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Lifewire / Bill Loguidice
Gets incredibly loud
Lots of connectivity options
Audio distorts at the very highest volume levels
Small screen can be hard to read from a distance
Relatively large and heavy
Requires AC power
The Bose SoundTouch 30 is a connected speaker with a rich feature-set and premium sound output that helps justify its high price point. If you’re looking for straightforward operation with great overall sound quality and don’t mind the lack of portability, the SoundTouch 30 is a solid investment.
With Bose calling the SoundTouch 30 their “most powerful wireless speaker,” you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a premium portable speaker. Although definitely premium in its build quality and features, this speaker is anything but portable, weighing in at a hefty 18.5 lbs, measuring a long 17.1 inches wide, and requiring AC power at all times to drive its prodigious sound output. The “wireless” part is merely a conflated reference to all the ways it can connect to other devices and services via Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and Bluetooth.
We tested the Bose SoundTouch 30 to see if it’s truly worth trading portability for its premium (and pricey) combination of features.
Bose designs usually eschew flashy for understated, and the SoundTouch 30 is no different. Its all-black, monolithic design features a variety of textures and reflectivity across its various surfaces.
The entire front of the speaker is covered with speaker cloth, save for an approximately 6.5 x 2.5 inch vertical glossy panel with an embedded 1.6 inch OLED display, which shows simple information like input, volume, and song title.
Its all-black, monolithic design features a variety of textures and reflectivity across its various surfaces.
On the top of the speaker is a smooth, glossy surface covering a subtle circuitboard/honeycomb pattern. Embedded in the center are the power, input, volume, and preset buttons, which let you assign up to six favorites, like for a Spotify playlist, TuneIn radio station, your music library, or just about anything else compatible you might want quick access to.
The remote has a matte finish on front and, on top of the standard controls, features thumbs up and down buttons for liking or disliking the currently playing selection. Although it’s infrared, meaning you have to point it in the general direction of the speaker to control it, we had no trouble controlling functionality from well across the room. As expected, response from each button press was nearly instantaneous, although there was a slight delay on the speaker itself when moving to the next song.
The out-of-box experience is a good one. After plugging the speaker in and waiting for about 30 seconds for the loading bar on the OLED screen to finish its progress, you’re prompted to download the SoundTouch app. Although you can start listening immediately by switching inputs to Bluetooth and pairing your mobile device or computer, or simply connect a device via 3.5mm audio cable (not included), downloading the SoundTouch app gives you more options with the speaker.
Interestingly, since we already had another Bose speaker system registered in the app and they were both on the same network, we were able to play the same audio on both speaker setups. This speaker sync feature, which enables multi-room music for up to four different speakers over Wi-Fi (or moreover Ethernet) also extends to wired input sources. It’s a neat feature, and you can even correct for latency issues when trying to sync multi-room audio with a video source.
Besides letting you play music from Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, and others, you can also adjust the SoundTouch 30’s settings from the app. This includes connecting new or clearing previously connected Bluetooth devices, adjusting speaker groups, and whether or not you want a persistent time display shown on the speaker’s OLED display.
Adding to one of the six available presets is as simple as playing the source from the app and pressing and holding the preset button. We opened our favorite Spotify playlist, set it to random, and then assigned it to the first preset. Now, whenever we press 1 on the top of the speaker or from the remote, the SoundTouch automatically plays that list. These presets are definitely one of our favorite features, saving you the trouble of having to haul out your phone to quickly access and play what you want.
The SoundTouch also supports Alexa integration and has a dedicated Skill associated with it. Unfortunately, at the time of testing, the Skill could not link fully to our Bose account, which is presently a known issue. If this ever gets fixed, it would allow asking Alexa to play specific content directly on the speaker, but at the moment it’s non-functional.
Despite this unexpected limitation of a heavily advertised feature, there’s still considerable versatility with how you can control and playback audio to the SoundTouch 30, including music stored locally on your computer or a Network Attached Storage (NAS) drive, which allow you to stream your personal music library even when your computer is off.
The OLED display is crisp and clear and does a good job of showing key, concise information like artist, song title, and which service is being used. However, despite the screen’s high resolution, once you get about 10 feet away, text becomes difficult, if not impossible, to read. Still, it’s difficult to be too critical of the display, since many speakers don’t even bother to have anything more ambitious than indicator lights in their feature-sets. And of course, as we’ll discuss in the next section, with a speaker like this, it’s the sound quality that really matters most.
First patented all the way back in 1967 and popularized thanks to compelling commercials in the ‘90s, one of the latest implementations of Bose’s vaunted Waveguide technology is found in the SoundTouch 30. With its tunnel-like series of internal channels, the Waveguide’s sound path is optimized and amplified in conjunction with the drivers and subwoofer, delivering an audio profile that plays richer and louder than the size of the system would normally allow.
Streaming music from Spotify on the Very High setting, which is equivalent to 320 kbit/s, the sound filled our room at just 50% volume. Using a sound level meter from a little over ten feet away from the speaker, we measured peak sound levels close to 80 dBA, which is roughly equivalent to loud highway noise at close range, and not really the type of listening levels you’d want to sustain very long for good hearing health. Fortunately, the speaker performs like a champ at lower volume levels of 25% or less, as well, so it’s still fun to use for some nighttime listening even when the rest of the family is asleep.
The Waveguide’s sound path is optimized and amplified in conjunction with the drivers and subwoofer, delivering an audio profile that plays richer and louder than the size of the system would normally allow.
Confession time--we don’t like a lot of bass and shy away from audio platforms, like those from Beats, that favor it. Interestingly, while the SoundTouch 30 does deliver a substantial, driving bass, it doesn’t overpower the rest of the sound profile. There’s an overall clarity from the SoundTouch 30’s output that we usually find lacking from other audio products that similarly produce a lot of bass.
Considering how loud the speaker gets at roughly 50% volume, it’s not necessarily realistic to think it would be played at greater volumes consistently, if at all. When you hit around 70% or so volume levels, it’s literally room-shaking, with an incredible amount of bass and percussion. It’s only when you pass those rather extreme volume levels that you get some audio distortion. If for some reason you want a sound system that goes to “11,” this is one that can do it, just not at the same level of quality when it’s set to more typical volume levels (though you probably wouldn’t notice through your shattered eardrums anyway).
Playing podcasts across Bluetooth with the Apple Podcasts app sounded great. Each voice was clear and resonated appropriately. Similarly, when playing an audiobook through the Audible app, the SoundTouch 30 delivered crystal quality.
At $500, the SoundTouch 30 is on the higher end of the cost spectrum for a speaker with these features, particularly one that lacks portability. However, if you don’t plan on moving your speaker, the rich sound spectrum and solid build quality definitely go a long way towards justifying the price. This is not some lightweight speaker you’ll easily knock off your table, and thanks to its understated design will complement most decor.
Bose SoundTouch 10: The smallest of the SoundTouch speakers, you lose out on the impressive Wavetech performance of the SoundTouch 20 and 30, but still get a nice sounding speaker with lots of features that can fit in far more places, although there’s still no battery to make it portable. It retails for $200, but can sometimes be found on sale for as low as $150 direct from Bose.
Bose SoundTouch 20: The SoundTouch 20 offers a nearly identical feature-set in a more compact 12.4 inch wide and 7 lbs body. At $350 (sometimes on sale for as little as $275), the SoundTouch 20 represents a better deal if you don’t need something with the greater mass and extra audio punch found in the SoundTouch 30.
To see other great options in the Bose line-up, check out our list of The 11 Best Bose Speakers of 2019.
The Bose SoundTouch 30 makes a statement with its large physical presence and even bigger sound.
With its understated design and premium sound quality that can literally shake the walls, the SoundTouch 30 is a big deal both inside and out. While its high price may make you think twice, if you don’t mind its lack of portability, the SoundTouch 30 is sure to please with its overall versatility, features, and performance.