Bose SoundLink Flex review: A Bluetooth speaker with striking looks, pleasing sonics

 

Bose Sound Link

 

I typically expect good sound from Bose products, and the weather-proofed, $149 SoundLink Flex easily fulfilled my expectation. In fact, I was a tad surprised to discover that it was a monaural speaker given the dulcet tones radiating from its enclosure.

The Flex is a bit bass-centric, but given the younger audience, that’s both understandable–and desirable. To heck with that. I like it as well.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best Bluetooth speakers, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.

Design and features

The SoundLink Flex measures 3.6 x 7.9 x 21 inches (HxWxD) and weighs 1.3 pounds. It feels substantial, but not like an anchor in the backpack. It’s available in stone blue, black, and white smoke. I tested the stone blue, and to be honest, it’s my favorite of the three colors.

The non-grill areas of the Flex are covered in a grippy silicone material, so it doesn’t slip from your grasp around or in the pool. The trade-off is that the material has a tendency to gather grime. There’s also a small fabric utility loop so you can dangle/carry it on one finger or hang it on whatever’s handy. You could also use the loop to tether a longer lanyard if you so desire.

Bose gives the speaker an IP67 rating, meaning it can withstand up to 30 minutes submerged in up to a meter of water, and that particulate matter (dust, sand, and the like) won’t penetrate into its vital parts; namely, the electronics. It floats, though it’s relatively close to neutral buoyancy, making it fun to poke in the pool. You’ll find an in-depth explanation of IP codes at the preceding link.

The controls on the Bose SoundLink Flex.

Jon L. Jacobi/Foundry

Inside the Flex is a single 60 mm (approximately 2.3-inch) full-range driver, as well as approximately 3-inch wide rounded rectangular radiators firing forward and back through the large front, and smaller back grills. Bose has an animated exploded illustration of the SoundLink Flex midway down the page at the preceding link. Also on board is a microphone for handling phone calls and summoning your smartphone’s voice assistant.

On top of the unit are the power, Bluetooth pair, volume up/down, and a multi-function button, as well as the Bluetooth and power status lights. The speaker relies on a USB-C port to charge its battery, but there no other connections–which is unusual.

Bose provides an app (see the next section for screens) to help connecting the Flex to your phone or tablet, should you not know how to do so manually. I was hoping for an EQ function, but no dice. There are, however, a users’ guide and facilities to link with other Bose speakers in Party (unison/repeater) or Stereo (R/L stereo) modes.

Sound, Bluetooth, and Battery

Despite being a mono speaker with no channel separation, the SoundLink Flex is a very good sounding speaker; in fact, it’s one of the better-sounding monaural speakers I’ve tested. I’d have loved to hear a pair in stereo, but Bose only sent us the one.

I was especially impressed with the clarity of vocals. In fact I’m tempted to say the enclosure might’ve been tuned with them in mind. If you like to sing along with the correct lyrics, you’ll never mistake words listening to the Flex. There’s also a fair amount of bottom end–and it’s tight, not boomy.

Speaking of boom, it seems that Bose optimized for normal bass (above 60Hz), not sub-bass, which is only hinted at. This was a tad surprising as one normally connotes the presence of the other. I’m not a huge fan of sub-bass, but if you are, check out the Spark Mini.

The Bose SoundLink Flex connected rapidly via Bluetooth (there’s version 4.2 radio onboard). That’s good, because there is no auxiliary input. My run time with the 3.2aH battery was at around 7 hours during relatively low-level listening with around 30 percent life (announced via voice prompt) remaining. Bose claims up to 12 hours.

Bose’s Connect app can help you link the Bluetooth with your device, as well as turn on the Party or Stereo link modes with other Bose speakers. There is, however, no EQ function.

Good stuff

Though it’s a bit pricey, the Bose SoundLink Flex is stylish, sounds good, and delivers a nice amount of thump. Being thoroughly water-proofed, it’s also a great speaker for around the pool or at the beach. It’s one of–if not my favorite–speakers of this size.

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