If you asked the average person to name a company that makes great speakers, there's a fair chance they'd respond with "Bose." The company has enjoyed continued success in an ever-changing market by showing its willingness to embrace new technology.
Its line of Quiet Comfort over-ear headphones helped popularize active noise cancellation, a feature that has become enormously popular. Bose has expanded its lines of speakers and headphones to include wireless models with Bluetooth, and support for smart features like integration with Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant.
These new bells and whistles are great, but Bose hasn't forgotten that it earned its reputation by becoming synonymous with great-sounding audio gear that's built to last. The company's current portfolio of speakers is its best yet, with more options than ever. If you're shopping for a new speaker, we recommend the Bose speakers below before making your final decision.
How We Picked the Best Bose Speakers
Our Bose speaker recommendations are based on research of the company's current options, along with the criteria below.
Portability: Bose makes both portable speakers, which run on battery power, and sedentary speakers, which must be connected to an outlet at all times. Both types of speakers have their place based on one's specific needs, and are included in our guide.
Inputs: A Bose speaker's inputs determine how it can be connected to your smartphone, tablet, or computer to play your music, podcasts, or any other audio. In general, we favored Bose speakers with multiple connectivity options to give you the most flexibility.
Battery Life: When determining which portable Bose speakers to include in our guide, battery life was our chief consideration. We only considered speakers that lasted at least 10 hours per charge. The amount of playtime you actually get will be determined by your average listening volume.
Durability: If you plan on getting a portable Bose speaker for outdoor use, you should only consider getting one that's been rated as water-resistant or waterproof on the IP (Ingress Protection) scale. Doing so will reduce — if not eliminate — the possibility of the speaker getting damaged by a sudden rainstorm, or splashes from the pool or the ocean.
Stereo Pairing: Some of the portable Bose speakers we're recommending support a feature called "stereo pairing," which allows you to connect two of the same speakers together wirelessly. In this mode, music can be played in true stereo, which means sounds mixed on the right and left channel will come out of the right or left speaker.
A single Bose speaker will play music in mono, which means sounds from both channels will be mixed together. In some cases, instruments and vocals originally designed to be heard in stereo may sound muffled when listened to in mono.
Best Overall: Bose SoundLink Revolve+ (Series II)
Why It Made The Cut: Bose's SoundLink Revolve+ looks sleek, lasts a long time, and won't wither when exposed to water.
— Battery-Powered: Yes
— Inputs: Bluetooth, Aux
— Weight: 2 pounds
— 17 hours of battery life
— Support for 360 audio
— A handle that makes it easy to travel with
— A Micro USB charging port
The SoundLink Revolve+ (Series II) is Bose's high-end portable speaker, but it's packed with features that are actually useful, and justify the splurge.
Bose's attention to detail starts with the SoundLink Revolve+ II's curved, tube-like shape, which allowed the company to use multiple drivers (the part of a speaker that creates sound) pointed outward. This choice allows the speaker to send music in multiple directions, which makes this SoundLink Revolve+ II a great choice for outdoor events, where people may not be clustered in one area. Instead of worrying about which way to point the speaker, you can set it down in a central location and hit play.
The speaker's array of drivers is also what allows it to support 360 audio, a digital surround-sound audio format. For a fuller surround-sound effect — and true stereo — you can pair two Revolve+ IIs together. Setting up stereo pairing on the Revolve+ II requires Bose's Connect app, which is available on iOS and Android. The app also allows you to install new software updates, and tweak additional settings.
If you have a smart home, or prefer to use your speaker in situations where your hands will be full (like cooking), you'll be pleased to know that the SoundLink Revolve+ can be wirelessly connected to an Amazon Echo or Google Assistant device, at which point you can use the speaker's built-in microphone to make requests. You'll need to download the Alexa or Google Assistant app on one of your devices to set this feature up, but you'll be able to use it totally hands-free once that's done. The option to stream music from your service of choice, or adjust the speaker's volume, without lifting a finger is a nice luxury.
The SoundLink Revolve+ is IP55 water-resistant, which means this speaker can be splashed repeatedly without the risk of damage. This feature, coupled with the speaker's padded handle and extended 17-hour battery life make it the ideal device to take with you on an all-day trip to the park, beach, or on a hike. Bose only made one technical misstep when creating this speaker: Building it with a Micro-B USB port instead of a USB-C port. Many devices, from speakers to laptops have moved over to charging via USB-C, so it's likely you'll have a spare cable on hand at all times. This odd design choice stands out because the SoundLink Revolve+'s other technical features are all very modern.
Still, it's hard not to recommend the SoundLink Revolve+ given everything it has going for it: A great internal audio system, support for stereo pairing, and a great industrial design. If we had to choose a runner-up for this speaker, it'd be the SoundLink Revolve, which drops the handle and some battery life but retains the other features that make its older sibling great at a lower cost.
Best Budget: Bose SoundLink Micro
Why It Made The Cut: The SoundLink Micro is a small speaker that retains most of the features of Bose's bigger models.
— Battery-Powered: Yes
— Inputs: Bluetooth
— Weight: .6 pounds
— Waterproof design
— Integrated strap
— Support for stereo pairing
— Micro USB charging
— Slow recharging time
The SoundLink Micro is exactly what its name suggests: a shrunken-down version of its premium Revolve speakers.
It's small enough to be packed in any bag, or even fit into the to the pocket of a pair of cargo pants. Like its bigger sibling, the SoundLink Mini is durable (fully waterproof, in fact), gets great battery life for its size (six hours), and comes with a physical strap. The strap allows you to easily attach the SoundLink Mini to the strap of a backpack or the handlebars of a bike. A minor design choice we like is that this speaker is available in four colors. Most audio equipment is available in one or two, but it's nice that you can get a blue or gray speaker if it better fits your style.
By using the Bose Connect app, you can pair two SoundLink Minis together for true stereo sound, download software updates, or access other settings. This feature is common for full-sized speakers, but still relatively rare for smaller ones like this. We really like it when companies don't equate small-sized gear with bare-bones feature sets.
Unfortunately, the SoundLink Mini inherits the Micro-USB port of its more premium-priced Bose speaker brethren. This is especially annoying because it means SoundLink Mini doesn't support fast charging, which has become a very common feature. Fast charging is especially helpful when using a small speaker because it makes the device more grab-and-go friendly. If this one minor annoyance doesn't bother you, and you need a speaker that you can keep with you anywhere, the SoundLink Mini is the one to get.
Best Smart Speaker: Bose Home Speaker 500
Why It Made The Cut: Bose’s Home Speaker 500 is compatible with smart assistants and modern technologies developed by Amazon, Google, and Apple in a powerful, great-sounding package.
— Battery-Powered: No
— Inputs: Bluetooth, aux
— Weight: 4.7 pounds
— LED screen
— Supports both Alex and the Google Assistant
— Works with AirPlay 2
— Not portable
Bose's Home Speaker 500 is the ideal choice for anyone who wants to enjoy music in their home, but doesn't have enough space for a multi-piece stereo system.
This speaker's coolest feature is the color LCD screen, which can show the album art of whatever you're playing. If you're listening to a pre-made playlist on shuffle and like a song, you can make a note of it if you'd like to listen later. You don't see screens on many speakers, which helps the Home Speaker 500 stand out.
Many of Bose's speakers can be used with Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant if you have a Echo or Google Home device in your home, but the Home Speaker 500 works differently. It can be configured to work with Alexa or the Google Assistant without requiring any additional hardware, everything you need is inside this speaker. The Home Speaker 500 is also compatible with AirPlay 2, a wireless streaming standard used by Apple devices that has better range than Bluetooth.
One of this speaker's greatest strengths is the ability to use it hands-free, but we also really like the array of touch-sensitive buttons on top. In a tap, you can change the song or volume level. Bose also built six preset buttons on top of the speaker, which grant you easy access to your personal playlists, or preferred internet radio stations. While we're confident this speaker will sound great on its own, you can pair two together with the Bose Connect app, too.
The smart speaker market is dominated by Amazon, Google, and Apple, but the Bose Home Speaker 500 is also an excellent choice. It'll sound better than most of the speakers offered by those three companies, and its LED screen can display information about your current music choice that you'll actually use.
Best for Computers: Bose Companion 2 Series III
Why It Made The Cut: These speakers have been a gold standard for nearly a decade, and one of the best sets of computer speakers available from any company.
— Battery-Powered: No
— Inputs: Aux
— Weight: 4 pounds
— Stereo sound
— Front-facing headphone jack
— Multiple inputs
— Not wireless
Bose's Companion 2 Series III computer speakers are nearly a decade old, and yet they still have a lot of appeal.
These are powered speakers, which means they need to be connected to an outlet to work. That, coupled with their lack of Bluetooth support, means that these speakers are really only good in one situation. Those limitations aren't dealbreakers, though, because they don't limit the Companion 2's audio quality.
These speakers are ubiquitous at colleges and offices because of how good they sound. It's possible you've heard the Companion 2 speakers without realizing it. We haven't encountered a pair in a little while, but were always impressed when we had the chance to use them while editing video, or listen to music while working on a project. Bose even sweated little details, like angling the speakers upward so sound hits your ears directly instead of hitting the wall behind you and reflecting back at your head.
We like that Bose designed the Companion 2 speakers with practicality in mind. Need to adjust the volume? Twist the large, well-positioned knob. Need to plug headphones in so as to not disturb the people around you? Plug your cans into the headphone jack built into the front of the right speaker. There's even an auxiliary port, so you can connect an additional audio component to the speakers if need be.
The Bose Companion 2 Series III speakers don't have a lot of contemporary creature comforts like wireless streaming, but the fact that they're still readily available nine years after they went on sale should tell you a lot about their longevity.
Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Bose Speakers
Where you'll listen to music: This will be the key factor in determining whether you should get a portable Bose speaker, or one that gets plugged in all the time.
It can be tempting to buy a portable speaker because you'll be able to take it anywhere, but the tradeoff is having to worry about battery life. If you listen to music indoors around the kitchen, home office, or living room, we highly recommend getting a Bose speaker that stays plugged in. If you'd like to listen to music on a speaker while you're out of the house, getting a portable one is the right choice.
Q: Will my Bose speakers work with any device?
Yes. We've chosen to recommend speakers that support the most commonly used wireless streaming technologies and physical ports. Bose speakers will work with iOS, Android, Windows, MacOS, ChromeOS devices.
Q: How long do the batteries on portable speakers last?
All rechargeable batteries degrade over time, but we wouldn't expect you to notice any appreciable dip in battery life for several years. A rechargeable battery's longevity is largely based on how many times it's been recharged, but can also be impacted by factors like regular exposure to extreme hot or cold temperatures.
Q: What should I do with my old speaker?
If you're buying a Bose speaker to replace an older model, we recommend checking out our guide on how to recycle electronics.
Final Thoughts on the Best Bose Speakers
In our estimation, the quality of Bose's audio gear continues to justify its reputation. While the company has expanded into headphones, soundbars, and other audio equipment, it hasn't forgotten about speakers. We have no problem recommending Bose speakers to any type of music listener, whether you want to listen to tunes casually or seriously. Bose's continued commitment to audio excellence in the increasingly crowded world of consumer audio should be recognized.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.