There’s no shortage of Bluetooth speakers, but the Bose SoundLink Flex aims to give you sound to go for all your adventures, not just the ones at home.
The Bluetooth speaker isn’t anything new, and these days, we’d be shocked if each home didn’t have one.
Whether you bring it with you on the go or keep it on the shelf, if you have a Bluetooth speaker, you know what it can do: carry it outside for social situations and you have an instant DJ, or throw it in your backpack for an improvement on the sound your phone can provide.
The uses for a portable speaker are pretty obvious, but regardless of where you use it, there’s a chance you might be concerned about whether it will survive. Not every wireless speaker is durable, and many have to be watch for, checked, and made sure they are protected. Technology can be fragile, and many sound gadgets definitely fit in this category.
But not the Bose SoundLink Flex.
While Bose’s efforts in wireless speakers have long been about compact metal designs that felt premium, the SoundLink Flex goes a different route, opting for a durable design made to go with you, or even just stay at home.
Is it the ultimate speaker to take on the go?
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Design and features
Encased in a soft silicone and made to be IP67 water resistant, the SoundLink Flex feels less like your conventional speaker made for your desk or bedside, and more like something made for the beach, rocks, the poolside, and clipped to a carabiner on your backpack.
It is a soft design that still carries some heft, tipping the scales at a little over half a kilogram (0.6kg), which isn’t remarkably heavy, but still isn’t overly light.
You’ll notice it in your bag and if you carry it on the fabric loop by the tip if your finger, but it’s no big deal to carry at all. And given it’s a portable speaker, that’s a good thing.
As with most Bluetooth speakers, you’ll be controlling the SoundLink Flex with your phone, but you also don’t need to.
Connect it to your phone, and your volume keys become controllers for the volume, but there’s also some push buttons moulded in the same durable material as the rest of the speaker, acting for volume, playback control, power, and triggering the Bluetooth pairing mode. It’s all pretty basic and easy to get used to.
One of the more useful additions, however, is a fabric loop built into the side or top, depending on how you look at it. With this simple addition, you can clip the SoundLink Flex to a carabiner and bring the speaker with you anywhere, or just loop your finger in and hold it that way, too.
It’s pretty clear Bose has made this thing to be portable, and the IP67 water resistance rating just helps it, meaning you can bring it on your adventures, and even have it jump in the water with you. Handy.
Water resistance is handy, but it means nothing if the audio quality isn’t worth talking about, so let’s find out.
As usual, we’re reviewing a sound gadget by testing it against the Pickr Sound Test, which you can listen to for yourself, and that starts with the electronic sounds of Daft Punk and Tycho, where we find some nicely spaced sound with decent bass and good mids, while the highs shine, too.
Carly Rae Jepsen offers decent highs ever so slightly over the mids, with notable bass, too, and it’s a feeling we could get on Ariana Grande’s “Into You”, with the soft vocals appearing over obvious low end sounds in the beginning, before thrusting you into the a relatively balanced sound.
The bass is surprisingly solid, but not always detailed, almost blowing out too easily. We heard that in tracks by Charlie Puth and FKA Twigs, the latter of which missed out on the deep guttural bass, but still delivered the punch the song offers.
But it’s a decent balanced sound all around, with a good strong sound in tracks by Mark Ronson, Maroon 5, and even much of the rock we’d listen to. The instrumentation in the Deftones, Rage Against The Machine, Paul Simon, and David Bowie felt well spaced with a strong soundstage, delivering plenty of sound strength and balance in a water resistant and durable form.
Bose has also delivered a fairly decent battery life in this speaker, too, boasting up to 12 hours, with roughly ten overall.
It’s a decent life, comparative to the 10 hours offered by the also water resistant Sonos Roam, but slightly outflanked by the water resistant Ultimate Ears Boom 3, which offers up to 15 hours.
But we can work with 10, which is more than enough to take with you, and is easily charged using a Type C port, which for many laptops and most phones has become so easy to find, the battery pack you have for your phone in your backpack can give you the extra charge you might need in a pinch.
Priced at $249.95, Bose has positioned the speaker quite well, especially given what it competes with.
The SoundLink Flex is a little more than the UE Boom 3 (which typically retails for $229), and less than the Sonos Roam price of $299.95, finding a mid-point that helps the speaker deliver more value than you might expect.
What needs work?
While Bose has delivered a strong and durable speaker with a fair amount of value and oomph, some of that oomph can feel very overblown at times, and it’s almost as if the engineers forgot to reign in what was going on.
Unsurprisingly, throwing a lot of water on the Flex can throw the sound out quite a bit. That’s not a total shock: water and speakers don’t go together tremendously well, and while this one will survive an outing, it won’t necessarily play the sound as well when water graces its grill.
However, the sound can sound a little overblown without water, typically when the volume is raised.
We’ve heard from some that there isn’t a lot of volume in the Bose SoundLink Flex, and that’s not been our experience testing the speaker with an iPhone 13 Pro Max. However, when we turned the volume up, the sound not only felt flat, but began to fuzz out a little too easily.
In short, if you turn the volume up on the SoundLink Flex, expect the quality to go out the window.
It’s a similar situation when you mess with the speaker’s orientation, which can be laying flat or on the edge, or if you have something to leave behind it, at a slight angle. You can even hold the speaker to a piece of luggage thanks to the fabric loop built into the design. Each of these changes how the speaker sounds, but not necessarily in a positive way.
We found resting on the side — the edge — produced the least dimensional sound, as if the speaker had suddenly become shallow, while the flat seemed to deliver more bass, producing a very earthy sound overall.
Our favourite position for the SoundLink Flex was on its back, or even at an angle, nudging the speaker into using the moulded feet and something behind it. Positioning it on its edges wasn’t a winner for us, even though it reportedly as the tech to deal with that.
Bose’s inclusion of “PositionIQ Technology” in the SoundLink Flex is supposedly meant to optimise the sound based on its position, but we’re not sure it works tremendously well.
We definitely thought setting the speaker on its back delivered the best sound out of the options, while the option sitting on the edges felt shallow by comparison. There’s a slight switch over you can almost hear, but the back did the best job from what we could tell, and wasn’t quite as balanced in either position as Bose suggests.
Final thoughts (TLDR)
With some great ideas about design and durability, not to mention balance and bass, there are definite reasons to consider the Bose SoundLink Flex.
It’s not our favourite portable speaker, but it’s still a great option to consider if you want to take your sound on an adventure. Overall, the SoundLink Flex is a solid little speaker that’ll do you solids on sound, design, and value.