There’s a portable wireless speaker in almost every home; whether you want one for camping and travel, for outdoor playtime, or just to bring to the office or the jobsite, there’s all kinds of ways to use them. Audio giant Bose is known worldwide for quality audio products, and the SoundLink Flex promises to be no exception. Bose SoundLink Flex is a portable Bluetooth speaker that’s designed to be rugged and durable, and to deliver a lot of sound for its size, with the promise of “astonishing bass.” I got a chance to spend a few weeks with the new SoundLink Flex. I’ll tell you what it’s like to use, how it sounds and about its promised features.
Bose SoundLink Flex review
The SoundLink Flex comes in three colors: Black, white smoke, and stone blue. It has a powder-coated steel grille and silicon-covered exterior. Bose claims the finish will be peel and flake-proof and that it will resist UV and rust corrosion while maintaining a sleek, stylish look.
The speaker is rather weighty for its size, meaning it feels well made and durable but not heavy. It’s wide and narrow and can be used on its side, on its back, or hanging from its built in webbed strap. Sitting on its’ side, with just a couple rubber nibs to hold it up does make it rather tippy and on any kind of unstable surface (boat, RV) it will almost certainly flip over onto its back.
Buttons and Controls
There are 5 buttons along the top panel, including a power button, volume up and down buttons, a multi-function button, and a Bluetooth pairing button, as well as a pinhole microphone. The multi-function button allows you to stop and start tracks, answer calls, and move between tracks. Two presses will skip forward a track, and three will go back a track.
Durability and water resistance
The speaker is rated at IP67, meaning that it’s (6) totally protected from dust and solid objects and (7) Protected from all jets of water and can be temporarily immersed in up to one metre of water for at least 30 minutes.
Conveniently, the Bose SoundLink Flex also floats (unlike another competitor’s new portable wireless offering), so it’s unlikely that you’d be even able to keep it submerged long enough to cause damage, so for all intents and purposes, the speaker is waterproof. This portable speaker is definitely designed for taking along with you on hikes, camping trips, even on the water.
Bose says it can withstand drops, crushing and more abuse. In my limited tests, it seemed to hold up well.
Bluetooth and App
One surprising aspect of the SoundLink Flex is that it uses Bluetooth 4.2 rather than the current standard 5.1. It’s possible that Bose felt there wouldn’t be a significant improvement in the sound output or connectivity to the speaker to warrant upgrading the technology. One would think that Bluetooth 5.1 would give a noticeable increase in battery life, but with that already being lengthy for a knock-around speaker, perhaps it was a tradeoff. Bose claims the range for Bluetooth connection is about nine meters (30 feet). I tested this out by putting on some music and then taking the speaker and walking away from my phone. Despite going to all corners of my house and putting walls between the phone and the speaker, the connection was rock solid.
The Bose Connect app will allow you to pair one or more devices to the speaker, as well as designate a left and right speaker should you pair more than one Soundlink Flex. (The Soundlink Flex will remember the last eight devices it has connected to. ) I will say pairing and multiple connections seemed a bit finicky, despite the speaker verbally telling me it was connected to my phone. On more than one occasion I needed to go into the Bose app and/or my Bluetooth settings to re-establish the connection before I’d get any sound.
You’ll also use the Bose app to update the firmware for the speaker, see the user manual, and enable or disable things like voice prompts and adjust how long the auto-off timer lasts. There are no equalizer functions within the app, though Bose could easily add one in future app updates.
Bose SoundLink Flex sound quality
Cutting right to the chase, the Bose SoundLink Flex is a great sounding speaker. It’s plenty powerful and can easily fill a room, though I didn’t get much chance to try it outdoors due to the cold weather. The sound is well balanced, has good, strong bass and an overall top notch sound.
What is Bose Position IQ?
Bose claims the SoundLink Flex features a technology called Position IQ, where an internal sensor detects which alignment it’s resting in (vertical, horizontal, or hanging) and adjust the mids and high frequencies audio for maximum clarity. While there isn’t an adjustable EQ for the speaker (not uncommon for outdoor Bluetooth speakers), Position IQ uses predetermined equalization for the different orientations it can be in. Cool I guess, but I didn’t really notice any audible difference.
Battery life & charging: Bose SoundLink Flex
The SoundLink Flex is charged with an included USB-C cable. A single charge of the rechargeable lithium-ion battery should last roughly 12 hours, depending on the volume level you choose. A full charge should take approximately four hours, and Bose suggests using their cable, and that other cables may influence the charging time. That lengthy charging time is a bit or a downside for me, as is the lacklustre battery life. There are other speakers out there of similar size that can outlast this one, so folks needing to go more time between charges might want to shop around.
I will say that the speaker does seem to go to sleep effectively, disconnecting and shutting itself down when not in use, so as not to drain battery unnecessarily.
Pairing with other Bose speakers
Bose has a reputation for making its wireless speakers and headphones multi-pairable, and the SoundLink Link is no exception. This speaker can pair with multiple devices, and you can manually switch between them.
You can also pair with more than one SoundLink Flex to create a stereo effect. The Bose app allows you to choose which speaker will become the left and right output. There is no audio in capability, likely due to the waterproof nature of the device, so you’ll only be able to connect via Bluetooth. As I only had once Bose speaker to play with, I didn’t get to test this feature.
The microphone in the Soundlink Flex acts as an extension of the microphone in your mobile device, so you certainly use it to take calls. The microphone is able to pick up your voice from a distance, and there wasn’t really any issue for me with clarity or dropouts. The microphone will also allow you to interact with your voice assistant on your phone.
Overall review: Bose SoundLink Flex
Overall this is a really great portable wireless speaker. It’s small but portable and powerful. The sound quality is awesome and it’s easy to set up and use and it seems wickedly durable, along with being waterproof and floating. Downsides? It can be a bit finicky on the connections sometimes, and while it may remember other devices, it doesn’t always connect to them on its own automatically after being connected to another device. The total battery life is also just on the okay side, and it takes hours to fully recharge.
If you can get past those cons, then you’ll love the Bose SoundLink Flex. It sells for about $189CAD/$149USD.
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