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Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Solid, stable connectivity
Premium look and feel
Great controls and input flexibility
Tricky setup process
No advanced Bluetooth codecs
This adapter is almost exclusively for those already in the Bose ecosystem. If that’s you, it’s a near necessity.
The Bose SoundTouch Wireless Link Adapter is sort of a one-stop shop for modernizing your home’s audio systems. On the surface, it’s essentially just a wireless Bluetooth-based adapter with a few different inputs. But when you pair it with the Bose SoundTouch app, and look closer at all the different possible applications, its versatility becomes apparent. It isn’t without its faults, however—it has too many different applications and can be complicated and cumbersome to set up. Unlike the plug-and-play options at the lower end of the budget spectrum, the SoundTouch Link requires you to jump through some hoops to fully unlock all its features. But if you’re ready to dig in, and perhaps have a variety of other SoundTouch products, this is a great way to unite your whole home audio system.
There isn’t a whole lot to say on the design front, and that’s kind of on purpose. Bose has chosen to make this device about as small and minimalist as possible—it measures 3.4” x 3.4” x 1”, and has a very similar vibe to something like an Apple TV. It’s built of a glossy black plastic that Bose fans will find very familiar, and there aren’t really any other accents on the product except for a small Bose logo in white on the top.
There’s only one button on the top, and all the ports exist on the back of the unit, so it’s easy to wire up through the back of your entertainment center. There are some subtle LED indicators on the front of the unit that disappear entirely when the lights are off. The whole unit is very unassuming, which is great because you’ll likely want to just tuck it out of the way inside a cabinet or on top of a stereo receiver.
At this price you expect a certain degree of build quality, and Bose delivers. The device feels very solid, with a rubberized top and stable rubber bottom. This makes it sit very securely on most surfaces. At under four ounces it isn’t super heavy, but it feels dense and substantial. The button on the top doesn’t feel overly clicky, which is to be expected with a rubberized build, but we would have liked a little more tactile feedback.
The whole package befits the premium price point, and it’s nice that Bose has taken the time to make a small unit like this sleek and minimalist without the flimsy feeling of cheaper alternatives.
All of the ports feel pretty stable, with very little wiggle when cables are plugged in. This is partly a function of the fact that the cables provided in the box are pretty solid, too, so just be aware if you use your own cables, your experience may vary. The whole package befits the premium price point, and it’s nice that Bose has taken the time to make a small unit like this sleek and minimalist without the flimsy feeling of cheaper alternatives.
The most mixed aspect of this product is the setup process. Bose is a difficult brand to review in this regard, because whether you’re using their renowned Bluetooth headphones or hooking up a full wireless speaker system, once you get the connection setup, things are really stable. But even with the premium noise-cancelling headphones Bose has become known for, setting up the connection can be vexing, because Bose has tried to connect so much of the experience through the proprietary SoundTouch app.
One thing to point out right away: you can use this adapter right out of the box as a Bluetooth receiver for speakers, but you might need to refresh the Bluetooth menu on your device a couple times. We found that our iPhone didn’t pick up the SoundTouch Link on the first couple of attempts.
Connect the Link to your wireless router using the SoundTouch app and everything becomes a bit easier, as Link will join the ecosystem of recognized Bose devices. This works great for connecting a record player or an MP3 player via the aux cable and sending audio to another wireless SoundTouch speaker. This behaves the same way as a Sonos system receiver, meaning you can then send that audio to different rooms, adjust the volume of the sound in different rooms, and so on.
This works in reverse too, allowing you to connect some non-Bluetooth speakers to the Link and use them as if they were a SoundTouch speaker. Anecdotally, once we got the unit set up it worked really well. Connectivity shouldn’t be a huge issue, because you’ll set up the unit in your house and won’t be wandering around in mixed-reception and mixed-interference areas. Bose places the Bluetooth range at about 30 feet, which is pretty in keeping with modern Bluetooth protocols, but since it connects via your Wi-Fi router too the range is basically only limited by the range of your wireless network.
The SoundTouch Link has a ton of options for connectivity. For starters, there’s the expected audio out via 3.5mm jack, and Bose includes cables to run output to RCA or even a digital optical jack. This works like most other Bluetooth receivers by doing just that—receiving music via Bluetooth from a phone or tablet and sending that audio through the output to speakers that don’t already have that Bluetooth capability.
Because this works with the SoundLink wireless family and has an audio input, you can also send wireless signal out to other SoundTouch speakers. Just use the analog audio input (another 3.5mm jack), plug in a phone, MP3 player, or even a record player, and then fire up the Bose app to rout the Link’s analog audio input to other wireless speakers. It’s a really smart bonus feature, and one you don’t see on almost any other Bluetooth receiver.
The rest of the connectivity specs are pretty standard: there’s a USB input to download and setup firmware updates, a barrel-style plug for power input, and a toggle button to turn the Wi-Fi part of the connectivity on and off. There’s a panel Bluetooth button on the top of the unit for entering pairing mode, and the LED indicators on the front for denoting power and connectivity. You can also interact with the unit via Alexa, and it’s compatible with Spotify and Sirius.
As with many of Bose’s products, the tech specs aren’t fully transparent on the product site. Bose has long opted to specify only marketing-style language (such as “room-filling sound” and “rich, immersive audio”) rather than actual numbers.
It’s hampered by the near mandatory app and the steep learning curve, and there are too many rough-around-the-edges moments during setup for a device at this price point.
There aren't as many moving parts for a transmitter alone, and as such the sound quality you’re experiencing has a lot to do with the speakers you plug the Link into. But it’s clear that Bose still uses SBC only for Bluetooth transmission, the most common form of Bluetooth transfer compression, which results in a bit of loss in the overall signal, especially if you’re trying to transmit lossless audio.
We would have liked to see a more premium codec that doesn't degrade audio quite as much here, such as Qualcomm’s aptX, but this isn’t a deal breaker. Bose is really going for flexibility and wireless connectivity with this unit, and if you transfer audio via Wi-Fi your options expand on the compression front.
Bose is a premium brand—we aren’t telling you anything new here. But even by those standards, this device feels a little too heavy-handed. The price on the unit is almost always $149, though you might find it for a better deal during a sale. To be fair, it works seamlessly and gives you a ton of connectivity options, effectively turning your whole Bose family of smart speakers into a multi-room Sonos-style system. But it’s hampered by the near mandatory app and the steep learning curve, and there are too many rough-around-the-edges moments during setup for a device at this price point.
Audio Engine Bluetooth Receiver: On the premium side of the market, this receiver does support aptX and provides the best audio compression Bluetooth can offer.
Echo Link: Amazon’s answer to the streaming home audio space is an interesting one, though early reviews indicate that it’s a little too pricey.
Logitech Bluetooth Adapter: This no-frills receiver from Logitech gives you almost every core feature you’d want, with no bells and whistles, and a few extra bucks back in your pocket.
A great fit for Bose enthusiasts, and very few others.
If you’re already in the Bose world and love the app, this receiver is a great way to both include non-wireless speakers in that family and to bring your analog audio playback devices into the fray. In almost any other scenario, you can save a few bucks and get nearly the same experience. Sure, you won’t get the premium look/feel of Bose, and to be fair, the connection here is really stable, but the high price makes this difficult to fully endorse except for niche use cases.