Our VerdictBose is heading in the proper direction with the most recent SoundTouch 20, but…
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Two years is quite a while in the forex market, and our re-testing of the SoundTouch 30 series III shows it’s now time for a fourth iteration
Powerful, spacious presentation
Common sense of timing and dynamics
Decent low-end authority
Doesn’t build on detail of smaller Bose speakers
Coarse treble and hardness at volume more noticeable against newer rivals
Control application is hook disappointment
We’re not in the habit of re-testing products whenever a new rival appears in the marketplace, especially those not deemed to be class-leaders first-time round.
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However, our recent multi-room system test – which saw Bose’s Wireless Link enter our testing rooms for the very first time – gave us cause to perform the rule over its SoundTouch speakers once more.
As the diminutive SoundTouch 10 stood up well from this current crop of competitors, our testing of its chunkier sibling led us to presenting little alternative but to examine its original star rating.
This third generation of the SoundTouch 30, which we first reviewed in early 2016, reaches least the very best stocked of its lineage.
The second-gen 30 stuck to the original’s guns on the hardware side, focusing instead on bettering iphone app software and adding more streaming services.
The third-gen presses forward a lot more, so it’s out with Airplay and in with Bluetooth, that ought to please Android users. Whenever we reviewed the first-gen SoundTouch 20 in 2014, we balked at having less WAV and FLAC support.
The second-gen SoundTouch 30 didn’t address this, however in this third generation, WAVs and FLACs are supported, leaving hi-res support to top the wish list for just about any potential fourth-generation model.
Bose says that with 802.11n dual-band wi-fi, the bond is better and more reliable, by adding 5GHz compatibility catering for more stable streaming.
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Subtle refashioning doesn’t go unnoticed, either. The Bose continues to be essentially a fairly bland yet strong box, which dwarfs the Sonos Play:5 and Bluesound Pulse 2 – it gets extra beauty pageant points because of its glossy, patterned panels.
Around the trunk there’s a 3.5mm input, and an ethernet por, allowing you to connect to your network (and wi-fi too) so that you can stream music from a laptop, PC or NAS drive.
Inside, Bose uses its ‘Waveguide’ technology, which effectively performs a sort of traffic-warden role in delivering the energy of the SoundTouch 30’s two high/midrange drivers and singular subwoofer in a manner that belies even its already considerable size.
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The scale and power of its presentation is impressive. There is considerable yet considered bass weight, which carries some insight instead of the warbling hum that may often be recognised incorrectly as low-end authority.
Each one of these SoundTouch speakers time well, too. Without perhaps with the meticulousness of Audio Pro’s C-series – the sonic aptitude which helps it be feel an unfair comparison for a few rivals – their confident handling of a beat and grasping of rhythms are closer than many.
Dynamic expression is another relative strength, with the energy to spotlight large-scale shifts and, without exceptionally emotive, the subtlety to contour expression sufficiently so as never to become boring.
However the SoundTouch 30 loses ground in its inability to boost on the areas of the Bose sound within its smallest relative.
Detail levels are a lot more than sufficient for something how big is the SoundTouch 10, however, as the strands are occur greater space because of the bigger speaker’s increased scale, there isn’t a lot more insight to be gained.
The slight coarseness to treble frequencies and hardness at louder volumes that prevented the SoundTouch 10 from acquiring the entire five stars 2 yrs ago is amplified in the SoundTouch 30. It plays a part in the latter sounding tonally detached, a discord between frequency ranges that rankles after time.
It isn’t, of course, that the SoundTouch 30’s performance has deteriorated since first we heard it, rather that the higher competition at its price sheds a far more unforgiving light on those shortcomings.
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Denon’s HEOS 7 HS2 speaker for instance, may not match the Bose’s surprise for timing, but it’s a far more coherent and less fatiguing listen – though neither will be able to match the performance of Audio Pro’s C10, nor its £300 price.
Additionally it is further restricted by the company’s control app. All of the basics are set up: pairing is easy, grouping pieces or conversely setting them apart is easy and well synchronised, and it runs smoothly.
However, there are two issues here. Functions such as for example queuing songs and creating playlists – key to the usability of systems such as for example Sonos – are missing, as are a few of the major streaming services.
The opportunity to easily hook up a NAS device is a bonus, but one tempered by the omission even of Tidal – surely the most famous lossless streaming service.
Of course, that won’t matter to Spotify users, for instance, and it’s easily remedied, nonetheless it just sees the Bose software toe just the incorrect side of the line between uncomplicated and undercooked.
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2 yrs ago, we gave the SoundTouch series III 30 four stars, however the subsequent introduction of similarly sized speakers with similar features since – especially from Audio Pro and Denon – has shed a different, and less favourable, light on its abilities.
Increase that the limitations of its control app, and a drop to three stars was sadly inevitable.