Bose SoundLink Flex review: a rugged, waterproof and flattering portable speaker

The Flex joined the very large family of Bose SoundLink portable speakers in December 2021. Launched at the very precise price of €169.95 and available in three colors, this model is placed in the manufacturer’s catalog as a resolutely rugged, robust product. and waterproof (IP67 certification), which can be identified in bulkier evolution of the excellent SoundLink Micro.

Above all, Bose advocates the great ease of use of its new portable Bluetooth speaker thanks to numerous controls/integrated voice aids and a few practical features (pairing with other speakers to extend music playback, mobile companion app, hands-free kit , multipoint). Sound reproduction has obviously not been set aside, quite the contrary, since we are promised “crisp, clear, distortion-free, balanced sound [avec] powerful bass”. Enough to “hear every instrument and every nuance” thanks to the full-range loudspeaker and the two integrated passive radiators. The PositionIQ technology would be responsible for automatically adapting the restitution of the speaker according to the way in which it is positioned.

The SoundLink Flex has been tested in version 1.0.20.

Editor's Rating: 5 out of 5

Manufacturing

The SoundLink Flex comes in the form of a beautiful 587g pad measuring approximately 9 x 20 x 5 cm and with very rounded edges. The speaker fits easily in the hand, in particular thanks to its silicone coating, and easily finds its place in a front pocket of a backpack (but not in a conventional trouser pocket). There’s not much that can be faulted for its build quality and finish: the SoundLink is sturdy and can withstand minor accidental drops without worry, as well as being used near a hot spot. water, on the beach or even in the water since it is waterproof (IP67 certification). In the case of contact with water, it will obviously be necessary to take care to dry the speaker, in particular at the level of its USB-C connector, before recharging it.

Although it is obviously not as small as its ultra-portable little sister SoundLink Micro, the SoundLink Flex is a speaker that can be manipulated with one hand.

Although it is obviously not as small as its ultra-portable little sister SoundLink Micro, the SoundLink Flex is a speaker that can be manipulated with one hand.

On this model, Bose has tried a new way of hanging its portable speaker, this time with a simple strap – not indicated as detachable, but “untearable” – present on the left edge. A small, simple and always practical system, but a carabiner among the accessories provided would not have been too much…

All the part related to the sound reproduction is protected by a steel grid present on the front and rear faces of the enclosure.

All the part related to the sound reproduction is protected by a steel grid present on the front and rear faces of the enclosure.

Editor's Rating: 5 out of 5

User experience

The SoundLink Flex is not one that offers a myriad of features, which in no way prevents it from being extremely pleasant to use on a daily basis. Bose’s portable speaker stands out with its child-friendly handling, even without the help of the Bose Connect companion app. The SoundLink Flex incorporates many voice alerts and some light indications. All the necessary buttons and controls are directly accessible to manage playback, pairing, calls, listening volume, navigate between tracks, pair another speaker, easily switch to another source or even know the remaining battery level . A delight.

Although sober, the Bose Connect app (iOS, Android) offers a few significant extras. The user can indeed take advantage of a tutorial and some nice little customization options, such as configuring the language of voice aids (and even deactivating them pure and simple if necessary), slightly easier management of connected devices /in memory and pairing with another speaker, or even activating and configuring an auto standby mode. However, there is no option to customize the sound reproduction of the speaker.

Bose Connect app on iOS

Bose Connect app on iOS

Like a few other competing models, the SoundLink Flex can be paired with another Bose SoundLink in stereo and multiple speakers in the range in Party Mode to stream the same content. Alas, we had no other models at our disposal to see how well this option worked.

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

Audio

Bose is full of praise for the sound performance of its speaker, and it is true that this model knows how to impress in a few aspects. But all is not so perfect…

There is an undeniable continuity in the sonic signature of Bose portable speakers, and the SoundLink Flex proves it once again. The portable speaker from the American manufacturer indeed adopts the formula that we know well: a flattering and energetic sound, brought by bass and treble forward, combined with a generous extension on both sides of the spectrum (in particular in the lower frequencies), the whole remaining homogeneous, coherent and fairly respectful of the timbres. A very large part of this coherence is due to the extremely well-balanced, not to say linear, reproduction which the loudspeaker demonstrates between the low-mids up to the onset of the treble. Difficult to take it back on this point.

Frequency response measurement.

Frequency response measurement.

As we saw on the SoundLink Micro and its famous distant cousin SoundLink Mini II, the SoundLink Flex surprises us with the depth of the bass it deploys. Although larger than the latter, the SoundLink Flex’s bass extension is still impressive given its volume, allowing the speaker to deliver rich, round, immersive bass with a nice seat and a convincing transcription of the sensation of impact.

Although the warm sound that emerges from the enhancement of the extreme bass / bass is particularly pleasant, especially for outdoor use, the two passive radiators of the portable Bose speaker are a bit too generous, which generates quite frequent overflows and masking effects on the low-mids. In other words, it regularly happens that the basses “drool” and take up a little too much space. The effect is very easily identifiable as soon as the instruments multiply (bass drum, floor tom, double bass/bass, cello, low notes on the piano or synth layers, etc.) or on very close kicks of the bass drum. The basses become “compact” and it is very difficult to identify each protagonist.

Frequency response measurement: full-axis measurement (black), speaker angled at 45° (pink), angled at 90° (dark pink).

Frequency response measurement: full-axis measurement (black), speaker angled at 45° (pink), angled at 90° (dark pink).

The SoundLink Flex is also not lacking in resources when it comes to reproducing the other end of the spectrum, the treble/extreme treble. The treatment reserved for this area is here also particularly flattering and has the effect of artificially boosting the fine details, room effects (reverberation for example) and the brilliant aspect of the treble. We recognize that the result is quite pleasant and allows us to perceive certain subtleties of his music… Nevertheless, the reproduction of the treble lacks finesse and detail, and this is especially felt when we want to push the speaker to a more generous volume, to listen to music outdoors, for example. In this case, the highs become a tad aggressive and the sibilances are more and more present.

The rise in volume is also accompanied by a certain crushing of the dynamics, which had been nicely preserved until then, then by a sagging of the bass and rather unsightly “pumping” effects in the most extreme sound levels. To preserve listening pleasure, it is better to stay below 70-80% of the maximum volume, which is sufficient for close listening a few meters from the speaker outdoors or for playing music in a living room. .

Measurement of the harmonic distortion rate.

Measurement of the harmonic distortion rate.

Finally, it should be noted that the SoundLink Flex promises neither a homogeneous 360° reproduction, nor even stereophonic: it is a perfectly monophonic portable loudspeaker with a particularly marked directivity. The high-mids/treble thus clearly lose presence as soon as you are not located directly in front of the speaker, which is especially true when it is in a standing or hung position. In the lying position (Bose logo pointing upwards), the loudspeaker still delivers homogeneous reproduction for users positioned around it and, using an integrated sensor, automatically activates signal processing that allows to maintain a certain homogeneity in the treble.

Measurement of the frequency response – action of the PositionIQ signal processing: measurement in the axis of the upright speaker (black), lying speaker (blue).

Measurement of the frequency response – action of the PositionIQ signal processing: measurement in the axis of the upright speaker (black), lying speaker (blue).

Strong points

  • Rich, energetic and homogeneous sound reproduction, very well balanced mids.

  • Generous bass extension…

  • Neat, robust and waterproof design (IP67).

  • Very pleasant to hold and use.

  • Multipoint connection.

Weak points

  • Unnatural and almost aggressive treble reproduction at high volume.

  • …which is done a little to the detriment of their precision.

  • No possibility of wired audio connection, not even USB.

Conclusion

we tested we liked
Global mark

Editor's Rating: 4 out of 5

How does grading work?

The SoundLink Flex is a successful portable speaker that fully respects its commitments in terms of ease of use and robustness. Its sound performance is not impeccable, especially when pushed at high volume, but the service provided is no less solid. This model will satisfy music lovers looking for a simple, effective and solid listening companion.

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