There’s a lot to like about Bose’s Smart Home speaker lineup. They sound good and look sleek. They have built-in voice assistants and offer multi-room wifi capabilities. But despite all this likability, the newest member of the family, the Bose Portable Home speaker, feels like a worse version of the latest Sonos invention. That sucks for Bose, since the company is clearly trying to sell some Sonos killers.
The $350 Bose Portable Home speaker is a handsome little thing that’s designed with versatility in mind. It works as a wifi speaker through the Bose Music app, so you can easily connect it to other speakers in the Bose Smart Home Family, including the Bose Home Speaker 500 and the all-new Bose Home Speaker 300. There’s also AirPlay 2 support and a Bluetooth option for when you take the speaker out of wifi range. Moving it about is made easier with a wireless charging cradle that, unfortunately, is sold separately for $30.
On the audio end of things, Bose likes to brag that its new Home speaker comes with 360-degree sound. If you’ve been following the play-by-play of the portable wireless speaker market, this might sound like a dig at Sonos, which recently released its own Move wireless speaker, which has a front-facing woofer and not much of a 360 experience. If Bose is trying to differentiate itself with sound quality, however, it stopped short of building anything memorable. In a side-by-side comparison, the Bose Portable Home speaker sounded underpowered and hollow compared to the Sonos Move. It’s also about half the size.
Nevertheless, in the week or so that I spent testing out the Bose Portable Home speaker, I found myself wondering the same thing that made me second-guess the Sonos Move. Who exactly is this speaker for? It’s much more expensive than the best Bluetooth speakers I’ve used, and it doesn’t sound as good as non-portable wifi speakers at the same price point. What’s the point?
Brand loyalty, maybe. Some people love that hollow Bose sound and have filled their homes with Bose products so that they can hear it in every room. This hobby has undoubtedly been difficult for those Bose enthusiasts who have invested in the company’s SoundTouch ecosystem because new products like the Portable Home Speaker aren’t compatible with those products. But if you’re buying up Bose’s latest smart speaker family, the pricey new Portable Home Speaker is a new addition that you can take with you on the road, where nobody will know to be impressed by how your whole house is full of Bose products. If you’re the sort of passionate Bose fan who just wants the newest things from the company, don’t let me discourage you.
As far as Bose loyalists are concerned, it doesn’t matter that the Sonos Move is a better speaker. Bose fans will want the Bose version of this do-it-all device. In case you’re considering switching ecosystems; however, I would like to point out that the Sonos Move offers richer bass and superior tuning, including a new feature called Auto TruPlay that optimizes the tuning of the speaker whenever you put it in a new location. At $400, the Sonos Move is more expensive than the Bose Portable Home Speaker, but if you want the Bose with a charging cradle, we’re talking about a $20 price difference. (A charging cradle is included with the Sonos Move.) Seriously, though, there’s a very good chance that the only people who really want to buy the Sonos Move already own some Sonos speakers.
What the Bose Portable Home Speaker makes clear is that there the wireless audio world is splitting up into camps. Sonos used to rule the space, but lately, all kinds of new competitors like Bose and Amazon and Apple are getting into the wireless speaker market. The Bose Portable Home Speaker isn’t a particularly excellent or affordable wireless speaker, but it does let Bose compete more directly with Sonos. For now, the Sonos version of a portable wifi speaker is better. The Bose version is just fine. You won’t even care if you’re a huge Bose enthusiast. It’s got that Bose sound!
In all seriousness and given what’s out there right now, I think most people will be totally satisfied with a regular Bluetooth speaker for their portable music-making needs. The Ultimate Ears Boom 3 is my favorite and costs just $150. If you want to add Alexa capabilities, you can get the UE Blast for $180. The extra functionality you get with wifi capabilities just doesn’t add up to an extra $200 for each speaker. Most people will be happy with a wired Sonos One or Bose Home Speaker. They’re both great speakers. Even if you’re a super-fan of the brands, though, you should consider saving your hard-earned cash and wait for the price of the Sonos Move and the Bose Portable Home Speaker to drop. For now, just go buy a Boom. You won’t regret it.
- Perfectly functional and nice-looking w-fi speaker
- Way too expensive for the audio quality you get
- Lacking in bass and generally sounds hollow
- Buy cheaper Bluetooth speaker instead