Bose recently released the SoundWear Companion Wireless Speaker, a device you never realized how much you’ve always needed. PCMag gave Bose’s latest product three-and-a-half stars, praising the solid audio performance with adjustable bass levels. At $299, the product is certainly expensive. There have been many skeptics who wonder why people won’t just buy headphones or portable speakers instead.
The Bose SoundWear fills a niche between headphones and portable Bluetooth speakers. It’s a niche that you would never think exists until you try the product out. This author had absolutely no interest in the SoundWear Companion until seeing it used at Fry’s Electronics. After two days of use, it’s hard to wonder what life would be like without it.
The SoundWear is basically two stereo speakers and a speaker phone on a neckband. It fits comfortably around your neck, and won’t fall off unless you have a really thin neck. It feels surprisingly light, but still makes its presence known, especially when you turn your neck. But once you hear the sound that comes out of the SoundWear Companion, you won’t mind its slight annoyances.
The sound resembles that from Bose’s SoundLink Mini II Bluetooth speaker in that it produces rich bass with that signature Bose “filter” sound. The highs are noticeable, and the mids do make a minor presence. Since the speakers aren’t directly in your eardrums, it’s very difficult to notice that you are listening to wireless sound. The speaker is best for electronic or hip-hop music. Listening to “Wake Me Up” by Avicii made an old song sound new again, while Pink’s “What About Us” sounds like an actual hit instead of the lifeless song it really is.
So why not just use headphones? Well, headphones, especially ones that have active or passive noise cancellation, block you off from the real world. Then why not just buy a portable Bluetooth stereo speaker? Well, you can’t exactly wear a portable speaker like you can with the SoundWear Companion. The stereo speakers are always pointed towards your ears so you can hear your music or phone calls even if you are in a crowded area.
Someone on Facebook told this author that listening to the SoundWear Companion is the same as the annoying people who blast music from their cars with the windows open. However, this isn’t quite the case. You will be shocked when you can’t quite hear what is on the device unless you are actually wearing it. Sure, the sound leaks far more than it does on headphones, but it’s not enough that it will have people yelling at you.
The situations that this author has found the speaker the most useful in have been taking a long outdoors walk, using it in place of the car stereo, watching a movie in bed, and sharing a phone call with a friend. However, it’s not recommended that you use this at a gym such as 24 Hour Fitness. There is too much noise, and turning the SoundWear up loud doesn’t cancel out other music, loudspeaker announcements, and sound coming from television sets.
In terms of battery life, Bose says that the SoundWear companion lasts about 12 hours on a single charge, which is pretty accurate. A 15-minute charge will give you three extra hours of use. It certainly is a device you can take with you all day while leaving your charger at home.
Bose’s SoundWear Companion speaker is proof that the company is still ahead of the curve. They took a chance at making a niche product, but hit a home run. You can bet Apple will soon release a similar product, and people will praise how innovative Apple still is. However, Bose did it first. Whether you like it or not, you will soon see people all over the place wearing a portable speaker around their neck. And they won’t care that you don’t like it.
[Featured Image by Daryl Deino]