users can even take advantage of AirPlay 2 support for easy streaming. And the Bose Portable Home Speaker is compatible with both Google Assistant and Alexa.
Because the Bose SoundLink Micro doesn’t have an aux port, connecting it to your TV will be difficult. You may be able to connect it via Bluetooth if your TV has that capability, but you’ll likely experience latency issues. We recommend getting a soundbar optimized for TV use.
No. At this time, Bose speakers do not support aptX.
Party Mode can be enabled through the Bose Connect app or your speakers’ control buttons, and it allows two connected speakers to play the same audio. Stereo Mode is similar, but each speaker becomes either the left or right channel. These features are available with the SoundLink Micro, SoundLink Color II, and Revolve speakers.
Not necessarily. Depending on what you’re looking for, you may want to look for a more affordable brand, such as Anker, or maybe you just prefer the line-up of Sonos‘ available home speakers. Maybe you need a fully waterproof Bluetooth speaker, in which case you should go for JBL. Bose speakers offer a lot, including excellent audio quality and smart assistant integration, but they are only one of many great speaker brands.
Bose produces “consoles” which replace the stereo receiver in their home theater sound systems. This console/receiver receives signals from various inputs, such as your DVD player, then outputs signals to your home theater – the television and speakers. It is not easy to replace the Bose console with a third-party A/V receiver, but it can be done. You need to make sure that the inputs and outputs of the receiver are compatible with those of the speakers. Because Bose wants to keep you within their brand, you will have to research for yourself if a third-party receiver is compatible.
Keep in mind that many Bose home theater speakers come with wireless receivers. This is a different type of receiver which allows you to wirelessly add a set of speakers onto a Bose soundbar or sound system. These wireless receivers also cannot be easily replaced by a different brand. If you are not buying a speaker for home theater, you don’t need to worry about either type of receiver.