Wireless speakers are super convenient to use around the house but most are directional, sounding their best in one particular spot. Bose and other speaker makers have come up with a solution for this problem: 360-degree sound.
The Bose SoundLink Revolve continues the company’s history of excellent build quality and sound and crams it all into a cylindrical speaker you can take with you on the go. The speaker bears a striking resemblance to the company’s excellent Bose SoundLink Mini II speaker but in a different form factor.
[Update: At the end of 2017, the SoundLink Revolve is still an excellent Bluetooth speaker, albeit one that's a little pricey. Our guide to the best Bluetooth speakers is filled with our top choices for speakers that offer a better ratio of price to performance. Give it a read before making up your mind.]
If you're interested in a speaker with more heft and battery power, then Bose has also produced a larger version of the Revolve called the Revolve+.
However, Bose hasn't yet made a fully dust and waterproof speaker and that’s still the case with the SoundLink Revolve.
With an IPX4 rating, the SoundLink Revolve will survive splashes but you won’t want to dunk it in a pool or take it to the beach. That’s a big drawback especially for the $199 (£199, AU$299) price point but, if it’s any consolation, the speaker at least sounds better than the fully waterproof competition.
The Revolve takes the design of the SoundLink Mini II and stretches it into a cylindrical shape that slightly resembles the Dalek robots from Dr. Who.
It features a strong aluminum housing which comes in either silver or black and features a rubberized base and buttons. The speaker feels extremely well made and should put up with being tossed in a bag with some keys and knick knacks.
On top of the speaker you’ll find buttons for controlling every feature of the speaker, including volume, playback, Bluetooth 4.0, aux and power. Bose’s multifunction button controls everything from music playback to activating voice assistants like Siri and Google Assistant. The SoundLink revolve works great as a speakerphone for taking calls, something the UE Wonderboom, another well-regarded speaker that we reviewed earlier this month, lacks.
Its microphone is located on top of the speaker, so it's able to hear your voice from any direction.
On the bottom of the speaker you’ll find four pins for an optional charging dock and a threaded tripod mount. It’s disappointing that Bose didn’t throw in the $30 (£19.95) charging dock for free like it does with the slightly cheaper SoundLink Mini II, which costs $180 (£170, AU$300). While it might seem odd to have a tripod mount, it offers flexibility for mounting the Revolve in your home.
Bose also lets you pair two Revolve speakers to use for stereo or amplification, a neat feature that's becoming more and more common these days. This will work up to a range of 10m.
Pairing for this feature can be done on the device itself, but it's more convenient to use the Bose app. You have the option of using the speakers in stereo or mono, depending if they're in the same room or not.
On the inside the Revolve features a dual passive radiator setup running up the sides of the speaker to fill out the lower end of the audio spectrum. Mids and trebles are handled by a downward facing transducer, which uses a deflector plate to distribute sound equally in all directions.
Bose claims that this driver configuration allows the speaker to create a full 360-degrees of sound around the speaker without any audio blindspots.
The biggest reason go to with the SoundLink Revolve over one of its flat-faced friends is if you want omni-directional sound. With it, you can move around and experience the same sound wherever you are. This is great for parties so everyone can have the same listening experience no matter where they’re sitting.
In terms of volume, the SoundLink Revolve does a great job of pumping music loudly in all directions. That said, if you place it at the center of the room, the speaker lacks some bass response but that can be remedied by placing the speaker near walls to help reflect sound and increase bass response.
Overall, the Bose SoundLink Revolve's sonic performance is excellent, especially when compared to our other favorite 360-degree speaker, the UE Wonderboom. Where the Wonderboom sounds strained, the Bose plays loudly and effortlessly.
Bass response also sounds richer and more controlled than the Wonderboom, which features a mid-forward sound. However, you should take into account that the Wonderboom is half the price of Revolve.
Compared to the aging SoundLink Mini II, the SoundLink Revolve sounds almost as good but can’t match the expansive soundstage and instrumental separation of the Mini II – though, admittedly both speakers sound very good and you’ll be hard pressed to notice the difference unless you listen to them side by side.
Compared to the Bose SoundLink Color II, the Revolve features more detail and bass response. The 360-degree sound makes the Revolve more suited to listening outdoors than the directional sound of the SoundLink Color II. Both the Color II and Revolve are IPX4 rated, which means they’ll survive splashes but you won’t want to dunk either speaker in the pool.
Compared to the competition, the Revolve's battery life is average for a speaker of this size, lasting 12 hours at moderate listening volumes (the Revolve+ improves on this marginally with a 16 hour battery life). Be careful about charging the speaker the night before a big event as it also takes the speaker a ridiculously long 4 hours to fully charge when empty. It would have been nice to see Bose jump to USB-C for faster charging, but it's not a deal breaker.
The Bose SoundLink Revolve is an excellent sound speaker for users looking for true 360-degree sound. It’s great for sharing music during a party or for moving around the room without losing audio fidelity. However, the Bose SoundLink Mini II sounds slightly better and is slightly cheaper to boot.
On the debit side, it’s also not fully dust or waterproof so you’ll want to think twice before bringing the Revolve to the beach.
For half the price, the Wonderboom is a great speaker that is completely dust and waterproof. While it can’t match the audio fidelity or features of the Bose, it's still great for on-the-go listening. If bass is your game, the JBL Charge 3 is an excellent fully waterproof speaker that sounds great but is big and heavy.