Speaker of the house

Published December 2, 2013

Up until recently, Bose was just a name that I occasionally heard in reference to headphones. I didn’t realise it was a pretty big brand that have their own stores and everything, not until I was dragged into one. Mr C was investigating the options for their SoundTouch system, and wanted to get a closer look.

Bose speakers

The SoundTouch is a pretty clever piece of kit, similar to the Sonos system. The idea is that you have speakers of varying sizes littered throughout your house, and they can all be controlled from the one app – either on your desktop or mobile device. They can all play the same thing, or each can play something different, and they hook up to the wifi so can access all the internet radio stations across the globe. You can also Airplay stuff to them from Apple devices, and control things via remote if you don’t have the app to hand.

It all sounds pretty simple, but somehow we were in that Bose store for almost an hour. The salesperson was giving a very good demonstration of the equipment we were interested in, and then moved on to the rather more expensive Soundbars. We went into the little dedicated room as well, to listen to a really loud movie on the expensive speakers.

The trouble is, I just don’t have an ear for the good stuff. If I can hear something, then I’m satisfied. If it has a lot of bass, I’d probably notice, but that’s about as detailed as I get when it comes to sound. So I don’t think the salesperson liked me all that much, but, when it comes to the SoundTouch system, Mr C was sold.

We wanted to dip our toes in the water, rather than dive on in and get the biggest and most expensive speaker of the lot. Instead, we got the smallest – with the added benefit of it having batteries and being portable. And dear me, it is genius.

I’ve talked previously about our obsession with The Office radio station, and having that at the touch of a button is brilliant. You can preset up to six channels with radio, or assign them to specific playlists if you’ve got your desktop running. We were fiddling around with settings and accidentally left the speaker playing the audio from the TV, which confused me, but was actually very cool. It’s easy to move from room to room and has a pretty impressive volume from such a little speaker. It’s great.

Unfortunately, there are a few issues that we’ve found along the way. Setting up was a pain, as you had to plug in to a PC to get anywhere, and it was just at the time I was trying to be all iPad-only. There is a mobile option for setting up, but then you’re limiting the speaker with the device rather than with the wifi network as a whole. And talking of wifi, you can only set up one network at a time, so there’s no jumping in the car with a wifi dongle, or popping round a friends house. Not without plugging back in and moving from one network to another. And this is supposed to be a portable device!

The response is pretty laggy – often when you go to switch it on, particularly via the remote, you don’t know if you’ve pressed the button, or if it’s not working or what. The battery runs out pretty quickly, so it needs to be charged up every day or two. There’s also no mute button, which seems like a silly little thing, but can be annoying when you either have to switch it off or slowly run the volume down to carry out a conversation.

Overall, it’s a fantastic idea, the concept is exactly what we need - whatever you want to listen to, however you want to listen to it. The reality needs a little bit of work, but this is definitely a good and useful start.

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