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

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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 new compact 360-degree speaker, the Bose SoundLink Revolve, builds confidently on that; there’s even a nod to smart speakers here – just hold down the speaker’s multi-function button and it activates Siri or Google Assistant if a smartphone is connected.

Bose SoundLink Revolve Review: Features and design

Otherwise, though, it’s traditional Bose fare, and while it 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, making it ideal for British garden parties but not swimming-pool proof.

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 a multi-function button that pauses or plays music when pressed once, skips forward when pressed twice and skips backward when pressed three times.

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 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 cradle 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 via micro-USB.

Once 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 feature works very well indeed. I found that the music would sound pretty much the same wherever I stood in a room.

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 that produce the bass.

The speaker’s “pressure trap” is another example of some clever technology at play here. The trap is employed to prevent distortion and a volume-adaptive algorithm that increases the bass at lower volume levels and decreases its prominence as it gets louder. This feature makes it the perfect speaker for background and low-level listening.

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, all-round 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. At £200, the Bose SoundLink Revolve is more expensive than an Amazon Echo and a Google Home.

If you want the best possible sound quality in the smallest possible package, however, it’s a fine choice, boasting sparkling sound quality and surprisingly effective 360-degree audio.

If you’re willing to pay £200 for a Bluetooth speaker, it’s worth it.