Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen these days, and to stand out in a crowd, they must have not one but several points of difference. So, how does big brand name Bose do with its latest small wireless speaker iteration?
Its key selling point – like the Ultimate Ears series – is its ability to deliver 360-degree audio, so there are no dead spots listening to music anywhere in the room.
The Revolve also boasts a premium look and feel thanks to its aesthetically pleasing design and solid construction, its aluminium enclosure wrapping around the speaker without any visible seams, welds, screws or rivets.
Both the top (which features function buttons including power, Bluetooth/USB connectivity, volume, aux input and multi-function control) and bottom have a rubberised finish for extra durability. The use of rubber and some cleverly designed internals mean that the Revolve is IPX4 water-resistance rated. What this means is that, although it resembles the love child of R2D2 and an ocean buoy, the Revolve isn’t an ideal swimming companion. It will however, easily deal with splashes of rain.
The Revolve has a handy 3.5mm input for those who want to physically connect alien vessels, as well as a Micro USB port for charging and USB audio. An optional charging dock is also available for those who really need one. Once charged with the bundled micro USB power brick, its battery life is around 12 hours (depending on playback volume and its proximity from the Bluetooth audio source).
Another handy feature is a tripod mount, which allows you to keep the Soundlink Revolve off the ground. Its not a biggie, but it does show that some thought has gone into its design.
The Revolve also has voice prompts: a female voice tells you its battery status, and what it’s connected to, and can even step you through the process of pairing the Revolve with your phone if you’re really technically challenged. The voice prompts are not going to be everyone’s cup of warm beverage, and the Bose boffins have acknowledged this by building in a method for disabling them.
One cool feature is that the Revolve can pair with up to eight different devices. Doing this is dead easy, and requires only a short press of the Bluetooth button. Like a lot of other Bluetooth speakers on the market, two Revolves can stereo-pair. Using the Bose SoundLink app (IOS/Android), you can also set a party mode where all your speakers will play the same music.
Here’s another cool thing: hitting and holding the multi-function button allows you to fire questions at Android Assistant/Google Now or Siri. While it isn’t quite in the same league as Amazon’s Echo, it still rocks.
Equally nifty is its ability to act as a speaker phone. Should a call come from a paired smartphone, the music fades and the Revolve becomes a fully functional speakerphone. Using a mobile that supports HD audio calls, the effect is remarkable.
The Audio delivered from the Revolve is surprisingly spacious, rich and reasonably accurate. Bass output is fatter and deeper-sounding than you’d think given its pint-sized form-factor. Both treble and mids are there and present but not too forward, so thankfully, there’s none of the shrill, harsh, tinny sound characteristic of those early MP3 speakers.
Bose doesn’t include aptX support for Bluetooth audio. That’s a shame, because aptX is said to produce appreciably better Bluetooth sound. That said, their small size means that most people will struggle to notice the difference, and Bose is adamant that standard Bluetooth quality is fine.
You want bass? Well, as expected, placing the speaker next to a wall or in a corner will emphasise its bottom end, but that will somewhat negate its ability to produce 360-degree sound. Still, the bass anywhere in the room was robust and not to be sneezed at, but don’t expect it to compete with a genuine stereo bass driver or sub-woofer!
The 360-degree sound impressed was impressive, and dead spots and doppler-type effects were not noticeable as I walked around the room.
The Revolve performs well at volume, too. Cranking it up saw practically no distortion until I wound it up to its full output, and then clipping and other distortion came to the fore. Its audio performance was much bigger that its tiny form factor would suggest.
The compact Bose Revolve is one of the better Bluetooth speakers around. Not only does it deliver decent audio that belies its small size, but its 360-degree audio delivery also works brilliantly, making it a great background speaker for a family room or a more or less invisible sonic companion in the bedroom. That, plus a rugged and good-looking design and its ability to play nice with digital assistants and act as a speaker phone make it a very solid bet.