Bose is a well known name in speakers internationally and the Soundlink Flex is their latest offering in the area of portable Bluetooth speakers.
Priced at $250, the unit comes with a USB C cable and a quick setup guide. The full user manual isn’t included but can be easily accessed via the Bose Connect app or found online here
I know most people don’t settle down to read the manual once they have bought something, but it’s worth browsing through this one, as this speaker has a few tricks up it’s metaphorical sleeve.
Setup on this device was astonishingly easy, download and install the app, then drag down on the screen in the app to activate it while simultaneously pressing the power button on the speaker. Ok the pairing on your device then you’re done. The setup process in the app then lets you ‘nickname’ the device. You can choose your own or there is a ‘surprise me’ button that auto generates a name each time you press it – meet Sparkle Storm.
Other names I was shown included: Puma, Ninja, Fathom, Sparkle Motion, Onyx, Nyx, Midnight, Sonar, Big Maceo, Mambo Mama, Osiris, Skillet Bou, Ripper, Beyond C, The Genius, Taler, Domino, Pigment Pete, Lazy Lestor, Boom Shakalaka, Raptor Strike, Here Comes Treble, Deep Space Fine, and Heavy Metal Poet.
You then get offered a tour on the app to allow you to get the most out of your Soundlink Flex, and this speaker has a lot of features to show you. It has, among other things,
- Position IQ – which detects the device’s orientation and auto adjusts its EQ to suit.
- It supports both iOS and Android and thus also has Google assistant/Siri capabilities.
- On startup it tells you what the battery level is and which devices it’s connected to.
- An IP67 rating, meaning the speaker is water and dust proof and also floats.
- The ability to withstand drops and crushing shocks.
- The capability to sync with other Bose speakers.
- It can act as a speaker phone and has an inbuilt microphone.
- It supports 12 languages other than English.
- A loop you can use to hang the speaker from a finger, carabiner or cord for easy portability.
The Soundlink Flex can also hold up to 8 devices in its memory, though it can only connect to two at a time and play audio from only one of them at a time. When the speaker is first turned on it will auto connect to the two most recently used devices, provided they are in range (within 9 metres) and are turned on. To switch between the connected device’s audio streams you can simply press pause on one and press play on another (though do be aware that when you switch devices the speaker will use the volume setting of the connected device). You can also switch devices on the speaker itself – a press of the Bluetooth button lists the connected devices, then a second press within 3 seconds will switch to the next device on the list, simply repeat until you have the device you want connected.
Answering a phone call using the Soundlink Flex as a speakerphone will pause playback on whichever device is casting – not only if it’s your phone which is streaming, and if the caller is a known contact the speaker will also announce who is calling. On your phone you’ll also see an extra option when you are on a call if the speaker is connected, the speaker shows as a third option on the phone/speakerphone button and you can switch between them whilst on a call.
An important measure of a speaker is its frequency range. The human ear can typically hear between 20Hz and 20kHz (about 10 octaves), though realistically anything under 30Hz will be more felt than heard. For a speaker to be considered to have good bass reproduction it should be capable of hitting 50Hz or lower.
The frequency range on this speaker was hard to find – Bose doesn’t list it anywhere that I could see – however, I found this website – https://www.rtings.com/ where they have done any and every test imaginable, and they have listed the Soundlink Flex as having a range between 60.8Hz and 15.6kHz, with a max volume of 87.5dB
The sound reproduction of this device, particularly given its size, is notable. The best results were obtained with the speaker set to a mid to low volume, the sound was well balanced and crisp with no distortion. The mid range sound reproduction is excellent, meaning spoken audio such as podcasts or audiobooks is really well produced by this speaker.
I found that running the speaker at high volume did change the sound balance – the treble became quite forward but the bass more recessed. This change in balance was done, presumably, to reduce distortion in the bass sound reproduction – however the bass can get noticeably lost relative to the treble at higher volumes.
Having said that, and given the size of the speaker, the bass sound reproduction is pretty impressive, a little punchy perhaps – but the upper bass range is pretty good even if it doesn’t have the true deep bass thump to it.
The Soundlink Flex produces a much deeper richer sound than most tablet or phone speakers are capable of and it also has a very low Bluetooth latency. So if you are using the speaker to enhance a movie played on a tablet for example, the sound will be completely in sync with the visual.
The play button is the central button with 3 dots on it. To play or pause music you use a single press of this button. Double press will skip to the next song, triple press will go back to the previous song. A single press on this button can also answer or hang up a call, and a long press and hold will activate the voice controlled assistant on your mobile device.
The ‘+’ and ‘-’ buttons adjust the speaker volume, though you can also do this using the volume control on the connected device. The Bluetooth button allows you to switch device pairings or connect a new device, and there is also an auto-off timer set to trigger after 20 minutes of inactivity.
Bose recommends allowing up to 4 hours to fully charge the battery and states that with typical use the battery should last for up to 12 hours of playback. They have noted however that the battery performance may vary depending on the volume and type of content played.
I had only a few issues with this speaker, one of the main ones was that if your device is connected but not currently sending audio to the speaker you are unable to play audio on it, it’s essentially muted because it’s connected to the speaker.
It also felt like the volume control buttons were the wrong way around – the button to lower the volume is on the left and the increase volume is on the right. I went to increase the volume a few times only to find I’d actually turned it down.
There’s no noise indicator “power off” or beep to indicate when the device is off, which is a little risky to my mind as a 10 second press of the power button will factory reset the device. If you press and hold, not sure if your device is off or not, you may accidentally reset it. Plus a noise indicator is a really useful tool in terms of accessibility – particularly for people with a vision impairment who may not be able to see the power indicator light go off.
You also can’t change the EQ settings on the speaker at all, there are not even any preset options to choose between.
In conclusion, the Soundlink Flex fits in the hand nicely, and it’s surprisingly heavy for something of its size. It has a well engineered design making it aesthetically pleasing as well as capable of producing quality sound.
It feels like this speaker has been set up with the goal of being able to play as many different genres of music and types of sound as possible – rather than designing it for a specific type of music. I think Bose has absolutely achieved this goal, but when you set out to generalise you end up with something which is pretty good at most things, but not something you reach for when you’re looking for something super high quality. That being said, if you are after super high quality sound reproduction, while you might reach for a Bose product you probably won’t be grabbing a portable handheld Bluetooth speaker. These units are designed to provide fun music on the go and the Bose Soundlink Flex does an amazing job at exactly that. Whatever your jam is, from classical to pop, drum & bass to Norwegian death metal, this speaker has you covered.
You can purchase a Bose Soundlink Flex from all the usual online and in person retailers.