Bose SoundLink Revolve review: Brilliant 360-degree audio in a compact package

£200
Price when reviewed

The most popular trend for wireless speaker fanatics is smart voice assistants right now, with the Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod commanding a huge amount of attention. Is there any point in buying a speaker any more that can’t answer questions, turn up the heating and tell jokes?

Well yes, there is, and the point is sound quality. That’s something that Bose has proved itself to be expert at over the years and its compact 360-degree speaker, the Bose SoundLink Revolve, builds confidently on that. There’s even a nod to smart speakers here, albeit a small one: hold down the speaker’s multi-function button and it activates Siri or Google Assistant, as long as you have a smartphone connected of course.

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Bose SoundLink Revolve Review: Features and design

Otherwise, though, it’s traditional Bose fare, and while the Revolve might look like an oversized salt shaker from a distance, it’s a very nicely designed product. Precision-drilled perforations surround the bottom half of the speaker, while thick rubber encases the base and top cap. It’s highly portable, measuring 152mm tall, 82mm wide at the base and weighing 660g. It’s weather-proof, too, rated at IPX4, which makes it ideal for lazy British summer afternoon at the park but not for holidays by the pool in Magaluf.

As a straight Bluetooth speaker, the Revolve gets the job done fairly well. It’s simple to pair and the controls on top of the speaker are intuitive, responsive and cover all the basics. You get separate buttons for adjusting volume, switching the audio source and that multi-function button, true to its name, does more than simply call your digital helper into action. It also allows you to pause or play music when pressed once, skip forward in your playlist when pressed twice and skip backwards when pressed three times.

This isn’t the perfect Bluetooth speaker. There’s no support for the AptX audio codec, which is somewhat disappointing, but you can add a second speaker to use in stereo pairing or party mode and, since it has a microphone built-in, you can also use it as a fancy speakerphone.

It is also possible to connect audio sources via a 3.5mm cable and, to make it even more convenient, you can pick up a charging base for an extra £25, which tops up the battery whenever you drop the speaker onto it. If you don’t want to spend an extra £25, you’ll have to put up with charging by plugging a micro-USB cable in.

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Battery life is pretty decent, too. When fully charged, the speaker can last up to 12 hours at moderate volume levels.  

Bose SoundLink Revolve Review: Sound quality

It’s a practical thing, but the sound quality is the selling point for this speaker. In particular, the 360-degree audio that Bose shouts so loudly about in its marketing materials. This works very well indeed and I found that, with the speaker placed in the centre of a room, the music would sound pretty much the same wherever I stood, including the corners, where normally you’d expect bass to sound boomy and overly reinforced.

The speaker achieves this effect with a couple neat engineering tricks: via a downwards-facing full-range driver that fires soundwaves onto a dispersal plate and out into the room, and via twin, outwards-facing passive radiators above it in the speaker’s chassis that produce the lower frequencies.

The speaker’s “pressure trap” is another example of some clever technology at play; it’s employed to prevent distortion. The speaker also employs a volume-adaptive algorithm that increases the bass at lower volume levels and decreases its prominence as the volume ramps up. This is no ordinary Bluetooth speaker and it’s perfecgt for background and low-level listening.

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Exactly how much this all contributes to the overall sound is tricky to ascertain but one thing that is clear is that sound quality is superb. I compared it to the wondrous Kef Muo and, while it doesn’t sound as balanced, as rich in the mid-band or as sweet at the top end as that speaker, its general audio quality is still wonderful. The bass is surprisingly full, rounded and tight, clarity at the top-end is excellent and there’s enough volume to fill a medium-sized room.

I do have one criticism, however, and although the speaker does go loud, at top volume things get a little boomy and resonant, even with simple tracks such as Melody Gardot’s “My One and Only Thrill”. The Kef Muo maintains a much more civilised and controlled performance throughout the volume range.

Bose SoundLink Revolve Review: Verdict

The main qualm here is the price. The Bose SoundLink Revolve is considerably more expensive than an Amazon Echo and a Google Home and that’s despite the price having dropped by £20 since I first reviewed the speaker.

If you want the best possible sound quality in the smallest possible package, however, the Bose SoundLink Revolve remains a fine choice, with sparkling sound quality and surprisingly effective 360-degree audio. If you’re willing to pay top dollar for a Bluetooth speaker, it’s worth the extra expense.

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