Bose SoundWear Companion Speaker

And now, for something completely different...a personal speaker.

Well, not completely different I suppose. I'm old enough to remember the Bone Fone from 1979.

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It didn't last long.

Sennheiser introduced the Surrounder in 1997. I remember trying one.

Bose_SoundWearCompanion_Photo_SennheiserSurrounder

Can't remember how it sounded—not a good sign—and it was confining and weird to wear. Don't see those around anymore.

So, to say I looked at the Bose SoundWear Companion Speaker with a great deal of skepticism when I first saw one in the Bose kiosk at Denver International Airpot after RMAF is a serious understatement. Boy was I in for a surprise. Here's a short 2 minute video right after my first listening experience.

My understanding and evaluation of the product is much richer now, but my opinion hasn't changed very much: This is an amazing product.

Bose SoundWear Companion Speaker ($299)
The SoundWear Companion is a neck-worn, Bluetooth wireless, personal speaker. It comes with a black fabric cover; spandex on the top and outside, artificial leather on the side towards your body. Removing the cover reveals a medium gray, silicon rubber body (see photo at top) with integrated metal grills over the speakers on either side. It's hard to comment on the styling as it's so minimal, but too my eyes it looks clean and simple, functional and well suited to the task.

Bose_SoundWearCompanion_Photo_Colors

Three additional covers are available in blue, plum, and light gray for $29.95 each.

The product is built in three pieces: the two end modules containing the speakers and electronics; and the flexible neckband, which can be bent moderately to mold to the shape of your neck. At around 10 oz. I found the SoundWear Companion fairly comfortable around the neck.

Bose_SoundWearCompanion_Photo_Tshirt

I also found that it can be tucked into the neckband of a t-shirt to stabilize it on your body for more active use. I had no problem crawling in and around and under things while working on my truck. I think they would work well with a tight enough crew neck shirt for running and exercise. Sound wasn't effected much with a single shirt, but could change quite a bit with more layers, sometimes to good effect—more on that later.

At the heart of the SoundWear Companion is the new Qualcomm CRS8675 Bluetooth audio system on a chip. This is a very powerful integrated circuit with all sorts of DSP, Bluetooth, and digital audio capabilities. More information can be found here.

Bose_SoundWearCompanion_Photo_Buttons

All control buttons are molded into the silicon outer skin and are located at the outer edge of the end modules. Bluetooth and power button are on the left side; volume and play/pause/answer multi-function buttons are on the right side. All controls acted as expected and were easy to effect.

Pairing was quick and easy, and the SoundWear Companion would pair and react appropriately when simultaneously attached to two devices.

A USB cable is provided for charging only. Battery life is about 12 hours for a full 3 hour charge. The USB jack is behind the zipper on the underside of the left module.

Bose_SoundWearCompanion_Photo_App

Though it works fine without, there is an app available with a few useful features. The SoundWear Companion gets its software updates via Bluetooth through the app. Phone ring-tone can be set to vibrate only; ring-tone only; or both. You can set the bass level—it only allows you to turn the bass down from the factory setting. The bass setting is saved in the headset...er, neck-speaker...um, shoulder-blaster...I don't know what to call this thing. Any ideas for a generic term for this kind of product?

Build quality, it seems to me, is simply outstanding. The silicon skin throughout makes it significantly sweat-proof. The silicon over-molded neck-band appears brutally durable. The one weak point is the bendable mild steel bar that goes through the headband might become dislodged from its glued termination in the end module if the end module is overly twisted relative to the neck band. I wouldn't characterize it as fragile, but I wouldn't want to torque the ends around too much. There are cautionary notes in the manual.

Bose_SoundWearCompanion_Photo_Xray

I'll go into more detail on the next page, but I'll briefly mention here that the SoundWear Companion has a very interesting acoustic configuration. Behind each driver there is a small, sealed enclosure that ports acoustic energy into waveguides that go through the neckband and exit through a port on the opposite side next to the other driver.

The patent application for the product illustrates a substantially different looking device.

Bose_SoundWearCompanion_Photo_Patent

It shows acoustic waveguides going around through the neckband, but also shows some acoustic spaces in the end modules as well. My curiosity became so aroused I couldn't resist the temptation to get a good hard look at what's going on. I asked Bose for a review sample, which they rapidly sent me, so I decided to take the one I purchased on InnerFidelity's dime and...um...deconstruct it for a look inside. Turns out the only acoustic chambers are the waveguides going around the neckband. Here's the video.


View on YouTube.

COMPANY INFO
Bose Corporation
The Mountain
Framingham, MA 01701
1-508-879-7330
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
tony's picture

The Technology Curve is getting steeper!

Something you didn't suggest in 'your daily use description' of these devices was a comment about 'what percentage of the Day' were these things useful? I'd say that I'll wear my LG Tone for 90% of my working/waking hours, I have a ( never been used ) back-up.

Shure are making a headset using their 215 but also able to use their 535 and 846 in-ear monitor.

Geez, I see this segment getting some Style Attention, hmm, how long before they're on the Front Cover of GQ, being worn by Anderson Cooper or someone else, doing: Product Placement?

I still have uses for my wireless Sennheiser headphones but for how much longer?

Tony in Michigan

ps.. Onkyo & Pioneer have just released little Digital Audio Players with MQA, these devices seem like having an entire 1980s front end music system in the palm of your hand ( include having TTVJ's entire 12,000 vinyl collection on SD memory cards ) phewwwww.

ps.2, those Europeans, like Goldmund & DynAudio, are getting serious about going Wireless & Active.

Phoniac's picture

They forgot the Mute button...

AndreasCY's picture
wiinippongamer's picture

There's one product category that serves the same use cases even better: Wireless IEMs

brause's picture

..and then the same old same old: when battery has been consumed after 3-4 years, one can throw it away and people have to buy another one. That's how Apple, Bose, and Co. create repeat customers.

Glad I still have two noise-cancelling earphones that run on a (rechargeable) AAA battery.

Thank you Bose - too expensive in the end.

Corsair's picture

Tried it in the bose store. Comfy and surprisingly good sound. Certainly good for doing the dishes, laundry, talking on the phone. You don't always want to put in and take something out of your ears. This is far less intrusive. Even custom fit or "comfy" iem's are not appealing to me. Will I buy this new bose product? Hell no, not even at a used price. I have better things to spend my hard earned cash money on, but it was fun trying it out, and I bet it will make a lot of users happy.

Harry Manback's picture

We have new Sennheiser HD660s headphones and you are reviewing a gadget?!? Come on Tyll, I value your opinion, please skip the silly gadgets and review the 660s.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
I have my request in, should be relatively soon.
davidmelis's picture

Thank you for your detailed review and for your passion / appreciation of quality music. I read and watched and just now ordered my own SoundWear. Thanks again!

yelero's picture

Tyll, when will you finally review and measure the Sennheiser HD660S?

zobel's picture

How about the new Sennheiser HD600S?

ednaz's picture

Not sure what brand (now that I know this is a "thing" I'll be obsessed with finding out) but a couple of cashiers at a nearby supermarket wear these around their necks. Headphones wouldn't be tolerated by the market (or probably by customers) because they're so obvious and would send a clear "I'm not listening to you" image. I did hear what they were playing, really low level, and it was way better than the pervasive, far too loud Muzak the store plays. I wonder if they are hearing both the blaring Muzak and their own music, simultaneously.

Not sure how I feel about this category of device being worn in jobs where someone's work involves dealing with others. At least the couple times I've seen this, the cashiers weren't tuning out their job or customers, so I didn't really pay too much attention.

This review did get me thinking about them for myself, though. I do photography, and on travel shoots, or when I'm out shooting street photography, there are long periods of time of just hanging out, waiting for the right light, or the right character to wander by. By long periods I mean an hour or two of just hanging out time. These would make that dead time a lot less boring. Headphones, even IEMs, take you too much out of the environment.

shing's picture

Hi, thank you for the in-depth review. I seem to be noticing a touch of lag whereby the movement of mouth is not syncing to the word. I'm connected to a macbook pro touchbar. Is this to be expected?

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