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  • About the Bose SoundLink Flex

  • What we like

  • Related content

  • What we don’t like

  • Should you buy it?

Pros

  • Big, balanced sound

  • Rugged, flexible design

  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Limited features for the money

Unlike the pricier Roam, the Flex doesn’t offer Wi-Fi functionality nor any form of EQ, but you do get the convenience of USB-C charging, better battery life, and a built-in speakerphone, a feature that’s notably missing on both the Roam and similarly priced rivals like the Flip 5.

Essentially, the Flex is the Bluetooth speaker to buy if you want a slightly more premium experience than the Flip 5, but don’t want to shell out for the Sonos Roam. The Flex has a lot going for it at its price point, and it strikes a great middle ground between mid-range and high-end.

Here are the key specs for the Bose SoundLink Flex:

  • Price: $149
  • Width x Height x Depth: 7.9 x 3.6 x 2.1 inches
  • Weight: 1.3 lbs
  • Colors: Black, White Smoke, Stone Blue
  • Battery life: Up to 12 hours
  • Wireless connection: Bluetooth 4.2
  • Charging: USB-C
  • Dust/water resistance: IP67
  • Additional features: Bose Connect app compatibility, speakerphone functionality

In the box, you’re getting the SoundLink Flex speaker, a USB-A to USB-C charging cable, a quickstart guide, and a safety sheet. We received our White Smoke version of the speaker on loan from Bose.

What we like

Handsome in a rugged sort of way

When it comes to Bluetooth speakers, designs don’t usually get too wild. I’m a big fan of JBL’s penchant for rounded speaker housings such as the oft-mentioned JBL Flip 5 and JBL Charge 5), but what Bose has done with the SoundLink Flex is rather interesting, too.

Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

The Flex is durable and roughly poundcake shaped, and can be set up in a few different ways

Instead of a rounded chassis, the Flex is flatter, though not entirely rectangular. It kind of reminds me of a flat poundcake. Bose has used a soft but firm plastic and designed the Flex to sit in multiple configurations: you can lay it flat, stand it up, or hang it from its strap and expect the same sound quality regardless. That’s the implied flexibility of its namesake, I assume.

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On either the rear or top side of the Flex (depending on its orientation), you’ll find a line of buttons for controlling power, volume, Bluetooth pairing, and a multifunction button (play, pause, skip, take calls), alongside a USB-C input. Otherwise, the chassis is well-sealed and mostly seamless, which is a big part of how the Flex achieves its IP67 Ingress Protection rating. This means it’s essentially both dust and waterproof, but within reason—you can dunk the Flex for a moment in shallow water, but shouldn’t leave it at the bottom of a pool or anything.

Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

There's a handy row of buttons for power, volume, Bluetooth, and track skipping (or call answering)

Compared to the Flip 5, the Flex is a bit heavier, but thanks to its poundcake-like shape it’s easy to grab and pick up in one hand. It’s plenty portable, highly durable, and feels like it’ll last for years under a modicum of careful stewardship.

Balanced, well-crafted sound

When it comes to sound quality, the Flex is quite powerful. While not as large as the JBL Charge 5, it’s just about as loud and robust, with plenty of bass. Even at the bottom 30% of its volume range, the Flex provides more than enough sound to fill my large home office. At higher volumes, it could easily compete with wind and surf at the beach. It might not get loud enough to service a big raucous party, but for most situations it’s well-equipped.

Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Despite its small size, the Flex provides amply loud and balanced sound, enough to hear it over the sand and surf.

The Flex isn’t just loud, of course. I listened to a bunch of different kinds of music over Spotify, and found myself impressed with the Flex’s bass presence, the clarity of snare hits and cymbal rolls in the top end, and the balance that it manages across the frequency spectrum—even at very low or very high volumes where imbalances or distortion tend to crop up.

In short, Bose has injected the company’s usual penchant for high-quality sound into the Flex, and it goes a long way toward justifying its price tag. It’s not quite as sparkling as the premium Sonos Roam over Wi-Fi, but it sounds as good as the Charge 5 despite being about half its size.

Good battery life

On a full charge, Bose claims you’ll get up to 12 hours of playback, and that number bore out in testing as well. While you can get 20 hours from the pricier JBL Charge 5, that honkin’ speaker is built for extra battery life because it doubles as a portable battery pack.

The Flex/s 12 hours is right in line with some of our favorite Bluetooth speakers, including the Flip 5, and you’re getting more battery life than the relatively high-end Sonos Roam.

Decent features

When you first boot up your Flex, you’ll be prompted to download the Bose Connect app. While you don’t have to get the app on your phone or tablet to start using the Flex, I recommend it.

Credit: Bose

While you don't have to use the Bose Connect app to play music on the SoundLink Flex, we recommend downloading it for the best experience.

The app makes it easy to see your remaining battery level, current Bluetooth connection, and to name the device (my suggested name was “The Possum,” and it was good enough). You’ll also be able to tweak things like the auto-off timer, set up party mode (where you can link up with other Bose speakers), and control what’s playing.

One really useful feature—one notably missing on the beloved Flip 5—is speakerphone. This means if someone calls your phone while it’s connected to the Flex, you can take the call, hear it through the speaker, and talk through the device’s built-in microphone. I took a couple of calls and the caller was crystal clear, and could hear me just fine.

What we don’t like

No Wi-Fi or EQ

While it’s not something we expect in a portable speaker, it is worth mentioning that the Flex is missing the Wi-Fi functionality you'll get by stepping up to the Sonos Roam. That means you won’t be able to use features like Spotify Connect or Apple AirPlay for higher quality streaming over Wi-Fi, on top of losing out on extras like smart assistant integration and multi-room audio with other connected speakers on your home network.

Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

While it isn't an outright deal breaker, the lack of Wi-Fi functionality leaves a lot of convenient features on the table.

Audiophiles may also be interested to know that there’s no method to adjust or tune EQ on the Flex, though that’s not uncommon for portable Bluetooth speakers. If you’re really prioritizing Wi-Fi or the ability to tune the speaker’s sound quality, you’ll be better serviced by the Sonos Roam, which is Wi-Fi compatible and also gives you access to Sonos’ “Trueplay” functionality for tuning the speaker to your space. Just a heads up—that feature is iOS only right now.

Should you buy it?

Yes—if you're ready to invest in a premium portable

Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

Overall, the Flex offers a solid midrange value for certain buyers

The Bose SoundLink Flex sits decidedly in between more entry-level options and the fanciest Bluetooth speakers. While that may not mean it’s the best choice for most folks (who I genuinely believe will get exactly what they want from the more affordable but simpler Flip 5), the Flex is far from overpriced.

The IP67-rated design is handsome, rugged and highly functional; the feature set is generous enough without driving up the price with extraneous extras; and the audio quality is right in line with Bose’s reputation for stellar sound. It won’t blow you away, but it’s great given the speaker’s size.

In fact, the Flex strikes a middle ground so handily that it may be doing itself a disservice. With the Flip 5 priced at $130 (and regularly available around $100), and the Sonos Roam drawing the more dedicated audiophile crowd at $200, the Flex is left in a kind of “business casual” situation.

But this also means it might be the exact level of fancy you’re hoping for. The SoundLink Flex delivers top-notch durability, bigger sound than its form factor implies, and specific features—like speakerphone and Bose ecosystem compatibility—that give it plenty of long-term value.

Meet the tester

Lee Neikirk

Lee Neikirk

Editor, Home Theater

@Koanshark

Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.

See all of Lee Neikirk's reviews

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