Bose SoundLink Mini and QuietComfort 20: True Audio Breakthroughs

Bose doesn't release new products very often, but when it does, you know you're in for an earful of awesome. Such is the case with the company's latest Soundlink Mini Bluetooth speaker (coming July 11th for $199) and the QuietComfort 20 headphones ($299 later this summer). Both devices excel at putting big sound into compact packages, but they out-innovate the competition in their own ways.

Bose SoundLink Mini Speaker

Before we began our demo with the SoundLink Mini, we were enthralled with its clean aesthetic. The gray brushed anodized aluminum housing exudes a stylish, industrial feel. Want more style? Bose will also be selling soft covers available in orange, yellow and blue for $24.95. The speaker is a little hefty at 1.5 pounds, but the 2 x 7.1 x 2.3-inch frame means that the Mini can be easily stored in a bag or purse. 

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The top of the SoundLink Mini features large, gray soft-touch buttons for power, volume, mute, auxiliary and Bluetooth. Speaking of Bluetooth, the Mini stores up to six recent profiles at a time. The only thing missing is speakerphone functionality. Nope, you can't use the SoundLink Mini to make calls.

A removable soft-touch foot gives the Mini a secure foothold on just about any surface. Peeling away the foot reveals the rechargable lithium-ion battery that Bose claims will supply 7 hours of listening. The speaker gets its juice from a convenient charging cradle that's included in the bundle. 

The speaker's interior includes a pair of custom transducers for delivering clear highs and mids and a pair of proprietary passive radiators for driving lows. Bose has also outfitted the Mini with digital signal processing to keep the sound nice and balanced. In fact, the Bose SoundLink Mini is the best-sounding small Bluetooth speaker we've ever heard.

When we listened to One Republic's "Good Life," the guitar was rich and clear enough to really enjoy the strums. The male and female vocals were powerful and well balanced. When the demo switched to Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust," we heard thumping bass and an energetic guitar balanced against Freddie Mercury's frenetic vocal. On both occasions the speaker was loud enough to fill the small demo space. 

Shoppers can pre-order the SoundLink Mini now, and it will start shipping on July 11th. A carrying case will retail for $44.95. 

Bose QuietComfort 20 Headphones

The QuietComfort 20 is Bose's first active noise cancelling in-ear headphones, and they were well worth the wait. The black-and-gray buds aren't the flashiest on the market, but they exude a subtle elegance. The durable cords cords snake into a Y-shaped joint and then connect to a flat control panel that's covered in a durable soft-touch finish. The QC20s offer up to 16 hours of active noise cancellation, but you can still listen to your tunes if you forget to charge the unit.

Each bud has a pair of microphones to sense the volume levels inside the headphones as well as exterior noises. From there, the measurements are sent to the digital electronic chip housed in the soft-touch control panel where the noise cancellation signal is created. Bose put the technology to the test, pumping in 85 decibels of New York City traffic while we listened to "Sometimes I Wonder," the Jill Scott/Darius Rucker duet. We heard full, rich audio on the track with none of the outside noise disturbing our jam session. 

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The excellent sound quality comes courtesy of Bose's TriPort technology; it increases the acoustic space of the earbud using ports to recreate deep lows along with full, lifelike instrumentals and vocals. The QuietComfort 20s also feature proprietary StayHear+ ear tips. Unlike rival earbuds, the QC20s tips don't go deep into the ear canal, which makes for a seriously comfortable fit. Even better, the tips create a tight seal for passive noise reduction.

The most interesting feature of the QC 20's is the Aware button on the Y-joint. A quick press of the button activates Aware mode , which allows wearers to hear the world around them while keeping the headphones on. This feature can come in really handy when walking in a busy city or engaging in a quick conversation.

Bose reps prompted us to engage and disengage the Aware mode while listening to Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger." When Aware was on, the track quickly fell into the background, allowing us to hear train annoucements.

Bottom Line

All in all, Bose, has once again raised the bar for personal audio. The SoundLink Mini Bluetooth speaker delivers unmatched audio quality for its size along with stylish soft covers. And the QuietComfort 20 headphones offers a combination of comfort and truly impressive active noise cancellation that puts most larger cans to shame. Stay tuned for our full reviews.

Sherri L. Smith
Editor in Chief

Sherri L. Smith has been cranking out product reviews for since 2011. In that time, she's reviewed more than her share of laptops, tablets, smartphones and everything in between. The resident gamer and audio junkie, Sherri was previously a managing editor for Black Web 2.0 and contributed to BET.Com and Popgadget.