Bose Soundtouch 10/30

FOR Weighty sound; great app; im­proved file sup­port AGAINST Short on ex­pres­sion and space; no hi-res sup­port

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Multi-room Speakers -

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.

Ex­tended ac­cess

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…

Multi-room ver­dict

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

says

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