Bose Soundtouch 10/30
FOR Weighty sound; great app; improved file support AGAINST Short on expression and space; no hi-res support
Bose Soundtouch 10 £170
If we can label any brand a veteran in a wireless speaker market that hasn’t even reached adulthood yet, Bose would be the one. It has been in the game for more than 10 years and, following its Sounddock and Soundlink ranges, is still knuckling down on its two-year-old Soundtouch multi-room speakers.
While the desktop-suitable Soundtouch 20 and 30 models are in their third generation, it’s only now that a speaker of more modest proportions has joined the family. The Soundtouch 10 is the new baby, bringing the range’s entry-level price more in line with that of its rivals.
Old-school and proud of it
Bose has played it safe in the design department – ironically refreshing in a diverse market where traditional boxes sit alongside beach-ball, dragon-egg and Zeppelin-shaped structures – even if the word ‘unadventurous’ is on the tip of the tongue. Still, top marks for consistency: it looks every bit a Bose speaker. Classiclooking, juice-carton-sized and available in black or white, the Soundtouch 10 is clothed from the shoulders down and resembles a mini radio.
It’s too small to feature its siblings’ OLED display (instead white lights across the top indicate source selection) and omits an ethernet port for wi-fi connection – though is just as well equipped elsewhere. You can stream music (whether it’s MP3, WAV or, thanks to a recent software update, FLAC files) directly from a laptop, NAS drive, smartphone or tablet over wi-fi or access a world of internet radio. Bluetooth lets you take playback offline, while a handy 3.5mm input is onboard for plug-in.
There’s Spotify Connect too
Completing the connection list is Spotify Connect, which lets Spotify Premium subscribers control streaming directly from the Spotify app. Bose recognises the frustration of hopping between two apps (Spotify’s and its own), so has integrated the streaming service (as well as Deezer) into its Soundtouch controller app – and impressively too. It resembles the service’s friendly, intuitive interface and we like how it brings all your music into one place.
Small speaker, small sound? Not on Bose’s watch. It may not fill your largest room with music, but perched on a bedside table or kitchen worktop it will belt out a surprisingly big sound.
It has enough about it for a small box too: weighty enough to be deemed a comfortable listen, capable of going pretty loud (even if the midrange hardens up a little at higher volumes), and not shy of making its low-end presence known. The thick basslinedriven Holding On For Life from Broken Bells has depth and substance, even if the Bose’s low-end tips the tonal scales slightly in its favour.
Synth lines and keyboard harmonies are clear and perky too, and the Bee-gees-esque vocals are delivered with character. You get a hint of their dynamic flavour, the Soundtouch 10 lifting them in the right places, although the Audio Pro Addon T3 (our 2015 Award winner, no less) shows truer colours, and asserts its superiority with more detail and spaciousness.
And if we’re really scrutinising, there’s a bit of coarseness to the treble that the song’s cymbals can’t shake off.
The missing link
Bose has seen a (price and size) gap in its long-standing range and filled it with the Soundtouch 10: a small and talented package in its own right. It’s a sensible move by the company, making all-youcan-stream features and great in-app control even more accessible, and it’s also one that sees the new Soundtouch range off to a solid start.
Bose Soundtouch 30 Series III £500
The Bose Soundtouch 30 is back for round three, and while in the movie world ‘threequels’ rarely get a good rep, Bose is hoping its third-gen Soundtouch 30 will be to its product line what The Bourne Ultimatum is to the Bourne series: the best yet.
Going by the specs, it could be. The second-gen 30 stuck to the original’s guns on the hardware side, focusing instead on improving app software and adding more streaming services, and the third-gen presses forward even more.
So it’s out with Airplay and in with Bluetooth, which should please Android faithfuls. When we reviewed the first-generation Soundtouch 20 back in
2014, we balked at the lack of WAV and FLAC support. Criminally, the secondgen Soundtouch 30 didn’t address this, but finally things are looking up: WAV and FLAC are now supported, although hi-res will have to top the wishlist for a fourth-generation model.
Bose says that through 802.11n dual-band wi-fi the connection is now stronger and more reliable, with the addition of 5GHZ compatibility catering for more stable streaming.
The subtle refashioning doesn’t go unnoticed. Glossy, patterned panels up the beauty quotient too, although the Bose is essentially still a rather blandlooking yet sturdy box that dwarfs the Sonos Play:5 and Bluesound Pulse.
Around the back there’s a 3.5mm input and an ethernet port for connecting to your network (and wi-fi too), so you can stream music from a laptop, PC or NAS drive. Don’t have your own digital music library? Spotify Connect, internet radio and other streaming services such as Deezer and Pandora are on board.
Bose hasn’t rested on its laurels with its Soundtouch controller app. ‘Why juggle two apps when you don’t have to?’ asks Bose. Spotify is now integrated into the app, the streaming service’s intuitive interface and playlist functions intact.
A sonic stalwart, the Soundtouch 30 is every bit the powerhouse it looks, throwing out a weighty, full-bodied sound that’s solid, room-filling and goes louder than you’d probably ever want.
It feels right at home with Rush’s Spirit Of Radio, chomping down on the track’s dense, muscular rock-heavy sound. It’s not weighed down by its rich characteristic: there’s decent drive and agility to the pyrotechnic guitar work, and the rhythmic drumming is tight.
And while the Bose isn’t the last word in layered detail or texture as the dizzying riffs rip through the soundstage – the B&W Zeppelin Wireless is – clarity and detail levels are satisfying. Vocals find their way through the rich instrumentals with focus and reasonable insight too. Feed it Duke Dumont’s Ocean Drive and the vocalist’s delivery is complete with its breathy, soulful quality.
The Bose gobbles up the synth-heavy grooves, divvying up plenty of punch and clout. As with the Soundtouch 10, tonal balance leans a little towards the low end, but it’s more noticeable than particularly detrimental.
What we would like is more control at higher volumes; push it to 11 and the song’s chorus gets a little muddled. Thanks to greater space and precision, the B&W and Bluesound Pulse Mini sound more organised by comparison.
Third time lucky? Bose has taken its flagship Soundtouch to new heights with Spotify app integration, improved file support and more comprehensive connectivity. The 30 is a solid allrounder, but hi-res support and more space and insight in the sound department are high on our wishlist for a fourth-gen unit. Over to you, Bose…
The app takes care of multi-room tasks so several Soundtouch products can be controlled individually in one place, or grouped together to play in harmony. Tap ‘Play Everywhere’ and, well, you can guess what happens. Grouping (and ungrouping) speakers is intuitive and prompt, juggling different songs on different speakers is a piece of cake, and because each speaker opens its own window the interface is never cramped.
Set-up couldn’t be easier either – simply download the app, select ‘add system’ and follow the clear on-screen instructions. It asks for only two minutes of your time, so any multi-room newbies out there shouldn’t be put off.
As the app really is the nucleus of any multi-room system we’re glad Bose has put so much thought into this one’s reliability and layout. After all, nothing’s worse than apps that kick you out when asked to multi-task.
In its third-gen
guise, the 30 ups
its file support and
aims for stronger,
more reliable wi-fi
The diminutive 10
ably and smartly
plugs the gap at
the lower end of
Bose’s wi-fi range